Marseille, the oldest city in France, was founded by Phocaeans as an international shipping port 2,600 years ago. This metropolis of over a million inhabitants is France's second largest city. The city is a showpiece: a medley of brilliant white stone rising above a picture perfect seaport framed by enormous neo-Byzantine churches. The winding alleyways of the old town reveal ancient buildings painted in broad strokes of saffron and blue. Marseille’s attractions are largely concentrated around the port, including the opera house, museums, theatres and monuments. Beside the Hôtel-Dieu, which dates back to the 18th Century, and the Accoules bell tower constructed between the 17th and 19th Centuries, is a stairway that leads directly into the Panier district, where the ancient Phocaeans first settled.
The Vieux Port, the old harbor, is especially colorful. Pleasure boats are moored beside fishing boats, and every morning the fishermen sell their catch at the local fish market. The town hall, situated on the right bank, looks onto the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica which dominates the south bank and provides a panoramic view of Marseilles.