2013 has been a year of change for Marseille, France’s second-largest city.
The port town’s infamous reputation as a haven for gang-related violence has long been forgotten, courtesy of a multimillion-dollar refurbishment that is, quite literally, changing the face of the city.
The revamp comes as Marseille-Provence was named the 2013 European Capital of Culture.
Historic buildings and run-down port areas have been given new purpose, becoming sites for the city’s new art and culture hubs. This month, the highly anticipated Museum of Civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM) will open.
The complex is spread across three separate sites: the former J4 pier, Fort Saint-Jean and in the Belle de Mai district (above).
The museum is the first of its kind in the world and will house permanent exhibitions and host a range of cultural events including theatrical and musical performances.
While events have been happening throughout the city since the start of the year, there are still plenty of things to see and do from this month onwards.
The first weekend of June marks the start of the Laterna Magica festival. The festival’s 10 scheduled events will begin with an exhibit of original work by a group of local and international artists, who will also participate in workshops and discussions that will give visitors a chance to learn how they conceptualise their works.
From June 19 until July 12, the city will also hold its annual Festival de Marseille, a showcase of music, dance and cinema.
When you’ve had your fix of contemporary art, the ‘old Marseille’ is still worth exploring.
Start by booking into the new InterContinental Marseille – Hôtel Dieu, in the heart of Le Panier (the old district).The property is housed in an 18th-century building that was formerly the Saint-Esprit hospital.
As you wander through the streets of the nearby neighbourhoods, sample Marseille’s specialty, bouillabaisse (Provençal fish stew) at a hole-in-the-wall cafe, or browse the high-end boutiques, you’ll discover l’art de vivre is everywhere you look.