If you are a follower and a fan of Spotted by Locals, you know that our mission is to offer alternative tips, on cities, that you won’t find in most travel guides. We are always trying to provide you with the best off-the-tourist-trail spots so that you can enjoy your time as a real local rather than a (perhaps even inexperienced) tourist. To accomplish this we have an amazing team of handpicked spotters operating on 60+ locations in Europe and North America. We are constantly updating our guides to make sure that you can get the best out of your stay and you never run out of fresh, alternative options.
Also, we are eager to broaden our scope to other destinations and let you discover their hottest spots. We believe there’s a number of cities we have not covered yet, and have a lot to offer. One of the cities that’s on the list is Marseille, the second largest city of France.
Want to know why? Here are a few reasons!
Its funky new guise
For a long time the second largest city in France has been both an object of rejection and mockery from the French themselves and an undesirable destination for most tourists. Dangerous, edgy and dirty, affected by widespread neglect, a decade ago Marseille seemed to be doomed to unstoppable decay.
Then suddenly, the perfect occasion for shaking off its unflattering reputations comes along: Marseille is elected as one of the two European Capital of Culture in 2013. The city enters a period of ambitious projects of urban regeneration and throughout the whole year hosts an innumerable set of events. New museums open, hip shops and restaurants pop up like mushrooms, and tourists flock to admire the Mediterranean metropolis’ “new clothes”.
The Marseillans themselves start to rediscover and be proud of their city, which is no longer the French Cinderella, but the new place to be. You might think this optimistic frenzy is now slowly fading away. You’re wrong: Marseille is still rocking the block, and it doesn’t look like it’s ready to give up.
Its multiple identities
Marseille is one of the oldest European cities and a trading city of major importance. Its port, one of the most important ones in the whole continent since the antiquity, shaped its destiny, making it a multiethnic and multicultural centre. The Greeks founded it, the Romans conquered it.
Gateway to the territories on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, especially after WWII, Marseille has been the arrival point for several waves of immigrants, especially from that portion of Northern Africa that once was under French rule. Marseille boasts not one, but many identities. It is as common to hear people speaking in French as in Arabic, having a falafel in an Algerian restaurant while your next door neighbours are waiting for their bouillabaisse (a traditional Provençal fish stew).
Within a country renowned for its strong national identity and similarities, Marseille stands out for its diversity. As a hundred years ago German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, “I am convinced that Marseille is the most beautiful of all French cities. It is simply so different.”
It is not an ordinary French city
Marseille is not as easy to like as Paris or Lyon. It lacks the grandeur and elegance of the first, and the gastronomic culture and suggestive glimpses of the latter. Marseille might be difficult to unveil, and some might think that beyond its Vieux Port (Old Port) area, its steep and snug old town and its museums, the city doesn’t have much else to offer.
Instead the charm of Marseille has to be found in its narrow alleys that seem frozen in time; in its noisy streets filled with both exotic and familiar smells; in its young crowed, so willing to mix the local culture with the newest trends…Yes, Marseille has yet to be discovered. That’s why we can’t wait to make it our next spot!
Is Marseille your city? Do you speak the local language? Want to join our community and become one of our Spotters? Apply here!