Located at the end of the Canebiere, the major street of Marseille, the Old Port of Marseille has been the natural harbour of the city since Antiquity and is now the main popular place in Marseille. It has been the beating heart of Marseille for over 2000 years and is dominated on one side by the Panier (Old Town) and on the other by Notre-Dame de la Garde. The Old Port of Marseille is guarded by the forts St-Jean and St-Nicolas, both sides of the port are dotted with bars, brasseries and cafes.
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The History and the Things to Do At the Old Port Of Marseille1
The Old Port of Marseille has been around since the Antiquity and the Middle Ages. One of the iconic symbols of the Old Port was the transporter bridge, a metallic structure opened between both forts in 1905 which, unfortunately, was destroyed after the war. Michel Desvigne with teams from Foster Partners / Tangram Architects then redesigned the entire 100.000 square meter area. They turned it into a major traffic intersection with multiple lanes. The ring road around the harbor has been scaled back, the dock area transformed into a large square for pedestrian and events, and a modernist shelter from the sun that goes by the name of “Ombrière” added. Today, the Old Port of Marseille has been redesigned as a semi-pedestrian esplanade, halving access to cars and it is used for many events. A day of tour here is worth your time.
Quai des Belges Fish Market
The first thing to do at Old Port of Marseille is to visit the fish market. It only opens in the morning, so get up early, take a tour, and don't miss the market. The fish on sale, which is caught in the Mediterranean Sea in the early hours of the morning, is as fresh as it gets. You can almost find a whole world of the water, ranging from sea bream, cuttlefish, rays, octopus, whiting, mullet, to sardines. Everything they sell here are for an excellent price / quality ratio.
A ferry boat service crosses the harbor every few minutes, just a handy shortcut across the port. This picturesque little ferry boat sets sail from Marseille's town hall several times a day, going from one side of the Old Port to the other. The ferry, which was originally steam driven, has now been replaced with a more eco-friendly version equipped with a solar propeller, so you can ride the waves without a heavy conscience. There is a small fee for a tour with the ferry.
Sample the Food While Enjoying the Port
France is world-renowned for its gourmet cuisine and the food scene in Marseille's Old Port is no exception to this rule. Take a tour around and you can find great quality bars, restaurants, and cafes line the edges of the port. Many of them have outdoor seating so you can enjoy your food/drink while enjoying at the South of France sunshine. Today the port is still filled with boats, old and new, which you can admire as you stroll along the quays.
How to Get Tickets?
The Old Port of Marseille is free for public and can be accessed at anytime. You can do your day tour here without having to pay. However, there's a small fee for the ferry tour and you can pay before entering the boat. Make sure you bring enough cash if you plan to get lunch or dinner in this area.
How To Get Around?
It is easier to get around by foot for a tour in the Old Port of Marseille area. The area is accessible by cars and bikes, but if you want to really enjoy the vibes, the weather, and the food, just take a stroll and do the tour.
What Should I Wear?
The Old Port of Marseille is an outdoor area, so make sure you wear something comfortable to keep you warm in the winter and to keep you cool in the summer. Wearing a pair of comfortable shoes is a must, since you'll most likely spend most of your time here walking around to do the things to do at Old Port of Marseille. In the summer, don't forget to bring sunscreen and sunglasses to protect you from the sun during your tour.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit is from September to November, when tourists visiting during the peak season of May to August have returned home. This way, you can get a little more space for yourself while walking around the old port for a tour. It is most beautiful during the sunset, so come in the afternoon if you don't want to miss it.
Will I Need a Guide?
How To Get There?
You can reach Old Port of Marseille by walking since it's located in the city center and close to most of the hotels. The port is not hard to find, there are signs everywhere. You can also take a bus and stop at either Metro Vieux Port or Canebiere Vieux Port, then walk to the port.