Known to the ancient Greeks and Romans as Massalia, Marseille was the most important trading centre in the region and the main commercial port of the French Republic. Marseille is now France's largest city on the Mediterranean coast and the largest port for commerce, freight and cruise ships. The city was European Capital of Culture, together with Košice, Slovakia, in 2013. It hosted the FIFA World Cup 1998 and the UEFA Euro 2016, and will be the European Capital of Sport in 2017. The city is home to several campuses of Aix-Marseille University and part of one of the largest metropolitan conurbations in France, the Metropolis of Aix-Marseille-Provence.
Marseille is the second-largest city in France after Paris and the centre of the third-largest metropolitan area in France after Paris and Lyon. To the east, starting in the small fishing village of Callelongue on the outskirts of Marseille and stretching as far as Cassis, are the Calanques, a rugged coastal area interspersed with small fjord-like inlets. Further east still are the Sainte-Baume (a 1,147 m (3,763 ft) mountain ridge rising from a forest of deciduous trees), the city of Toulon and the French Riviera. To the north of Marseille, beyond the low Garlaban and Etoile mountain ranges, is the 1,011 m (3,317 ft) Mont Sainte Victoire. To the west of Marseille is the former artists' colony of l'Estaque; further west are the Côte Bleue, the Gulf of Lion and the Camargue region in the Rhône delta. The airport lies to the north west of the city at Marignane on the Étang de Berre.
The city's main thoroughfare (the wide boulevard called the Canebière) stretches eastward from the Old Port (Vieux Port) to the Réformés quarter. Two large forts flank the entrance to the Old Port—Fort Saint-Nicolas on the south side and Fort Saint-Jean on the north. Further out in the Bay of Marseille is the Frioul archipelago which comprises four islands, one of which, If, is the location of Château d'If, made famous by the Dumas novel The Count of Monte Cristo. The main commercial centre of the city intersects with the Canebière at rue St Ferréol and the Centre Bourse (the main shopping mall). The centre of Marseille has several pedestrianised zones, most notably rue St Ferréol, Cours Julien near the Music Conservatory, the Cours Honoré-d'Estienne-d'Orves off the Old Port and the area around the Hôtel de Ville. To the south east of central Marseille in the 6th arrondissement are the Prefecture and the monumental fountain of Place Castellane, an important bus and metro interchange. To the south west are the hills of the 7th arrondissement, dominated by the basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. The railway station—Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles—is north of the Centre Bourse in the 1st arrondissement; it is linked by the Boulevard d'Athènes to the Canebière.
Marseille has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csa) with mild, humid winters and warm to hot, mostly dry summers. December, January, and February are the coldest months, averaging temperatures of around 12 °C (54 °F) during the day and 4 °C (39 °F) at night. July and August are the hottest months, averaging temperatures of around 28–30 °C (82–86 °F) during the day and 19 °C (66 °F) at night in the Marignane airport (35 km (22 mi) from Marseille) but in the city near the sea the average high temperature is 27 °C (81 °F) in July.
Marseille is officially the sunniest major city in France with over 2,900 hours of sunshine while the average sunshine in France is around 1,950 hours. It is also the driest major city with only 512 mm (20 in) of precipitation annually, especially thanks to the Mistral, a cold, dry wind originating in the Rhône Valley that occurs mostly in winter and spring and which generally brings clear skies and sunny weather to the region. Less frequent is the Sirocco, a hot, sand-bearing wind, coming from the Sahara Desert. Snowfalls are infrequent; over 50% of years do not experience a single snowfall.
The hottest temperature was 40.6 °C (105.1 °F) on 26 July 1983 during a great heat wave, the lowest temperature was −14.3 °C (6.3 °F) on 13 February 1929 during a strong cold wave, but 100 °F (38 °C) or 20 °F (−7 °C) temperatures are uncommon.
Marseille was originally founded circa 600 BC as the Greek colony of Massalia and populated by settlers from Phocaea (modern Foça, Turkey). It became the preeminent Greek polis in the Hellenized region of southern Gaul. The city-state sided with the Roman Republic against Carthage during the Second Punic War (218-201 BC), retaining its independence and commercial empire throughout the western Mediterranean even as Rome expanded into Western Europe and North Africa. However, the city lost its independence following the Roman Siege of Massilia in 49 BC, during Caesar's Civil War, in which Massalia sided with the exiled faction at war with Julius Caesar.
Marseille continued to prosper as a Roman city, becoming an early center of Christianity during the Western Roman Empire. The city maintained its position as a premier maritime trading hub even after its capture by the Visigoths in the 5th century AD, although the city went into decline following the sack of 739 AD by the forces of Charles Martel. It became part of the County of Provence during the 10th century, although its renewed prosperity was curtailed by the Black Death of the 14th century and sack of the city by the Crown of Aragon in 1423. The city's fortunes rebounded with the ambitious building projects of René of Anjou, Count of Provence, who strengthened the city's fortifications during the mid-15th century. During the 16th century the city hosted a naval fleet with the combined forces of the Franco-Ottoman alliance, which threatened the ports and navies of Genoa and the Holy Roman Empire.
Marseille lost a significant portion of its population during the Great Plague of Marseille in 1720, but the population had recovered by mid century. In 1792 the city became a focal point of the French Revolution and was the birthplace of France's national anthem, La Marseillaise. The Industrial Revolution and establishment of the French Empire during the 19th century allowed for further expansion of the city, although it was occupied by the German Wehrmacht in November 1942 and subsequently heavily damaged during World War II. The city has since become a major center for immigrant communities from former French colonies, such as French Algeria.
Marseille is a major French centre for trade and industry, with excellent transportation infrastructure (roads, sea port and airport). Marseille Provence Airport, is the fourth largest in France. In May 2005, the French financial magazine L'Expansion named Marseille the most dynamic of France's large cities, citing figures showing that 7,200 companies had been created in the city since 2000. Marseille is also France's second largest research centre with 3,000 research scientists within Aix Marseille University. As of 2014, the Marseille metropolitan area had a GDP amounting to $60.3 billion, or $36,127 per capita (purchasing power parity).
Historically, the economy of Marseille was dominated by its role as a port of the French Empire, linking the North African colonies of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia with Metropolitan France. The Old Port was replaced as the main port for trade by the Port de la Joliette during the Second Empire and now contains restaurants, offices, bars and hotels and functions mostly as a private marina. The majority of the port and docks, which experienced decline in the 1970s after the oil crisis, have been recently redeveloped with funds from the European Union. Fishing remains important in Marseille and the food economy of Marseille is fed by the local catch; a daily fish market is still held on the Quai des Belges of the Old Port.
The economy of Marseille and its region is still linked to its commercial port, the first French port and the fifth European port by cargo tonnage, which lies north of the Old Port and eastern in Fos-sur-Mer. Some 45,000 jobs are linked to the port activities and it represents 4 billion euros added value to the regional economy. 100 million tons of freight pass annually through the port, 60% of which is petroleum, making it number one in France and the Mediterranean and number three in Europe. However, in the early 2000s, the growth in container traffic was being stifled by the constant strikes and social upheaval. The port is among the 20th firsts in Europe for container traffic with 1,062,408 TEU and new infrastructures have already raised the capacity to 2M TEU. Petroleum refining and shipbuilding are the principal industries, but chemicals, soap, glass, sugar, building materials, plastics, textiles, olive oil, and processed foods are also important products. Marseille is connected with the Rhône via a canal and thus has access to the extensive waterway network of France. Petroleum is shipped northward to the Paris basin by pipeline. The city also serves as France's leading centre of oil refining.
In recent years, the city has also experienced a large growth in service sector employment and a switch from light manufacturing to a cultural, high-tech economy. The Marseille region is home to thousands of companies, 90% of which are small and medium enterprises with less than 500 employees. Among the most famous ones are CMA CGM, container-shipping giant; Compagnie maritime d'expertises (Comex), world leader in sub-sea engineering and hydraulic systems; Airbus Helicopters, an Airbus division; Azur Promotel, an active real estate development company; La Provence, the local daily newspaper; RTM, Marseille's public transport company; and Société Nationale Maritime Corse Méditerranée (SNCM), a major operator in passenger, vehicle and freight transportation in the Western Mediterranean. The urban operation Euroméditerranée has developed a large offer of offices and thus Marseille hosts one of the main business district in France.
Marseille is the home of three main technopoles: Château-Gombert (technological innovations), Luminy (biotechnology) and La Belle de Mai (17,000 sq.m. of offices dedicated to multimedia activities).
The port is also an important arrival base for millions of people each year, with 2.4 million including 890,100 from cruise ships. With its beaches, history, architecture and culture (24 museums and 42 theatres), Marseille is one of the most visited cities in France, with 4.1 million visitors in 2012. Marseille is ranked 86th in the world for business tourism and events, advancing from the 150th spot one year before. The number of congress days hosted on its territory increased from 109,000 in 1996 to almost 300,000 in 2011. They take place in three main sites, Le Palais du Pharo, Le Palais des Congrès et des Expositions (Parc Chanot) and the World Trade Center. In 2012 Marseille hosted the World Water Forum. Several urban projects have been developed to make Marseille attractive. Thus new parks, museums, public spaces and real estate projects aim to improve the city cadre de vie (Parc du 26e Centenaire, Old Port of Marseille, numerous places in Euromediterrannee) to attract firms and people. Marseille municipality acts to develop Marseille as a regional nexus for entertainment in the south of France with high concentration of museums, cinemas, theatres, clubs, bars, restaurants, fashion shops, hotels, and art galleries.
Unemployment in the economy fell from 20% in 1995 to 14% in 2004. However, Marseille unemployment rate remains higher than the national average. In some parts of Marseille, youth unemployment is reported to be as high as 40%.
The city of Marseille is divided into 16 municipal arrondissements, which are themselves informally divided into quartiers (111 in total). The arrondissements are regrouped in pairs, into 8 secteurs, each with a mayor and council (like the arrondissements in Paris and Lyon).
Municipal elections are held every six years and are carried out by secteur. There are 303 councillors in total, two-thirds sitting in the secteur councils and one third in the city council.
From 1950 to the mid-1990s, Marseille was a socialist and communist stronghold. The socialist Gaston Defferre was consecutively re-elected six times as Mayor of Marseille from 1953 until his death in 1986. He was succeeded by Robert Vigouroux of the RDSE. Jean-Claude Gaudin of the right-wing UMP was elected mayor in 1995. Gaudin was re-elected in 2001 and 2008.
In recent years, the Communist Party has lost most of its strength in the northern boroughs of the city, whereas the far-right National Front has received significant support.
At the last municipal election in 2008, Marseille was divided between the northern boroughs dominated by the left and the more affluent southern part dominated by the right, with the centre and eastern parts of the city as battlegrounds, allowing for a narrow re-election of the UMP administration.
The cantons of Marseille :
Marseille is also divided in 12 cantons, each of them returning two member of the General Council of the Bouches-du-Rhône département.
Because of its pre-eminence as a Mediterranean port, Marseille has always been one of the main gateways into France. This has attracted many immigrants and made Marseille a cosmopolitan melting pot. By the end of the 18th century about half the population originated from elsewhere in Provence mostly and also from southern France.
Economic conditions and political unrest in Europe and the rest of the world brought several other waves of immigrants during the 20th century: Greeks and Italians started arriving at the end of the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century, up to 40% of the city's population was of Italian origin; Russians in 1917; Armenians in 1915 and 1923; Vietnamese in the 1920s, 1954 and after 1975; Corsicans during the 1920s and 1930s; Spanish after 1936; North Africans (both Arab and Berber) in the inter-war period; Sub-Saharan Africans after 1945; the pieds-noirs from the former French Algeria in 1962; and then from Comoros. In 2006, it was reported that 70,000 city residents were considered to be of Maghrebi origin, mostly from Algeria. The second largest group in Marseille in terms of single nationalities were from the Comoros, amounting to some 45,000 people.
Currently, over one third of the population of Marseille can trace their roots back to Italy. Marseille also has the second-largest Corsican and Armenian populations of France. Other significant communities include Maghrebis, Turks, Comorians, Chinese, and Vietnamese.
In 1999, in several arrondissements, about 40% of the young people under 18 were of Maghrebi origin (at least one immigrant parent).
Since 2013 immigrants from Eastern Europe travel to work in the city of Marseille, attracted by better job opportunities and the good climate of this Mediterranean city. The main nationalities are Romanians and Poles.
Major religious communities in Marseille include:
Marseille is a city that has its own unique culture and is proud of its differences from the rest of France. Today it is a regional centre for culture and entertainment with an important opera house, historical and maritime museums, five art galleries and numerous cinemas, clubs, bars and restaurants.
Marseille has a large number of theatres, including la Criée, le Gymnase and the Théâtre Toursky. There is also an extensive arts centre in La Friche, a former match factory behind the St-Charles station. The Alcazar (fr), until the 1960s a well known music-hall and variety theatre, has recently been completely remodelled behind its original façade and now houses the central municipal library. Other music venues in Marseille are L'Embobineuze and GRIM.
Marseille has also been important in the arts. It has been the birthplace and home of many French writers and poets, including Victor Gélu (fr), Valère Bernard (fr), Pierre Bertas, Edmond Rostand and André Roussin. The small port of l'Estaque on the far end of the Bay of Marseille became a favourite haunt for artists, including Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne (who frequently visited from his home in Aix), Georges Braque and Raoul Dufy.
Marseille served as the European Capital of Culture for 2013 along with Košice. Marseille-Provence 2013 (MP2013) featured more than 900 cultural events held throughout Marseille and the surrounding communities. These cultural events generated more than 11 million visits. The European Capital of Culture was also the occasion to unveil more than 600 million euros in new cultural infrastructure in Marseille and it environs, including the iconic MuCEM designed by Rudy Ricciotti.
The most commonly used tarot deck takes its name from the city; it has been called the Tarot de Marseille since the 1930s—a name coined for commercial use by the French cardmaker and cartomancer Paul Marteau, owner of B–P Grimaud. Previously this deck was called Tarot italien (Italian Tarot) and even earlier it was simply called Tarot. Before being de Marseille, it was used to play the local variant of tarocchi before it became used in cartomancy at the end of the 18th century, following the trend set by Antoine Court de Gébelin. The name Tarot de Marseille (Marteau used the name ancien Tarot de Marseille) was used by contrast to other types of Tarots such as Tarot de Besançon; those names were simply associated with cities where there were many cardmakers in the 18th century (previously several cities in France were involved in cardmaking).
Another local tradition is the making of santons, small hand-crafted figurines for the traditional Provençal Christmas creche. Since 1803, starting on the last Sunday of November, there has been a Santon Fair in Marseille; it is currently held in the Cours d'Estienne d'Orves, a large square off the Vieux-Port.
Marseille's main cultural attraction was, since its creation at the end of the 18th century and until the late 1970s, the Opéra. Located near the Old Port and the Canebière, at the very heart of the city, its architectural style was comparable to the classical trend found in other opera houses built at the same time in Lyon and Bordeaux. In 1919, a fire almost completely destroyed the house, leaving only the stone colonnade and peristyle from the original façade. The classical façade was restored and the opera house reconstructed in a predominantly Art Deco style, as the result of a major competition. Currently the Opéra de Marseille stages six or seven operas each year.
Since 1972, the Ballet national de Marseille has performed at the opera house; its director from its foundation to 1998 was Roland Petit.
There are several popular festivals in different neighborhoods, with concerts, animations, and outdoor bars, like the Fête du Panier in June. On 21 June, there are dozens of free concerts in the city as part of the Fête de la Musique. Music from all over the world in introduced. Being a free event, many Marseille residents attend.
Marseille hosts a Gay Pride event in early July. In 2013, Marseille hosted Europride, an international LGBT event, 10 July–20. At the beginning of July, there is the International Documentary Festival. At the end of September, the electronic music festival Marsatac takes place. In October, the Fiesta des Suds offers many concerts of world music.
Marseille is also well known in France for its hip hop music. Bands like IAM originated from Marseille and initiated the rap phenomenon in France. Other known groups include Fonky Family, Psy 4 de la Rime (including rappers Soprano and Alonzo), and Keny Arkana. In a slightly different way, ragga music is represented by Massilia Sound System.
Marseille has been the setting for many films, mostly produced in France or Hollywood.
The French television series Plus belle la vie is set in an imaginary quartier, Le Mistral, of Marseille. It is filmed in the Panier quartier of Marseille.
The Netflix series Marseille is set in the city in the 2010s.
Marseille is listed as a major centre of art and history. The city has many museums and galleries and there are many ancient buildings and churches of historical interest.
Most of the attractions of Marseille (including shopping areas) are located in the 1st, 2nd, 6th and 7th arrondissements. These include:
In addition to the two in the Centre de la Vieille Charité, described above, the main museums are:
The main attractions outside the city centre include:
A number of the faculties of the three universities that comprise Aix-Marseille University are located in Marseille:
In addition Marseille has three grandes écoles:
The main French research bodies including the CNRS, INSERM and INRA are all well represented in Marseille. Scientific research is concentrated at several sites across the city, including Luminy, where there are institutes in developmental biology (the IBDML), immunology (CIML), marine sciences and neurobiology (INMED), at the CNRS Joseph Aiguier campus and at the Timone hospital site (known for work in microbiology). Marseille is also home to the headquarters of the IRD, which promotes research into questions affecting developing countries.
The city is served by an international airport, Marseille Provence Airport, located in Marignane. The airport is the fifth busiest French airport, and known the 4th most important European traffic growth in 2012. An extensive network of motorways connects Marseille to the north and west (A7), Aix-en-Provence in the north (A51), Toulon (A50) and the French Riviera (A8) to the east.
Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles is Marseille's main railway station. It operates direct regional services to Aix-en-Provence, Briançon, Toulon, Avignon, Nice, Montpellier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes, etc. Gare Saint-Charles is also one of the main terminal stations for the TGV in the south of France making Marseille reachable in three hours from Paris (a distance of over 750 km) and just over one and a half hours from Lyon. There are also direct TGV lines to Lille, Brussels, Nantes, Geneva and Strasbourg as well as Eurostar services to London. In addition, the night train (Intercités de Nuit) from Luxembourg and Strasbourg stops here on its way to Nice, whereas the night train from Paris to Nice serves the Gare de Blancarde.
There is a new long distance bus station adjacent to new modern extension to the Gare Saint-Charles with destinations mostly to other Bouches-du-Rhône towns, including buses to Aix-en-Provence, Cassis, La Ciotat and Aubagne. The city is also served with 11 other regional trains stations in the east and the north of the city.
Marseille has a large ferry terminal, the Gare Maritime, with services to Corsica, Sardinia, Algeria and Tunisia.
Marseille is connected by the Marseille Métro train system operated by the Régie des transports de Marseille (RTM). It consists of two lines: Line 1 (blue) between Castellane and La Rose opened in 1977 and Line 2 (red) between Sainte-Marguerite-Dromel and Bougainville opened between 1984 and 1987. An extension of the Line 1 from Castellane to La Timone was completed in 1992, another extension from La Timone to La Fourragère (2.5 km (1.6 mi) and 4 new stations) was opened in May 2010. The Métro system operates on a turnstile system, with tickets purchased at the nearby adjacent automated booths. Both lines of the Métro intersect at Gare Saint-Charles and Castellane. Three bus rapid transit lines are under construction to better connect the Métro to farther places (Castellane -> Luminy ; Capitaine Gèze – La Cabucelle -> Vallon des Tuves ; La Rose -> Château Gombert – Saint Jérome).
An extensive bus network serves the city and suburbs of Marseille, with 104 lines and 633 buses. The three lines of the tramway, opened in 2007, go from the CMA CGM Tower towards Les Caillols.
As in many other French cities, a bike-sharing service nicknamed "Le vélo", free for trips of less than half an hour, was introduced by the city council in 2007.
A free ferry service operates between the two opposite quays of the Old Port. From 2011 ferry shuttle services operate between the Old Port and Pointe Rouge; in spring 2013 it will also run to l'Estaque. There are also ferry services and boat trips available from the Old Port to Frioul, the Calanques and Cassis.
The city boasts a wide variety of sports facilities and teams. The most popular team is the city's football club, Olympique de Marseille, which was the finalist of the UEFA Champions League in 1991, before winning the competition in 1993. The club also became finalists of the UEFA Cup in both 1999 and 2004. The club had a history of success under then-owner Bernard Tapie. The club's home, the Stade Vélodrome, which can seat around 67,000 people, also functions for other local sports, as well as the national rugby team. Stade Velodrome hosted a number of games during the 1998 FIFA World Cup, 2007 Rugby World Cup, and UEFA Euro 2016. The local rugby teams are Marseille XIII and Marseille Vitrolles Rugby. Marseille is famous for its important pétanque activity, it is even renown as the pétanque capitale. In 2012 Marseille hosted the Pétanque World Championship and the city hosts every year the Mondial la Marseillaise de pétanque, the main pétanque competition.
Sailing is a major sport in Marseille. The wind conditions allow regattas in the warm waters of the Mediterranean. Throughout most seasons of the year it can be windy while the sea remains smooth enough to allow sailing. Marseille has been the host of 8 (2010) Match Race France events which are part of the World Match Racing Tour. The event draws the world's best sailing teams to Marseille. The identical supplied boats (J Boats J-80 racing yachts) are raced two at a time in an on the water dogfight which tests the sailors and skippers to the limits of their physical abilities. Points accrued count towards the World Match Racing Tour and a place in the final event, with the overall winner taking the title ISAF World Match Racing Tour Champion. Match racing is an ideal sport for spectators in Marseille, as racing in close proximity to the shore provides excellent views. The city was also considered as a possible venue for 2007 America's Cup.
Marseille is also a place for other water sports such as windsurfing and powerboating. Marseille has three golf courses. The city has dozens of gyms and several public swimming pools. Running is also popular in many of Marseille's parks such as Le Pharo and Le Jardin Pierre Puget. An annual footrace is held between the city and neighbouring Cassis: the Marseille-Cassis Classique Internationale.
Marseille was the birthplace of:
The following personalities died in Marseille: