Historic Quarter sights in Marseille
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From the Vieux Port, hike north up to this fantastic history-woven quarter, dubbed Marseille’s Montmartre as much for its sloping streets as its artsy ambience. In Greek Massilia it was the site of the agora (marketplace), hence its name, which means ‘the basket’. During WWII the quarter was dynamited and afterwards rebuilt. Today it’s a mishmash of lanes hiding artisan shops, ateliers (workshops) and terraced houses strung with drying washing.
Its centerpiece is Centre de la Vieille Charité; nearby Cathédrale de la Major stands guard between the old and ‘new’ ports with a ‘stripy’ facade made of local Cassis stone and green Florentine marble. Creative art…
Art, culture and architecture abound in Aix and is a stroller’s paradise, especially the mostly pedestrian old city, Vieil Aix.
The graceful cours Mirabeau is the heart of Aix. Cafés spill onto the sidewalks on the sunny northern side. The southern side shelters a string of elegant Renaissance hôtels particuliers (private mansions). The mossy fontaine d’Eau Thermale, at the intersection of cours Mirabeau and rue du 4 Septembre, spouts 34°C water, a pleasant hint of what awaits at the Thermes Sextius.
South of cours Mirabeau, Quartier Mazarin was laid out in the 17th century, and is home to some of Aix’ finest buildings. Further south still is the peaceful parc…
Ships have docked for more than 26 centuries at the city’s birthplace, the colourful Old Port. The main commercial docks were transferred to the Joliette area north of here in the 1840s, but the old port remains a thriving harbour for fishing boats, pleasure yachts and tourists. The free Cross-Port Ferry in front of the town hall is a fun way to get out on the water, however briefly.
Guarding the harbour are Bas Fort St-Nicolas on the south side and, across the water, Fort St-Jean, founded in the 13th century by the Knights Hospitaller of St John of Jerusalem, and home of the national Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée's brand new…