Marseille: Vibrant French City on the Mediterranean Coast.
Located on the Mediterranean coast of France, Marseille is the country's second largest city (after Paris) and its largest commercial port. With spectacular scenery, ancient history and rich culture, Marseille is a popular tourist destination, welcoming more than 2.4 million visitors each year, to enjoy its abundance of museums, theaters, art galleries, cinemas, bars, clubs, restaurants, retail outlets and hotels.
Among the attractions in Marseille are the Fine Arts Museum, Natural History Museum and Grobet-Labadié Museum, located in and around the Palais Longchamp. The Fine Arts Museum (Musée de beaux-arts de Marseille) boasts a collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures from the 16th through to the 19th centuries, including works of the French school, along with works of the Spanish, Italian and Northern schools. Drawings and sculptures in the collection highlight the works of Pierre Paul Puget, among others. The National History Museum houses an astounding collection of more than 83,000 zoological specimens, 200,000 botanical specimens, 8,000 mineral specimens and 81,000 fossils. The Grobet-Labadié Museum is located in a 19th century hotel, where the personal collection of the Grobet-Labadié family is displayed.
Other attractions in central Marseille include the Pierre Puget park, named in honor of the 17th century French painter, architect, sculptor and engineer who was born in the city, as well as the 17th century city hall, the Cathedral of Sainte-Marie-Majeure, the Abbey of Saint Victor and the 12th century Saint-Laurent parish church.
On the outskirts of central Marseille, visitors will find the 19th century Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, the 18th century triumphal arch Porte d'Aix, and the EM Heckel Botanical Garden, also referred to as the Jardin Botanique de Marseille. The garden is one of four botanical gardens in Marseille and contains more than 3,500 species of plants arranged according to different themes, including a Japanese garden, Chinese garden, Mediterranean garden, medicinal plants and a greenhouse with almost 300 species of plants from South Africa.
In the Bay of Marseille, the Frioul archipelago – a group of four islands – can be reached by ferry. The Chateau d'If prison was used as one of the settings for the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas – The Count of Monte Cristo. Built in 1524-1531 on the orders of King Francis I, the building and its grounds occupy the entire island and are fascinating to visit when exploring the vibrant French city of Marseille.