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Marseille - the glistening Mediterrnean Metropolis


What is the most beautiful city of France? Everybody knows that it is by far Paris in the heart of France. But what is the second biggest city of the country? The French people really argue about that. Marseille and Lyon fight for the silver medal; While the city Lyon clearly outperforms Marseille in size and number of inhabitants, Marseille wins if one also considers the surrounding county and the whole megalopolis. By this way, it is also different to say how many inhabitants does Marseille have; depending on the city limit, the number is between 900.000 and 1.300.000. Thus, Marseille is a big city as Cologne or Munich.

Map of Marseille and surroundings

What kind of city is Marseille? There are people who love Marseille, other hte the city; there are not many stages in between; As a foreign tourist, one of course gets to know the city from a complete different side than a French. In fact, Marseille does not have a good reputation in France. Marseille is a centre of the national and international crime. The city administration of Marseille is full of corruption. In Marseille, every 5th person is unemployed, that means, the rate of unemployment is of about 20%.

But Marseille is also a city where each third inhabitant was not born in the city but immigrated into it. This is apparently the reason why Marseille is also a centre of the right wing extremists of France. There are numerus aspirations and promises to "liberalise" the city, that means to banish the immigrnts into the northern located quarters of the poor people. A countermovement that requires more tolerance fights aginst this.

As a tourist, one barely notices something of this, except one is so unlucky that one's car is broke open and blagged. Lucky those who are accommdated in an hotel with a monitored underground car park.

View to Marseille from a 162 m heighted hill of the Basilika Notre Dame

But Marseille is, of course, a highly interesting and well worth seeing city; Every year, more than 3 millions of tourists rush to the Mediterranean metropolis, not for having a bathing holiday but for viewing a city wih flair and history. Marseille is still a city where in the mornings the fishermen sell their catches at the old harbour. Marseille is also the city where one apparently get the best bouillabaisse (this is the famous fish soup). And Marseille is also the city where one can cozily loaf alongside the old harbour in the evenings, have good food and get entertained.

In Marseille, there are a lot of famous sightseeings. Maybe due to this reason, Marseille is so popular among the tourists, because there are so many and interesting and partly world famous sightseeings in little space. Maybe the tourists also appreciate that Marseille is a big city where one can orientate as easily as in a small city. But maybe so many torurists rush every year to this city because it has a history of more than 2.500 years.

History of the City

In fact, Marseille can look back to a more than 2.500 years old city history. The city was founded approximately  600 years B.C. by greek colonists. Therewith, Marseille is the oldest city of France. At that time, the city only expanded at the areas at the north of the Vieux Port. As a harbour city, Marseille of course gained some significance by the trade.

But the significance and the prestige on the city significntly decreased when Marseille was occupied by Caesar.Marseille was in dit not destroyed by the troups of Caesar, but the neighboured cities were more improved under the Roman Empire as Marseille was. The trade could not develop the way it did in some other Mediterranean cities in South France. At the time of the migration and the end of the Roman Empire, Marseille had to suffer some deficits in the trade, but, contrary to the case of other cities, the trade in Marseille never got completely down.

From the earlier up to the later medieval times, Marseille remained being a city of its own and very idiosyncratic that repeatedely caused some turbulences. In between, the city even approached Spain. Several times, the city had to be to be subordinated and occupied by France. Up to the 18th century, the self confident inhabitants of Marseille repeteadely got distant from the French monarchy.

The inhabitants of Marseille took their high self confidence mainly form the increasingly booming trade. In the 17th century, Marseille became a real world power. The city grew in all directions. In the harbour, either goods of the Orient as also goods of he Caribbean were handled. A ship that land in the year 1720 in the harbour of Marseille brought the pest to the city of 100.000 inhabitants that took the life of more than 50.000 people. By the end of the 18th century, Marseille has again more than 100.000 inhabitants. The harbour of the city was the biggest one in France and in general also one of the biggest harbours of Europe.

During the Second World War, marseille was occupied by German troups. January  1943 should be a raven black month for the city history: the German army evacuated the whole harbour area and blew up all the buildings, in order to make the life of the jewish people living in the underground more difficult. Suddenly, more than 30.000 people became homeless. Instead of the old buildings, some ugly concrete buildings were lter locted at this place. This is the reason why the northern side of the old hrbour is rather deterrnd to the visitors.

Hotels in Marseille

Of course, in the big city Marseille there is a huge number of hotels of all categories. 3 millions of tourists must finally be accommodated every year somewhere, whereby a considerable part of them come to the city by cruisers and therewith bring their ccommodtion with them to the city.

What I noticed in a very positive way of Marseille is the excellent signpostings of the hotels. Those who are not living in a backyard hotel will find their accommodation easily, as from a distance one can already recognize the signpostings in front of the hotel on the street.

Although marseille is actually a big city as Cologne or Munich, one can stay over in the city for relatively cheap money without having to get far outside the city centre. Of course there are some first class hotels in Marseille that cannot be paid by earning a standard salary. But a good middle class hotel is 30-50% cheaper than in the other metropolis of South France as Nice or Cannes.

We stayed over at the Hotel Mercure that is only a few hundred metres from the Quai des Belges, right at the Centre Bourse. The rooms were very comfortably arranged; the hotel has an own barricaded area in the huge underground car park of the Centre Bourse. As I additionally live in the eigth floor, the daily view over the city was already included in the price!

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