The personality of France’s second city shines through its crime fiction, urban photography, rap and TV drama. Grab an apéro and enjoy
It’s impossible to be ambivalent about Marseille. Those of us who call the city home – native and adopted Marseillais – know that for some first-time visitors, it’s a place that doesn’t reveal its considerable charms as easily as other corners of southern France. Many bypass the boisterous Mediterranean port on their way to sleepy Provençal villages or the Côte d’Azur. They don’t know what they’re missing.
Marseille’s Phocaean founders dropped anchor in its natural harbour around 600BC. France’s oldest city has been shaped by millennia of migration since – from the Romans to Corsicans and Algerians, Spanish, Armenians, Comorans and Vietnamese – and the fiercely proud Cité Phocéenne, as some still refer to it, moves to its own distinctive rhythm. Culinary historian Emmanuel Perrodin is fond of repeating a local saying: “First you have the sea, then the city, and beyond that is another country called France’.”