Marseille is one of Southern France’s most popular cities, located on the coast of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. It is the oldest city in France and the second largest after the capital, Paris. Marseille’s Mediterranean port has resulted in high levels of immigration. The immigrants from Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey and Italy, make it one of France’s most culturally diverse cities. Each district of Marseille is rich in culture and the city is often described as the European Capital of Culture.
As well as being a popular tourist destination, Marseille has earned a place in the media for its violence, drug wars and high poverty levels. It was even ranked as the most dangerous city in Europe. The port has allowed the city to become the drug-smuggling hub of Europe. Luckily, I didn’t notice any violence, as most areas are guarded heavily by police control. It is important to be weary though, there were occasions where I felt unsafe, particularly in the dark wintery evenings. Watch out for the pick pocketers too – especially at the Metro stations!
The best thing about travelling to a European city during the winter months is the Christmas markets. The selection of festive Christmas markets in Marseille did not disappoint! Marseille organises two markets each year – Foire aux Santons at Vieux Port and Place Gabriel Péri at the bottom of the famous Canebière Boulevard. When it comes to food, the selection is amazing! From Nutella crepes, churros, waffles and mince pies to mulled wine, I was in heaven. I would also recommend checking out the Savon de Marseille stalls, the world-renowned soap of Marseille. It comes in various scents, including chocolate, making it the perfect French souvenir.
Cours Julien is the most hipster district in Marseille. I decided to check it out one evening, to explore an alternative view of Marseille. I didn’t spend too much time there as I got a dodgy feeling the minute I arrived. As soon as I walked passed the Metro station to get onto the main street I was asked for money in French by numerous men. Who, I must add, looked very well off compared to the homeless scattered around the doorways.
My trip to Cours Julien was fleeting but I did manage to see the magnificent artwork. This district is known for its unique graffiti, creative shops and its edgy atmosphere. It wasn’t until after my trip to Marseille that I realised this district is the perfect place for hidden bars and underground gigs. Which I’m guessing, would be great craic in such quirky surroundings. I hope to check this area out again in the near future to experience all it has to offer. Next time I’d go during the daylight hours and I’d most definitely bring a friend!
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