Marseille Visitor information
Marseille is the second largest city in France after Paris and the centre of the second largest metropolitan area in France after Paris. To the east, starting in the small fishing village of Callelongue on the outskirts of Marseille and stretching as far as Cassis, are the Calanques, a rugged coastal area interspersed with small fjord-like inlets. Further east still are the Sainte-Baume, a 1,147 m (3,763 ft) mountain ridge rising from a forest of deciduous trees, the town of Toulon and the French Riviera. To the north of Marseille, beyond the low Garlaban and Etoile mountain ranges, is the 1,011 m (3,317 ft) Mont Sainte Victoire. To the west of Marseille is the former artists' colony of l'Estaque; further west are the Côte Bleue, the Gulf of Lion and the Camargue region in the Rhône delta. The airport lies to the north west of the city at Marignane on the Étang de Berre.
The city's main thoroughfare, the wide boulevard called the Canebière, stretches eastward from the Old Port (Vieux Port) to the Réformés quarter. Two large forts flank the entrance to the Old Port—Fort Saint-Nicolas on the south side and Fort Saint-Jean on the north. Further out in the Bay of Marseille is the Frioul archipelago which comprises four islands, one of which, If, is the location of Château d'If, made famous by the Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo.
Marseille has a Mediterranean climate with mild, humid winters and warm to hot, mostly dry summers.
How to get to Marseille
The centre of Marseille has several pedestrianised zones, most notably rue St Ferréol, Cours Julien near the Music Conservatory, the Cours Honoré-d'Estienne-d'Orves off the Old Port and the area around the Hôtel de Ville. To the south east of central Marseille in the 6th arrondissement are the Prefecture and the monumental fountain of Place Castellane, an important bus and metro interchange. To the south west are the hills of the 7th arrondissement, dominated by the basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. The railway station—Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles—is north of the Centre Bourse in the 1st arrondissement; it is linked by the Boulevard d'Athènes to the Canebière.
Humans have inhabited Marseille and its environs for almost 30,000 years: palaeolithic cave paintings in the underwater Cosquer Cave near the calanque of Morgiou date back to between 27,000 and 19,000 BC; and recent excavations near the railway station have unearthed neolithic brick habitations from around 6000 BC.
During the Roman era, the city was controlled by a directory of 15 selected "first" among 600 senators. Three of them had the pre-eminence and the essence of the executive power. The city's laws among other things forbade the drinking of wine by women and allowed, by a vote of the senators, assistance to a person to commit suicide. It was during this time that Christianity first appeared in Marseille, as evidenced by catacombs above the harbour and records of Roman martyrs. According to provencal tradition, Mary Magdalen evangelised Marseille with her brother Lazarus. The diocese of Marseille was set up in the 1st century (it became the Archdiocese of Marseille in 1948).
With the decline of the Roman Empire, the town fell into the hands of the Visigoths. Eventually Frankish kings succeeded in taking the town in the mid-6th century. Emperor Charlemagne and the Carolingian dynasty granted civic power to Marseille, which remained a major French trading port until the medieval period. The city regained much of its wealth and trading power when it was revived in the 10th century by the counts of Provence. In 1262, the city revolted under Bonifaci VI de Castellana and Hugues des Baux, cousin of Barral des Baux, against the rule of the Angevins but was put down by Charles I. In 1348, the city suffered terribly from the bubonic plague, which continued to strike intermittently until 1361. As a major port, it is believed Marseille was one of the first places in France to encounter the epidemic, and some 15,000 people died in a city that had a population of 25,000 during its period of economic prosperity in the previous century. The city's fortunes declined still further when it was sacked and pillaged by the Aragonese in 1423.
During the Second World War, Marseille was bombed by the German and the Italian forces in 1940. The city was occupied by Germans from November 1942 to August 1944. On 22 January 1943, over 4,000 Jews were seized in Marseille as part of "Action Tiger." They were held in detention camps before being deported to Poland occupied by Nazi Germany to be murdered. The Old Port was bombed in 1944 by the Allies to prepare for liberation of France. After the war much of the city was rebuilt during the 1950s. The governments of East Germany, West Germany and Italy paid massive reparations, plus compound interest, to compensate civilians killed, injured or left homeless or destitute as a result of the war.
Universities in Marseille