The Old Port is where Marseille was founded over 2,600 years ago.
This was the city’s commercial and military harbor for most of that time, but now it is used mainly for pleasure boats, since the new container ships have their own bigger harbor just a short distance away to the north.
My first photo shows the Old Port as seen from the Frioul If Express.
Second photo: The Old Port on the left and Fort Saint-Nicolas on the right.
Third photo: Looking south across the harbor. The church up on a hill behind the harbor is Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.
Fourth photo: Here we are also looking south, not only at Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde but also at La Criée, a former wholesale fish market which is now the home of a major theater, the Centre Dramatique National de Marseille.
Fifth photo: The Old Port from Fort Saint-Jean.
When I took this photo in the autumn of 2012, the quays at the Old Port consisted mainly of large construction sites, for the purpose of transforming the streets into a pedestrian area. The space devoted to motor vehicles will be greatly reduced, with the goal of having 50 % fewer cars in the area by 2013.
The Quai des Belges, a nine-lane highway that runs along the end of the port, is gradually being changed. First it is being reduced to four lanes, and at some point there will be just two lanes, both reserved for buses.
In a car-fixated city like Marseille, this sort of change awakens various sorts of anxieties. Car drivers are of course unhappy about losing their near-monopoly on the use of public space. They claim to be afraid that the new pedestrian area will be taken over by anti-social elements who will use it for criminal purposes. Their idea of public safety is for everyone to stay in their cars with the windows rolled up and the doors locked, because anyone not in a car is considered a potential troublemaker.
Non-drivers, who consider the whole project too timid and gradual, are afraid the new pedestrian area will soon be full of illegally parked cars and motorcycles.
The city council says the rules for people and cars will be strictly enforced, with the aid of video cameras and a new lighting system.
Second photo: A sign at the Old Port to promote the project.
In Roman times the harbor was somewhat larger than it is today, so the remains of their Ancient Port are now about two blocks away from the water’s edge.
These remains were discovered in 1967. They are now an archeological site and will be accessible as part of the city’s history museum (Musée d’Histoire et Port Antique de Marseille), starting in June 2013.
The Marseille City Hall is on the north side of the old harbor. It was built in the seventeenth century, from 1653 to 1673, directly across the harbor from the Arsenal of the Galleys.
The Arsenal was considered an expression of the power of the king, so the impressive baroque façade of the City Hall was intended to show that the city was just as powerful as the king.
The City Hall just barely avoided demolition during the French Revolution. And it was one of the few buildings in the Old Port district that was not destroyed by the Nazis in 1943, as we learned on our guided walking tour of the Panier district.
For the best view of the Vieux Port, keep walking on the south side along the busy road. This will take you past a small naval base (?) housed in Fort St Nicolas, and a Novotel, as well as another fort under restoration presumably to be opened as a new tourist attraction in 2013. Eventually, you'll come to a gate into a park, which leads you to a palace, the Palace du Pharo. You can't go inside the palace, unless you're a guest at a conference being held inside, but the gardens are a public park, and at the far end you have an uninterrupted view over the whole Vieux Port, as well as north to the modern port, the Cathedrale de la Major, and further on to L'Estaque. Annoyingly, the part of the park on the headland with perhaps the best views was fenced off in 2012.
Just before the park, close to Novotel, is a little garden with a statue of Missak Manouchian, an Armenian who arrived in Marseille as an orphaned refugee from Syria. During the Second World War, he moved to Paris and joined the Resistance movement, eventually being captured and executed by the Nazis. Similar views of the Vieux Port are to be had from here too.
Vieux-Port - The old Port, and such a busy area, especially the day we were here, as lining the pavement were many Craft stalls. Fabulous! I love a market in a country different to my own!
It is a Summer market, and sells all sorts of nice things like soap, Provencal honey, paintings and beaut smaller items that make good souvenirs. I have my reminder of Marseille bought from this market at home.
The market operates from 11am - 9pm on weekends.
Also in the old Port area, is the lovely white-washed, St. Augustin Church.
In the 12th Century, the Headquarters of the Knights Templar originally stood where the Church stands today.
It was in 1369, the Augustin monks bought the building, and work began on the Gothic church. Events took place over time, with the Church being consecrated in 1542, although not completed until 1588. The Italian-style bell tower wasn't added until the 18th Century. A monastery was also here, but this was divided up and sold during the Revolution and only the church remained.
If it is open, take note of the throne, now a National Heritage work of art, the high altar made of polychrome marble and some fine paintings. The church also contains the ossuary of Saint Louis d'Anjou that had been stolen in 1423 when the city was pillaged, it was only returned to Marseille in 1956.
The Old Port of Marseille is known as Le Vieux Port. Found in the heart of the city, it has been here since the Greek-Phoenicians arrived back in 600 BC.
It's a lovely area, with a great atmosphere. It was buzzing with people! I thought it very pretty, loving all the yachts and Boats in the Marina and the surrounding setting. It is here, where the Ferries leave for the Islands, and the Little Tourist Train departs on its scenic tour of the city.
Going back in time when the city was built, this setting was very well planned.
The Port in the centre, the city on either side and protected by Forts Saint-Nicholas to the South and Fort Saint-Jean to the North.
The Ferry Bridge which once spanned the port between the Fort Saint-Nicholas and Fort Saint-Jean was damaged in an explosion in 1944 and the bridge was demolished after the Second World War.
Fish and Craft markets are held at the Old Port, and it's here, you may see the "old" Bridge in some of the paintings for sale.
Marseille I found to be so interesting and pretty from the water, I really think a trip on a Boat is A MUST.
Boats are pretty popular here.
There is a FREE FERRY SERVICE which crosses from one side of the old Port to the other, saves the legs if you are tired!
Since I was last here, there is a brand-new fast boat service named "batobus,' which shuttles people between the Old Port and Pointe Rouge (where you can find one of Marseille's prettiest small beaches).
Boats run once an hour until 10pm, the journey time is around 40 minutes and the trip is free for holders of a Transpass season ticket and 2.5€ each way for casual users. They leave from the corner of the Old Port where the quai des Belges joins the quai de Rive Neuve.
The Boat trip we did, was to the Chateau d'If.
Look for the Frioul If Express in the Old Port. This will take you to the islands of If and Frioul.
Boats depart from Marseille from 6.40 am ...Check the listed website for exact times.
PRICE in 2012....
One island only: Vieux Port – Island of Frioul OR Vieux Port – Island of If
Round trip: €10,10
"Family" round trip: €7.60
Combined trip: Vieux Port – Island of If and Island of Frioul
"Combined" round trip: €15,20
"Family¹ Combined" round trip: €11.40
One way.....Outbound or return: €5,10
Night : Vieux Port – Island of Frioul (starting from the Vieux-Port from 7pm)
Round trip: €5,10
We had the MARSEILLE CITY PASS WHICH GAVE US FREE TRAVEL
After visiting the Fish Market, I had a look at the Hotel de Ville [Town Hall] which overlooks the Old Port.
The Architect's idea was to create a "facade of pomp and to be facing the sea", I think this has been achieved. In 1653 the foundation stone was laid, work on the building was delayed as the city was occupied by the troops of Louis XIV. It was 20years before finally being completed
Luckily, this building escaped damage under German occupation in 1943.
By the time we found the Fish Market, most of the Boats had sold their catch and had gone home.
In the early hours of the morning, the Fish are caught and brought into the harbour where the Fishermen set up their folding tables and place the Fish in shallow blue trays to be sold.
A scale and a cutting block then is put in place, all ready to start selling by by the 8am starting time of the market, finishing time is 1pm.
Fish like red mullet, bream, grouper are kept fresh by having salt water poured over them until a customer buys them, then the Fish is weighed and cleaned for you while you wait.
Just watch the Seagulls have fun, lots of free food for them. It was quite an entertaining time watching the Seagull's squabble for the free food!
The Vieux Port – Jewel at the heart of the city
The natural inlet, locally called a calanque, which the Phocaean navigators found so attractive as a harbour and built up to become one of the Mediterranean's major ports, has through the years become known as the Vieux Port, undisputed jewel in Marseilles' crown.
In the Middle Ages there was no constructed quay as such but the entrance was protected by two towers, the present day forts of St Jean and St Nicolas. The quay was constructed in 1512 and soon became a promenade for the population. The new docks of the Joliette allowed the Quai des Beiges to be enlarged to 45 metres wide in 1855 but reduced the area of the Vieux Port.
The city has always had to struggle to keep its port clean. However in 1850, the Durance river water first reached the city via a new canal. This greatly improved sanitation by pouring 1000 litres per second of fresh water into the harbour. The bombings of 1944 changed the features of the Vieux-Port. Nevertheless it has still managed to reserve the picturesque charm of Marseilles life with its many restaurants, fishermen's stalls and its daily fish market.
The ferry which crosses the harbour between the Town Hall and the Huiles Square offers very pleasing general views of the harbour and the town.
Staying very close by and this is a great place to explore. Best, maybe , to walk but the ferry across the bay is also a very attractive option. There are, of course, many bars and restaurants to delay your walk around!
Le Vieux Port, or Old Port, is where Marseille was founded. This natural U-shaped harbor is large enough only for small fishing and pleasure craft--not for the huge sea-going container ships, which use the much larger harbor just to the west.
Around the Old Port are the fortresses of Saint Nicholas and Saint Jean. They served a dual purpose--both to defend the port and to maintain control over the often-restive civil population of this city.
Also along the Old Port are some fine examples of French architecture, such as l'Hotel de Ville (the City Hall), the medieval churches, and le Chateau de Pharon (not open to the public). If you're hungry, you won't find better seafood than here. The local specialty is bouillabaisse, a delectable seafood soup. Look out for the bones.
This fort is one of two forts guading the old port. It was built way back in the 12th century and the square tower in the 15th century. Just around the corner of that tower are some benches that are always occupied with locals and tourists enjoying both views and the sun! We went there twice and loved this wonderful little retreat!