There is so much to see and explore in Marseille, and a 24-hour period could not possibly do this city justice. Especially seeing as Marseille is the second largest city in France after Paris. If I had only one suggestion it would be to go to the Mucem museum. During our 24-hour visit, we wandered along the old port city and spent most of the day at the Mucem but we still hadn’t seen everything this museum has to offer. Walking up to the museum felt somewhat like stepping into the warmth of the Alhambra in southern Spain until we crossed the bridge connecting the different parts of the museum which stretches over the sparkling blue Mediterranean sea, and entered the main exhibit building which is modern and sleek.
We were fortunate enough to be there when the Ai Weiwei Fan-Tan exhibit. I was particularly interested in learning about his father Ai Qing who was one of China’s most renowned poets. The exhibit includes a wall of Ai Qing’s poetry and tells the story of how deeply embedded activism was in Ai Weiwei’s entire life. There was also an exhibit called ‘Connectivities’ which included a section on the Mediterranean in the16th and 17th century and the Contemporary Mediterranean cities and urban planning challenges for a few of the megacities of this century – Istanbul, Cairo, Aix-Marseille, and Casablanca.
A quote included in the ‘Connectivities’ exhibit by Frédéric-Louis Sauser, better known as Blaise Cendrars, Swiss-born novelist and poet captured my brief exposure to Marseille for me:
“Marseille is today the only of the of the ancient capitals that does not crush us with the monuments of its past…It is not a city of architecture, of religion, of academies or fine arts. It is not the product of history. It is easy-going and jovial. It is dirty and rundown. But it is nonetheless one of the world’s most mysterious cities and one of the most difficult to decipher”.
I was immediately drawn into this mysterious and exotic city. I love visiting big port cities … there is a sense of openness and connection to the world that is captivating.
This is what is next on my list to explore when we return:
- Walk in the Panier quarter: We just scratched the surface of the Panier after visiting which reminded me of the Alfama in Lisbon… If you enjoy getting lost on small streets, looking at murals, exploring small cages and shops then the Panier quarter will be up your alley. I definitely plan on spending a full day in Le Panier on our next visit.
- Eat “Navettes de Saint Victor” cookies: I have no idea how I missed these but they look delicious. You would think since I was 5-months pregnant, I would have been solely focused on finding these cookies
- Visit and eat at one of the restaurants in Vallon des Auffes: Vallon des Auffes is a small fishing village on the outskirts of Marseille. Here is a brief history and some photos to get you excited.
- Explore La Maison Empereur: La Maison was founded in 1827and has treasures for the home but also small items to take back in your suitcase.
- Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille: The view of the city from the basilica is supposed to be spectacular. I also really wanted to see the Cathedrale de la Major but after two weeks of traveling through France and Italy, my feet had finally decided that they needed a rest.
I look forward to visiting this vibrant, diverse port city in the future with much more time and getting to know it better.
Only have 12-hours in Marseille? Visit here for more ideas to make the most of your visit.