Vieux-Port: Marseille's old port area is where you'll find most of the city's main bars and restaurants, dotted around the harbour with pleasant views of the sailing boats bobbing up and down on the water. Beware, as Marseille's main meeting point and drinking area, it’s where trouble kicked off between England and Tunisia fans at the 1998 World Cup – but on any normal day it's a very pleasant place to while away an afternoon or evening.
Brasserie OM: If you're a football fan (and let's face it, if you're reading this you probably are), one of the best restaurants to visit is the Olympique Marseille brasserie right by the harbour. It was formerly the OM Cafe, also selling club souvenirs, but has been taken considerably upmarket in recent years and its food and wine selection has drawn many a compliment. It's the perfect place to keep track of the football too, with a plethora of plasma screens showing the action.
Notre-Dame de la Garde: If you thought the only Notre Dame worth visiting was in Paris, you'd be wrong. This Catholic basilica sits on a hilltop a few hundred metres south of the old port and was consecrated in 1864, replacing a church built on the same site in 1214. It's regarded by locals as the guardian of the city and nicknamed 'La bonne mere', or 'the good mother'. Once you're there you're also afforded great views of the city, including the Stade Velodrome.
Fort Saint-Jean: A fortification built in 1660 by Louis the Great (not literally, he probably got some lackeys to do it), it's situated at the entrance to the old port and right next to the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. A catchy title we’re sure you'll agree, but when the museum opened in 2013 - the year Marseille was Europe's capital of culture - it became the first national museum to be based outside of Paris.
Chateau d'If: OK, it does sound a little like something out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but if you're feeling a little adventurous this fortress is only a short boat trip from the port and has an intriguing history. Situated on a tiny island in the harbour, it was later converted from a fortress into a prison – becoming Marseille's version of Alcatraz. It was also one of the settings for the novel The Count of Monte Cristo.
3 fast facts
- Marseille is France's second-largest city. The urban area has a population of 1.5 million.
- Eric Cantona grew up in Marseille, in a converted hillside cave in the Caillols district. In the days before the Cantonas made it home, the cave was briefly used as a Nazi lookout during the Second World War.
- The city was the setting for the film The French Connection, which depicted a common drug smuggling route from Turkey via Marseille's port and onto the US and Canada – a very real problem in the city in the 1960s and 1970s.
Where do the stars hang out?
Marseille's swankiest area is to the south of the centre and along La Corniche du President-John-Fitzgerald-Kennedy, a boulevard named after JFK shortly after the US president's assassination. The road connects the picturesque Catalans and Prado beaches, and is also where you'll find some of the city's biggest and most expensive mansions overlooking the Mediterranean.
Marseille with Djibril Cisse, courtesy of Continental Tyres
We hang out with the ex-Liverpool, Marseille and France striker to get the lowdown on France's second city. England vs Russia is the first game the city will host on June 11; later, France face Albania and it'll finish with a semi-final.
Food and drink you have to try
- Bouillabaisse: The city's most famous seafood dish, a fish stew containing at least three local varieties, most commonly red rascasse, sea robin and European conger. It's often served to large groups of people, who share the meal.
- Pieds paquets: A dish prepared from sheep's feet and offal. Nice. But it's a considered a local delicacy and if you're only in Marseille once, it's a worth a try, isn't it? Isn't it?
- Pastis: An aniseed-flavoured alcoholic aperitif. It was commercialised by Paul Ricard, the man who would later give his name to the Circuit Paul Ricard, the former Formula 1 venue situated just outside the city.
Facts about the host stadium
- Capacity: 67,394
- Year built: 1937 (most recently renovated 2014)
- Record attendance: 65,418 (Marseille vs PSG, 2015)
- How to get there: The stadium is around a 45-minute walk south of the old port area, so you'd be better advised catching the metro from the city centre. You need Line 2, getting off at either Rond-Point du Prado or Sainte Marguerite Dromel.
- Stadium tours: Olympique Marseille's new club museum, designed with help from Basile Boli, isn't due to open until next season but the club do run tours of the Velodrome. It's not yet clear whether they will continue during the Euros, so for updates keep an eye on resa.marseille-tourisme.com.
- Leave the mac at home: The Velodrome used to be a pretty exposed place, with uncovered stands leaving fans open to torrential downpours and the mistral wind. But renovations have added the crucial roof so supporters should now be able to stay dry, even in the worst of weathers.
How to speak local football
Je suis fada de l'OM. ‘Fada’ used to mean 'touched by the fairies' in old local dialect, and these days it means you're crazy – so tell the local people that you're crazy about l'OM (that's Olympique Marseille, to you and me) and they'll love you forever. Just make sure you say l'OM and not PSG, those guys really don't get on...
Sons and daughters of the city
Zinedine Zidane: Marseille's most famous footballing son, Zizou's parents emigrated from Algeria to France and eventually set up home in the city. Zidane learned his football skills on the streets of the district La Castellane, and for a period a huge mural of him adorned the wall of a building in Marseille.
Eric Cantona: The aforementioned cave dweller, who like Zizou didn't actually start his career with Marseille. Cantona did make it to the Stade Velodrome eventually, though, playing for the club between 1988 and 1991.
Tobias Linderoth: What do you mean, you thought Linderoth was Swedish? Well yes, he is, but the former Everton midfielder was actually born in Marseille in 1979 because his father Anders was playing for l'OM at the time.
Samir Nasri: If l'OM were slow in snapping up Cantona and never signed Zidane at all, Nasri was with them from the age of nine. The son of Algerian parents, he was a revelation with Marseille before earning his move to Arsenal.
Tibet: No, not the place Tibet – that wouldn't make any sense. Marseille hasn’t been secretly moved to the foothills of the Himalayas, this is the pseudonym of the famous comic book artist and writer Gilbert Gascard. The son of a footballer, he worked on Tintin among other things. We imagine the Dalai Lama was a big fan.
Fan park info
The official Euro 2016 fanzone will be situated by the Prado beach, south of the city centre and not far from the Stade Velodrome. Matches will be shown on a giant video screen and activities for all the family, including beach football, will run from noon daily. If you're struggling for a place to stay in Marseille, try the La Baie des Anges campsite a few miles further along the coast near La Ciotat.