France’s Riviera has always been a place of natural beauty and at the waterfront of Marseille the wonders of human artistry and achievement meet the shining sea. Still Marseille often struggles to stay ahead of the elements and sea-worn looks that accompany such a placement. France’s second biggest city is the European capital for culture in 2013 and so it has undergone significant renovations, infrastructure and cleaning to make it nothing short of shining for this year of it’s particular fame.
To get a first impression of the city’s two sides (land and sea) a great place to begin to be awed by the grandiosity and gorgeousness is Vieux Port. The Harbor is actually quite narrow and restricted into the heart of the city, but this is no matter, the lack of space causes all the tethered boats to be lined up in a dazzling array of colors and shapes.
A nearby attraction to the Harbor is Fort Saint Jean. It provides historic parapets and panoramic vistas that once upon a time safeguarded the treasured limits of the city on the water. Today many parts of it all for of strolling visitors and camera ready tourists. On site is the curiously shaped and modern looking Museum of Mediterranean civilizations. This is a well worth it experience and that’s saying a lot in a town that offers seemingly limitless displays of beauty and knowledge.
For those who love to stroll with the city to one side and the sea breeze to the other the Boulevard du Littoral is an essential experience. This tree-lined walkway spans over two kilometers following the contours of the coast. Like all the other preparations for the year of hosting culture, this walkway is a stunning site with many artistic attractions and displays present to mark the importance of the event.
Any visit to this spectacular city would be amiss without exploring the fruits of the sea. Seafood dishes in various arrays are available from the lowliest to the highest restaurants. Fresh catches are part of the rhythm of life here and to get some great photos or see how it plays out head down to the port from mid-morning onwards to see the boats pulling in an selling their catches. Of course wine bars and café’s each have their own stories to tell, so it is worth exploring all the ones you can.
The city is arrayed with stunning palaces that reflect the ingenuity and wealth of the French monarchical period. Churches are abundant and they seem to glitter equally inside and out. Notre Dame de La Garde is one certainly worth seeing and it is hard to miss with its shining gold dome and mosaics.
Finally the most advantageous thing about being in a port city like Marseille is that it affords the opportunity to import things from around the Mediterranean world. The city Markets boast fresh and hand prepared delicacies from neighboring Spain and Italy, exotic spices from North Africa and the delicacies and sweets of the Near East. Noailles markets is the place to be for this melting pot of savory goods. It is located just off La Canebiere street, which is centrally located inside the modern city hub.