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Parks and gardens

01 Parc Borely tourisme marseilleThe Parc Borely

Easy to find, at the edge of the second Prado, a few steps from Michelangelo’s David (it a copy) and the beaches of the Prado. There is room to park on the big alley (there is another entrance on n°134 avenue Clot Bey). In front of the monumental portal, the size of the domain is striking especially with the sea nearby. This spacious park is the most animated in the town (54 hectares).

At the end of the huge esplanade, lies the Château Borely (architect : J.L.Clérisseau), one of the countless bastides in Marseille, but surely the greatest and the most beautiful one, desired by the rich trader Louis Borely, in 1767. The garden « à la française », spread out in front of the house, it was conceived by Jean Charles Alphand, between 1860 and 1880. Everybody admires it, whatever the season, its ponds with fountains lined with round stones, its lawns, flowerbeds and stone benches. At the feet of this elegant masterhouse, there is a basin decorated with a group of statues.

The space is animated by group of strollers, sportsmen, children riding a bicycle, a scooter, rosalies (four-wheels bicycle), ball games. At the right of the esplanade, a long cycling path, built between the park and the Hippodrome (1860), will lead you to the sea, next to Espace Borely, literally on the shore. The park is also full of small cycling paths.

02 Parc Borely tourisme marseilleBefore 2004, the building was a Museum of Archeology. Restored between 2004 and 2013, it now hosts the Musée des Arts décoratifs, de la Faïence et de la Mode. Animations are organized for young and old at the end of the visits.

But this is by no means only about that. In spring, you can admire the flowers and smell all the perfumes in the Rose Garden. Walk through the big Japanese garden, the English garden or the Botanic garden (a plant nursery allows to increase the plants and shrubs collection each year).

Alleys go to the lake where you can take a boat and row in the middle of ducks (their bungalow is in the middle), before you enjoy a drink at a lake-side café. The big restaurant is on the other shore. It can host many customers, especially on wedding days.

There are many children playgrounds, a merry-go-round and a kart track. Lawns, woodland ways, benches, here and there, shadow under 100-year-old trees... Next to the entrance on the rue Clot Bey, you will cool off in front of a lovely waterfall filling a pond full of fishes, decorated by the modern statue of Jean Micjel Folon : « L’homme aux oiseaux ».(The man with the birds)

When the weather gets nice, the park hosts a big « petanque » contest (organized by the Provençal), the Carnival or the Fête de la Musique. Some scenes of « Plus belle la vie », a daily soap on France 3, are shot here.

Even if you have never visited the park, you may know it thanks to the film « La gloire de mon père » by Yves Robert, (1990), from the autobiographic book of Marcel Pagnol (written in 1957) (On Thursdays and Sundays, young Marcel went for a walk in the Parc Borely with his aunt Rose. One day, They meet Jules, chatty and flabby, who said to be the Director of the park… he will later become uncle Jules…).


03 Parc Pharo tourisme marseilleThe garden of the Pharo

n°58, boulevard Charles Livon. Only one block from the Vieux Port. This exceptional geographical situation, perched on a promontory, and the Palais Impérial (Napoléon III- 1855) made it a symbol of Marseille.




04 Parc Longchamp tourisme marseille

The Parc Longchamp

This municipal garden is open to the public. You can enjoy the lawns and the benches being soothed by the sound of the spouting and cascading water. Two majestic staircases meet on the stoop (access to the Muséum d’Histoires Naturelles/on the right and Musée des Beaux Arts/ on the left). Up the hill you can access another space with lawns, flowers, trees, benches and statues (including Lamartine’s one). A refreshment bar awaits you.


05 Parc 26 eme centenaire tourisme marseilleThe Parc du 26ème Centenaire

It is one of the biggest parks of the town center with 10 hectares (near place Castellane and the Bd Cantini, in the 10th district). It was called after by the foundation of Marseille by the greeks, in 600 Ad. It was inaugurated in 2001, by the mayor, M. Jean Claude Gaudin. It was built on the former Prado railway station which warehouse and rails have been preserved (the railway station was dedicated to the garbage pickup to send them to la Crau).

The very original entrance is marked by the « l’Arbre de l’Espérance »(tree of hope) made of metal, fixed in a pond with fountains ; The huge square is covered by the name of 500.000 names and first names of Marseilles, engraved on the ground (on demand). This square attracts skate boarders and ball game fans. The whole evokes the mixity of the population and the hope of a better future.

There are 6500 shrubs, 1500 trees, flowers of vairous types. What a pleasrure to walk in the 21th century masterpiece classified as a « Jardin remarquable », by the Ministry of Culture. As soon as you enter, on your right, you will find Laurent and Valérie’s pretty restaurant, adorned with glycines, you are invited to please come and sit on the terrace. If it is not timt for the « apéro » (drink), go and visit the art gallery on the left. You can also walk along in the park, in the rose gardens, under the vines.

In the distance between the formler rails, clear and refreshing water flows, coming from a waterfall in front of the warehouse. The platforms have been decorated with two rows of trees. Behind the warehouse and a large pond with jets of water, the nature becomes lusher. The rough terrain will lead you to the promotory which overlooks the city. What a panoramic view ! You can now see a pond with ducks. From the ponton built over the pond, you can see African, Provençal, Asian, Oriental gardens.

Water is everywhere. Children weren’t forgotten : playground areas, refreshing bars, ponys…the hirer of bikes is busy… Adults can play pétanque.

The characterisitc of this garden are the tortoises, hens, chicks and chicken which early songs disturb inhabitants around whereas others love these bucolic concerts (the municipality decided to slow their proliferation ; keeping them to a hundred animals).

In this very urbanized area, Marseille people are happy to enjoy this green lung that the Parc du 26ème centenaire is.


06 Parc Montredon campagne pastre tourisme marseilleThe Parc de Montredon - La Campagne Pastré

To get to this parc, you have to go through the beaches of the Prado, the beaches of the Pointe Rouge go walk to n° 157 of the Avenue de Montredon (you can go there by car). The domain and the three Bastides were created there, between 1836 and 1853. The park is immense (120 hectares), but many activities are near the entrance : on the right, a restaurant, a bouncy castle, a children playground and an equestrian center (horses and ponies), all is embellished by lawns. On the left, there are acrobatic tree trails for big and small (several levels of difficulties).

It was called after Lily Pastré (she belonged to the rich family Noilly-Prat/ Marseilles liquors) married to the Count Jean Pastré, born in a rich family of traders. During the Second World War, from 1942, the Countess saved writers, musicians and painters from deportation. Her house was a place for parties and cultural events. In 1974, ruined because of her generosity, she ceded « la Villa Provençale » to the town which became the owner of the house when she died. The bastide has hosted the Musée de la Faïence for a long time (transferred to the Château Borely in 2013). The Château Pastré is today the place for official events organized by the Town or greeting of distinguished guests.

The land was originally a dry garrigue. The canal of Marseille which extension has existed here for about one hundred years, supplied all the bastides of the town (water from the Durance was channeled to Marseille in the 19th century). The architect Marc Dossetti created a monumental fountain symbolizing the Alps.

There is a cycle path along the canal, in the middle of the natural vegetation of the hills, where you can also walk. The gentle slope will lead you to the 900m long tarmac main aisle. The old garrigue is now green ; it has lawns, meadows and trees (Alep pines, holm oaks, kudos, junipers). Two artificials lakes are animated by ducks.

The Campagne Pastré hosts a training center for young loggers. It is an advantageous location as the Massif des Calanques starts behind the irrigated part (non-practicable in strong wind days). The hills of Marseilleveyre lead you to the col de la Selle. After walking for some hours , in marked but challenging steep paths, amid a nightmarish word of impressive caves and rocks, the reward is there : a breathtaking panorama. On the right, the port of Marseille and its beaches and surrounding hills, there are the calanques on the left and in front of you you can see the vast of the Sea dotted with islands (Jarre, Riou, Maïre, Frioul, Château d’If).

And for the less sporty among you, the tiny train is available for you !


07 Parc Valmer tourisme marseilleThe Parc Valmer

n°271 Corniche Kennedy, in the 7th district. You have to climb this 2 hectares promontory to finally enjoy the exceptional view on the sea. The short tortuous and steep path offers a varied and dense vegetation, composed of many species of flowers, plants and trees (palm trees , Alep pines, holm oaks, kudos, perennial crops, lantanas, lavander…) among the rocks. There is a playground near the entrance, on the right. Picknicks are possible.

At the top, not far, you can admire the house build in 1865, for the rich trader in oil and soap Charles Gonnelle. The architect Condamin built a very beautiful bastide in the Neo-Renaissance style on three levels. The main building is flanked with two elegant towers. The building has many arched windows. The second and the third floor have a balcony with a balustrade in theiur central part. The building is topped with a slate roof that adds a bourgeoise note.

This building was the headquarters of the Agence d’Urbanisme de l’Agglomération Marseillaise until 2002 and them the head offices of the Banque Mondiale. It hosts today the l’ONUDI Med (UN organization for the sustainable and industrial development of underdeveloped countries)

In front of the building, there is a beautiful area limited by a balustrade. You can sit and rest there, watching one of Marseille’s most beautiful show : the huge sea which looks even bigger when the Mistral blows as the sky then cleaned allows you to see the ’île de Planier, 12km away. On your left, you can see the endless beaches of the Prado prolonging the rocky ledge. Nearby, the flat stones of the Petit Nice (Near the district of Malmousque), on the waterfront, where the regulars are sunbathing (throughout the year), at the feet of the impressive hotel and restaurant of Gérald Passédat (top chef).

Next to this peaceful area, there is another one : the Pont de la Fausse Monnaie (translation of a Greek phrase which sounds similar to « lonely depth »). Behind this bridge there is a haven of peace, a small port well protected from all winds, with its boats and restored fishermen houses ; a quiet corner out of sight.

Laid out on the water, the Marseilles islands are to be seen (Frioul/ Pomègues and Ratonneau / Château d’If, îlot Degaby).

If you are not afraid of heights, climb up the hill (on your left), you will find a path which will lead you to the quiet and very picturesque district of the Roucas Blanc (it means white rock in Provençal language). Some precipitous slopes plunge to the sea.


The Parc de la Moline

In 1935, Pierre Martin bought this property he called after the name of his native village in the Queyras : « Moline ».On the property there is the restored Bastide Ranque (a single roomy level well-organized, which is the headquarters of the local Association Relais Nature et du Comité d’intérêt, and the head office of the Fédération de Bridge (20 tables).

This park plays an important role in Marseille. Situated on the n° 26 boulevard Marius Richard 13012, near the church of Montolivet, its sizes are amazing (10 hectares). It is very long ; it goes from Montolivet to Saint Barnabé stretching on 1 km, then extends to Frais Vallon and on the opposite side to the chemin des Caillols. You can access this path on foot or by bike. It was done since 2005, on the L2 [road tunnel of the future A 507 highway which will link the Autoroute Nord (A 7) and the Autoroute Est (A 50), at Saint Loup (exchangeur Florian). It will be finsihed by 2016 (eastern side) and by 2017 (northern part). It will cross the town on 9,7 km, without any toll and will carry heavy loads of freight traffic].

2 entrances (closing times vary according to the seasons) to access the park ; one on the bd Marius Richard, the other one on the Allée des Primevères. Many car parks make parking easy. On the avenue de Montolivet side, there are the very useful kitche gardens (the gardeners respect biodiversity). The very park is a « Relais Nature » does not require much maintenance, as the vegetation is preserved : a natural meadow cultivated with two annual cuts where the seeds mature on their own, a vegetable garden for children from nearby schools, an educational pond, aromatic or medicinal plants ; olive grove, hawthorn, honeysuckle, and bay leaf are all together… On the ground, fine particles of barks and plants from the park slow down the unwanted plant growth, which enrich the soil while regulating its temperature and humidity. During school holidays, the Relais Nature organizes internships for young and old, to learn about reasoned farming, the animal life…

This is one of the few places where a meadow os dedicated for dogs to run, under the supervision of their masters. Teenage sportsmen meet on the basket field and the younger go on the playground. The alleys are asphalted and you can access by bike, rollers and other skates. There is a permanent refreshment bar next to the bastide. From the paved esplanade, strollers can admire the panorama on the town, the Sea and their « Bonne Mère”. Great spaces of the park are best suited for garage sales and painters exhibitions…

In this rural landscape free shows are organized, such as the « Musicales de la Moline », between the end of June and the beginning of July. Each year, there are more and more spectators, as it is a very high quality show.


08 Parc Magalone tourisme marseilleLa Magalone

This 17th century bastide has a particular charm. Intimate in the middle of its small green and pretty domain of 1 ha ½. At the origin, the land was bought by the rich brothers Magalon (who had made a fortune in the weapons trade). But the land was then 12 ha (it was cut as the boulevard Michelet was drilled). The house was built in 1690. The bastide is composed of a central dwelling flanked by two symetrical wings (with balustrade on their tops), divided by a wide stairway which lead to the main room on the ground floor (150 m²) ; in the background, an access to the upper level.

The domain passed from hand to hand, until Madame de Ferry bought it in 1901. She started major restoration works and asked Edouard André to create the gardens. He gave birth to the ‘jardins à la française’ that we know : well-organized lawns, alleys bordered with statues, fives ponds (including a big rectangular one and a big circular one), 2 fountains with statues, an original chapel, superb carved vases. The Magalone was classified as a Historical monument in 1948. From the back of the garden, the overall view is very beautiful. Under a certain angle, you can see the Cité Radieuse du Corbusier, built in 1947, on the former land of the Magalone.

The town bought it in 1980 and paid the restoration works with the help of the Ministry of culture. The place has taken on considerable importance becoming of the sites of the Cité de la Musique (there are 8 in Marseille). 60 teachers teach music to 2200 pupils. Lectures and workshops on baroque, classical, traditional, actual music pour children, teenagers and adults. In the big hall, concerts and open scenes are organized, as well as musical festivals.

The Magalone has become unmissable in Marseille.


08 Parc Moline tourisme marseilleThe Parc des Bruyères

For a complete change of scenery in Marseille, go and visit the 10th district, rue des Trois Ponts, in Saint Loup. You can leave the car in a big car park near the entrance or come by bus (n° 17 or n°16, “métro Dromel”). The parc des Bruyères is the junction between the land and the sea. You can walk around with children ; a playground is available for them. It can also be enterred by experienced athletes who love hiking trails. The immense park is interesting, biodiversity is respected. It is a village in the city.

These 100 ha of well-marked garrigue is not difficult but appropriate footwear (trainers or sports shies must be worn. You have the choice of more or less long routes before getting to the Pas de Richaud (Marked with a carved stone), after you have breathed perfumes of wild Provençal flora, admired a former sheepfold, a lime kiln, olive groves… At the summit of the Mont Saint Cyr, 570 m high, the reward is there : an unforgettable view over Marseille, the Vierge de la Garde, the docks of la Joliette, the sea, the islands and the mountains surrounding the Phocean city. To go down, follow the blue tags.

The park was damaged in 2009, because of the fire in Carpiagne (works are still under progress). But don’t hesitate to go and visit ; just avoid strong wind days. When the weather gets nice, from May to August, the grids close at 8 pm.