Marseille city guide

UEFA EURO 2016 host cities

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Region: Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur (PACA)
City ambassadors: Basile Boli (former French international), Florent Manaudou (2012 Olympic-winning swimmer)

Marseille – the second best destination on the planet according to The New York Times, and the world’s fifth most beautiful coastal city in the opinion of the prestigious National Geographic – is visited by more than five million people every year. Dubbed ‘2016’s coolest destination’ by the press, France’s oldest city has established a reputation as a dynamic and outward-looking metropolis.

Old port, Marseille The old port©Thinkstock

A city of passion and football, Marseille was a European Capital of Culture in 2013 and organises thousands of cultural and sporting events throughout the summer.

No visit to Marseille would be complete without seeing the beaches and the spectacular rocky inlets (calanques in French) that punctuate the city’s 57km of coastline.

Come and experience UEFA EURO 2016 in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities.

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The city’s history is inextricably linked with that of the Mediterranean Sea, which was crossed by the Greek explorers from the city of Phocaea who founded Marseille in 600 BC. The largest port in the Mediterranean, Marseille is an outward-looking city that combines heritage and modernity. In the midst of an urban regeneration process, the city is now focused on tourism and has established itself as a prime destination for Mediterranean cruise ships.

Five million people visited Marseille in 2013, when it was a European Capital of Culture, and many more are expected to follow this year – and in 2017, when it will be the European Capital of Sport. The city’s 57km of coastline (of which 20km is in the Calanques National Park), its 300 days of sunshine a year, its green spaces and areas of natural beauty, its warm and welcoming people and its accessibility are all major assets in terms of the city’s image. Recently classified as an ‘area of excellence’ on account of the quality of its higher education, scientific research and technological innovation, Marseille is seeking to boost its competitiveness on the international stage and be regarded as a ‘hot spot’ of the knowledge economy. The large numbers of local ‘French tech’ start-ups in the digital, transmedia and audiovisual sectors (notably around the Belle de Mai hub) have put the city in the vanguard of developments in these industries.

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• Edmond Rostand, dramatist and member of the French Academy (1868–1918) – author of Cyrano de Bergerac
• Marcel Pagnol, writer and filmmaker (1895–1974) – perhaps the most famous of all Provencal authors, both for his books and for his films
• Jean-Claude Izzo, journalist and writer (1945–2000) – Izzo rejuvenated the French noir genre with his crime novels set in Marseille
• IAM, rap group (formed in 1989) – these pioneers of French rap created a Marseille scene that is still vibrant today
• César Baldaccini, sculptor (1921–1998) – a world-renowned artist behind many sculptures in Marseille, perhaps the most famous a giant thumb

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• The Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde church stands high above Marseille and offers panoramic views of the city and its harbour. The church was constructed between 1853 and 1899 on the site of a former military camp, and the golden statue of the Virgin with child that sits atop it is known as 'La Bonne Mère' and has become the symbolic protector of Marseille. Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica (Our Lady of the Guard basilica), Marseille Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica©AFP

• The Château d'If was built in 1527 on one of the Frioul islands in the Bay of Marseille on the orders of King Francis I. Initially used as a fort, Château d'If soon became a royal prison. The famous iron mask and Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo, were both housed here (although Alexandre Dumas's Count is a purely fictional character).

• Le Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM – Museum of the Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean), designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti and located at the entrance to the old port, has become a symbol of the city's regeneration. The museum's daring cubic architecture, connected by a spectacular walkway to the historical Saint-Jean fort, a Vauban fortification, attracted 2.6 million visitors in its first year after opening in June 2013 during Marseille's reign as European Capital of Culture.

• Le Panier is the oldest urban district of any city in France and overlooks the Old Port. The quarter is located on the site of the first Greek settlement. The stepped streets and alleyways convey a typical Mediterranean atmosphere and also contain 'La Vieille Charité', an almshouse built by Pierre Puget in 1670, now home to museums and a cultural centre.

• The Calanques National Park, established on 18 April 2012, is the first periurban park in Europe and the first in France to incorporate both land and marine environments. A paradise for divers and climbers, the Park covers 85 square kilometres of land south of Marseille as well as 435 square kilometres of Mediterranean Sea and is home to protected species of flora and fauna.

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Getting there
Marseille is served by an international airport, a TGV railway station and several motorways. The city is easily accessed and has a network of over 1,100km of roads. Marseille is linked to the Rhône Valley and northern Europe by the A7 motorway, to Spain by the A55 and to Italy by the A50 and A8.

In addition to overland access, the Marseille-Provence airport at Marignane, with its MP2 terminal for low-cost airlines, connects Provence to the rest of the world via 132 scheduled flights, the most in France outside Paris. More than eight million passengers used the airport in 2012. Connections to the city are by bus and motorway.

Saint-Charles railway station, Marseille Saint-Charles railway station©Thinkstock

The TGV arrives at the Saint-Charles railway station in the heart of Marseille. The journey time to Paris is just over three hours while Lyon is a mere one hour and 40 minutes away. Marseille's international bus station is adjacent to the railway station and has departures to all major European cities. Ferry lines also link Marseille to Corsica, Algeria and Tunisia.

Distances to other UEFA EURO 2016 venues
Nice – 215km
Lyon – 315km
Saint-Etienne – 335km
Toulouse – 405km
Bordeaux – 650km
Paris – 780km
Saint-Denis – 790km
Lens – 985km
Lille – 1000km

Distances between city centres, by motorway where possible
Source: mappy – viamichelin

Distance of Stade Vélodrome to...
City centre: 4km
Airport: 30km

Getting around
Transport within Marseille consists of Metro lines 1 and 2, two tram lines and a comprehensive bus network. Tickets can be bought at stations or on the bus; a multi-trip ticket offers the best value. From March to September, two 'batobus' shuttle ferry lines connect the Old Port to the outlying districts of Estaque to the north and Pointe-Rouge to the south with a 40-minute journey time.

More detailed travel information available here.

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Stade Vélodrome The Stade Vélodrome©UEFA.comFootball is the passion of the people of Marseille. Olympique de Marseille – ‘OM’ – are a core component of the city’s social fabric, and Stade Vélodrome is the team’s home. Inaugurated in 1937 in preparation for the FIFA World Cup in France the following year, the stadium has been renovated on several occasions (notably prior to the 1998 FIFA World Cup). In preparation for UEFA EURO 2016, its capacity has been increased to 67,000 and it has acquired a roof. The stadium is one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations.

Marseille are the most decorated club in the history of French football, having won the French league nine times, the French Cup ten times and the League Cup three times. However, their victory against AC Milan in the 1993 UEFA Champions League final (having lost to Belgrade’s FK Crvena zvezda in the final two years earlier) is their standout honour, entitling them to wear the coveted star on their shirts. That European title – the only time a French club has ever won the competition – was the high point of Bernard Tapie’s reign as president of Marseille, which lasted from 1986 to 1994.

In recent years, Marseille have had a number of European campaigns and won the UEFA Intertoto Cup in 2005. Under the stewardship of coach Didier Deschamps – who had captained the team in their Champions League triumph – they topped the French league in 2010, won the League Cup three times and lifted the Trophée des Champions twice.

The club’s colours, sky blue and white, and their motto, ‘Droit au but’, can be found all over the city, testifying to the locals’ visceral attachment to their club.

Famous players
• Jean-Pierre Papin (1963–) – a prodigious goalscorer, Papin won the 1991 Ballon d'Or and achieved immortality in the eyes of Marseille supporters Jean-Pierre Papin (Olympique de Marseille) - 1991 Jean-Pierre Papin©Bob Thomas/Getty Images
• Marius Trésor (1950–) – a French international defender at the 1982 World Cup, Trésor played for Marseille from 1972–80
• Didier Deschamps (1968–) – the current France coach captained OM to UEFA Champions League glory and managed the team from 2009–12
• Roger Magnusson (1945–) – this Swedish player was an OM superstar in the 1970s with his superb dribbling skills
• Basile Boli (1967–) – a hero of the 1993 victory, his headed goal against Milan has gone down in history

Did you know?
Ahmed Ben Bella, who would go on to become Algerian President, played and scored a goal for OM in a cup match against Antibes in the 1939/40 season.

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A candidate city to become the 2017 European Capital of Sport, Marseille also actively encourages other elite sports. The Cercle des Nageurs de Marseille (CNM) swimming club has won water polo titles and trained swimming champions (Camille Lacourt, Frédérick Bousquet and Fabien Gilot among others).

Stade Vélodrome ©AFP/Getty Images

The Stade Vélodrome also regularly hosts RC Toulonnais rugby matches. The club completed a historic double in 2014, dominating the Top 14 League and Heineken Cup. The nearby Palais des Sports stages the ATP Open 13 tennis tournament in February and is home to many other indoor sports competitions.

USEFUL LINKS – Marseille city website
Marseille transport – long-distance bus company
 – Olympique de Marseille official website
 – tourist information office