Top French Cities - Marseille at a glance

Press release

For more information, visit the Marseille Tourism Office and Convention Bureau at

City region: Provence / Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

Population & what they are called: 858,120 inhabitants (2014 census), called Marseillais

Access from Paris:

  • by road: about 7 hours (490 miles) via the A6 and A7 autoroute du Soleil

  • by train: about 3 h 15 min by TGV from the Gare de Lyon

  • by plane: 1h15, landing in Marseille-Provence Airport

Famous native daughters & sons:

  • Edmond Rostand, poet and dramatist

  • Maurice Béjart, choreographer

  • Zinedine Zidane, soccer player

Most distinctive and/or unique fact or trait (or little known fact):

  • Marseille hosted the FIFA World Cup 1998, was European Capital of Culture in 2013, welcomed the UEFA Euro 2016 and is the European Capital of Sport in 2017.

  • Since the 1930s, the world's most commonly used tarot deck has been called the Tarot de Marseille.

Notable sites:

  • Vieux Port – now completely renovated by Norman Foster, the city's main harbor and marina is lined with cafes and the site of the Ombrière, a large mirrored sunshade and events pavilion

  • Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde – the enormous 19th-century Romano-Byzantine basilica that occupies Marseille’s highest point and delivers panoramic views of the city (

  • Abbaye de Saint-Victor – one of Europe’s oldest places of Christian worship, with a 5th-century crypt that is home to a Black Madonna who is paraded every year at Candlemas

Top annual events:

  • Fête du Panier – concerts, street theater, art expos, circus performances, cooking classes and more held in the streets of the district

  • Festival Marsatac – Marseille's biggest electronic and urban music festival (

  • Fiesta des Suds – four-day festival with a diverse lineup of rap, reggae, funk and soul performers from all over the world (

Most notable museums:

  • Musée des Civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée (Mucem) – the first national museum to be designated out of Paris, devoted to the history and culture of European and Mediterranean civilizations (

  • La Cité Radieuse – visit a furnished typical apartment in this building built by architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s and now a World Heritage Site (

  • Centre de la Vieille Charité – originally an alms house, but now home to an archeological museum, a gallery of African and Asian art, a poetry center, bookshops and a café (

Culinary specialties:

  • bouillabaisse – a fish stew containing at least three varieties of fresh local fish plus potatoes and vegetables, also with a separate rouille (mayonnaise made with egg yolk, olive oil, red bell pepper, saffron and garlic) spread on pieces of toasted bread

  • navettes de Marseille – little boat-shaped biscuits flavored with orange blossom

  • chichi frégi – a favorite street food of fried dough sprinkled with sugar

Local wines & spirits:

  • pastis – an alcoholic beverage made from a secret recipe that includes aniseed and spice

  • La Cagole – a blond beer with attitude but a whole lot of charm, produced locally

  • anisette Cristal – an anise-flavored liqueur


  • Centre Bourse and area around Rue Paradis – the main, central shopping area

  • Les Terrasses du Port – a shopping center of 160 shops and restaurants in La Joliette, and amazing views from the roof terrace

  • Rue Sainte and the Saint-Victor district – an ever-increasing number of trendy shops for an artsy shoppers

Most popular night spots:

  • Cours Julien and La Plaine – two large plazas surrounded by cool cafes and bars, with busy streets between them notable for their street art

  • Les Docks du Suds – a cultural center devoted to world music and alternative events using large indoor and outdoor activity areas for concerts, night clubs and more (

  • R2 (Le Rooftop) – amazing views and the sensation of dancing in the air at this amazing site in the new Euromediterranée district (

Local population’s favorite activities (or hangouts):

  • Le Panier – all that remains of the old town after World War II, a maze of lanes lined with artisan shops, workshops and terraced homes overlooking hidden squares and artsy cafes

  • the islands – including the Château d'If (, the fortress prison of Monte Cristo fame, and the Îles du Frioul, isolated rocks with rare plants, sea birds, a few beaches and lovely views

  • the Calanques – a wild mountainous coastal area, parts of which are now a national park, with many walking trails and hidden beaches (

Local industries:

  • port services – the commercial port is the first French port and the fifth European port by cargo tonnage, a good portion of that petroleum, which is refined in the area too

  • research – Marseille is France's second largest research center, with 3,000 research scientists within Aix Marseille University alone

  • media – La Belle de Mai once an industrial area, has now been turned over to cultural and multimedia activities, including film and television studios

In Pop Culture:

  • The Count of Monte Cristo (Le Compte de Monte Cristo) by Alexandre Dumas – a literary classic about a man who is wrongfully imprisoned (at the Château d’If in Marseille), escapes from jail, builds a fortune and then seeks revenge

  • hip hop music – Marseille is a center of music of today, made popular by Marseille bands like IAM, Fonky Family, Psy 4 de la Rime and Keny Arkana

  • Love Actually – a 2003 romantic comedy about love in which Colin Firth has a scene at the Bar de la Marine in the Vieux-Port

Major 2018 development:

  • MP2018 Quel Amour! – seven months of unprecedented artistic collaboration in the form of festivals


Marion Fourestier
Atout France-The France Tourism Development Agency
New York, 10022
United States