Musée d'Histoire de Marseille, Marseille

The history of a city

by Bert Schwarz

Marseille is the oldest city in France, and its rich, long history has a worthy showcase in this newly renovated museum, one of the best in the city.

In 1967, the district behind the Stock Exchange (Chamber of Commerce) was renovated. During the works, many remarkable discoveries showed the vastness of the old port of Marseille and so this site became France's most ambitious urban archaeological excavation to date.

Story, Camera, Edit : Bert Schwarz

© travel-magazine TV 2020

The first thing you see is a fleet of six huge Greek and Roman ships that were discovered in 1974 in the ancient port, but were too big to be exhibited in the former museum. Their remains, reconstructed on white pebble beds, are today the exhibits of great importance that lead the visitor to the theme.

Musée d'Histoire de Marseille © Bert Schwarz

The boats have naturally deteriorated somewhat over the centuries, but models make it possible to get an idea of what they looked like in the past. This is the largest collection of old ships in the world.

Musée d'Histoire de Marseille © Bert Schwarz

The Musée d'Histoire de Marseille is located in the Centre Bourse shopping centre, directly in front of the Old Harbour and the Canebière. The entrance is either via a path that runs along the Jardin des Vestiges from Rue Henri Barbusse or through the shopping centre itself.

Musée d'Histoire de Marseille © Bert Schwarz

In the shopping centre, the entrance is located only at the information point in the basement, level 0, and is deliberately designed to look a bit like an entrance to another shop. But you can't miss it: There is a huge, rusty anchor in front of it. It was recovered from the wreck of the Grand Saint Antoine, the ship that brought the plague to southern Provence in 1720 and claimed almost 100,000 lives - one of the darkest episodes in Marseille's history.