Old Port of Marseille

The Old Port of Marseille (French: Old Port of Marseille ) is at the end of the Canebiere , the major street of Marseille . It has been the natural harbor of the city since Antiquity and is now the main popular place in Marseille. It became mainly pedestrian in 2013.


Main article: Marseille

In 600, Greek settlers from Phocaea landed in the Lacydon, a rocky Mediterranean cove, now the site of the Old Port of Marseille. They set up a trading post or emporion in the hills on the northern shore. Until the nineteenth century the Old Port remains the center of maritime activity in Marseille. In the Middle Ages the land at the far end of the harbor Was used to cultivate hemp for the local manufacture of rope for mariners, qui is the origin of the name of the main thoroughfare of Marseilles, the Canebière .

The Great St. Victor’s Abbey was originally built between the third and ninth centuries on the south coast of the Old Port, on the site of an Hellenic Burial Ground.

Between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, quays were constructed under Louis XII and Louis XIII and an important shipyard for galleons put in place. Following a revolt against their governor by the citizens of Marseilles, Louis XIV ordered the erection of the forts of St Jean and St Nicolas at the entrance to the harbor and established an arsenal and fleet in the Old Port itself. The notorious “arsenal of the galleys” [1] was located on the left side of the Old Port between the Cours Jean-Balard and the Cours Estienne-d’Orves: those condemned to be galley slaves in the royal war fleet were branded with the letters GAL .

According to John Murray, [2] in 1854 the Old Port had a capacity of between 1,000 and 1,200 ships. Roughly 18,000 merchant ships passed through each year, carrying about 20 million barrels worth of freight; This is a part of the trade in Liverpool at the time. The 6 meter depth of the harbor, however, proved problematic for steamships later in the century; much deeper docks had to be built at La Joliette. In World War II the Old Port was left in complete ruins. According to eye-witness accounts, in January 1943, the Nazis, a font by the French police, the “gigantic aerial ferry”, an engineering tour de force that had become a major landmark of Marseille, comparable to the Eiffel tower in Paris . This is known as the ” Battle of Marseille “. In 1948 Fernand Pouillon was put in charge of the reconstruction of the devastated old quarter.

When, beginning in the 1840s, new harbor moles, quays and the Docks were built along the coast of the Joliette quarter to the north-west, many port activities were moved out of the Old Port. Over time, new harbor facilities were built further north-west, resulting in what is today the Grand Port of Marseille : continuous harbor facilities as far as the Estaque and the southern entrance to the Rove Tunnel , and “satellite” extensions around Fos -on-Sea and along the shore of the Etang de Berre . The Old Port is used today as a marina, a terminal for local boat trips, and a local fish market. In 2013, for the European Capital of Culture , the Old Port was largely pedestrianized. Michel Desvigne Paysagistes, with Foster and Partners . The project is also a second phase with a budget of € 64 million. [3]

The Old Port in popular culture

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas is set in the Old Port and on the Château d’If .
  • Marius , Fanny and Caesar , by Marcel Pagnol .
  • Love Actually was partly filmed in the Navy Bar on the Old Port.
  • Many of the bars and cafes around the Old Port are mentioned in the detective novels of Jean Claude Izzo .
  • Ian Fleming sets scenes in his James Bond novel On Her Majesty Secret Service in and near Old Port .
  • Claude McKay in his 1929 novel “Banjo” follows the lives of expatriate Americans in La Joliette and explores perceptions of race and culture in Europe and the US.

Points of Interest Around the Old Port

  • St. Victor’s Abbey , on the south side of the Old Port, one of the oldest sites of Christian worship in France.
  • the lighthouse of Sainte Marie , at lighthouse .
  • the Canebière , located at the far end of the Old Port on the Quai des Belges .
  • the Hotel de Ville (town hall).
  • the historic ferry , plying between opposite sides of the Old Port.
  • the Roman Dock Museum.
  • the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean , Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations (MUCEM)
Old port of Marseille, at night, seen from the Pharo park


  1.  Jump up^ History of the galleys district, History of the Arsenal for Galley Slaves(in French)).
  2. Jump up^ John Murray, “A Handbook for Travelers in France: being a guide to Normandy, Brittany, the rivers Seine, Loire, Rhone and Garonne, the French Alps, Dauphiné, Provence and the Pyrenees Their railways and roads”, Num . BNF of the ed. de, Paris: National Library of France, 1995. 1 microfilm Reprod. from the ed. from, London: J. Murray, 1854 (Murray’s handbook).
  3. Jump up^ “New-look Old-Port Crowns Capital Culture Marseille – The Connection” . Connectionfrance.com . Retrieved 2016-02-17 .

Leave a Comment