"Marseille, 2,500 years of history" Top 5 Page for this destination Marseille by JLBG

Marseille Travel Guide: 883 reviews and 2,334 photos

Marseille is together with Lyon the second town of France with over 1,000,000 inhabitants (the city : 800,000)

The history of Marseille goes as far back as 600 BC. Sailors from the Greek Phocea, 2,600 years ago landed in a small inlet, the Lacydon. King Nann offered Gyptis, his daughter as a bride to Protis, the Greek's captain. The Greeks settled and created the new Phocea, called Massilia, while the old Phocea was destroyed in 545BC by the Persians.

Along the Vth and IVth century BC, several sailors from Marseille explored the world : Euthymènes sailed south, along the coasts of Africa, Pythéas sailed north and reached the polar circle. The Romans took progressively control of the region and Cesar, in charge of the Narbonnaise province since 58 BC, took Marseille in 49 BC. The harbor began to be built in the first century AD, the first cathedral in the Vth century.

The Provence region and Marseille were coveted and successively taken by the Visigoths of Alaric, by the Ostrogoths of Theodoric, by the Francs. It suffered several plague epidemics (590, 599, 650), was plundered in 736 by Charles Martel who united it to the kingdom of the Francs. The Sarrazins plundered it in 838 who more or less stayed there for 150 years. In 972, Guillaume le Libérateur ousted the Sarrazins. For centuries, the history of Marseille was torn apart between the Counts of Toulouse and the Counts of Barcelona. Following disputes between the citizens of the city and the bishop, the Popes several times excommunicated the town.

In 1252 Charles d'Anjou, later king of Naples and of Sicily becomes the ruler of the city. He is followed by Robert d'Anjou and by queen Jeanne. After a lot of turmoil, in 1482 the "États de Provence" (Provence Assembly) agree for the union between Provence and France. Beginning in 1488, Marseille became the main military harbor of the kingdom of France.
Plague devastated the city in 1580,1582, 1649-1650 and the last one in 1720.

The soap industry began in Marseille in 1577, the sugar industry in 1671.

On July 2nd, 1792, the "fédérés" of Marseille walked to Paris for the defense of the Revolution. On the way, they sing a war song written by Rouget de Lisle in Strasbourg. It is soon named "La Marseillaise"

The railway from Paris to Marseille was finished and worked in 1857.

In 1888 the famous Canebière avenue was light by electricity. It is on this avenue that in 1934 king Alexander of Yougoslavia was slaughtered together with Louis Barthou, French minister of foreign affairs.

In 1967 : Digging behind the "Bourse de Commerce" reveals the ancient harbor. In 1993 : Digging under place Jules Verne to build a subterranean parking, allows discovering 2 ships 2500 years ago. A museum was built…

OK, Marseille is 2,500 years old and has a famous football team but it is worth the visit ? I will let Joseph Méry, a citizen from Marseille answer, as he wrote in 1860 : "when Marseille has not stripped herself of her ornaments, she has been spoiled by others. Marseille is an antic city that has no antics, a beautiful city that has no beauties. She has sailed 2,500 years across history and has saved nothing but her name, as Argo boat did". This can be said in fewer words : Marseille is an antic city without any antiques.

Actually, this is a bit exaggerated, but it is true to say that Marseille is a pleasant city to live in, is a pleasant city to visit but it has more an atmosphere than great sights to visit. However, I hope that you will enjoy this page on Marseille as I have discovered it.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:a 2,500 years old city with a long history
  • Cons:few remaining of the past
  • In a nutshell:a nice place to live in
  • Last visit to Marseille: Nov 2004
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
  • Add to Trip Planner (?)
  • Report Abuse

Reviews (76)

Comments (28)

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Sep 15, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    Nice page

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Sep 29, 2012 at 3:07 PM

    Hello Jean-Louis. I’m planning to visit Marseille next month, so I have been reading your tips to get some ideas about what to do and see. This afternoon I rang up and reserved the last ticket for a Sunday performance at the Opéra de Marseille.

    • JLBG's Profile Photo
      Oct 14, 2012 at 8:07 AM

      Hello Don, S
      orry but I do not visit VT anymore very often. Am I too late to give you a few ideas on Marseille visits ? So long

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Oct 14, 2012 at 11:38 AM

      I'm leaving tomorrow for Toulon, but will return to Marseille next weekend. So far I have been to the Opera, Notre-Dame de la Garde and Chateau d'If.

  • illumina's Profile Photo
    Apr 13, 2010 at 4:30 AM

    Great tips - I'm going to have to make sure I visit Marseille when I return to France, which will hopefully be soon! I've just got back from a couple of months in Brittany, but am trying to get my India tips finished so Brittany will have to wait!

  • Pawtuxet's Profile Photo
    Sep 19, 2009 at 7:48 AM

    The waterfront would draw me to Marseille. Quite an extensive history, indeed.

  • nyperose's Profile Photo
    Sep 12, 2008 at 9:54 PM

    Great Marseille page! Excellent travail! I'am planning to go there in October. Vive la France!

  • Kuznetsov_Sergey's Profile Photo
    Jul 21, 2008 at 9:30 AM

    Thanks Jean-Louis for bringing back memories about this wonderful city! My staying there was very short but I climbed up to the Notre-Dame though I had only 40 minutes ha-ha. What a coincidence right now I watch on TV a beach football match from Marseille

  • grandmaR's Profile Photo
    Jul 8, 2007 at 12:49 PM

    Thank you for my travelogue!! It was so nice of you to track down the old hotel where I stayed.

  • discobunny's Profile Photo
    Nov 25, 2006 at 8:31 PM

    Heya great page of my home away from home......i enjoyed it...but marseille is actually 2600 years old!! They had the HUGE celebrations when i was living there on 1999!! cheers d*

  • tini58de's Profile Photo
    Nov 9, 2006 at 11:55 AM

    Great page, Jean-Louis! We are leaving on Saturday to visit Marseille - that will be a public holiday in France, right? Will all the shops be closed??? Big parades? What should we expect?

  • Jun 1, 2006 at 11:34 PM

    i can t forget how nice i felt in Marseille, it was like being home. Your pages are fantastic, nice photos, many good tips. Congratulations!


“I believe that tourists are very valuable to the modern world. It is very difficult to hate people you know. (Steinbeck)”

Online Now


Top 1,000 Travel Writer
Member Rank:
0 0 0 0 3
Forum Rank:
0 0 3 0 7

Badges & Stats in Marseille

  • 76 Reviews
  • 104 Photos
  • 9 Forum posts
  • 17,765PageViews

Have you been to Marseille?

  Share Your Travels  

Latest Activity in Marseille

Travel Interests

See All Travel Interests (5)