Marseilles Gateway to the Mediterranean

By: Douglas Scott

Second largest city in France and the largest commercial port, Marseilles, in the time of the French colonies, was the gateway to the Mediterranean. But today Marseilles remains the capital of southern Europe, cosmopolitan and exuberant, with its picturesque old port, its Bouillabaisse and its folklore.

Marseille, the capital of Province, is at the opposite end of the Riviera away from its flashy rival, Nice.

One of the citys oldest districts, is the Panier where the ancient Phocaeans first settled and founded the city of Massilia. Using the 18th century Hotel Dieu and Notre Dame des Accoules church bell tower as reference points, these lead to the foot of Montee des Accoules a series of steep flights of steps typical of old Marseilles which lead right to the heart of the district and pedestrians paradise.

There are several seafood restaurants around the Old Port, and there is a collection of them in the small walking streets beside the Quai de Rive Neuve.

The best areas for night life in Marseilles are the Place Thiars and Vieux Port, and the Escale Borely, a new water front development south of the town centre, it is right by the sea. Also worth checking out is the Le Cours Julien, a square lined with cafes and restaurants and it is in the La Plaine area.

Le Bourse La Canebiere is the heart of Marseilles and the heart of the downtown shopping area, at the end of the Old Port. La Canebiere is the most famous road in town. Along it you will see shopping streets such as Rue St Ferreol, and the Musee de la Mode, the Musee de la Marine et de l'Economie, and the Opera.

Marseilles main cultural attraction was the Opera, since its creation at the end of the 18th century and until the late 1970s. Located near the Old Port and the Canebiere, at the very heart of the city.

The best times to visit are the spring, early summer and autumn. Avoid late July and August, when the heat can be torrid, and many restaurants and even some hotels close down.

The Fulton fish market, is a complete family size fishing industry, as well as a vital part of the life of Marseilles, and very picturesque. A procession of the small fishing boats can be seen going out of the harbour around Five O clock in the morning, long before the sun comes up.

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