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Previously known as Saint Michel, the Place Jean Jaurès is like a plateau that can be reached after a short climb. While historically the square has been visited by many significant personalities like the King of Naples in the 14th Century and Charles IX in the 16th Century, today it displays more modern characteristics than historical ones. With gradual urbanization it has turned into a bustling area, best known for the weekly market called Le Marché de la Plaine. The square also owes its colloquial name, "La Plaine" to this market.
Enter this picturesque courtyard and former fruit and vegetable market, now converted into a beautiful garden. On the strike of noon, the sun-drenched terraces quickly fill up, revealing a pedestrian zone in the heart of the city, dressed in greenery and refreshed by fountains. The square draws in the hip, artistic crowds and it has become a very fashionable area with the influx of bars, restaurants, theaters and concert halls. When the sun goes down, the nightspots awake. Opposite the Cours Julien you'll find Place Carli, and the surrounding streets jam-packed with antiques and second-hand shops. Don't forget to browse through the little bookstores in front of the Regional Conservatory of Music and the Municipal Archives.
The history of the port goes back as far as 600BCE, with the arrival of sailors from Phocaea, a Greek city in Asia Minor. France's oldest city came into being following the union of one of their leaders, Protis, with Gyptis, princess of the Ligurian people already settled in the region, whose territory in ancient times stretched right along the Mediterranean coast. The area, dappled with boutiques and historic landmarks, has since grown into a flourishing port and tourist site. With yachts and fishing boats bobbing by the side, the port beautifully captures the vibrancy of Marseille at the early morning fish market. Tourists and locals are found frequenting the numerous cafés facing the port which is an ideal spot to people watch as the dusk paints the whitewashed port environs in shades of tangerine. With its beauty recorded in several literary works, the port is a timelessly graceful relic of Marseille.
Lined with cafes and restaurants serving local cuisine, the city center's largest pedestrianized area is the ideal place in which to relax after shopping in some of its stylish boutiques. As evening falls, the square's popular cocktail bars, nightclubs and jazz cafés have the crowds coming. Inaugurated in 1988 and modeled on the Italian piazza by architect Charlie Bové, the square is located on the site of the former 17th-century Arsenal des Galères prison built during Louis XIV's reign.
The Esplanade du J4 offers a breath of crisp-salty air and views of some of the most scenic areas of Marseille such as the harbor and the old port. It is an ideal spot for a walk at the foot of the Fort St Jean. Come get enchanted by the beauty of nature at the Esplanade du J4.
Now a popular place to visit in summer, the Prado beaches; stretching from Palm-Beach down to the sea wall at Pointe-Rouge; were developed in 1974 encompassing 20 hectares of parkland. The seaside park consists of a huge leisure area where the inhabitants of Marseilles; both young and old; come to relax and play football, roller-blade, skateboard (in a specially designated area), cycle and fly kites. The Wind Festival celebrated in September is an opportunity for dedicated kite-flyers the world over to get together here and have fun. Admission to the park is free.