The City of Marseille is unlike other French cities in that it has Mediterranean and North African influence. As a port for the past two thousand years, the Port of Marseille has a definite maritime flair with historic areas to enchant visitors and colorful markets reminiscent of Africa. The city also offers plenty of fine seafood and French cuisine as well as many opportunities to enjoy a vibrant nightlife. Not quite on the French Riviera, the Port of Marseille also has wonderful beaches. For complete information on them any things to see and do in the Port of Marseille, please visit the city's tourism website.
The Port of Marseille has a Mediterranean climate with mild humid winters and hot dry summers. In winter, the city is sometimes visited by the Mistral, a cold wind descending from the Alps, in the winter and spring. In the summer, the Sirocco, a hot wind carrying sand from the Sahara, may make an appearance. Temperatures in the Port of Marseille range from an average high of 28 °C (82 °F) in July and August to an average low of 2 °C (36 °F) in January.
Readers of Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo will want to visit the tiny island of If and the Chateau d'If. Dumas' protagonist, Edmond Dantes, described the island as a black granite giant with crags like arms reaching for their prey. In fact, most prisoners on the island had it much worse, dying or going insane before serving their entire sentences. Nobles imprisoned in the upper story cells might survive if they were willing to pay for their comforts. The 16th Century Chateau d'If and its prison are well-preserved, and views of Marseille from the island are breathtaking. Originally a fortress, the island is about 1.5 kilometers off the island in the Mediterranean Sea. The whole island is heavily fortified with high ramparts and gun platforms. Built as a defense, the was castle never attacked, though it came close a couple of times. Later used as a prison, the castle held political and religious prisoners and inspired Dumas' classic tale. While Dumas' hero survived his escape from the prison, no real human being is known to have done so. Today, the Chateau d'If can be reached by boat from the Port of Marseille's Old Port.
The Musee d'Archeologie Mediterraneenne contains objects related to Mediterranean cultures since the most ancient of times. The Egyptian collection is second only to that in the Louvre. The Near East collection is small but rich and covers the beginnings of cities and writing. The Greece collection takes visitors on a voyage from the Bronze Age through the dawn of the Roman Empire. The Etrurie and Rome collection contains ceramics from the Etruscan civilization as well as many objects, including sculptures and paintings, from the Roman era. The Provence Celto-Ligurian collection covers the lifestyle, arts, religion, and funerary rites of village communities in the surrounding region.
Until the mid-1970s, the Port of Marseille did not have facilities that gave people easy access to the sea. The Prado Seaside Park was created to provide 26 hectares of greenery with 10 hectares of sandy beaches covering some two kilometers. Each year, over three million people come to enjoy the sea, the esplanades, the lawns, and the play areas in the Prado Seaside Park. The park even has a world-famous skateboard track near the Vieille Chapelle. The park has lifeguards, toilet and shower facilities, refreshment stands, clothing stores, first aid stations, as well as a stadium on the beach for international sports competitions and cultural events. Between the Prado and the Old Port, visitors will find a couple of small sandy beaches with first aid stations, toilets, and lifeguards in the summer. There is an international beach volleyball tournament on Catalans Beach each summer. To the north are other beaches with landscaped gardens and paths, also outfitted with toilets, showers, and refreshment stands.
Travelers wishing to visit the Port of Marseille by sea can find a long list of scheduled cruises on the Cruise Compete website.