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Marseille France French Destinations

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Marseille is France's second most populated and prominent city after Paris, of course, and it has a long and interesting history just like the country's capital. There are something like 1.25 million people living in Marseille, a number made up by many diverse cultures from all around the Mediterranean, West Africa and Indochina.

http://www.marseille Official tourist site for Marseille. (See top left button for English)

Marseille is not like the rest of Provence in that it has not been prettified for the tourist industry and life continues there all year, not just from May to October. It is France's most significant seaport and has a longstanding trade history that dates back to 600 BC. Greek mariners from Asia Minor founded the port of Massilia at what is now the Vieux Port, then in the 1st century BC the town supported Pompey rather than Caesar, who captured the town and confiscated its fleet in 49 BC, removing Massilia's ability to trade. The counts of Provence breathed life into the town in the 10th century, only for it to be crushed again in 1720 when 50,000 of its 90,000 inhabitants fell victim to the plague, brought in by a Syrian ship. Marseille has always had a reputation for rebelling against central government and, whilst it has been a part of France since the late 15th century, it avidly supported the 1789 Revolution, sending volunteers to fight in Paris in August 1792. On the way they hummed a new marching tune with rather ferocious lyrics composed earlier that year in Strasbourg, which then became known as La Marseillaise and is now the national anthem. These days the locals are unreserved and friendly, and have little in common with the snooty Cote d'Azur stereotype.

Marseille Provence airport, popular with companies offering cheap flights to Marseille, is 20km northwest of the centre and there is a shuttle bus service (€8) that runs between the airport and the gare SNCF every 20 minutes. The gare SNCF St Charles is in the 1st arrondissement, of which there are 16 in total, near to the gare routière. The boulevard d'Athènes leads from the station to La Canabière the main street, where you will find the tourist office at number 4 (04 91 13 89 00) near the Vieux Port. It is worth investing in the City Card at the tourist office if you like museums as for €15.25 (one day), €22.87 (two days), or €30.49 (three days) you get entry into all 14 of the museums, the botanical garden, and a ferry ride plus entry to the Chateau d'If fort.

The Vieux Port is the focus of Marseille, with Le Panier to the north (the old Massilia), La Canabière running east to west, the fashionable rue Paradis running south from La Bourse, and cours Julien to the east with theatres, hip hangouts and palm trees. People watching is best carried out at the Vieux Port, where you can also buy fish straight off the boats on the quai Belge.