No metropolis divides the French like Marseille. For each admirer cooing concerning the sun-warmed sea, craggy coastlines, fish-rich bouillabaisse and the Mediterranean melting pot (because of 20th-century immigration from Greece, Spain, Italy, Corsica, Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria), another person is grousing about corruption, soiled streets and eroding Frenchness. And the place the port metropolis’s champions see a swaggering no-nonsense metropolis freed from bourgeois pretensions, others see a scarcity of refinement.

Everybody agrees, nonetheless, that Marseille is a metropolis in metamorphosis. Main urban-renewal tasks have upgraded the waterfront right into a sprawl of state-of-the-art cultural venues, purchasing facilities and skyscrapers from five-star architects. On the similar time, formidable seasonal cooking, artisanal cocktails and indie-fashion idea shops — as soon as practically unheard-of — are making noticeable inroads, infusing town with one thing it had largely lacked: cool and cachet. Maybe inevitably, some now lament that Marseille is dropping its distinctive working-class character and southern French soul. And, predictably, some now gush that town has by no means been extra fashionable, formidable or occurring.

Constructed between the 14th and 17th centuries, Fort St. Jean has been restored and reconfigured as a public house and is an important a part of your Marseille initiation. Its battlements, towers and rooftop gardens present commanding views of the expansive blue waters and the sprawling cityscape, from the postmodern Villa Méditerranée subsequent door to town’s 19th-century, neo-Byzantine church buildings: Notre Dame de la Garde basilica and Cathédrale Sainte Marie Majeure. Admission 9.50 euros, or about $10.50.

Lots of Marseille’s immigrant waves washed up within the Panier district, a village-like maze of slender cobbled streets, tiny squares and weather-beaten homes in sherbet colours. Rue de Lorette serves up two traditional flavors of Mediterranean Marseille. Begin your two-stage ethno-bloat with one of many two skinny, crispy pizza choices — anchovy or cheese (15 euros) — at Chez Etienne, a vigorous tile and timber restaurant based by Sicilians in 1943. The previous is all zesty pink sauce and contemporary fish; the latter is agreeably gloppy and gooey. Crossing the road, you arrive in Morocco at Ahwash, a trendy residing room-like restaurant and boutique. To your important course, you may plunge into roasted lamb, hen tajine with preserved lemons (16 euros) or a wonderful tajine of stringy-soft beef, long-stewed peppers and caramelized onions (16 euros). Take house Moroccan glassware, ceramics or candles.

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Previously a hospital, the grandiose 18th-century constructing holding the Intercontinental Marseille — Lodge Dieu now affords sedation within the type of wines, beers, spirits (notably gin) and cocktails, courtesy of Le Capian bar. A hovering house outfitted with plush couches and carpets, the institution pours out quite a few Provençal merchandise, together with Doucillon beer (10 euros) and Le Daviel cocktails (pastis, lychee liqueur, spice syrup and Champagne; 21 euros). If these don’t stupefy you, the view of the illuminated harbor virtually definitely will.

Don’t insult Friche La Belle de Mai by calling it an “artwork museum.” Sprawling throughout the huge grounds of a 19th-century tobacco works, the hodgepodge of historic and up to date buildings would possibly greatest be described as a multispace, polypurpose cafe-restaurant-bar-bookshop-skatepark-playground-graffiti gallery-concert hall-nursery college and someday yoga workshop that additionally occurs to host a number of rotating up to date artwork exhibitions. In different phrases, this onetime cigarette manufacturing facility remains to be lit up, day and evening. Museum admission: 5 euros.

The trademark improvements are all there: rows of vertical pilotis that raise the concrete house constructing off the bottom; horizontal bands of home windows; panels of vivid major colours to enliven the grey exterior. Large and modernist, the so-called Cité Radieuse may solely come from the forward-looking thoughts of Le Corbusier — though, admittedly, the pioneering Swiss architect was trying ahead within the 1940s and ’50s, when Brutalism was nonetheless futuristic. Named a Unesco World Heritage Website in 2016, the constructing accommodates a number of areas open to the general public, together with the rooftop MAMO artwork gallery (summer season solely) a brand new bookshop (a trove of structure tomes, posters and even paints) and the 21-room Lodge Le Corbusier. The out of doors terrace of the resort’s restaurant, Le Ventre de l’Architecte, is a primary spot to sip a Pietra beer from Corsica (Four euros) whereas watching the Mediterranean sundown.

An odd, barren and (virtually) uninhabited world hides 30 minutes from Marseille’s Vieux Port: the Frioul Archipelago. Blasted by eons of wind and waves, the 4 small islands have eroded into rocky, chalk-white lumps of cliffs, ravines, coves and outcroppings the place maybe 100 intrepid locals make their house. The Frioul If Specific ferries you to If Island — the place you may discover the deserted 16th-century jail immortalized within the novel “The Depend of Monte Cristo” — after which onward to Ratonneau Island. From the harbor, gravel paths lengthen alongside the coast and into the inside, resulting in the ruins of a 19th-century hospital and varied fortresses. Amid squealing gulls and crashing surf, the journeys present nonstop elegant vistas, most notably of Marseille itself, spreading down the hills and stretching alongside the cliffs of the Mediterranean coast. Ferry ticket: 10.80 euros round-trip.


Marseille’s sprawling harbor, Le Vieux Port, is the picturesque coronary heart of town. Close by studios with out a view value round $50 to $60 an evening on www.airbnb.com. Flats with views are typically bigger and fancier, with costs beginning round $120 an evening.

With its way of life boutique, restaurant, huge backyard and frequent Friday evening events, Lodge Maison Montgrand (35 rue Montgrand; 33-Four-91-00-35-20) is a Marseille tastemaker. The 49 rooms are executed in minimalist type with clean woods and muted tones. Doubles from 75 euros to 165 euros relying on the season and demand.

Marseille’s most discreet resort may be Le Couvent (6 rue Fonderie Vieille; 33-6-12-31-48-79). Occupying an unmarked 17th-century stone constructing, the sprawling mansion-like house has no restaurant, spa or different facilities — simply 10 trendy up to date flats outfitted with classic items, artwork and books. Studios from 130 euros.

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