5 years, 8 months ago
This post and all images from photo blogger Kirsten Alana as part of our #housetripping series.
The Council of the European Union annually chooses cities to be designated as Capitals of Culture for the calendar year. This year, Marseille in France and Košice in Slovakia have both been chosen; the former, being the far more accessible of the two and part of the region of Provence which is a draw in and of itself. In fact, The Capital of Culture officially is not just the city of Marseille but rather encapsulates an area that stretches from Martigues to La Ciotat and includes the towns of Arles, Aix, Aubagne.
I was privileged to visit France’s second largest city this spring and found it is the best place to start if you desire to attend Capital of Culture festivities. There are a myriad of events, concerts, walks, exhibitions and even a circus going on all around the city until December, but it is the brand new Pavilion M that I would advise making your way to first. It is made of wood and glass, sits in the Place Bargemon and was built specifically to house exhibitions about the city, its people and what goes on throughout the year related to The Capital of Culture. On the top floor, a tourist office can provide you with specific information and below ground there is an extensive multi-media installation highlighting relevant art and detailing French culture and history. There are entrances on several levels, but I would go in through the street level doors which look out at the harbor. I would also recommend paying a visit to Espace Culture at 42 Canebiere. Tickets for CoC events are available at both locations.
Marseille has split their year of festivities into what they call three ‘episodes’. The first is appropriately titled “Marseille Provence Welcomes the World” and runs from January to May; episode two is called “Marseille Provence Under Open Skies”, and runs from May to September; while the third is called “Marseille Provence – a Thousand Faces” and will conclude the year, beginning in September.
Construction will be a part of any visitor’s experience because new venues and exhibitions will premier all year long. Be prepared for this factor during your visit. I was most impressed with the new stainless steel pavilion that hugs one side of the World Heritage harbor, designed by the brilliant team at Foster + Partners specifically for Capital of Culture events. Modern and simple, it is a thin thousand-square-meter surface held up by only 8 unadorned pillars that reflects both the harbor and the town. In some ways, it is reminiscent of the city of Chicago’s Cloud Gate sculpture and will likely be very popular with locals and visitors alike.
Another installation, concentrated mostly around the harbor but occurring all over the city is the ‘Funny Zoo’ project that places colorful, painted animals in strategic areas accessible to children and adults alike. It was difficult to get a photograph of any of them that didn’t include a child, so loved are they already!
Unchanged of course, are some of the landmarks and museums which have always made the city special. Each will play host to some special element over the course of the year as well as being open for regular visiting hours. So be sure not to skip the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde, La Vieille Charité in Le Panier [the oldest neighborhood of Marseille and Fort Saint-Jean.
The still-under-construction Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations is an incredible building which extends out from the harbor into the ocean and connects directly to the upper levels of Fort Saint-Jean. As soon as it is open, I predict that it will be one of the highlights of any visit to Marseille. The Silo d’Arenc, built in 1926, has been newly-transformed into living, working and concert space and will play host to events all throughout the year. Within the same area, along the harbor, is the newly renovated Musée Regards de Provence. Just opened as a museum in March, for the purpose of The Capital of Culture, it was once a health station and has now been given new life by the Regards de Provence foundation.
Much more could be said about Marseille and the surrounding region which comprises this year’s French contribution to The Capital of Culture. However I hope I have already peaked your interest and caused you to want to visit. For the most up-to-date and relevant information, please direct your attention to the terrific website put together specifically for tourists and make sure to stay at one of the many wonderful apartments HouseTrip has to offer in Marseille.