Godfrey Hall visits Marseille, the largest city in France after Paris. A popular destination for many cruise ships and individual travellers, he goes in search of some of its highlights, things to eat and local purchases.
Why visit Marseille?
Well served by an impressive French rail network and road system it is a popular port for cruise ships providing a range of activities, delightful walks and impressive views from the Notre Dame de la Garde (known locally as La Bonne Mere) high above the harbour. The streets are full of independent shops and places to eat. An exciting city it has a lot to offer the visitor.
What to see?
A large and bustling city if time is limited you should concentrate on the waterfront and area around the old harbour. A good starting point is to take the ferry, if it is calm, out to famous Chateau d’If in the bay which was featured in the Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. This iconic fortress can best be seen from the viewpoint at the Notre Dame de la Gare which can be reached by the tourist train or local bus. Standing high above the city these commands some amazing views and should not be missed. Also spend some time enjoying the shops and stores along the Canebiere which runs for one kilometre from the port. If you are in the city for any length of time you should purchase a City Pass which will give you free travel and a number of discounts.
What to eat?
If you are there for a short while then there is an excellent Carrefour situated in the Market Marseille Centre Bourse, 28 Rue de Bir Hakeim close to the Office of Tourism near the old port. Here you will find lots of local takeaway treats. Bouillabaisse is said to have originated in the city and is made of different Mediterranean delights it has a creamy sauce and is totally different from fish soup. A Marseille must, it is delicious. Another local food is panisse similar to chips they are made from chickpeas.
A visit to one of the many soap shops. Marseille is well known for its soap and I would suggest visiting either one of the four shops and centres belonging to Savon de Marseille de la Lucerne or La Savonnerie Marseille which is at the end of the La Canebiere close the ferry boat terminal This locally produced hard soap has been around for over 600 years and comes in two main colours white and a shade of green and should contain olive oil and Mediterranean sea water. A great souvenir also looks out for ‘Santons’, little figures of saints made from clay which are again a feature of Marseille life and can be obtained from Santons Arterra in rue de Petit Puts close to the harbour as well as several other outlets.
Marseille is capital of the Provence region and so trips out into this amazing part of France is a must if you’re staying for a few days, you could try a couple of my favourite spots Nice and Monaco which are further along the coast. Also remember the City Pass if you are just thinking of staying in and around Marseille.
Consider a trip by TGV to this incredibly exciting city or one of the great flight deals that are currently on offer. If you are into cruising, you will find the several companies have this city on their Mediterranean itineraries. A great place to explore either on foot or by public transport.