Calanques National Park is a natural heritage that stretches over an area of 520 square kilometers (201 square miles). A part of the park is the Massif des Calanques that covers not one but three towns namely La Ciotat, Marseille and Cassis. Some of the park's best features include Cosquer Cave, Calanque de Morgiou, Calanque de Sugiton, Calanque de Sormiou, Calanque de Port-Miou and many more.
Topped by a monumental gilded bronze statue of the Virgin and Child-- added in 1870-- Marseille's distinctive basilica dominates the city from its highest point of 154 meters (505 feet). It was formerly used as a look-out post and important city fortification (François I had a fort built here in 1524). The hill on which it stands (Colline de la Garde) became a popular place of worship and pilgrimage with the building of this Romano-Byzantine-style basilica. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Notre Dame de la Garde Basilica was built on the site of the first chapel erected here in 1214. Today's basilica, designed by Espérandieu, formed part of major building work undertaken during the Second Empire and was consecrated in 1864.
The Roman-Byzantine Marseille Cathedral was built in the middle of the 19th Century by Léon Vaudoyer, on the remains of the ancient Roman-Provençal 'Major' building which dates back to the 12th Century. With a capacity of 3000, it is the largest cathedral in France since the Middle Ages. The marble slabs, impressive porphyry columns and mosaics reflect the cathedral's true splendor, complemented by magnificent altars from the 12th and 15th Centuries and earthenware from the Della Robbia workshop are worth seeing.
Centrally located, the Marseille History Museum forms the mainstay of the city's historical timeline, besides featuring a handful of archaeological finds that came to the fore during the 1967 excavation. Entry into the building opens to the jardin des vestiges, containing treasured architectural remains such as ramparts, port buildings and a necropolis. Local history of the city is reflected in the remains of a ship hull, potters' workshops from the Middle Ages and artist Pierre Puget's many works, among other things. There is also a library and a visitors' center on-site.
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.
Palais Longchamp, designed by architect Henri-Jacques Espérandieu, was built in conjunction with the construction of the canal in 1839. The arrival of water from the Durance in 1849 allowed the town to supply the new districts to the east. Today, the waterfalls, ornamental lakes, fountains and numerous sculptures give this enchanting place an Italian Renaissance feel. Housing Marseilles' Fine Arts Museum in its left-wing and the Natural History Museum in the right, this watery palace, a masterpiece of the Second Empire, commemorates and unites the glory of water, the arts and the sciences under one magnificent roof.
Gymnase Theater, an Italian-style theater has established itself as a renowned theater in the cultural scene of Marseille. The interiors are embellished and accentuated in gold and this grand and elegant theater is well-equipped with the state-of-the-art technology and excellent acoustics.The theatre celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2004, making it one of the oldest theaters in the city. The production season includes classics of French theatre, as well as more modern fare.
L' Odéon was built in 1928, which was once at the beginning of the century the site of the local transport of Marseille: the horses' stables. Open from October until May, this place offers 4 auditoriums. The shows are varied and alternate from vaudeville, boulevard theater, one man shows, light opera, and concerts. This year chamber music, recitals, and even musical productions are strengthened.
La Canebière is Marseille's most famous street, opening directly onto the Old Port (Vieux Port). Its name originates from the Provençal term canébé, meaning "hemp," and can be traced back to the 11th Century when the street was home to rope-makers and hemp merchants. With the destruction of the dockyard in the late 18th Century, it gained free access to the port. Its lively hotels, luxury shops, theaters, and cafes earned it an international reputation.
Palais des Arts is located near the Old Port in downtown Marseille. Built by Espérandieu, this building looks stunning with its renaissance look and high ceilings and big windows. Today the building is used by the Conservatoire National de Région and the Regards de Provence for holding exhibitions and a number of cultural events.