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Things to do in Marseille

  • Cathedrale de la Major Cathedrale de la Major Marseille, France
    The Marseille Cathedral, or more properly, the Cathedrale de la Major is found in Marseille, France, where it is a Roman Catholic cathedral and national monument, being a basilica minor since 1896. It was the Diocese of Marseille until 1948 when it became an Archdiocese. This cathedral was constructed from 1852 until 1896 in the huge scaled Byzantine-Roman architectural style on the same site that has been used to house the cathedrals of this marvelous city, since the 5th century. The main architects were Leon Vaudoyer and Henri-Jacques Esperendieu. A few buildings survived the demolition of the earlier cathedral, the Veille Major, that stand close to the present Nouvelle Major cathedral, but they are dwarfed by the magnificence and grandeur of the newer structure. In the northwest section of the older part of Marseille, set on a terrace, and just a bit higher than the port installations, the cathedral rises with two domed towers and a 53 foot high dome over the crossing. There are alternating courses of green and white limestone, covering the length of this majestic 463 foot monstrosity that is the biggest ecclesiastical structure from the 19th century. The inside is beautified with mosaics and marble, with an expansive crypt that holds the tombs of the Bishops of Marseille. Altars from the 12th and 15th centuries adorn the interior, with exotic earthenware that was made at the Della Robbia workshop.

  • Palais et Parc LongchampPalais et Parc Longchamp Marseille, France
    The Longchamp Palace is a grand monument that sits alongside the boulevard du Jardin-Zoologique in Marseille, France and has three main sections. The main or center building was created to commemorate the building of the canal in Marseille, the east wing contains the Musee des Beaux-Arts, and the west wing houses the museum of natural history. The front of the magnificent structure is graced by a spectacular fountain, with four big bulls and three women; representing grapes/vines, wheat/fertility and the Durance River. Just beyond the women, inside the main structure, a man made grotto is beautifully decorated with carved nymphs and stalactites. Underneath the women, and the bulls, water runs out into a secondary pond and into the main pond. Once the water comes out of the main pond, it goes underground into pipes that feed 12 elaborate bronze fountains that line a waterfall type of construction in front. The park, Parc Longchamp is one of the municipal parks in the city that encompasses the palace, which is home to the city's museum of fine arts. Listed in the French ministry of culture as one of the notable gardens of the country. The park itself is centered around the chateau d'eau and fountains, celebrating the water that came into Marseille by the new canal as it flowed from the Durance River. The garden behind the palace is called the Jardin du plateau and is what is called a classical garden a la francaise. Inside it, is a wonderful English landscaped garden containing marvelous old trees like the plane tree tree that is 150 years old, a Siberian elm that is 120 years old and a green oak that is also 120 years old. There used to be a zoo here, from the 19th century, but it closed in 1987, although there are numerous remnants that are statuesque in themselves, like the oriental pavilion that held the elephants and giraffes, and intricately ornamented cages that were built using Turkish tiles, and a number of bear cages and seals dens that had been decorated with rocaille or rock-work.

  • Musee de Docks Romains
    The museum of Roman docks found in the 2nd district of Marseille, France is one of the last remnants of a commercial warehouse for the ancient Romans in the world. It was during reconstruction of older neighborhoods, in 1947, that had been destroyed by bombs from the Germans, that these ancient docks were discovered, and these are one of the few commercial warehouses that belonged to the Romans known to the world. Fernand Benoit, an archaeologist and historian who was well known, intervened, so that these magnificent artifacts could be preserved. It opened in 1963, and was restored in 1987, with 30 dolia, or big clay jars used by the Romans to hold various items. Inside the main area, sinks and walls that belonged to medieval houses have been identified. The dolia are large vessels used by the Romans to hold various items, mainly agricultural in nature, like wine, oil, and grains. During the older ages, they would be set next to a vineyard by the presses for reception of the oil or wine. When these dolia were found, archaeologists thought that they had been used to store grain, and were big enough to hold up to 1800 to 2000 liters of liquid or solids. They were put into the ground, up to their necks and covered over with clay covers and coated with resin to seal them. Since they were in the ground, they were protected from variations in temperatures and could store items for a decent amount of time. Producing them took some care, and they were cooked wherever they were made, and after drying and firing, minute cracks could appear, which were then repaired carefully. During the excavations, there were many fantastic discoveries made and superb relics found many dating back to the third century B.C.

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Local Restaurants in Marseille
  • Chez Etienne
    Starters include; sashimi of yellowfin tuna wrapped in crispy sesame with soy sauce and wasabi mayo; combo of wild Alaskan smoked salmon and smoked halibut with fresh beets and potato salad; Holland shrimp salad with Remy Martin cognac sauce; carpaccio of smoked beef ribeye with curls of Reypenaer VSOP, garlic croutons and honey-mustard dressing; rillettes of deer and deer with bombe filled with Hertenjam mesclun and red port sauce; salad Gessier de Canard with marinated duck breast, candied onions, fried bacon and mushrooms. Warm starters include; tart filled with melted goat cheese and winter salad with shallots, panchetta mushroom and port vinaigrette with honey; warm pie dough crust filled with French wild homemade stew; crispy fried foie gras from the Perigord with diced sweet apple and balsamic. Entrees are; fresh fish and garnish with matching accompanying sauce; roasted halibut on strain of pot with young leeks and spring onions, pommes mousseline sauce and lobster; fried walleye fillet served with Alsatian sauerkraut and coarse mustard sauce; fried tournedos with green pepper sauce served with roses broccoli and mushrooms; rose seared duck breast fillet with caramelized chicory fried hash browns and bramenjus; fried deer steak combined with red cabbage, apple and sauce Pedro Xeminez; wild spinach crepe filled with ratatouille and topped with coarse Holland giant mushrooms and cheese.

  • l-epuisette
    First course offerings; lobster ravioli, spring veggies with tarragon mousse perfumed; asparagus and tomato savory pastry, with raw tuna and herbs with hint of Bagna cauda; baby monkfish lightly spiced with chilled veggies stuffed with tabbouleh and sauce of caramelized balsamic vinegar; lobster dressed with sweet pepper preserves, pincers tempura-style with remoulade sauce and caper fritters; pan-fried Dublin Bay prawns with local goat cheese cannelloni, spinach leaves and fresh pea cream; red mullet fillet, country and small squid salad with fresh spring veggies, with crushed tomato and parmesan and curly endive pastry; Gazpacho soup with zucchini, fresh mint, served with goat's milk cream and fresh sardine fritters. Main courses; sea bass steak with roasted shallots with risotto of morels and red wine sauce; grilled filet of John Dory with courgette flowers stuffed with seafood, served with baby crab sauce; lobster tagine with spring veggies, spicy sauce of meat juices and topped with fried quail's egg; monkfish in ossobuco with young flowering purple artichokes and fried fat bacon; pan-fried salt cod with puree of tomatoes and cod roe, with purple artichoke fricassee and thyme and touch of green pesto sauce; medallion of lamb stuffed with goat cheese served with fried tomatoes and small onions in batter and thyme perfumed sauce; large prawns on skewer, with dressed crab and avocado with ginger sauce.


Marinated Duck Breast Chez Etienne Marseille, France


Roasted Halibut Chez Etienne Marseille, France

 Sea Bass Steak l-epuisette Marseille, France

Medalion of Lamb l-epuisette Marseille, France

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  • Basilique de Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica de Notre Dame de la Garde Marseille, France
    The Notre Dame de la Garde is another basilica located in Marseille, France, that is an elaborate Neo-Byzantine cathedral that is sitting on the highest natural spot in the city, on a limestone outcropping 532 feet above the south side of the old port. It is a major landmark and the place where a yearly pilgrimage is made every Assumption Day, August 15. It was commissioned by Saint Charles Eugene de Mazenod, who was the bishop in the 1850s, and designed by architect Jacques Henri Esperandieu. The construction started in 1853, and finished in 1864, built along the lines of the Cathedral of Sainte Marie Majeure that sits on the other side of the port. The site had been the place where a 13th century chapel had stood, that was also dedicated to Our Lady of the Watch, the guardian of seafarers, and a 16th century fort that was built for Francois I in 1525 is located alongside. The basilica has a 197 foot belfry that has a magnificent statue of the Virgin and Child on top of that, that can be seen throughout most of the city and for miles out to sea. The construction used 170,000 tons of material to build, and 23 ships loaded with marble and porphyry from Italy. The inside contains inlaid marble, murals and mosaics with most of the walls covered with plaques, war medals, model boats, ex-votos, paintings and football shirts that had been given by the players and supporters of the Olympic de Marseille, the city's football team.

  • Jardin des Vestiges
    In the middle of the city, this garden is much more than just a beautiful garden, since it sits on the site of an amazing archaeological discovery that happened here in 1967, when ground breaking took place to build the new Stock Exchange, Centre Bourse. Underneath the dirt and rubble of an old port, a much older port, that dates back to the Roman occupation of Marseille in the 6th century B.C., with many Greek and Roman remains and artifacts, was uncovered. Among the Greek discoveries, were the remnants of the ramparts, wells, docks, necropolis and port facilities; magnificent relics of a time long ago, that soon found their way into a new museum to house all the discoveries. The remains of a ship from the second century was discovered among other things, and the find was unbelievable. The port is believed to be the oldest one on the Mediterranean Sea, and making known that Marseille was one of the greatest ports of the Med during that period.

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  • Chateau d'lfChateau d'lf Marseille, France
    The Chateau d'lf is a fantastic fortress that lies less than a mile off the Marseille, France coastline, that is the smallest of the Frioul Archipelago, and at one time was a prison, and also the site of Alexandre Dumas' famous adventure novel, "The Count of Monte Cristo". The structure itself is a square three story building that measures about 85 feet on every side, with three big towers and big gun embrasures. The rest of the island, which measures around 100,000 square feet, is really fortified, with high thick walls surrounding the island and gun platforms that are above the high cliffs. Construction started in 1524, when Francois I wanted to keep the city/port safe from the sea, and was finished in 1531. Marseille had been annexed into France in 1481, although it had kept the right to defend itself. This castle was something of great controversy and made many locals very unhappy since they knew that the French monarchy would be outfitting it with troops and guns. The main military value was that it would be a deterrent to port bound ships, although that never happened. In 1531, the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, was going to attack Marseille, but changed his mind sometime later, perhaps because of the fortress, though no one really knows for sure. It was a good thing, since in 1701, a military engineer named Vauban, said that it, the fortress was in rough shape, and the construction of it had been done poorly, even the buildings were crudely built. In 1800, General Jean Baptiste Kleber was assassinated in Cairo, Egypt and his embalmed body brought back to France for burial; but Napoleon was afraid that his tomb might start being a symbol of Republicanism, so he had the body taken to the chateau where it stayed for 18 years before Louis XVIII gave it a proper burial at his native Strasbourg. Because it was so far from shore and land, and it had very dangerous currents, the chateau was believed to be the perfect place for a prison that could be escape proof; quite similar to Alcatraz in California. It eventually became the holding place of many political and religious people that soon it became the most feared and notorious jail in the country. French Protestants of Huguenots numbering in the thousands were sent here as well as Gaston Cremieux, who was one of the leaders of the Paris Commune, and he was shot in 1871. The island became world famous in 1844, when Alexandre Dumas published his book, "The Count of Monte Cristo", and although Dantes escaped the island prison in the book, no one had really escaped the prison. It stopped being used as a prison in the late 1880s, and in 1890 was opened to the public, which came here in droves to see the famous prison and look for the cell where Edmond Dantes had stayed. Mark Twain came here in 1867, and he went on a tour at the prison and saw the cell that had held the "Iron Mask"; although he was never here.

  • Museum of Old Marseille
    The museum is housed inside the Maison Diamantee that was constructed by wealthy Spanish and Italian trading partners during the 17th century. Once these people left, it became home to many well-to-do families that lived in Marseille, and then made into apartments during the Revolution. It is a spectacular example of Provencal architecture with its unique facade that is decorated with diamond shaped tips and a magnificent paneled staircase that is very unusual in the city. Near the end of the 19th century, it held port workers and Italian immigrants, steadily falling into a terrible state of disrepair. During the first few years of the 20th century, it was in such a dilapidated condition that it was to be destroyed, but in 1922, it was purchased by the Art and Charity Foundation, then had it transferred to the Committee of Old Marseille. Three years later, it became a National Heritage building and luckily wasn't destroyed during the bombing by the Nazis in the second World War. The museum moved in during 1967, striving to save as many relics and antiquities of the old city as possible. With theme based displays, a few of the exhibitions are; the 1720 plaque of the old city, traditional Marseille clothing from many periods, interior decorations, the King's galley ships, the model of the city centre that was constructed by Lavastre, furniture, playing cards and santons. The building itself is today one of the few remaining structures of the old Marseille that doesn't exist, of the aristocratic dwellings that occupied this quarter of the city's center that was at one time so dependent on the sea and its commerce.

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  • Musee Grobet-LabadieMusee Grobet-Labadie Marseille, France
    The Grobet-Labadie Museum in Marseille, France is set in a wonderful 19th century hotel that was owned by the Labadie family, and in 1919 Marie Grobet, Alexandre Labadie's daughter, gave the hotel and all of its furnishings to the city. The hotel was constructed in 1873, and besides all the furnishings, the family had a marvelous collection that it acquired during the first half of the 19th century. This collection was atypical of the eclectic tastes of the upper middle class in that time, and include paintings, drawings, decorative arts, art objects and 15th century sculpture. It is the 18th century pieces that are most prominent in the collection, but it is also representative of the high middle ages, the Renaissance and the 19th century. Amongst the magnificent paintings, are the works of Lagrenee, Natoire, Fragonard and Trinquesse from the 18th century, and Monticelli, Dupre, Baubigny, Ziem, Bonington, Diaz, Guigou and Caslie from the 19th century. Among the decorative arts, the family had superb furniture, clocks, gold and silverware, jewelry, carpets, ceramics, miniatures and animal bronzes, that decorated the hotel's ten reception rooms, bedrooms, library and boudoirs. There are 33 wall hangings, and most of the artifacts came from Flanders, Brussels, Aubusson, Tournai, Beauvais and Gobelins, which made this hotel very unique in the city. The 2000 pieces of the drawings collection are more small scale and first sketches by Luca Cambiaso, Boucher, Fragonard, Puget, Lancret, Ingres, Millet, Watteau, Guercino, Corot and Daumier. Many of the sculptures are more religious in nature, coming from Holland, papal Provence and the southern areas of the old German empire, but all from the 1400s. There are numerous musical instruments from the Baroque and Romantic periods and a beautiful collection of wrought iron objects from the 13th to 19th centuries.

  • Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
    The Marseille Museum of History is the city's historical and archaeological museum of Marseille, France that opened in 1983, becoming the city's first historical museum, as well as a place to display the magnificent discoveries that were made here, when the area was first excavated in 1967. The museum opens onto the Jardin des Vestiges, that was mentioned above on this page, and is an important vestibule for the showcasing of those artifacts found. Within the museum, in its permanent displays, the history of the city is told up to the 18th century. Some of the highlights of this museum include the hull of a ship from the 2nd century, that has been proclaimed as the best preserved vessel of its kind from that era in the world; the prehistory of the city that includes the Phocaeans and Ligures, and the subsequent development of the city by the ancient Greek and Roman eras of the port of Massilia; a marvelous exhibit about the first Christians from the 4th to the 6th centuries; medieval potters' workshops, as well as the first French manufacturer of faience in the 13th century; the great plague of 1720; the wonderful works of sculptor, architect and painter Pierre Puget; and the redevelopment of the city during the reign of Louis XIV including the building of the forts at Saint-Nicolas and Saint-Jean.

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  • Musee d'Archeoloie MediterraneenneMuse d'Archeoloie Mediterraneenne Marseille, France
    Chester Alan Arthur was the second President born in the This fabulous museum occupies the entire first floor of the Vieille Charitie in Marseille, France, and is divided into three marvelous areas; the Egyptian antiquities, classical antiquities and the archaeological gallery. In the Egyptian collection, the majority of it was collected by Dr. Clot Bey, a French doctor who went to Egypt in the 1800s, at the request of the Viceroy of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, to start their School of Medicine and stayed there quite a while. The collection is spread across five rooms that are connected and contain the statues, various objects and sarcophagi that are controlled thematically, with the final room being used for a burial chamber. In the first hall or room, there are vases with geometric designs, make-up palettes, scrapers, arrowhead and bone pins, as well as a bust of Ramses VI in granite and a spectacular head of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet from the Temple of Mut or Temple of Jubilee from Amenhotep III, who had increased the size of the images of the goddess. In the second room, a case holds various toilet articles, like a spoon makeup, hairpins, tubes, jars, combs and pens with kohl. Also here are items used every day like the clothing chest, fiber sandals, pawns and dice games, chair votive wooden bedsides and more. In another section of the second room, there are tools of different artisans, like paint palette, carding comb, religious amulets that have the image of their gods Bes and Ptah, ivory magic doll fertility statuette of Bes, low relief statue of Ramses II and a small Sobekhotep XVIII. The third room has at its center, a sarcophagus of gilded wood, with silver, copper and glass paste of the Ptolemic period, a fragmentary statue of the goddess Neith in granite from the Black XVIII dynasty, that was carved during the reign of Amenhotep III, and then it was brought to Thebes and finally to Tanis where it was discovered. 

  • Sports
    The city of Marseille, France is well known for its varieties of sports that include the football club of the Olympic de Marseille, which won the 1993 UEFA Champions League and plays in the top category known as Ligue 1. You can enjoy hiking, canoeing, sailing, cycling, rugby, diving and swimming, walking, golf, tennis and football. There are numerous marathons held in the city, as well as its hosting of international sports. Still, football remains the number one favorite of the city and its inhabitants. It was started in 1899, and the team has been in the top tier of this sport since it started playing. They have won the French championship 8 times and have won a record Coupe de France, 10 times. The team is the first and only club to win the coveted UEFA championship, playing at the Stade Velodrome since 1937. In 1997, they were purchased by Franco-Swiss billionaire Robert Louis-Dreyfus. The team has won the last four out of five games and is having a great year. Although it is called football in Europe, here in the United States, the game is considered to be soccer, although there are many actual football teams in Europe that do play our type of football.

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