A Dive Into Marseille, France’s Oldest City – WWD

Ever marvel why France’s nationwide anthem known as “La Marseillaise”?

That’s because of the rousing rendition given by volunteers hailing from Marseille, who marched in Paris to defend the nation within the wake of the French Revolution as alarmed European monarchies declared struggle on the newly minted republic.

And that zeal and pleasure of their id is one thing that even Parisians have come to understand — however don’t get a soccer debate began on the longstanding rivalry between the Paris Saint Germain and Olympique de Marseille groups!

The French capital could be the nation’s glamorous middle of attraction and a focus, however Marseille isn’t any slouch on the subject of the great life and millennia-long historical past.

The port on the Mediterranean Sea is the nation’s oldest metropolis and a significant crossroads for the civilizations which have thrived throughout the basin because it was based as “Massilia” round 600 BCE by Greek settlers who got here from Phocaea, a metropolis on the western coast of Anatolia, now in modern-day Turkey.

Lengthy beset by a popularity as a metropolis of crime to rival Thirties Chicago, Marseille has been shedding its picture as a seedy port, coming into its personal as soon as extra as a glittering Mediterranean metropolis within the decade because it gained the bid to be Europe’s capital of tradition for 2013. It’s going to additionally host matches for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in addition to soccer and crusing competitions through the 2024 Summer time Olympics.

However it’s additionally a thriving hotbed of creativity, from design and artwork to gastronomy and trend.

Describing the town as “free, emancipated, indomitable, mouthy and beneficiant,” Alix de Moussac and Aurélie Grandemenge, who moved down a decade in the past to launch their lingerie and swimwear model La Nouvelle, inform WWD Weekend that “it’s a effervescent metropolis, its inhabitants seems to be like none different. Its place as a port on the Mediterranean encourages a melting pot of cultures that’s the metropolis’s wealth.”

For Marseille-born designer Mélanie Gomis, who reduce her enamel in Paris, London and Beirut earlier than returning in 2020 to launch her eponymous model, “this context offers life to creations which can be extra impartial, singular and acutely aware. And I imagine that the majority creatives who’ve chosen to create on this city have in actuality refused to be a part of a sure inventive manufacturing system that you simply discover in cities like Paris.”

Since Marseille is barely a straight three-and-a-half-hour shot down from Paris on the TGV excessive velocity railway, it’s nicely definitely worth the journey to see why Simon Porte Jacquemus proclaimed “Marseille je t’aime” along with his first e book and staged his first males’s present there in 2018.

The place to Keep

With a median of 5 million guests and 300 days of sunshine a 12 months, there’s no scarcity of locations to remain in Marseille for each price range and each aspect of the “metropolis with 111 neighborhoods,” as it’s also identified.

For the reason that sea is the star right here, Les Bords de Mer is ideally situated within the Corniche district and simply off the Plage des Catalans seaside. This 19-room Thirties property is now a part of the Domaines de Fontenilles hospitality group and has been restored to its former glory with just one thought in thoughts: maximizing the sensational seafront expertise.

Don’t dawdle if you wish to get up proper on the rocks: there are solely eight rooms at achingly hip Tuba Membership, a “seaside bungalow” within the eighth arrondissement based by Greg Gassa, Fabrice Denizot and their “gang of mates.” This coastal ’70s glam deal with with a sun-kissed shade palette of whites, yellows and sage inexperienced has been name-checked amongst Jacquemus’ favourite addresses on the town.

A room on the Tuba Membership in Marseille.

Courtesy Photograph/Edouard Sanville

Maison Juste could also be a 200-year-old townhouse 5 minutes away from the Vieux-Port, however a totally up to date expertise awaits inside. Whereas its 18 rooms have been neatly appointed, the homeowners, a pair of hospitality trade veterans who needed to interrupt away from the codes they’d identified their complete skilled lives, provide a streamlined home-away-from-home expertise. Verify-in and room keys are accessible by a smartphone app, and communal areas are supposed to be shared with mates or different company.

And for a very distinctive expertise, there’s Maison Empereur. On the second flooring of a constructing that’s house to this 196-year-old {hardware} and residential items retailer reputed to be the oldest in France, the proprietor’s four-room apartment-cum-back workplace is offered to hire for the night time. Take a second to rifle by the archives, catalogues and previous pictures curated by the unique proprietor’s descendants who nonetheless personal the shop, or just whereas away the time on its terrace.

Maison Empereur

You possibly can keep within the condo of the founding father of Maison Empereur, the oldest {hardware} and residential items retailer in France.

Fred Tchalekian/Courtesy of Maison Empereur

What to See

Because the oldest metropolis in France, Marseille can rightfully declare to straddle hundreds of years of human historical past and has all of the museums to show it, beginning with Cosquer Méditerranée. The cave is submerged in a creek close to Cape Morgiou and is a scrupulously conserved historic monument. This reproduction housed within the Villa Méditerranée constructing opened in 2022 within the coronary heart of the town to supply a glimpse of the engravings and work that date again to the Paleolithic period.

Nodding to Marseille’s place as a significant node on the Mediterranean, the Mucem (quick for Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean) opened in 2013 as the primary museum solely devoted to this crucible of civilization and cross-cultural exchanges, handled by a multidisciplinary strategy that blends anthropology, historical past, archeology and artwork.

Tapping into the Mucem’s textile assortment that counts hundreds of conventional costumes from round Europe and the Mediterranean basin, the “Style Folklore” exhibition that can run from July 12 to Nov. 6 will join the dots between folkloric costume and the work of couture designers.

The Mucem museum.

Thomas JACQUES/Courtesy of Workplace de Tourisme et des Congrès de Marseille

And its constructing designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti, in collaboration with colleague Roland Carta, is a marvel unto itself because of an exterior wearing a graphic concrete trellis impressed by coral. Don’t neglect to seize a chunk at one of many museum’s eateries, helmed by the town’s culinary star Gérald Passedat.

Amongst different highlights of the town are the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica, one in every of Marseille’s best-known options that’s seen from practically each a part of the town; the Chateau d’If, the “French Alcatraz”; the Palais Longchamp, house to the town’s pure historical past and artwork museums, and the Palais Pharo, constructed by French Emperor Napoléon III for his spouse, Empress Eugénie. Nearer to trendy occasions, the Cité Radieuse constructed by French architect Le Corbusier was erected as a post-World Battle II proof-of-concept for a metropolis that might thrive out of concrete modules. Now it’s one of many metropolis’s most sought-after addresses.

Set up views of Paola Pivi’s “It’s not my job, it’s your job / Ce n’est pas mon travail, c’est votre travail” at [mac] musée d’artwork contemporain de Marseille, 2023.

Hugo Glendinning/Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin

After a four-year and 5 million euro facelift, the MAC up to date artwork museum of Marseille reopened in April with a revamped constructing, an exhibition devoted to Italian artist Paola Pivi operating till August, and a rehang that includes 130 items within the museum’s 650-strong assortment, together with works by Louise Bourgeois, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Niki de Saint Phalle.

For avenue artwork fanatics, the Cours Julien is a must-see and the start line to discover a colourful neighborhood that’s rife with putting murals, in addition to stylish cafés, eating places and shops.

In the meantime, nature-inclined guests is not going to need to miss the handfuls of calanques, the ever-picturesque inlets with steep limestone cliffs dotted alongside the town’s 57 kilometers of shoreline.

A calanque in Marseille.

Courtesy of Workplace de Tourisme et des Congrès de Marseille

What to Savor

Ask any French individual for a culinary specialty hailing from Marseille and bouillabaisse, the Provençal soup product of fish as soon as thought of too ugly to be served complete, will probably be excessive on the record. A cornerstone of the Vallon des Auffes fishing haven, Chez Fonfon has been perpetuating this conventional dish and different classics, just like the “petits farcis” stuffed greens, for 4 generations.

Chez Fonfon

Courtesy of Chez Fonfon

That stated, the town’s restaurant scene is flourishing. Not solely does it have its homegrown luminaries like three-Michelin-starred Passedat and Alexandre Mazzia, and vivacious Coline Faulquier, who acquired her first star for her restaurant Signature, however it’s additionally drawing Parisian hospitality heavyweights down south.

Take the Moma Group, which owns the historic Lapérouse restaurant in Paris, which has opened two addresses on the town. First up is Forest, below the course of chef Julien Sebbag. If his idea for Paris was a “post-apocalyptic bunker the place the reminiscence of nature is tentatively being saved,” this deal with in Marseille dressed by architectural studio Uchronia in terra-cotta tones is all about nature and native produce in dishes meant to replicate Marseille’s many aspects.

Among the many highlights of the menu are his sage-butter candle on a dish of beetroot and almond hummus, mezcal-flambéed mushrooms, a well-trafficked crudo bar and Sebbag’s favourite challah breads, sourced from the town’s reputed T65 bakery.

Just about subsequent door in La Main is the Marseille outpost of South American idea Andia. Embellished by Alexis Mabille, this 150-seat deal with was imagined as a jungle that sprouted below the arcades under the Sainte-Marie-Majeure cathedral, with natural world bursting prettily from each floor and spilling out onto an alfresco space that nods to Mediterranean gardens. From Thursday to Saturday, its second service could have celebration vibes, and a weekend brunch will probably be added within the fall.

Inside Andia Marseille.

Courtesy of Moma Group

And if in case you have time to spare, why not take a day journey to La Baie des Singes, a long-standing seaside restaurant a 45-minute automotive trip from the town middle. There, fish is grilled contemporary out of the ocean and there’s a personal seaside splendid for having fun with the solar, azure waters and beautiful karst cliff-faces.

The place to Sip

Ask 100 individuals the place to get your fill of Marseille’s views with a drink in hand and also you’ll get twice as many addresses. For views on the historic Vieux-Port, there’s the Rowing Membership, giving a 360-degree vista of the Mucem, the previous harbor entrance and the Trois Forts space from its rooftop, and the Bar de la Marine, rumored to be the setting for a lot of of French novelist Marcel Pagnol’s Marseille-based tales and immortalized on the silver display screen in British rom-com “Love Truly.” Upscale cocktail bar Capian, within the metropolis’s Intercontinental lodge, is another choice that provides an expansive view all the best way to the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica.

However to get a full style of the free-spirited, multifaceted hubbub of Marseille, it might be Maison des Nines, the latter phrase that means “younger girls” within the Provençal regional language. It refers to founders Estelle Billet, Annaëlle N’Koua and Claire Lombard, who ditched promising careers in Paris to rework an deserted bakery right into a buzzing hub that’s without delay a espresso shop-slash-canteen, a trend and wonder retailer, a celebration spot and now a classy wine bar.

Between June and August, there’s additionally Le Toit-terrasse, actually “the rooftop” in French, an 85,000-square-foot open air area atop La Friche la Belle de Mai, a multiuse cultural area as soon as one in every of France’s largest tobacco factories. Locals come for a drink and keep for the concert events, open-air cinema and all manners of achingly cool events that go lengthy into the night time.

And for individuals who desire a caffeine top-off, specialist espresso roaster and café Brûlerie Möka is a gem value finding within the Camas neighborhood, simply minutes away from the Vieux-Port.

The place to Store

There are many locations to buy in Marseille and prime of the record is Jogging, based in 2014 by photographer Olivier Amsellam and Charlotte Brunet, a advertising and marketing veteran who was a vital contributor to Marseille’s election as 2013 European capital of tradition.

The pair, who hail from the area, needed to convey trend, meals and artwork collectively in a singular area, housed in a former butcher’s store left practically as they discovered it. On the time the one place to seek out the likes of Jacquemus, Marine Serre or Charlotte Chesnais, it now presents a listing that goes from JW Anderson to rising manufacturers like Nensi Dojaka and Phileo.

Jogging has since branched out into gastronomy with a restaurant that opened in 2016, a grocery retailer with merchandise made inside 200 kilometers of the store and a visitor home within the Calanque de Samena since 2020.

Being by the ocean is a superb excuse to go to De Moussac and Grandemenge’s first retailer, a 550-square-foot boudoir with pastel pink waxed concrete and honey-toned wooden partitions with touches of brass that nod to La Nouvelle’s signature golden Lurex element.

A glance from Gomis’ summer season capsule.

Courtesy of Gomis

And naturally, if time permits, an appointment on the Gomis studio is so as, to snag one in every of her tailor-made gabardine sarouel trousers, a classy interpretation of the unfastened North African garment, one in every of her painstakingly hand-embroidered items, or a enjoyable summer season piece in a swirling snail print.

Tapping into her multicultural heritage in France and Senegal in addition to earlier experiences in Paris, London and dealing alongside Beirut-based designer George Hobeika (keep in mind that Beyoncé search for the “Lion King” promotion?), Gomis is all about finely detailed daywear that’s made regionally utilizing accountable textiles.

Ceramic studio Monochromic and soapmaker Fer à Cheval imagined these cicada-shaped soaps and holders.


And don’t neglect the one merchandise simple to slide in any suitcase: Marseille cleaning soap. Savonnerie Fer à Cheval, a 160-year-old producer that also makes use of conventional cauldron-based soapmaking strategies, is among the many favorites. Seize one in every of their bars at Maison Empereur if you happen to’re staying there (they usually’re obtainable at a lot extra retailers within the metropolis), however a very cute possibility is the cicada-shaped cleaning soap created collaboration with native ceramics atelier Monochromic.  


Les Bords de Mer — 52 Corniche Président John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 13007 Marseille

Tuba Membership — 2 Boulevard Alexandre Delabre, 13008 Marseille

Maison Juste — 28 Rue Balthazar-Dieudé, 13006 Marseille

Maison Empereur — 4 Rue des Récolettes, 13001 Marseille


Cosquer Méditerrannée — Promenade Robert Laffont, Esplanade J4, 13002 Marseille

MuCEM — 7 Promenade Robert Laffont, Esplanade J4, 13002 Marseille

Cité Radieuse — 280 Boulevard Michelet, 13008 Marseille

Musée d’Artwork Contemporain [mac] — 69 Avenue d’Haifa, 13008 Marseille

Cours Julien — Between the Noailles and Notre-Dame du Mont metro stops


Chez Fonfon — 140 Rue du Vallon des Auffes, 13007 Marseille

Signature — 180 Rue du Rouet, 13008 Marseille

Forest — 4 Boulevard Jacques Saade, 13002 Marseille

Andia — 2 Boulevard Jacques Saade, 13002 Marseille, France

La Baie des Singes — Cap Croisette, 13008 Marseille


Bar de la Marine — 15 Quai de Rive Neuve, 13007 Marseille, France

Rowing Membership — 34 Boulevard Charles Livon, 13007 Marseille, France

Capian — 1 Place Daviel, 13002 Marseille

Maison des Nines — 9 Rue d’Aubagne, 13001 Marseille

Toit-terrasse at La Friche la Belle de Mai — 41 Rue Jobin, 13003 Marseille

Brûlerie Möka — 36 Bd Eugène Pierre, 13005 Marseille, France


Jogging — 103 Rue Paradis, 13006 Marseille

La Nouvelle — 13 Rue Decazes, 13007 Marseille

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