France’s second-largest city, Marseilles (pop. 800,000), is a jumble of color and commotion. The city that Alexandre Dumas once called “the meeting place of the entire world” remains an alluring center of international influence. Although historically similar to many other French cities, complete with Roman ruins, Byzantine churches, and 18th-century art workshops, a walk through the sidestreets is punctuated by the vibrant colors of West African fabrics for sale in markets, the sounds of Arabic music from car stereos, and the smells of North African cuisine wafting out of hole-in-the-wall restaurants. A true immigrant city, Marseille offers a taste of both the ancient and modem cultures of the entire Mediterranean.


Flights: Aeroport Marseille-Provence (MRS; 04 42 14 14 14). Flights to Lyon and Paris. Buses connect airport to Gare St-Charles (3 per hr. 5:30am-9:50pm, 8.50). Trains: Gare St-Charles, pl. Victor Hugo (08 36 35 35 35). To: Lyon (l’ihr. 12 per day, 47); Nice (2‘2hr. 12 per day, 25); Paris (3hr. 17 per day, 68).

Buses: Gare Routiere, pl. Victor Hugo (04 91 08 16 40), Vi a block from the train station. Open M-Sa 6:30am-6:30pm, Su 7:30am-6:30pm. To: Avignon (2hr. 5 per day, 15); Cannes (214-3hr. 4 per day, 21); Nice (23ihr. daily, 23).

Ferries: SNCM, 61 bd. des Dames (08 91 70 18 01; Ferries to Corsica (26-52) and Sardinia (41-67). Open M-F 8am-6pm, Sa 8am-noon and 2-5:30pm. Local Transportation: RTM, 6-8 r. des Fabres ( 04 91 91 92 10). Tickets sold at bus and Metro stations (day pass 3.85; 6- to 12-ride Carte Liberte 6.50-13). Metro runs M-Th 5am-9pm and F-Su 5am-12:30am.

Taxis: ( 04 91 02 20 20). 24hr, 20-30 from the train station to most hostels.


Although the city is divided into 16 arrondissements, Marseilles is understood by neighborhood names and major streets. La Canebiere is the main artery, funneling into the vieux port, with its upscale restaurants and nightlife, to the west. North of the vieux port, working-class residents pile into the hilltop neighborhood of Le Panier, east of which lies the Quartier Belsunce, the hub of the city’s Arab and African communities. A few blocks to the southeast, Cours Julien has a younger, coun-tercultural feel to it. Both Metro lines go to the train station; line #1 (blue) goes to the vieux port. The thorough bus system is essential to get to beaches, stretching along the coast southwest of the vieux port.

Tourist Office: 4 La Canebiere (04 91 13 89 00; fax 04 91 13 89 20). Has brochures of walking tours, free maps, accommodations service, and RTM day pass. Offers city tours (6.50) daily at 10am and 2pm, as well as frequent excursions. Open July-Aug. M-Sa 9am-8pm, Su 10am-6pm; Oct.-June M-Sa 9am-7pm, Su and holidays 10am-5pm. Consulates: UK, 24 av. du Prado (04 91 15 72 10). Open by appt. M-F 9am-noon and 2-5pm. US, 12 bd. Paul Peytral (04 91 54 92 00). Open by appt. M-F 9am-noon and 2-4pm.

Currency exchange: La Bourse, 3 pl. General de Gaulle (04 91 13 09 00). Good rates and no commission. Open M-F 8:30am-6:30pm, Sa 9am-5:30pm.

Police: 2 r. du Commissaire Becker (04 91 39 80 00). Also in the train station on esplanade St-Charles ( 04 91 14 29 97). Dial 17 in emergencies.

Hospital: Hdpital Timone, bd. Jean Moulin (04 91 38 60 00). M: Timone. SOS Medecins (04 91 52 91 52) and SOS Dentist (04 91 85 39 39) connect to on-call doctors.

Internet Access: Internet cafes in Marseilles generally run from 2-5 per hr.

Cyber Cafe de la Canebiere, 87 r. de la Canebiere. 2 per hr. Open daily 9am-llpm.

Info Cafe, 1 quai Rive Neuve. 3.80 per hr. Open M-Sa 8:30am-10pm.

Le Rezo, 68 cours Julien. 4.60 per hr. Open M-F 9:30am-8pm, Sa lOam-lOpm.

Post Office: 1 pl. Hotel des Postes (04 91 15 47 00). Follow La Canebiere toward the sea and turn right onto r. Reine Elisabeth as it becomes pl. Hotel des Postes. Address mail to be held: Firstname SURNAME, Poste Restante, 1 pl. Hotel des Postes, 13001 Marseilles, FRANCE.


Marseilles has a range of hotel options, from the pricey hotels near the vieux port to the less reputable but cheap hotels in the Quartier Belsunce. Hotels listed here prioritize safety and location. The two hostels are located far from the city center, which offers an escape from the fast pace of the city, but bus access is inifrequent in the summer. Most places fill up quickly on weekends and in the summer, so call at least a week in advance.

S3 HStel du Palais, 26 r. Breteuil (04 91 37 78 86; fax 04 91 37 91 19). Kind owner rents large, cheery rooms at a good value. Soundproofed rooms have AC, TV, and shower. Breakfast 5. Singles 38; doubles 45; triples 53. Extra bed 8. MCV. O Hotel Alexandre ler, 111 r. de Rome (04 91 48 67 13; fax 04 91 42 11 14). Located right across from pl. Prefecture. Spacious rooms, all with showers. Breakfast 5. Singles 29; doubles 37-40; triples 48; quads 64. MCV.

Auberge de Jeunesse Bonneveine (HI), impasse Bonfils (04 91 17 63 30; fax 04 91 73 97 23), off av. J. Vidal. From the station, take Metro line #2 to Rond-Point du Prado, and transfer to bus #44 to pl. Bonnefon. At the bus stop, walk back toward the traffic circle and turn left at av. J. Vidal, then turn onto impasse Bonfils. A well-organized hostel with an international crowd. Reception 9am-noon. Curfew lam. Closed Dec. 22-Feb. Dorms 14 first night, 12 thereafter; doubles 1715. Members only. MCV. 0 Auberge de Jeunesse Chateau de Bois-Luzy (HI), allee des Primeveres (fax 04 91 49 06 18). Take bus #8 (dir.: Saint-Julien) from La Canebiere to Felibres Laurient, walk uphill and make the first left; the hostel will be on your left. The beautiful, 19th-century chateau used to house a count and countess. Breakfast 3. Dinner 7.50. Sheets 1.80. Reception 7:30am-noon and 5-10:30pm. Lockout noon-5pm. Dorms 11 first night, 8 thereafter; singles 1512; doubles 129. Members only. O Hotel Beam, 63 r. Sylvabelle (04 91 37 75 83; fax 04 91 81 54 98). On a quiet side street between r. Paradis and r. Breteuil. Adequate rooms with high ceilings and large windows. Internet access 4 per hr. Breakfast 4. Reception 7am-llpm. Singles and doubles 35-40; triples 42. AmExMCV.

Hotel Saint-Louis, 2 r. des Recollettes ( 04 91 54 02 74; fax 04 91 33 78 59). Pretty, high-ceilinged rooms painted in cheerful colors, just off noisy La Canebiere. Some rooms with balcony, nearly all with satellite TV. Breakfast 5. Reception 24hr. Singles 30; doubles 38-45; triples 53. Extra bed 7. AmExV.

Restaurants in Marseilles reflect the cultural diversity of this dynamic international port city. For the city’s famed seafood and North African fare, explore the vieux port, especially place Thiers and cours d’Estienne d’Orves, where one can eat alfresco for as little as 9. For a more artsy crowd and cheaper food, head up to cours Julien, northeast of the harbor. For groceries, try Monoprix supermarket, across from the AmEx office on La Canebiere. (Open M-Sa 8:30am-8:30pm.)

Ivolre Restaurant, 57 r. d’Aubagne (04 91 33 75 33). This simple restaurant offers a taste of West African cuisine, complete with fresh peanuts and Senegalese beer. A friendly local crowd comes for West African dishes such as Yassa and Maffe (6-10). Open daily noon-midnight.

Le Sud du Haut, 80 cours Julien (04 91 92 66 64). M: Cours Julien. Inviting decor and outdoor seating make this the ideal place for a leisurely meal of tasty, traditional provengal cuisine with a modern flair. The petit legumes provengal (9) and the Saint Marcellin Rdti (13) are highly recommended. Funky bathrooms supply markers and paper so patrons can contribute to the wall art. Open W-Sa noon-2am.

Baba of Marseille, 14 r. St-Pons (m04 91 90 66 36). A collision of past and present, the decor underneath the arched stone ceiling of this 14th-century building features hip furniture, eclectic lighting, and photos of past diners. Open W-Sa noon-midnight.

La Kahena, 2 r. de la Republique (04 91 90 61 93). M: Vieux Port. Incredibly spiced couscous dishes (8-14) are the specialty at this Tunisian restaurant on the corner of the vieux port. Blue tile mosaics and smells of warm spices complete its North African aura. Open daily noon-2:30pm and 7:30-11:30pm. MCV.

Le Restaurant Vegetarien, 53 r. St-Pierre (04 91 42 75 06). M: Cours Julien. Steps from cours Julien, this quiet outdoor garden offers a respite from the city. Enjoy one of the appetizing plats du jour or salads (9-12) on the full vegetarian menu to the accompaniment of soothing music. Open M-Sa noon-2:30pm and 7:30-11:30pm.


A walk through the city’s streets tops any other sights-oriented itinerary, providing glimpses of the lively African and Arabic communities’ influence amid ancient Roman ruins. Check for the latest info on the region’s museums. Unless otherwise noted, all the museums listed below have the same hours: June-Sept. Tu-Sa 11am-6pm; Oct.-May Tu-Sa 10am-5pm.

BASILIQUE DE NOTRE DAME DE LA GARDE. A stunning view of the city, surrounding mountains, and stone-studded bay has made this church’s hilltop site strategically important for centuries and a must-see for visitors today. The intricate mosaics and intriguing paintings within the basilica are worth the climb. Towering nearly 230m above the city, the golden statue of Madonna cradling the infant Christ, known affectionately as “la bonne mere, ” is regarded by many as the symbol of Marseilles. (s04 91 13 40 80. Open in summer daily 7am-8pm; off-season 7am-7pm.)

HARBOR ISLANDS. Resembling a child’s sandcastle come to life, the Chateau d’lf guards the city from its rocky perch outside the harbor. Its dungeon, immortalized in Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo, once held a number of hapless Huguenots. Nearby, the lie Frioul quarantined plague infectees for two centuries, beginning in the 1600s. It was only marginally successful, as an outbreak in 1720 killed half of the city’s 80,000 citizens. A handful of small shops and restaurants, combined with inlets perfect for swimming, make this an excellent escape from the city. (Boats depart from quai des Beiges for both islands. Call the Groupement des Armateurs Cotiers ats04 91 55 50 09. Chateaus04 91 59 02 30. Round-trip 20min.; 9 for each island, 15 for both.)

LA VIEILLE CHARITE. A fme example of the 17th-century work of local architect Pierre Puget, La Charite sheltered orphans, the elderly, and others in need. Now home to many of Marseille’s cultured organizations, it contains several of the city’s museums, including the Egyptian, prehistoric, and anthropological collections held in the Musee des Arts Africains, Oceaniens et Amerindiens. (2 r. de la Charite. s04 91 14 58 80. Temporary exhibits 3, permanent collections 2; students with ID half-price.)

ABBAYE ST-VICTOR. St-Victor, an abbey fortified against pirates and Saracen invaders, is one of the oldest Christian sites in Europe. The eerie 5th-century catacombs and basilica contain both pagan and Christian relics, including the remains of two 3rd-century martyrs. Sarcophagi pile up along the walls; some remain halfembedded in the building’s foundations. (Perched on r. Sainte at the end of quai de Rive Neuve. Follow the signs from the quai. s 04 96 1122 60. Open daily 9am-7pm. Crypt 2.)

MUSEE CANTINI. This memorable museum chronicles the region’s artistic successes of the last century, with major Fauvist and Surrealist collections, including limited works by Henri Matisse and Paul Signac. The works of Auguste Chabaud, a painter from Provence, will be on display until February 2004. (19 rue Grignan. &04 91 54 77 75. 3, students 1.50. 0ver-65 and under-10 free.)

MEMORIAL DES CAMPS DE LA MORT. This small but moving museum recalls the death camps of WWII and Marseilles’s role in them. In 1943, nearly 2000 buildings housing Jews were destroyed in the vieux port. Sobering quotes by Primo Levi, Louis Serre, and Elie Wiesel, and a disturbing collection of ashes are on display. (Quai de la Tourette. -b04 91 90 73 15. Free.)

OTHER SIGHTS. The Musee de la Mode, 11 La Canebiere, carries fluctuating exhibits of contemporary fashion. (Free tours in French W and Sa-Su 4pm. 2, students 1. Over 65 free.) The remains of the original port of Marseilles rest peacefully in the quiet Jardin des Vestiges. The grassy harbor, full of limestone stacked like giant Legos, makes a good stop for Classical history buffs. Millennia-old artifacts are displayed in the adjoining Musee d’Histoire de Marseilles, which include pottery pieces and the skeleton of an ancient boat, though there is little explanatory text. (Enter through the lowest level of the Centre Bourse mall. s04 91 90 42 22. 2, students 1, over 65 and under 10 free.) Bus #83 (dir.: Rond-Point du Prado) takes you from the vieux port to Marseilles’s public beaches. Catch it on the waterfront side of the street and get off just after it rounds the statue of David (20-30min.). Both plage du Prado and plage de la Corniche offer wide beaches, clear water, and plenty of grass.


Late-night restaurants and a few nightclubs center around place Thiers, near the vieux port. A more creative crowd unwinds along the cours Julien. Tourists should exercise caution at night, particularly on the dimly-lit streets of the quartier Bel-sunce and bd. d’Athenes. Night buses are scarce, taxis are expensive, and the metro closes early (Su-Th 9pm, F-Sa midnight). Though often overshadowed by the cultural empire of Paris, Marseille’s vibrant entertainment scene offers the best of international theater, music, and art. The ticket office at L’Espace Culture, 42 r. de la Canebiere (04 96 11 04 60;, provides detailed information and publications on current cultural events.

El Ache de Cuba, 9 pl. Paul Cezanne. Music blares from the speakers and onto the sidewalk from this little slice of Havana. You must buy a card (2) to order something, but it’s a ticket into the community. Afterwards, drinks run about 2.50, including the “House Punch.” Open W-Sa 5pm-2am.

Trolleybus, 24 quai de Rive Neuve. This mega-club, occupying an 18th-century warehouse, has a chic local crowd that gets down to DJs who have been spinning here for

14 years. Beer from 5, drinks 6.50. F nights no cover; Sa cover 10, includes 1 drink. Open July-Aug. W-Sa llpm-7am; off-season Th-Sa llpm-7am.

Dan Racing, 17 r. Andre Poggioli. M: Cours Julien. Patrons speak “the universal language” of music in their own ad hoc performances each night. Drums, guitars, and other music-makers are provided so anyone can join in on stage. Fun auto- and bike-racing decor adds to the atmosphere. Drinks 2.30-3.50. Open W-Sa 10pm-2am.

Poulpason, 2 r. Andre Poggioli. M: Cours Julien. The underwater theme, complete with a giant octopus reaching out from the wall, creates a cool atmosphere for DJs and live rock. Drinks 2.50-5. Open W-Sa 10pm-2am.

New Can-Can, 3 r. Senac (04 91 48 59 76). A perpetual weekend party for the city’s gay community. Cool discotheque setup with red leather couches.Cover F after midnight 13, Sa before midnight 8, 14 thereafter. Open daily 10pm-6am.


Leave a Reply

twenty one + = thirty