Out the Door in the 6th


How can I give you a glimpse of our neighborhood in Marseille? I’ll take a stroll out my door!

Taking a right turn, I walk a few steps and take a left onto rue Paradis, a street full of fancy little clothing, furniture, and neighborhood service shops. The window displays are artistic, some of the prices breathtaking.

Careful! The sidewalk is narrow and there are people waiting at bus stops and walking dogs and stopping and starting so you have to watch where you’re going. Cars and scooters, if not parked willy nilly on the sidewalk, zip up rue Paradis in one direction, driving aggressively as if they have the right of way (and they do).

It’s a bourgeois neighborhood of shops and important institutions. After one block you find the stately Banque de France (equivalent to our Federal Reserve Bank) and across the way is an architecturally impressive bank building, La Caisse d’Epargne. In front of both is place Estrangin-Pastré, where you find a metro station, a once a week outdoor flower market, and parked scooters and public benches around a fountain. Confirming that the neighborhood has a serious purpose, nearby you will also find the Palais du Justice (the court house).

I turn right on rue Peytral and pass the permanently barricaded United States Consulate that sits in Place Varian Fry, named after an American who spent a year in Marseille during WWII and saved 1,500 people from the Germans mainly by falsifying transit papers.

We live in the 6th arrondisement (there are 16 in all) in a neighborhood named after the Prefecture building I am now passing. (There are many other neighborhoods in the 6th.) The Prefecture is a building usually found in the largest city in each department of France—Marseille’s department is Bouches-du-Rhone—that represents the national government at the local level. In front of the 19th century Prefecture there is an unpredictably large and noisy modern fountain that is dramatically illuminated in bright colors at night. As one of the important symbols of the city, the Prefecture itself is also proudly lit at night.

If I were to turn left towards the Vieux-Port I would be on rue Saint Ferreol, a pedestrian only street of about seven blocks that puts on show all the famous retailers. It’s always jammed but especially so this week as the bi-annual government-authorized soldes (sales) are on in a big, big way.

Instead, I retrace a few steps and turn onto rue Edmond Rostand behind the Prefecture. A sign hangs over the street: Quartier des Antiquaries. Rue Edmond Rostand is the place in Marseille for antique and bric-a-brac (brocante) dealers and art galleries. In fact it’s a narrow street that closes on one Sunday every few months allowing the stores to spread their collectibles onto the pavement, making a rich display of whatever.

I have taken you on a walk of one part of one arrondissement in Marseille. The 6th arrondissement has several other neighborhoods besides the Prefecture: Vauban that climbs up the hill to the iconic Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, the roundabout Place Castellane (see Help Wanted at Place Castellane), the restaurants, bars, and cafés on part of the south bank of the Vieux-Port, l’Opéra Municipal de Marseille, and the Notre Dame du Mont neighborhood where you find La Plaine and the hip graffiti emblazoned Cours Julien with its inexpensive international restaurants, tiny theaters, bars, and music venues.

There’s so much more to see in Marseille. Where would you like to go next?


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