Marseille is the oldest city in France and the country’s second largest, after Paris. The port city on the Mediterranean was first an ancient Greek and then Roman outpost, founded over 2,500 years ago. It’s a great city to visit and presents a wonderful contrast to the sometimes stuffy attitudes of urban Paris. High-speed train service from Paris means the city can even be a weekend getaway and a good way to combine both areas of France into a single vacation. Marseille has over 300 days of sunshine a year and features the Mediterranean climate (and sunlight) that has been attracting visitors and famous artists for a long time.
Getting to Marseille The city has a large airport (MRS) but most international flights go into nearby Nice (NCE). Nice has direct U.S. flights on Delta. Marseille is also a big port for Mediterranean cruises. The city is also easily reached by high-speed train from Paris on the TGV in three hours.
The new museum On a huge site overlooking the Vieux Port, the brand new Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MuCEM) offers art, culture, history and more. It’s really a group of museums all in one, celebrating the culture of the area, both past and present.
Walk Explore the Le Panier neighborhood, on the hill, behind the Quai du Port. It’s filled with little, narrow streets and all kinds of fun things to discover. The Vieux Port area is the main tourist zone and it’s fun to walk around the boats, shops and fishsellers. The Stock Exchange building is worth a visit, but the preserved Greek and Roman ruins behind the building are especially fascinating.
Staying in Marseille The Hotel Dieu, now an InterContinental property, is the city’s finest hotel. Originally a hospital, the building dates from 1753 and was designed by iconic French royal architect Mansart. Don’t miss the fabulous Clarins spa with an indoor musical pool. That’s a pool with underwater speakers. Online rates from around $300 per night.
Food The Hotel Dieu’s Alcyone restaurant has a well-deserved Michelin star and a reputation as one of the temples of gastronomy on the French Riviera. The city’s Mediterranean location and access to fresh seafood combine to make seaside restaurant L’Epuisette (the “net”) one of the best in France.
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