Marseille also spelled in English as Marseilles is the second-largest city of France. The main city of the historical province of Provence, it is the prefecture of the department of Bouches-du-Rhône and region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. It is located on the Mediterranean coast near the mouth of the Rhône. The city covers an area of 241 km2 (93 sq mi) and had a population of 852,516 in 2012. Its metropolitan area, which extends over 3,173 km2 (1,225 sq mi) is the third-largest in France after Paris and Lyon, with a population of 1,831,500 as of 2010.
A city proud of its history and global role, Marseille is the point of convergence for a number of international telecommunications networks and constitutes a significant pathway for global internet traffic, especially originating in Africa, Asia and the Mediterranean basin. The French Tech label came as an acknowledgement of the dynamism and broad appeal of Marseille and its surrounding region. Working to build the tomorrow’s city , Marseille is an open-air laboratory gathering a number of collaborative schemes involving both public and private sector operators, as well as start-ups and research bodies.
Marseilles is a city that only really opened
Marseille is the « oldest city in France » and indeed one of the oldest in western Europe. The city was founded as Massalia in around 600 BC, and soon developed into an important port in the ancient Greek world. For the Greeks, and later for the Romans, it was a major point of transition and trade between the civilisations of the Mediterranean, and those of Gaul and northwest Europe.
And that, essentially, has been Marseilles’ role ever since. Located near the mouth of the Rhone – the greatest natural corridor between the Mediterranean and the lands to the north, it has long been one of the most important, when not the most important, port in France – a role that explains its importance and its size, as France’s third largest urban area, to this day.
Rather in the same way as Genoa or Naples, Marseilles’ importance as a port rather hindered its development as a tourist destination; and while other Mediterranean ports like Barcelona and Valencia began to develop their tourism in the 1970’s, Marseilles did not. Its port was too important. But more recently, Marseilles has managed maintain its status as one of the most important ports on the Mediterranean, and develop as a tourist destination at the same time.
Fort Saint JeanFort Saint Jean from the top of King René’s tower.
The paradox with Marseille is that although it stands proudly beside the Mediterranean, it is not a seaside resort. The gentler and flatter coast northwest of the city is occupied by the docks, and southwards from the « Old Port », the seashore is rocky, with no beaches until the Plage du Prado, 6 km further south. So it’s not a place to visit if the aim of the trip is solely or mainly to enjoy the beach. The shoreline and the waterside ambiance, yes; but the beach, no.
For a day-trip or a weekend break or short stay, Marseilles is an ideal destination, specially during those times of the year when it tends to be bathed in Mediterranean sunshine while much of France further north is still struggling with spring or dampened by autumn mists and showers. And getting to the tourist quarter of Marseille around the Old Port is remarkably easy.