The once-seedy port town along a “calanque” (a natural water inlet) along the French Riviera has been more and more popular since it was named the European Capital of Culture in 2013, when the ambitious urban renewal plans also had a kick-start. The old world charm of the city fascinated the Impressionists like Renoir and Cézanne in the old times, while the newly-found urban vibe developing in the renewed old industrial areas fascinates the creative younger generations today. Walk the cobblestone streets around Basilique de Nôtre-Dame de la Garde, before heading to the “Vieux Port” (The Old Port), which is the city’s true heart with its many restaurants and cafés. A boat trip crossing the harbor offers pleasant city views, while a day trip to the former island prison of Le Chateau d’If (the setting for Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo) takes you back in time. Make sure you have a delicious bowl of bouillabaisse (the rich local fish and seafood stew) before you leave! The nearby Parc National des Calanques is the right spot for nature lovers, with its pristine waters and trekking routes. Perhaps the best of several hidden coves you would find along this fijord-like region is Port-Miou and Calanque de Morgiou. Marseilles is also known as the gateway to Provence, for those who would like to explore rustic towns and the perfect Mediterranean countryside around.

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