Marseille better than its reputation! City of Culture 2013!!!

January 15, 2013 — 9 Comments

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“It is a caricature, and unfair stigmatisation, if I said everything was rosy in Marseille I would be lying. But insisting everything is black, that is a lie too. Yes, there is poverty and delinquency and corruption, but to say things are black, black, black is utterly false.”- Yves Moraine


Marseille, France at night. Part of Fort Saint-Jean at the harbour

With your next visit to Provence give it a try! Provence includes an area stretching from Martigues to La Ciotat. Arles, Aix, Aubagne and other communes are part of it.


Marseille from mountain where is church od Notre Dame de la Guarde , France 

This last weekend Marseille celebrated the opening of being City of Culture 2013 and I am certain they will provide visitors with stunning events this year. It is wishful that it helps Marseille to metarmorphose.(


Chateau d’If A jail on an island outside Marseille, where the Count of Monte Cristo was prisoner

Marseille is the second most populated city after Paris and city of controversy! As a melting pot, it is the European City of “Multi Culti” that unfortunately is treated as a stepchild because of its safety issues. It just got infamous for being the most dangerous city in France. Local Police is undermanned and some districts are not patrolled enough . In certain milieus Marseille deals with killing unfortunately.

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With a poor population and mainly immigrants Marseille got attractive for crime and gangs. Wealthy people moved out into the suburbs. It is not my interest to critizise  European politics on my blog, but fact is that this beautiful city of Marseille is a good example how immigration politics can fail.

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Despite all, I do like Marseille once in a while. This city shows you two sides of France. It is heavily influenced by it Northern African neighbors and the fusion of cultures is best experienced at the street markets. As I love the terra- cotta roofed buildings I do see that it is a little filthy, streets are dirty and buildings crumbling and decorated with graffiti. But so what that is the trend also in New York.

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Modern City Train

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This city has more to offer than crime and fear and I truly hope that this year of “City of Culture” will bring tourists back to this wonderful southern french city. I believe like in every big city in the world/ just watch out and do not carry your diamonds around- that for sure let thieves get you on beautiful Route des Cretes. Or do you wear your jewelry when going to Mexico City or Sao Paulo ? See…

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The historic “Palais Longchamp” in Marseille in France

I never had an issue and I like to visit and always go with an open mind. With any big city just do not take an unnecessary risk and skip the bad quarters of town. Pickpocketing is not a Marseille invention. The main areas, Vieux Port, Cours Julien, Prado are all fine – with a good selection of restaurants and bars and no big problems. Rose sellers are all over the world. Just simply say “Non Merci”.


View of the place at the street “Cours Jean Ballard” of Marseille in South France

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Port of Marseille in France

 If you get hungry go to a nice restaurant at the old harbor and get the most iconic dish “La Bouillabaisse”- the best fish soup in the world. It is the Godess in Mediterrranean fish soups.


“La Bouillabaisse”

Julia Child – who lived in Marseille for a year – said, “you can make as dramatic a production as you want out of a bouillabaisse, but remember that it originated as a simple, Mediterranean fisherman’s soup, made from the day’s catch or its unsalable leftovers.” If you are in town go visit Chez Aldo a fish Restaurant on the quaint, out of the way Port de la Madrague. It is an excellent choice. And please know bouillabaisse is as much about the setting and the ritual as the food itself.



The historic stairway at the main station “Saint Charles” of Marseille in South France

Drink lots of Pastis!!!! It is one of my favorite drinks and the proof of being in France. Greece has Ouzo, Italy Sambuca and Limoncello, Lebanon arak and Turkey raki but Marseille has Pastis, an herbal liqueur that gets me in obsession. Pastis was first commercialized in 1932 by Paul Ricard that is why it is also known as Ricard. If you visit the Vieux Port watch out for the ‘La Maison du Pastis” and you find hundred different varieties.

For me the biggest attraction beside busy streets is the basilica Notre Dame de la Garde.


Notre Dame de la Garde Marseille, France




Basilica Notre Dame de La Garde

This Dome is just stunning and the highest point lording over the city of Marseille. It was built from 1853 until 1864 and a firework of marble, murals and gold mosaics. Luckily it was restored in 2006 so it is in full beauty. Crowning the bell tower, a 9.7m-tall gilded statue of the Virgin Mary stands atop a 12m-high pedestal. Bullet marks and shrapnel scars on the northern facade evidence the fierce fighting of Marseille’s Battle of Liberation (15–25 August 1944). Do not miss to visit this landmark!

If you have walked all day to visit all the interesting places in Marseille use the famous savon de Marseille and all will be good again.


Famous perfumed soap from marseille – on a french market

After enjoying a bath, go to a nice bar enjoy the mediterranean climate and drink a Pastis before closing the day.

Live like “God in France”- a old German saying! Meaning enjoy your life the fullest.

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Give Marseille a chance! I assume this year it will be the safest given the fact that it is under European and world focus all year long.

If you return home and still feel the provence lifestyle here the recipe for Bouillabaisse:

  • 3 pounds of at least 3 different kinds of fish fillets, fresh or quick frozen (thaw first)
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil
  • 1-2 pounds of Oysters, clams, or mussels
  • 1 cup cooked shrimp, crab, or lobster meat, or rock lobster tails
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 4 Shallots, thinly sliced OR the white parts of 2 or 3 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large tomato, chopped, or 1/2 cup canned tomatoes
  • 1 sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2-inch slice of fennel or 1 teaspoon of fennel seed
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 whole cloves
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup clam juice or fish broth
  • 2 Tbps lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • Sliced French bread

Directions for Sauce Rouille:

  • 1 Tbsp hot fish stock or clam broth.v
  • 2 cloves peeled garlic
  • 1 small red hot pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup soft white bread, pulled into bits
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Put hot fish stock or clam broth into the bottom of a blender. Add garlic and red hot pepper, salt and bread. Blend until very smooth. With the blender still running, add olive oil slowly and stop the blending as soon as the oil disappears. At serving time pass Rouille in a little bowl along with the bouillabaisse. Each serving is about 1/2 a teaspoon that you stir into your soup. Use gingerly like Tabasco.


1 Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large (6-qt) saucepan. When it is hot, add onions and shallots (or leeks). Sauté for a minute, then add crushed garlic (more or less to taste), and sweet red pepper. Add tomato, celery, and fennel. Stir the vegetables into the oil with a wooden sppon until well coated. Then add another 1/4 cup of olive oil, thyme, bay leaf, cloves and the orange zest. Cook until the onion is soft and golden but not brown.

2 Cut fish fillets into 2-inch pieces. Add the pieces of fish and 2 cups of water to the vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Add oysters, clams or mussels (though these may be omitted if desired) and shrimp, crabmeat or lobster tails, cut into pieces or left whole.

3 Add saffron, salt, pepper. Add clam juice, lemon juice, and white wine. Bring to a simmer again and cook about 5 minutes longer.

4 At serving time taste and correct the seasoning of the broth, adding a little more salt or pepper if need be, and maybe a touch of lemon juice. Into each soup bowl place a thick slice of crusty French bread, plain or slighlty toasted. Sppon the bouillabaisse over the bread. If desired, serve with Sauce Rouille.

9 responses to Marseille better than its reputation! City of Culture 2013!!!


    I’m from Britain and have lived in Marseille for the last six months and agree with what you say. It’s a big city, of course there are dangers. Be sensible and you’ll likely be fine. I really love this city now.


    I’m afraid you get wrong in your statistics about murders… In 2012, a year when press was particularly focused on crimes in Marseille, only 20 were reported in 9 month, that is much less than in New York (600 in one year)///

    Please could you edit your text? “Marseille got extremely dangerous” also seem very exagerated, only drug dealers are killed, very few random people, I and people live there and we don’t feel any particular fear, It’s the medias who say that..


      I should have given info about the source. I learn and try to find it to let you know. My post is pro Marseille, I apologize if I hurt your feelings. Marseille is a fantastic city. If you read my post you should understand that I encourage people to visit.


      Totally agree with Edd. I was born in Marseille, live in Marseille and never felt any fear (I’m a female), just a huge pride. People – and medias especially – love cliches and the bad picture of Marseille has historically existed in France, for centuries, and is part of popular imagination.
      I understand that the subject of this article was not (once again) the criminality nor the bad reputation of Marseille (so why would you mention that, btw?) and also agree with Mrs Schaeffler, this city is absolutely wonderful!


        I truly did not want to hurt anybody’s feelings with my blog. The opposite. I am excited that Marseille is the cultural city of 2013. If you read the article carefully you should realize. I already turned down the tone after I got your complains but think it is wrong not to mention it at all. J’adore Marseille et je n’ai pas peur de visiter. Je pense avec l’idee de la ville cultural de 2013 Marseille a une grande opportunité…..


        After reading this post, I believe that it gives a fair both side story for someone who’s scared to go to Marseille. Relax!


        Thank you Lou! I receivedsome emails! I wanted to help Marseille but got critized a bit. I love this city and hope this cultural year helps.


    The only thing I have found in the New York Times quotes the same figure of 20 people killed:

    Rosemarie Rene May 23, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Thank you for the beautiful photos of a magnificent city, it makes me want to go there and absorb all the culture the city offers…art, architecture, and the people.

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