Visitor Information — The Office de Tourisme is at 11 la Canebière (www.marseille-tourisme.com; tel. 08-26-50-05-00; Métro: Vieux-Port).
City Layout — Marseille is a large metropolis, although most sights are concentrated around the Vieux Port. If you’re keen to explore different parts of the city, you’ll need to take advantage of its comprehensive public transport or have a strong set of legs.
Neighborhoods in Brief — The major arteries divide Marseille into 16 arrondissements. Like Paris, the last two digits of a postal code tell you within which arrondissement an address is located. Visitors tend to spend most of their time in four main neighborhoods. The first is the Vieux Port, the atmospheric natural harbor that’s a focal point for the city center. From here, the wide La Canebière boulevard runs eastwards, bisected by Marseille’s most popular shopping avenues. To the north lies Le Panier, the original Old Town, crisscrossed by a pastel network of undulating alleyways. This neighborhood’s western edge is trimmed by former docklands, which have been completed redeveloped over the past few years. Southeast of the Vieux Port, the alternative neighborhood around cours Julien is home to convivial restaurants and one-off boutiques aplenty. And come summertime, action shifts to the Plages du Prado, a strip of beaches due south of the city center.
Special Events — Le Défi de Monte-Cristo (www.defimonte-cristo.com)—also known as the Monte-Cristo Challenge—is inspired by Alexandre Dumas' 19th-century novel, The Count of Monte Cristo. In the story, main character Edmond Dantès escapes from Château d'If by swimming to the French mainland. In late June, hundreds of participants battle it out to replicate Dantès’ 5-km (3-mile) swim, each one hoping to win the race’s 3,000€ prize.
The city’s Festival de Marseille (www.festivaldemarseille.com), a citywide celebration of music, dance, and arts, is held from mid-June to mid-July.
As summer winds down, Septembre en Mer (September at Sea, www.septembreenmer.com) celebrates any and everything sea-related, from boating and paddle-boarding to Mediterranean cuisine and an environmentally sound coastline. Festivities take place from late August until early October and culminate with the Vieux Port's Marine Parade.
For runners, Marseille holds an annual Marathon (www.runinmarseille.com), half-marathon and 10km-run each year in September.
The city’s most popular music festival since its inception in 1992 is Fiesta des Suds (www.dock-des-suds.org). It’s held annually in late October. Live acts include prominent South American and African bands, as well as big international names such as Patti Smith.