Marseille gets a bad rap. France’s second largest city has been labeled as the crime capitol of France. And it is true. Tourists do stand a statistically greater chance being a victim of a petty theft in Marseille compared to many European cities. Nevertheless, unless you are foolish, it is unlikely that you will be ripped off. And if you are afraid of being murdered, then you should avoid American cities first. The murder rate in Indianapolis in 2016 is more than four times greater than in the similarly sized Marseille. Are you afraid of terrorism because Muslims make up about 24% of Marseille’s population? You shouldn’t be. The city has little jihadi violence. Marseille is far from the safest city for a tourist but it is not as bad as many would suggest.
The history of Marseille is long and storied. Humans have lived in this spot on the Mediterranean Sea near the mouth of the Rhone River for nearly 30,000 years. Marseille’s location and its large natural harbor are ideal for trade. Indeed it is the location of the first Greek settlement in France. The Greeks were followed by the Romans who took the city in 49 BC. Though Marseille has not faired well in modern times it remains vibrant and attractive at its core.
There’s plenty to recommend Marseille. Situated on the sea the city enjoys the mild Provencal weather. True, Marseille is gritty particularly on its edges. But its historic heart near the old port is appealing despite of being flattened during World War. There’s a lot to see. There’s a lot to do. And there’s a lot of good stuff to eat. I’m with Tony Bourdain on this one. Marseille is worth visiting.
I do have to admit that we did have one security issue during our visit. Our visit coincided with Euro 2016 football match between Russia and England. The Russian and English supporters fought and rioted near our hotel during the last night of our stay. It was a mess but you really can’t lay this one on Marseille.