These are the main points of interest in Marseille, from the iconic hilltop Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde Basilica to the picturesque little ferry crossing the Old Port.
Arc de Triomphe or Porte d'Aix
This triumphal arch was built in 1833 to commemorate the Revolution and the First Empire wars. It's located at the Place Jules Guesde (Porte d'Aix), where the autoroute A7 arrives in the city. The arch can be seen from along the main avenue (with many names) including the Rue de Rome.
- Location: [St. Charles]
Accoules Bell Tower - Clocher des Accoules
This 12th-century bell tower, behind the "Maison Diamantée, is all that's left of one of the oldest churches in Marseilles.
- Location: [Panier]
Garden of Ruins - Jardin des Vestiges
This pretty archaeological park in the very center of the city (overlooked by the huge "Centre Bourse") has the ruins of the 1st-century docks and the 4th-century entrance to the fortified Greek town. Other remains include drainage pipes used to drain the swamp here at that time, an underground aqueduct, and various walls and towers. The stone used here 2000 years ago was the same "Couronne" pink limestone used for the Vieille Charité in the 17th-18th centuries.
- Location: [Old Port]
Longchamp Palace - Palais Longchamp
The Palais Longchamp, built in 1862-69, stands at the entrance to the Longchamp park. Guarded by four stone lions, the entrance is a magnificent fountain complex, with raging bulls trying to clamber out of the top and flanked by wide stairs going up either side. This fine fountain is, in fact, a cunningly disguised water tower. The water tower and buildings that make up the Palais were built as a commemorative monument to the arrival of new canal bringing water from the Durance river. The final section of the canal passes across the Longchamp Park in a stone aqueduct.
- Location: [Longchamp]
Loubière Caves - Grottes Loubière
The Grottes Loubière contain beautiful five galleries, extending about 1500 m, with translucent draperies, columns stalactites and stalagmites.
- Location: 13 km northeast of the center; 2 km northwest of the Chàteau-Gombert.
- The caves are apparently closed to the public, and have been for several years, according to one of our readers (Sept 2004).
Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde Basilica - Basilique de N-D-de-la-Garde
The 19th-century Romano-Byzantine style basilica is located on a hilltop with a fantastic view -- where the town's lookout post once stood. A chapel was built on the hilltop in the 13th century, and became a priory for the monks of St Victor. In the 16th century, the church was fortified, to defend against a threatened invasion by Charles V of Spain. In 1853, work started on the basilica, that was completed in 1899. The basilica is topped by a huge gilded statue of the Virgin, who is standing on top of basilica's 60-m high belfry.
It's about an hour's walk from the Old Port or the Pharo Park, and all up-hill. You can take the number 60 bus from the Cours Ballard, at the corner of the Quai des Belges of the Old Port, or there are parking lots at the top if you want to drive up. For walking, going directly from the Old Part is probably the easiest, arriving by the Montée; de l'Oratoire. If you arrive from the east side, however, you go up the Montée Valentin; we counted 251 steps, but frequent stops give you a great view out towards the sea.
- Location: [South]
La Major Cathedral - Cathédrale de la Major
Old La Major Cathedral - Ancienne Cathédrale de la Major The large Romano-Byzantine style cathedral, with its spectacular domes, was built in 1852-93. The smaller Romanesque-style "Old Major" cathedral, huddled down at the side, was built in the middle of the 11th century. Part of it was chopped off during the 19th century to make room for the new cathedral.
- Location: [Old Port] North of the Old Port near the new docks.
A picturesque little ferry crosses the Old Port, between the Hôtel-de-Ville and the Place des Huiles, made famous by Marcel Pagnol's stories. In the movie Fanny it looks about the same, although it was steam-driven then. That's the Hôtel de Ville on the far side right.
- Open: 8h00-12h30, 13h30-18h30
- Entry: one-way 2 F; round-trip 3 F
- Location: [Old Port]
St Victor's Basilica - Basilique St Victor
The original site was a quarry, dug down into the stone, that became a necropolis in the 3rd century. A monastery was founded here by Saint John Cassian in the 5th century, housed in a fortified Abbey known as the "key to Marseilles harbour". The abbey was destroyed by barbarian invasions in the 7th and 8th centuries. The abbey became one of the most famous religious centers in Gaul. It passed to the Benedictines in the 10th century, and was rebuilt and fortified in 1040. It was renovated in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the monastery was destroyed during the Revolution.
Saint-Victor and his compagnions were martyred in Marseille in the year 304. Prior to that eventful date, he owned the land of the village of La Celle, near Brignole.
Although about half the abbey is gone, the remaining church, walls and Tour d'Isarn are pretty impressive. Some of the many items inside reveal the presence of a Greek quarry, and a Hellenistic necropole from the 2nd-c-BC. In the crypt are several exceptional sarcophagi, dating from the 3rd century on. The February 2nd Candlemas procession begins at St Victor's.
- Location: [South] A couple of blocks south of the Quai de Rive Neuve, just before the Fort St Nicolas.
- Open: daily, 8h30-18h30