There are many port cities on the Mediterranean Sea, each with its own special character. Among them, the southern French port of Marseille is truly one of a kind. With its old port, array of fortresses, nearby islands, impressive churches and marinas, and museums, Marseille is a memorable and engaging place to visit.
This is a travelogue in four parts -- two covering the City and the Old Port, and two covering popular nearby islands -- the Isle d'If and the Isles du Frioul, both reachable via a short ferry ride. Combined these represent a day trip that I took by night train from Germany, arriving very early in the morning at the Marseille train station and departing that night. (I did this when the dollar rate was extremely favorable and this trip cost me less than $100. At 2006 exchange rates, the cost would almost triple.)
Marseille has several ports lined along the coastline, mostly built to handle modern high-volume shipping. However, when one thinks of 'the port' in Marseille, one is clearly referring to the Old Port, Le Vieux Porte. Jutting into the heart of the city, Le Vieux Porte is a kilometer-long by kilometer wide artificial waterway crammed with boats of all shapes and sizes. Lined around the port are several dozen large restaurants, catering to the massive volume of residents and visitors descending on the area any given day.
Marseille's was loaded with historic structures keep in marvelous condition, like the Cathedrale (second photograph) located on the coast just north of the Vieux Porte, and the Notre Dame de la Garde perched high above the city. The entrance to the Vieux Porte was guarded on the south side by the Partillon and Fort St. Nicholas, and on the north by the Fort St. Jean. Above these Forts on the hillsides are other monuments, such as the Abbaye du St. Victor on the south and the octagonal Church of St. Vincent and St. Catherine to the north.
Then, of course, were the islands. The Isle d'If was a little island dominated by a Chateau, or fortress, that was made famous in the novel the Count of Monte Cristo. Although a fictional story, the eeriness of the real Chateau made it seem very real. The Frioul was an archipelago of rocky islands nearby that contained a harbor and numerous catanques, little lagoons that provided boaters with places to seclude themselves and enjoy the sunshine in peace.
I had a wonderful trip to Marseille, and firmly believe you will, too! But don't only go to the city itself -- head out to the nearby islands! Click on the colored areas below to access the four chapters of this travelogue.
Trip taken 28 July 2001 -- Page Last Updated 04 October 2006 -- (C) 2001 Tom Galvin