Marseille is not only the oldest city in France - because of its important commercial port, it is also called "the gate to the world". Founded in 600 BC by Greek sailors of Phocaea, Marseille is the first port of France. Marseille is the seat of an archbishop, city of university and capital of departments Bouches-du-Rhone. The city owes its expansion and prosperity to its port, which is an important transhipment point for goods destined for North Africa and Asia. Especially the oil occupies an eminent position.
Marseille was founded by Greeks, who called this colony "Massalia". The Romans enlarged the city and constructed voluminous harbor facilities. During the Crusades, Marseilles was an important base for the crusaders on their journey to the Holy Land. Even today, the many churches and fortifications testify to this era. In the troubles of the French Revolution, the city became legendary with the famous Marseillaise, which was at first the war song for the Army of the Rhine and later became the national anthem of France. In the 19th century, Napoleon III caused the city to be developed on the model of Paris. The generous boulevards and magnificent architecture of the districts testified to the economic boom in those days. During the Second World War, bombings destroyed the city and the port of Marseille.
The center of the lively city of Marseille is dominated by the Canebière, a large boulevard, which is bordered by offices, shops and cafes. Today, the old avenue of luxury, which is compared with the Champs-Elysees in Paris, separates the poor north from the life of the wealthy south. Bourse and Marseille Navy Museum are two impressive buildings, which still highlight the magnificence of this avenue. Next to the Center of the Stock Exchange, one can visit the ruins of the Greek port facilities, which were arranged like an open-air museum and a park.
The Longchamp Boulevard with the Longchamp Palace and the Grobet-Labadie Museum also impresses the visitor. In the many museums, one can visit works of art varieties, such as paintings, caricatures of Honoré Daumier, who was born in Marseille, as well as sculptures, musical instruments and much more. To the west of Marseille is the picturesque old port which is now used as a sports harbor. The fish market, which opens every day early in the morning, is also a popular tourist attraction. The Saint Victor's Basilica, which was an abbey church in the 5th century, is one of the most important sights in the Old Port area.
To the south of Marseille, the city's emblem, the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde basilica, rises over the city and the port. The basilica, which was built on a limestone rock was built instead of a medieval pilgrimage chapel. The view from the terrace, which surrounds the church, the city and its surroundings is exceptional.
The old town of Marseille with its steep and winding alleys stretches north of the old port. The Cathedral of Major with the two towers crowned by cupolas is located on a terrace and was built in Roman-Byzantine style in seating alternating white and green limestone. The cathedral, which is richly decorated, welcomed the tombs of the bishops of Marseilles in its crypt. The old hospice "Vieille Charité" is a remarkable example for the successful architecture of a hospital. Today the building houses a scientific and cultural center and also houses the Museum of Mediterranean Archeology with ceramics and bronzes of Etruscan, Greek and Roman times. The Clocher d'Accoules, which rises on the tombs of the old town, is the rest of one of the oldest churches of Marseilles.
About 1 km away from the old port is the modern port, which was built in 1844 with its 200 hectares of land and extensive wharves. The Grande Joliette Basin is the starting point for large cruise ships leaving the port to Corsica and other overseas countries.
The city of the South is more elegant and worldly as the city of the North with the avenue du Prado and its plane trees giving shade. The Cité Radieuse, which was built by Le Corbusier, is a residential area with housing, social institutions, nurseries, shops and a theater.
Around Marseilles, the old prison island "Château d'If" could be more famous thanks to the "Count of Monte Christo" by Alexandre Dumas. The Calanques, which are between Marseille and Cassis, are a popular tourist attraction. The fjord-shaped sea bays are used as yacht harbors, and the rock walls present a paradise to climb.