Walk 2 - The south side
The Old Port - discover the east and south sides.....
Step 1 - Around the end
The second walk begins as the first - walking past the City Hall, turning left and walking towards the big hotel on the small hill.
At the first street, turn right.
The picture below shows the destruction by the Germans in 1943, when many areas were systematically destroyed.
The picture shows the absolute destruction of the area - except for one building called 'Le Hotel Cabre', the oldest house in Marseille built in 1535. It was the home of the Consul Louis de Cabre, who was an alderman and merchant. The house was spared because of its historical value. In 1954, as new streets were being formed and new buildings rose, the house did not fit so it was moved about 50 feet and turned 90 degrees to fit into the new plan. The mullioned windows are original and quite exceptional.
As you pass Le Hotel Cabre at the end of the first block, you are walking up Grand Rue, a narrow street about two blocks long with a grand history. From the beginning of the history of Marseille 2500 years ago with the Greeks, this was the main east-west street that once ran the length of the town. The original road is ten feet below the present one. Admire the lovely French architecture as you continue to walk straight, until you come to the end of the street.
Cross the street to the fence enclosing the ruins of the ancient harbour and walk to your right. The ruins that you see are part of the 'History of Marseille Museum'.
At the rounded corner of the building beside you, walk a short block out to the harbour, beside the church called Église Saint Ferréol les Augustins. The site was originally owned by the Knights Templar, and taken over by the Augustinian monks. It has been changed drastically over the centuries. The interior is simple, but elegant.
Walk back to the mall and follow around the modern building that is on your left - the Bourse Centre, a big shopping mall. The first store is Galeries Lafayette, a large French department store. To get to the museum, you must go through the mall from the Bourse Centre entrance with the wide stairs.
Walk down the street that directly faces the steps into the mall. Go one block and turn right. The lovely building beside you is the stock exchange (The 'Palais de la Bourse') - the word 'bourse' seems to have several meanings - stock exchange and purse are two, so the mall name fits here.
Continue straight and you will be at the end of the harbour - a wide paved area called Quai des Belges. Here, early in the morning, the fishermen bring their dawn catches to sell to the restaurants and the local people, so they have the very freshest fish.
Something endlessly fascinating is at the end of the harbour. A giant pavilion, 150 feet long with the underside of the roof made of polished stainless steel, reflects everything upside-down. It makes for great selfies, and odd pictures of the people looking up into it.
Google Street View
Walk down the street that is parallel to the end of the harbour and off the end of the mirror. After one block you can turn left for two short blocks to the opera house, or continue straight for one more block and turn right into a long mostly pedestrian area, with lots of outdoor cafes.
Step 2 - To St. Victor or Notre Dame de la Garde
Walk down the street that is parallel to the end of the harbour and off the end of the mirror. After one block you can turn left for two short blocks to the opera house (see the map at the top of the page), or continue straight for one more block and turn right into a long mostly pedestrian area, with lots of outdoor cafes.
At the left hand end of this long pedestrian 'square' are stairs to the street above. Go up the stairs and turn left. In two blocks you will come to a traffic circle.
Which way to go now?
There are two choices... To go to St. Victor's, from the traffic circle, there is no more climbing, some views of the harbour and the interesting church.
The second choice is all up-hill to the amazing Notre Dame de la Garde. From the traffic circle, every step is up, so this option will be for the very fit! If you want to see the church and the views and don't want to climb - take the little tourist train from the north side of the port.
To St. Victor
To go to St. Victor, turn right at the traffic circle and take the first street. Walk 6 blocks, and you will come to a busy intersection, with highway signs in all directions. Turn left and you will soon see the church to your left.
St. Victor is a very old church, with archaeology dating back to the late 400's. The present church - or parts of it - was dedicated in 1040 and re-built in 1200. There is a variety of architectural styles. The back of the church is interesting, as repairs and different stone work over the centuries can be seen. Visit the crypt which has interesting sarcophagi - some Roman, with decoration from pagan mythology. Somewhere I read that you can climb the towers for wonderful views of the harbour - but I am not sure of that.
To return, go down the angled street on the right (facing the port) and at the bottom of the angled street are stairs down to the harbour.
About halfway back to the end of the harbour, there is a 'ferry' that takes people to the north side.
To Notre Dame de la Garde
Notre Dame de la Garde can be seen from almost every part of the city. It stands high on a hill and is the most well-known symbol of Marseille. In the middle ages it was the site of a fort and an important lookout, with a chapel.
Construction of the basilica began in 1852, and was originally an enlargement of the medieval chapel, but new plans made it an important basilica. It was consecrated in 1864. There is a crypt carved from the rock, and an upper church in Neo-byzantine style decorated with mosaics. The 135 ft. bell tower is topped by a belfry which supports a huge statue of the Madonna and Child made of copper gilded with gold leaf.
Getting there is a stiff walk! Begin at the traffic circle, turn right and take the second street - a tiny lane that (naturally) goes steeply up the hill. There is a sign to point you up this unlikely street.
At the top of this lane, cross the parking area and continue up the street ahead of you - a straight climb until you come to the end of the street. Now there are several flights of stairs - continue up until you reach the view of the basilica and a path - the picture beside. Cross over to the path, and from here it is another steady climb to the top of the hill. Even when you come to the parking area - there are more stairs to the church!
The views of the ocean and over Marseille are marvellous - walk around to see down the Mediterranean. The picture at the top of this page shows you part of the view. The foundation of the basilica is the ancient fort, and the walls of this are beside you as you walk around the base.
The interior is ornate, with statues, paintings and mosiac ceilings and decoration.
The basilica is worth seeing, both inside and out - and if the climb is too much - as I said above, take the little train. This is a much easier way to see the sights!
Marseille is an interesting city! There is a lot to see and enjoy. Anthony Bourdain said Marseille is the most underrated destination, “A great city with great food and great views, sitting right on the edge of the blue Mediterranean, surrounded by freakin’ Provence. It’s got it all.”