Marseille is a wonderfully diverse place composed of 16 arrondissements or districts and a total of 111 different quartiers or neighborhoods. Each one is self-contained and has its own distinct features.
The old port is one of the best-known parts of Marseille and its streets are lined with restaurants and cafes. In the mornings, fishmongers ply their trade in the fish market opposite the boats. This is where Louis XIV moored his fleet. You will also find galleries here. Next to Cours Estienne d'Orves you will find Place Thiars, the liveliest part of this district. Good quality restaurants stand side by side with tourist traps. The Theatre National de la Criee is very popular. A bit further on, Basilique St Victor is known locally as the 'key to the port'.
This is the most famous road in town. Along it you will see shopping streets such as Rue St Ferreol, and the Musee de la Mode, the Musee de la Marine et de l'Economie , and the Opera Municipal . The Odeon is right at the end.
A walk through this popular district, close to the old port, takes you around the Provençal pedestrian streets lined with multi-colored buildings. The Clocher des Accoules , la place des Moulins, la Vieille Charite and la Major are all rich in history.
The Joliette docks are the long red brick buildings along the motorway footbridge. The four blocks of buildings were built in the 19th century and the interiors have been completely renovated. The Musee des Docks Romains charts the history of the port of Marseille. Try to spend an evening at the Docks des Suds as well.
In Marseille, Place Jean Jaures is also known as La Plaine. This huge square has a market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and a busy shopping area at other times. The adjacent streets provide a wide assortment of restaurants, bars, and pubs frequented by the locals such as l'Intermediaire or the Bar de la Plaine.
Le Cours Julien
Just along from La Plaine, le Cours Julien is a popular spot for younger crowds due to its variety of cafes, cabarets and theaters such as Chocolat-Theâtre. For concerts Espace Julien is the place to go. Wander around the antique shops and clothing boutiques like Madame Zaza of Marseille .
Bars and cinemas such as Cesar and Prado keep this square at the end of the Rue de Rome quite busy day and night. Set in the business district, it also marks the intersection of main roads such as Boulevard Baille and the Prado.
People come to the Prado to see the bourgeois buildings that line the main road, the Boulevard Perier and the Rue Paradis. The Parc Borely and its castle provide one of Marseille's biggest open spaces. The racecourse here is also very popular.
The locals are partial to this district which is dominated by Notre Dame de la Garde . The name La Bonne Mère (literally "the Good Mother") comes from the enormous statue of the Virgin Mary on top of the bell tower. This church is also an important site for pilgrims.
The Corniche (coastal road) winds along the Mediterranean coast and all the fanciest villas are located in this district, as is MAC-Galeries Contemporaines des Musee de Marseille . There are plenty of good views but the beaches are mostly hidden. The Palais de Pharo is a great place for walks and Vallon des Auffes is a pleasant surprise. Wherever you are, you can admire the open sea.
Palais Longchamp is a good place to go for walks and to take in a little culture. You can also visit the Musee Grobet-Labadie , the Musee des Beaux-Arts and the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle —the natural history museum.
In over 2,600 years, Marseille has influenced and transformed the culinary traditions of the Mediterranean basin. Oriental influences, which came to Marseille as a result of successive invasions throughout its history, have created a melting pot of culinary styles. Many dishes make up the cosmopolitan mosaic of Marseille cuisine including couscous, spices, pesto soup (flavored with basil which was originally imported to Genoa from India), pasta, polenta, casserole with wine (for which a long preparation time is required) and of course the ubiquitous Bouillabaisse.
Allow yourself to be guided by both your curiosity and your instincts and head towards the quays of the Vieux-Port , where restaurants abound. Some of the best Bouillabaisse (this was originally a soup made by poor fishermen, but was later to find its way into the soup bowls of royalty) can be found at Restaurant Miramar —one of the restaurants which adheres to the 'Bouillabaisse Charter'. Locals flock to Les Mets de Provence on the Quai des Belges. From here, you can watch the boats as they leave, and see their sails go up as they pass the Fort Saint-Jean at the entrance to the port.
Not far from La Vieille Charite , in the Panier district, Le Panier des Arts offers simple, yet tasty food. At the famous Chez Etienne pizzeria, you will be welcomed like an old friend. On the opposite bank, the symbolic Les Arcenaulx and La Côte de Boeuf are two typical Marseille restaurants. The nearby Rue Sainte is home to a Marseille gastronomic institution: Patalain .
The coastal road is bathed in good seafood and romantic light as the waves murmur and lap at your feet. There is a restaurant hidden away in the Malmousque cove. There is also the Châteaux de Marseille, Le Petit Nice and the Chez Michel (on the Plage des Catalans beach), which attracts seafood lovers from all over Marseille. Further out, in the Goudes district (on the eastern edge of the city), where the deep blue of the sea meets the brilliant white of the rocks, is Chez Aldo .
Le Vallon des Auffes
Back towards the center of the city, you will find the small fishing port of Vallon des Auffes . Here, you will get an insight into the region's culinary diversity. You can try seafood at L'Epuisette and Chez Fonfon or pizzas and mixed grills at Chez Jeannot .
In the city center, La Canebière (a thoroughfare which divides the city in two), will lead you to the Cours Julien with its innumerable restaurants, all offering fine, Southern cuisine. These include: Le Sud du Haut , La Garbure and also Dar Djerba .
The lively shopping streets of Marseille are home to a number of hidden gastronomic treasures. Spend some time in the city's dining scene and you will find that the citizens of Marseille are proud of their city, and happy to share its wonders with you.