Train Tour of the French Riviera: Marseille

Providing a strong contrast to the rest of the Riviera, Marseille is your train tour stop to escape the big tourist crowds found on the rest of the French Riviera. It is France’s second largest city after Paris and its contact with countries all around the Mediterranean has made it a cultural melting pot. Marseille has a long history to match, and is one of the oldest cities in Europe, dating back to 600 B.C.

Marseille port attracts visitors from all over, with culture, history and art running through the streets and alleys. When you combine the handsome architecture and hundreds of years of heritage that gives Marseille its character, along with its warm climate, you really do have a great place to visit. Remnants of Greek and Roman civilisation can be found within the city’s boundaries and with its history dating back more than 2,600 years, along with modern styles of architecture.

Its cathedrals and forts a big draws here, the first of these is the Old Major cathedral. Made from the pink stone found in the Couronne quarries give it a unique shade that is the theme of the Riviera. The current church dates back to the 12th century, but there have been buildings in this location since the 6th century.

Another place to stop off on any tour of Marseille’s historic sites is the Saint-Jean Fortress, which stands guard at the harbour entrance. One of the attractions of staying in a South France villa is the host of historic buildings that are dotted along the region’s coastline. The original stronghold dates back to the 13th century, while more recent additions include its square tower and navigation light tower, which were constructed in the 15th and 17th century.

The Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde is a 19th century basilica which has been designed on the Romano-Byzantine style. You will find this in the south of Vieux Port and is a major draw for the tourists visiting the region. You’ll see the huge gilded statue of the Virgin standing atop the basilica’s 60 meter high belfry. You must not miss the opportunity of watching the sunset views from here which are unforgettable.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Marseille is regarded as one of the finest museums in France. Built in the left wing of the Palais Longchamp, it displays major works of French, Italian and Flemish schools between the 17th to the 19th centuries.

Marseille is another stop not to be missed if touring the Riviera by Eurail pass.  So come here to absorb some culture and history with your sun, while avoiding the tourist crowds of Nice.

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