Marseille City Guide

by Jose Marc Castro on August 13, 2007

Marseille holds the distinction of being the second-largest city of France, as well as hosting the country’s largest commercial port. A popular tourist destination thanks in equal measure to its rich cultural and historical heritage and its stunning natural features, Marseille is home to a large number of immigrants. Most of these people come from Italy. Along with residents of Italian heritage, Greeks, Corsicans, Armenians and Spanish form a large segment of the local population.

Residential Places in Marseille

France has traditionally been an ideal place for British nationals to shop for property, whether it is for permanent residence, rental-based income purposes or even merely as a home away from home. Marseille in particular has been a favored destination for these purposes, and it is easy to see why, given the many natural and man-made attractions of the city. From quaint country cottages nestled amidst lush green hills, to swanky apartments overlooking the coast, Marseille offers a wide range of residential options for the taking.

In recent years, the Marseille real estate industry has experienced a particularly healthy growth due in large part to increased interest from foreign investors, many of whom are looking to benefit from the huge rental-based income potential of the area. This growth has naturally resulted in a corresponding increase in real estate prices across the board.

Nevertheless, the projected economic growth in the region, as well as everything that Marseille has to offer, makes property investment in the city well worth the higher cost. The new fast railroad networks that now allow travel to Paris in three hours and to London in less than seven makes owning a home in Marseille an even more attractive proposition.

If you are a British national in need of more convincing, you will be interested to know that many U.K. banks have lending capabilities in France, so purchasing a property in Marseille could be much easier and more affordable than you think.

Hospitals and Universities of Marseille

Two educational institutions in Marseille stand out in particular, namely: The University of Aix-Marseille and the Luminy Science Campus.

The University of Aix-Marseille is actually comprised of 3 distinct and autonomous campuses, with the medical school being established in Marseille as far back as 1881. The university offers instruction in Mathematics, Physics, Astrophysics, Chemistry, Biology, Geology, Environmental Studies and Engineering.

The Luminy Science Campus on the other hand, offers a distinctly scientific curriculum as you can guess from its name, and is located in a lush green community near Mount Puget and the Calanques.

Commercial Places in Marseille

As can be expected from a city that is in such close proximity to the ocean, Marseille offers a wide range of restaurants and dining establishments that extensively feature seafood dishes in their menus. La bouillabaisse is a popular fish-based soup in many restaurants, generally served with a garlic-saffron sauce called la rouille, and a hunk of fresh baked bread. The quality is usually very good, although you should probably be wary of lower-priced bouillabaisse.

Le Wagon is a restaurant that is distinguished as much by its food as it is by its charming façade, which is built out of an old locomotive carriage. La Caravelle is a jazz bar with a balcony that provides a stunning view of the Old Port and Notre Dame de la Garde. This is an ideal place to have a cold beer or two while enjoying the sumptuous selection of free tapas on offer.

Marseille has traditionally been a great place to shop, going back as far as the 19th century, when merchants first plied their wares on the streets of La Canebière. Today, this center of commerce remains the premier destination for shoppers from all over the world.

Also located downtown is the Centre Bourse, which features a modern, multi-level mall that houses almost anything you can possibly need – from books, CDs, cameras and electronic equipment. The Centre Bourse is also where you can find the city’s largest department store, The Nouvelles Galèries.

For a real colorful shopping experience however, check out the Rue St. Férrol, a long street that stretches between Rue de Rome and Rue Breteuil, heading south of La Canabière towards the Préfecture. Deriving its name from a 3rd century saint, the street is a bewildering array of clothes boutiques, shoe shops, jewelry stores, department stores, and even a Virgin Megastore, many of which are open seven days a week. A must-see if you want to get a feel for what Marseille is really all about.

Service Establishments of Marseille

If you are new in town, you may find it helpful to look up the Office du Tourisme, which you can find at 4 La Canebière. The friendly and efficient staff will be more than happy to help you find your way around, and they can provide you with a wide selection of English-language pamphlets and brochures.

Free wireless Internet access is widely available in many of the bars and restaurants in Marseille, via the provider Le Vieux Port. In some areas, this service is even available right on the street, although it would be better to go into a café or restaurant, so that you at least have a place to sit. Upon connection, you will first be directed to a web page that details the company’s services in French. There you will see a button that says “Cliquez ici” or “click here”. After you do that, you will then be free to browse to any web site you wish.

Embassies in Marseille

It may come in handy to know that the British Consulate in Marseille can be found at 24 avenue du Prado. Their offices are normally open for business from Monday to Friday, from 9 in the morning to 12 noon, and again from 2 in the afternoon until 4 in the afternoon. Outside these hours, a consular Emergency Service can help you with whatever urgent needs you may have, and you will be able to reach a Duty officer by telephone at 04-91-15-72-10.

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