Marseille is the oldest town in France. Over time the city has developed new cultures along its long coastline. It is a city that celebrates its traditions and also strives to reach its ambitions. A decent pair of walking shoes and an explorer’s mind is what you need to stroll around the city and discover the unheard alleys.

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1. Notre-Dame de la Garde

Notre-Dame de la Garde is the most recognizable building in Marseille placed on the highest natural peak in the city. The Basilica is built in the Neo-Byzantine style of architecture and it protectively overlooks the entire city. The place offers 360 degrees of panoramic views of Marseille. Bastille Day fireworks and having an evening picnic around are amongst the most popular experiences here.

Having a worship and pilgrimage history, the basilica is built using polychrome stones with mosaics and ornamentation usually of gold. The highlights here are the fresco paintings, the sculptures, and the intrigued furniture.  

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2. Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean

Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM) is a museum dedicated to the Mediterranean culture from prehistory to the present. What makes this museum unique is that it provides a platform to cherish the Mediterranean history and talk about the issues, all under one roof. 

The complex has two buildings located on the waterfront of Marseille, the Fort Saint-Jean, and a new building completed in 2013. The two are connected by a 115 meters long pedestrian bridge offering a mesmerizing view along the journey. The terrace top has panoramic views of the bay of Marseille.

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3. The Old Port

The Old Port has been the witness of Marseille’s growth for over 26 centuries. Its history has traveled through the Romans, the Greeks, and the Medieval Ages. The renovation of 2013 by Norman Foster, gave it a facelift and this place now exhibits the life of the city, more than ever before. 

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This place is a natural meeting point for the locals and visitors. Dozens of activities and each one beautiful in its way. The coast has a colorful site of boats (old and new), ferries, fish market, and food stalls lined along. A place to stroll, drink, eat, buy fish and fall in love with the city.

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4. Le Panier

The old town sits on a hill in the center of Marseilles away from the crowded city place. The name ‘La Panier’ (meaning- the basket) comes from a hotel here, which ages back to the 17th century. The neighborhood speaks of the culture of Marseille. Stories of the ancient Greek settlements are witnessed through the old, tall houses. The streets are narrow and inter-woven, leading to the village squares. Typical old, colorful facades and a world place for graffiti wall art expression.

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5. The Calanques 

The Calanques are a series of beautiful rock cliffs and bay lying between Marseille and the town of Cassis, in the south of France.

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The boating tours over the blue-green water, along the limestone cliff, is an experience to never miss out. The natural serene has exceptional biodiversity and cultural heritage with around 200 protected species of terrestrial and marine lives. The place has a breath-taking landscape and is popular among the tourists for sight-seeing and hiking.

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6. La Corniche

La Corniche is a Marseille boulevard that runs parallel to the Mediterranean Sea, starting from the beach at Catalans taking you to the beach at Prado. Along the ledge, lies the longest bench in the world that provides a spot to overlook the Mediterranean islands and admire the beautiful sight.

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7. Palais Longchamp

The majestic entrance to the Boulevard Longchamp is majestic and magnificent with the water fountain and the sculptures. The building was built as a part of the celebration for the arrival of water from the Durance canal to Marseille after a long work-process of about 30 years. The grandeur of the building and the distinct periodic characteristics makes it one of the finest and beautiful architectural examples of the city. The place brings the Museum of Fine Arts, Natural History Museum, and botanical garden collectively together.

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8. Château d’If

Château d’If is one of the impressive historic monuments along the Southern coastline of France. Originally built as a fortress for coastal defense, no attack ever took place here. The monument aged naturally with weather and time. 

The monument was once used as a prison, remained closed for a long time and was reopened in 1890 as a public landmark. 

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9. Vieille Charité

Situated in the heart of the Old City Marseille, is one of the finest examples of Baroque Architecture to visit in France. The structure started its life as a grand poorhouse then an orphanage, social housing, and eventually abandoned and threatened with demolition post World War II. Le Corbusier leads the strive for its preservation. The complex today functions as a museum and cultural center. It hosts temporary exhibitions and houses an impressive collection of archaeological findings and ethnographic art. 

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The building is a gem in the architectural treasure of France. The central chapel is built in Neo-classical style and gracious arcades surround the courtyard. It is an edifice of elegance and harmony.

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10. Orange Velodrome

Only a few minutes away from the Mediterranean Sea lies the home to the most successful French football club. Expanded and officially inaugurated in 2014, this is a sleek and contemporary looking stadium with a capacity to accommodate 67,000 spectators. The place offers the most flexible corporate settings for workshops and guest summits.

The stadium roof is achieved through exceptional engineering. Disconnected from the concrete structure, the roof is supported by four metal supports. The material used is capable of protecting the spectators from the sun, rain, and to act as sound barriers. The stadium also ensures greater energy efficiency.

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11. Cité Radieuse (Unité d’Habitation)

Le Corbusier’s Cité Radieuse of Marseille is an exhibit of his famous graphic style of design, considered one of the finest examples of brutalist architecture. Registered on the World Heritage of UNESCO in 2016, the building is a composition of 337 apartments of 23 different designs. It is an attempt to re-define the high-density housing in urban areas. 

Comfortable modern houses and multiple extensions on the houses, shopping streets, and rooftop terrace. The building serves as a school of thought for the architect to build other Cité Radieuse based on the Marseille model.

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12. Santons Fair

The celebration of the folk tradition of making cribs is seen as a way to keep the religion and the local culture alive. A very popular early winter attraction for the locals of Marseille and the tourists coming to France. Cribs of the holy family, shepherds, and kings along with the peasants of the province are just as important here. No crib like the other and a whole lot to choose from, listening to the crib stories is a merry experience.

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13. Noailles

Clustered, narrow streets and a chaotic daily market of North African specialties. The authenticity and the local essence can be felt while walking down the alleys. Spices, olives, North African fabrics, and much more to shop. The place is popular for its tea shops and side stalls serving kebabs and flatbread.

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14. Maison Empereur

An old-fashioned boutique store since 1827, in the major market locality of Noailles. The place is visitors’ first choice for unique hardware and antique toys. Maison Empereur offers a distinct range of forgotten scents and yesteryear products to dive into. This place reveals high-end timelessness, a bliss to lovers of originality.

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15. LMI Partitions (Librairie Musicale Internationale)

France has got a musical tradition. LMI Partitions is a sheets music store, a creative step to accomplish the musical desires of every visitor. LMI offers anyone to play any instrument or sing any documentary from their extensive collection of more than 200,000 scores. Beginner or professional, amateur or advanced, every age and every tradition has got a match here. 

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Author

Compulsive speaker and an attentive ear to the other side of the story. She believes in the power of architecture and stars.

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