A New Day For Marseille

An airborne view of Marseille. Photo by Max Hartshorne.
An airborne view of Marseille. Photo by Max Hartshorne.

By Brian Gage

The second largest city in France just got a whole lot bigger. Marseille is moving on up.

The Euroméditerranée Project which spanned from 1995-2015 was a renovation of epic proportions that saw Southern France’s Largest city’s La Joliette neighborhood become completely revamped into a thriving eco-district through a massive mix of private and public funding.

The district is located in Aix-en-Provence, very close to the beautiful Mediterranean coastline, allowing for plenty of aquatic business ventures to take place in close proximity. Very fitting given Marseille’s rich history as a trading center and its status as the main coastal port for the French Republic historically.

While the project has technically been completed, many exciting new additions are continually being added to keep the mini-metropolis on the cutting edge.

The interior of Le Silo. Photo from Le Silo's website.
The interior of Le Silo. Photo from Le Silo’s website.

Le Silo et Plus

This fantastic restoration improved a large amount of the already existing infrastructure in the area, including Les Docks de Marseille’s renovation into offices which house over 220 businesses, the renovation of an old grain silo into a chic new music venue called “Le Silo”, and the revitalization of the Rue de la République, one of the city center’s most commercial areas.

Many new construction projects were also undertaken during the renovation. Most notably, the CMA-CGM tower, a 33 story skyscraper that serves as the self-titled headquarters for the international shipping firm CMA CGM.

The 147-meter tall building was designed to interact with some of the district’s other notable landmarks, such as the historic Château d’If and the basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde, and adds a modern flair to the city’s gorgeous skyline.

The entire district, showing the CMA CGM Tower in the distance. Photo from CMA CGM's website.
The entire district, showing the CMA CGM Tower in the distance. Photo from CMA CGM’s website.

18,000 housing units are also currently being created in the area to serve as bases of operation for many of those embroiled in the many business ventures that the project will bring to the area.

Blossoming Arts and Culture

Since its appointment as the 2013 European Capital of Culture, Marseille has begun its metamorphosis into a truly beautiful and vibrant center for entertainment and the arts, and you can bet that the Euroméditerranée Project was at the heart of that transformation, with 80% of the city’s newly constructed cultural and leisure activities found in the eco-district.

Le Mucem is the first Museum focused primarily on the history of Mediterranean civilizations, and along with its plentiful primary exhibits, it hosts several traveling attractions that shed some light on major social issues in today’s world.

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Le Frac from a street view. Photo from Marseille Tourism's Website.
Le Frac from a street view. Photo from Marseille Tourism’s Website.

Le Frac is a regional contemporary art collection which focuses on the collection and sharing of beautiful contemporary art pieces. Along with housing this great bounty of artistic splendor, Le Frac also plans and hosts temporary exhibitions by famous modern artists periodically that are sure to enchant visitors.

La Friche Belle De Mai & Le Panorama consists of five floors of digital and visual art exhibitions and has an 8,000 square foot outdoor rooftop terrace.

The venue is a very swanky place to take in some of the finest digital contemporary art displays in the area, and it’s definitely worth checking out the concerts and film showings they host during the summer months when weather permits.

For prospective students, there are a number of well-esteemed colleges in the area that range from MBA programs to graphic arts schools. The area would be a luxurious place for students of all pursuits, given all of the fantastic opportunities for leisure and education in the district.

Regale Yourself 

There are several separate shopping areas within the district, each with their own unique styles and sets of shops and eateries mostly open seven days a week.

Les Terrasses Du Port has over 190 shops and restaurants, Les Voutes De La Major has over 40, Les Docks Village is home to more than 80, and La Rue De La Republique has accumulated nearly 400 shops and restaurants throughout its continued existence.

La Rue De La Republique.
La Rue De La Republique.

The shops in each area vary in theme from small boutiques to larger department style stores and provide scenic shopping getaways that are sure to have something to offer for every visitor.

The restaurants in the areas are similar to the stores in terms of their wide range. Whether you’re after a quick bite to eat at a comfortable outdoor picnic table, a delivered meal to your home or office, or even a decadently fancy sit down meal where you’d feel out of place in casual street clothes, you will have no problem finding something that fits the bill.

Health and Wellness 

There are hundreds of different sports clubs and associations in the area that can easily provide visitors with a look into Marseille’s athletic culture.

Marseille's beautiful Mediterranean coastline. Photo taken from France Tourism's website.
Marseille’s beautiful Mediterranean coastline. Photo taken from France Tourism’s website.

From your average gym facilities to yoga centers, to specified sports training facilities, there are plenty of options if you’re looking to break a sweat during your stay.

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The 100 kilometers of pristine coastline is also a huge plus for anyone interested in attempting any form of aquatic recreation. Whether you’re an avid beach-goer or the captain of a triumphant yacht, these waters will undoubtedly give you a taste of what has made the Mediterranean Sea one of the most popular travel destinations on the planet.

Let’s Talk Business

The area renovated during the Euroméditerranée Project. Photo from the Euroméditerranée Project's website.
The area renovated during the Euroméditerranée Project. Photo from the Euroméditerranée Project’s website.

While the Euroméditerranée Project may have seemed to provide quite a bit of pleasure, its main goal was to create a bustling and successful business hub.

The district offers all of the real estate options you could ever expect in an international business zone. There are office buildings ranging in size from 2,800 square meters to 66,000 square meters, so it shouldn’t be an issue for a company of any reasonable size to find a suitable base of operations.

There are also many  temporary living situations. Whether you’re interested in a five-star hotel or a small service residence, you will certainly be able to make the right reservations for any situation.

Lodging brands like Intercontinental, Best Western, Novotel, Holiday Inn, and Ibis all have locations in the district, and with a reasonable range of pricing options, all visitors should be able to find the right fit.

Now Marseille is Trendy

The Euroméditerranée Project that transformed one of Marseille’s largest districts into one of the most happening and trendy business centers in all of Europe has brought massive prosperity to the area and has provided its residents with some absolutely wonderful recreational opportunities at the same time.

It is truly a fantastic place to visit and hopefully offers a glimpse into what’s to come in terms of the possibilities of future large-scale developmental renovation projects for other European cities.

Brian Gage is a resident of Amherst, Massachusetts and a lover of all things outdoors. He enjoys traveling to exciting new locations, attempting to take in the most beautiful natural sites he can see. He is an avid hiker and climber and can be found at the Hadley Central Rock Gym on many of his free days.