Surging up from the north quay of the Old Port, its tall, narrow houses draped with washing lines and criss-crossed by steep steps with gutters running down the middle, Marseille's Old Town, or Panier, is steeped in history.
his was the site first settled by the Greeks who founded the city of Massalia, as it was known then, in 600 BC and has welcomed successive waves of immigration ever since, initially from Italy and Corsica, more recently from everywhere from South America and North Africa to Vietnam and the Comoro Islands, near Madagascar
The Panier's expansion was funded by rich traders in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries ("panier" means "the basket" and comes from a 17th century inn, Le Logis du Panier, located on what's now the Rue du Panier).
Some elements of this era survive (see below), but great swathes of the Panier were destroyed during the Second World War, when its labyrinthine warren was a haven for Resistance fighters, Jews and Communists: in short, all those who embodied Marseille's feisty, freedom-loving spirit.
The MuCEM, a national museum designed for the Mediterranean of the 21st century, is located on a 30,000 m2 site. This site includes the Fort Saint-Jean, a historic monument overlooking the Vieux-Port dating back to the 12th century, and a new building designed by architect Rudy Ricciotti on the J4 esplanade. The two buildings are linked by a footbridge.