There is something endlessly alluring about a port town, the yearning to connect with far-away places is played out through ships coming and going in the harbour, while exotic spices and tastes bring foreign cultures into everyday proximity. The Greeks landed here in 600 BC and started trading in the natural harbor; it was an important Roman Empire hub and held a strategic position in the French Empire, until steam took over from sail and eventually the port was obliterated in WWII during the Battle of Marseille. The city was also an entrance point for newly independent Algerian immigrants and settlers from the 1950s, creating a vibrant French-African quarter.
The port of Marseille has a rich artistic tradition, the special light created by the Mistral wind making it a favourite haunt for artists including Renoir, Cézanne, and Braque. The main street leading to the old port, the Canebière is named after the cannabis (hemp) grown in town for nautical rope; while the Frioul archipelago in the Bay of Marseille is a famous location in the novel “The Count of Monte Cristo”. Marseille's many theatres include la Criée, le Gymnase, Théâtre Toursky, while the Arts centre La Friche is housed in a former match factory.
The Marseille Vieux Port, or Old Port is the city hub, offering a rich and lively contemporary cultural scene, recognised in the designation of Marseille as European Capital of Culture 2013, alongside Kosice in Slovakia. The new Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilization (MUCEM) is currently being built on the Vieux Port, along with the Centre Régional de le Mediterranée (CeReM ) exhibition space and auditorium built along the sea front between the Fort Saint Jean and La Major Cathedral, and Le Silo, a new concert arena in a converted silo on the docks. The city plans for 2013 include hundreds of cultural and artistic events from circuses, exhibitions, street entertainment, fireworks, open air concerts, street food, art and cultural activities from around Europe and the Mediterranean. Visit Marseille any time for a cultural experience not to be missed!