Marseille is windy. In fact if there is one thing I can remember about the one day I spent in Marseille, it is the wind. I don’t mind travelling Europe in winter, in fact I really enjoy the lower costs and lack of crowds. I don’t mind rugging up; I can deal with the rain and the snow. But the wind just gets to me.
And Marseille didn’t have normal wind. It had the kind of wind that is so strong and intense you feel like it has crept into your body. Given said body was already weak and still recovering from a bad case of food poisoning, I have to admit that the wind did put a bit of a dampener on my trip to Marseille.
Is Marseille Safe?
It’s funny that the one bad thing about Marseille that I’m talking about is the wind, because Marseille has a bit of a bad reputation at the moment, and not for its weather. The huge amounts of migrants that have settled here have allegedly affected the social cohesion of the city. In many parts of France, and the world, Marseille is known for crime and poverty.
In fact before coming to Marseille, the only thing I could remember reading about it, was a blog post from one of my favourite bloggers about how Marseille is the only place she ever was remotely put in an unsafe situation.
But I don’t think you should let a bad reputation or some bad weather stop you from visiting Marseille. Whilst an increase in poverty was evident (there were a lot more homeless people on the streets), I found this city to be incredibly beautiful. And although I only spent a short day in the city, and wasn’t there at night, I didn’t feel unsafe at all.
My friend who lives half an hour away goes out in Marseille regularly and she hadn’t even mentioned safety when I headed off to Marseille for the day.
The Port of Marseille
The first thing you’ll notice when you get into the main part of Marseille is the port. I’ve got a bit of a thing for ports; I just love the contrast of the blue water and the different types of boats you always find there.
From the sailboats to the million dollar yachts, it’s always interesting to gaze around at them. Harbours are also the perfect place for people watching. It’s amazing the kinds of things you will see people doing in and around the water.
From the harbour it is really easy to start your exploration of Marseille. The city even has a self guided walking tour set out on information boards along one of the main streets. I stopped at some of the places along this route but really I just wandered around.
Starting at the harbour if you walk up towards Rue Caisserie you’ll find lots of interesting spots between the harbour and Fort Saint-Jean.
I walked along this street, stopping to take photos of old style hotels, churches and government buildings.
After many photos I finally arrived at Fort Saint Jean which offers some of the best views over the port of Marseille.
The wind was particularly atrocious up here, as I was walking across one of the ramps that led to the fort I thought I’d be blown up to Oz. It’s worth exploring the Fort itself, it dates back to the reign of Louis XIV in the 1660s.
From Fort Sant-Jean it’s easy to take the ramp to Mucem. Mucem is Marseille’s most modern buildings. I know a lot of people don’t fancy adding modern architecture to their travel itinerary, especially in contrast to all those incredibly old buildings and churches you’ll be seeing, but Mucem is pretty beautiful.
There is just something about the simplicity of all those black and silvers lines with the backdrop of the deep blue of the waters that surround it.
La Cathedrale de la Nouvelle Major
La Cathedrale de la Nouvelle Major was my next stop. I saw it from the top of Fort Sant-Jean and it looked incredible.
It was even more stunning when I got closer to it. Unfortunately the majority of it was closed and under scaffolding for restoration work. But this cathedral was the first one to actually amaze me since I visited Sagrada Familia back in Barcelona.
From the Cathedral I headed to my favourite part of Marseille; le Panier. Le Panier is the historical district of Marseille. It’s the oldest part of town and definitely the most beautiful. While a lot of the area around the port is home to new architecture, blue waters and a rather touristy atmosphere, Le Panier is quaint and charming.
Unfortunately this beautiful area suffered a lot of damage during World War II, as its streets and little alleyways proved a great hiding spot for refugees and Jewish people. Hence the Nazi forces that were occupying Marseille at the time decided to heavily bomb this area.
But what I loved about Le Panier is that it is both old and new. In some alleyways I found colourful street art, in other parts the Meditterean influence of the district is evident, and in some parts I stumbled along buildings that are hundreds of years old.
I particularly loved la Vieille Charite, a baroque style charity house that was built in the late 17th century.
Any visit to Marseille would be incomplete without getting lost in this little district.
Notre-Dame de la Garde
After stopping for lunch I walked back down to the port to catch the bus to Notre-Dame de la Garde. You can hike up here from the main port but it would be a pretty exhausting task. The bus is easy enough to catch, you might just have to be prepared to be squished in with lots of other tourists.
Not only is the Notre-Dame de la Garde a pretty formidable looking church, it is also the best view over Marseille.
Now if the wind in Marseille had been bad before, it become colossal when I arrived at Norte-Dame de la Garde. It’s still incredibly hard to explain, as I’ve never experienced anything that ferocious or crazy.
Apparently the French even have a word for the wind from Marseille (and Avignon) because it is so infamous. I’m sure I couldn’t put up with it everyday!
But I braved the winds to enjoy the view and snap some great shots over Marseille. There is no other place in the city where you can get such a 360 degree panoramic view. It was great way to end my day in Marseille, although I wish the wind wasn’t quite as bad because then I would have probably lingered longer.
The Final Verdict…
There was plenty more for me to do in Marseille. In fact in my original plans for my stay with my friend, I’d planned to spend two days exploring this city. But unfortunately I was still trying to build back my energy following the hospital visit in Avignon.
I wanted to try Bouillabaisse (I literally had it already set out in my budget), but I didn’t really have my appetite back. I wanted to spend more time exploring further outside of the main port area, but one day just wasn’t enough.
But alas the best-laid plans are bound to be affected by things outside my control. And my trip to the south of France definitely taught me that. Hopefully if you add Marseille to your list you’ll be able to spend more than one day!