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.
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