The southern French seaport city of Marseilles has an eclectic and fascinating history. When you’re not strolling the cobblestone streets in the old part of the city or sipping on a glass of wine at a café overlooking the port, here are three historic sites you should check out.
Embarcadère Frioul If
1 Quai de la Fraternité
Made famous by Alexandre Dumas’s world-famous novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, Chateau d’If is the most popular tourist destination in Marseilles. Originally constructed in the sixteenth century to protect Marseilles from invaders, Chateau d’If served as a prison for dissenters against the French state. Hop on a tourist boat and tour the small island and the former prison. Literary aficionados will appreciate the exhibits about Alexandre Dumas and his novel.
Jardin des Vestiges
17 Passage Belsunce
13001 Marseille, France
A well-known archaeological site located in Marseille, le Jardin des Vestiges (“park of ruins”) is a great place to spend the afternoon. Found throughout the park are the remains of the city’s ancient Greek port (which eventually became a Roman port). These ruins, dating back to as early as 600 BC, were first discovered in the 1960s during a large construction project. The area has since become protected by the French government, and an impressive array of ruins, including ancient and medieval walls, gates and warehouses, have been carefully excavated by experts. Entry to the Musée d’Histoire de Marseille (Marseille History Museum)—which holds some of the smaller (though equally as impressive) historical remains uncovered during the decades-long excavation process—is included in the ticket price for the Jardin des Vestiges.
Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica
Everyone knows about Paris’s iconic Notre Dame, but Marseille has a pretty impressive one as well, Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica. Constructed in 1853 in a Neo-Byzantine style, Notre-Dame de la Garde overlooks the entire city and the harbor (photo op, anyone?). Highlights of this gorgeous basilica include its colorful interior, large crypt and intricate mosaics.
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