All too soon, our time in Marseille was drawing to a close and it was time to bid farewell to the merveilles of Marseille. (How is it that time always speeds up when you’re on holiday?) After packing up our belongings and making the obligatory stop at a nearby boulangerie to pick up breakfast essentials (and some extra supplies for Laurence’s flight), we set off on foot to explore Marseille’s street art scene.
Cours Julien (or “Cours Ju” if you want to sound like a true Marseillais) and the surrounding warren of narrow streets and alleyways is a characterful neighbourhood on the slopes of one of Marseille’s many hills. Home to Marseille’s artists, musicians and bobos, the vast array of technicolour murals is a testament to the creative juices which run through this quarter. (For argument’s sake, we’ll overlook the presence of the decidedly less creative tags amongst the murals.)
Every shade of Dulux has been accounted for: from the minimalist frescoes in monochrome to the psychedelic paintings on the façades of the quarter’s bars.
It’s impossible not to end up with a favourite – and mine was this next one. I couldn’t help but find these little aliens rather adorable, even if they appear to uncannily represent those of us left feeling dismayed with the current state of affairs.
Though a little grimy in places, Cours Julien is a must for street art enthusiasts – and a gem if you’re on the lookout for budget-friendly activities in Marseille.
Time was marching on, so in the interest of squeezing a little more sightseeing into our remaining time in the city, we left Cours Julien behind and set off for the Palais Longchamp. Built in the middle of the nineteenth century to celebrate the construction of the Canal de Marseille, this ornate structure, complete with neoclassical columns and an elaborate fountain, is a sight to behold. Both the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle are housed here, but we opted to soak up the sun outside instead of venturing inside.
After a brief stroll around the adjoining Parc Longchamp, we ambled back towards the Vieux Port. Weaving our way through the streets leading to the port, we stumbled upon the Marché de Noailles. Stalls ran the length of Rue du Marché des Capucins, with produce piled high and sold for prices I can only dream of in Lyon. Naturally, I took advantage of this and made a few small purchases – which I was only too glad of when my train home was delayed!
We then continued on to the Vieux Port to scout out a reasonably priced hot chocolate and watch the world go by; the imaginatively named Le Vieux Port, on the corner of Rue Pytheas and Quai des Belges, did just the trick.
As Laurence’s flight departed mid-afternoon, we headed up to the Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles a little after midday. After waving him off, I wandered back to the Vieux Port; my train wasn’t until late afternoon, so I intended to make the most of the glorious weather. I bought postcards (both to send and to add to my collection), sat in the sunshine with a jambon-beurre and had a browse in Galleries Lafayette before making my way back to the train station.
True to form, the SNCF were running late – though this time due to a mechanical fault, rather than a strike – and the train left Marseille almost an hour later than scheduled.
Having been European Capital of Culture in 2013 and a host for the UEFA Euro 2016, Marseille has benefitted from a lick of paint and some serious sprucing up in recent years. As a multicultural melting pot, a visit to Marseille is a markedly different experience to other cities along the Mediterranean coast: here, traces of France’s colonial past (most notably in the form of dozens of boulangeries tunisiennes) and Provençal traditions exist side by side. There’s an understated charm to Marseille – and I for one am under its spell.
- Cours Julien is one of Marseille’s liveliest neighbourhoods – but not in the morning (save for the local markets). If you want to see the quarter in its element, venture over there in the afternoon or early evening.
- If you’re travelling on a TGV and your train arrives at your destination more than 30 minutes late, you’re automatically entitled to compensation. Depending on how you bought your ticket, this can either be claimed online or by filling out a form distributed by station staff.