For years, Marseille has been unfairly disparaged as the armpit of France. All the carping began back in the 1970s when this sprawling seaport of 800,000 became a magnet for international drug cartels. A fondness for corruption among the city’s politicians didn’t help matters, and agitation between the landed gentry and a large immigrant population has fueled decades of racial tension.
In recent years, however, Marseille has turned a corner on the past. Thanks to the TGV (fast train), the city is now within three hours of Paris, and the quick trip is bringing thousands of tourists to a city once largely ignored. Many of Marseille’s oldest and most interesting neighborhoods are being revitalized with new building projects, and an emerging progressive movement has stolen the limelight from city government’s bad pennies. If ever there was a city in need of re-evaluation, it’s this one.
If you’ve never been to France’s second-largest city but find it on your list of places to go, here are a few tips on the best things to see and do, and the best places to rest your head and grab a bite.
Photo credit: The Château d’If; courtesy of Shoshanah.