Marseilles was the fifth port of call on our most recent cruise aboard Oceania’s Riviera visiting the Italian and French Riviera.

 Marseilles is the second largest French city and its main seaport. I was expecting a large rather dingy port but how wrong I was. Out of all the ports of call Marseilles was one of the best and most interesting.

Your cruise shuttle bus will take you from the dock you are berthed at on a 10 minute ride along the coast and will set you down at the historic heart of the city at Vieux Port – the old harbour, which has been beautifully restored, lined with yachts, fishing boats and restaurants.

Learn all about the famous Count of Monte Cristo

There are several islands off Marseilles including the islet of If – the 16th century Chateau d’If which became the prison featured in Alexandre Dumas’s romance The Count of Monte Cristo. Several forts overlook the harbour with a selection of boat excursions available to the If island and other Frioul Islands from the harbour.

 The magnificent Notre Dame de la Garde

Highlight of the day spent in the city was our visit to this magnificent 19th century cathedral. It is built on the city’s highest point and can be glimpsed from most areas. It offers the visitor wonderful panoramic views and inside you will find a beautiful Byzantine interior of dazzling domes and mosaic ceilings including a solid silver statue of the Virgin Mary. It will appeal not only to religious visitors but those who wish to learn some of the rich history of Marseilles.

Easy sightseeing using the little tourist trains

Tourist trains are available to take you from the harbour (close to where you are dropped off, cost x Euros) to the Cathedral set high above the city – you then get off and have time to admire the fabulous views. When we visited there were no shortage of long little trains doing the circuit so there was no problem getting back.  There is another train that takes you round the old town but as this is a fairly level part of the city. We chose to walk round the narrow cobbled streets, which recreates the atmosphere of the old port. This part of town is being gradually restored with small private shops, cafes and hotels.

Other Things to See

Marseilles has a long history and among the many attractions of the city is the magnificent MuCEM (Museum of Civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean) which has recently been created on the waterfront designed by the world famous British architect Norman Foster. Unfortunately the day we visited it was closed. The pretty old provincial fishing port of Cassis is only 40 minutes away (20 miles).

 Direct Trains from London to Marseilles

Marseilles makes an excellent holiday destination with frequent direct Eurostar trains planned for 2015 from London St Pancras (at the moment there are only a few Summer Saturday trains). The service will also call at Avignon prior to Marseilles. The city could easily be combined with other French Riviera resorts without the need to drive – ask for further details.

All details quoted are thought to be correct at time of posting but are always subject to confirmation at time of booking

Photo: Harbour with Notre Dame towering overhead (RG) 156

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