After being picked to host the 2016 UEFA European Championship, which runs June 10 to July 10, France will be welcoming soccer fans to matches in 10 of its cities.
In Marseille, players and supporters will be heading to games at the legendary and recently renovated Stade Vélodrome stadium. Here’s a look at a few things awaiting fans of the beautiful game prior to kick-off in the Mediterranean city.
What to eat
Savoury specialties: Marseille is the home of bouillabaisse, a traditional fish stew originally made from the rockfish fishermen were unable to sell. The city’s only triple Michelin-starred restaurant, Gérald Passédat’s Le Petit Nice, has built its reputation on the cult dish, turning the humble soup into one of its standout specialties. It’s a genuine culinary experience offering visitors of a taste of the Mediterranean. In a similar style, an up-and-coming generation of chefs, led by Ludovic Turac (Une Table au Sud) and Alexandre Mazzia (AM), serve up winning alternatives for visitors looking to sample the specialty.
Sweet treats: sweet-toothed travelers should tuck into Navettes, the traditional biscuits typically associated with Provence and Marseille. These small boat-shaped cookies are flavored with orange blossom, or sometimes with spices, and are traditionally eaten around the time of the Christian festival of Candlemas, in February.
What to see
Must-visit museum: opened in June 2013 to coincide with Marseille’s stint as a European Capital of Culture, the MuCEM -- Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations -- stands as a symbol of the city’s regeneration. As well as serving up Mediterranean cuisine concocted by Gérald Passédat, the building, designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti, is a showcase for Mediterranean culture and heritage. It’s also one of the world’s 50 most-visited museums. A full-priced adult ticket costs €9.50. Fans of fortified castles should head to Château d’If in the Frioul archipelago, just off the city’s coast. Made famous by the Alexandre Dumas adventure novel “The Count of Monte Cristo” -- inspired by true events -- the fortress was a prison for almost 400 years. Today it’s a nature reserve. Boats run to the islands daily from Marseille’s Old Port.
Free sightseeing: Perched atop a limestone outcrop, the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde basilica watches proudly over the people of Marseille. This Roman Catholic church can be visited all day long from 7am. While the history of the site, its architectural beauty and its many ex-votos are reason enough to visit, the spectacular panoramic view from the Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde hill is a real draw for budding photographers looking to capture Marseille from above.
When to come back
To watch the city’s Olympique de Marseille soccer club in action and soak up the electric atmosphere. The football club unleashes a real passion in the city, making Marseille a great place to visit when the “OM” plays a home match at the Stade Vélodrome stadium. Pick a game at the start of the soccer season -- between late August and early September -- to make the most of the weather.
Football fans with more time to spare can also head to Nice, the capital of the French Riviera, a two-hour drive away, for a stroll along the famous Promenade des Anglais seafront or to visit the galleries and museums devoted to Henri Matisse and Marc Chagall.