Yes they have quite a bad reputation. Tourists avoid them, thinking about gunshots and thieves… But it’s just another cliché about our city. If you’re looking for authenticity, visit our “quartiers nord” and discover another face of Marseille.War for the Planet of the Apes 2017 movie trailer
Marseille north quarters are made of the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th arrondissements. This makes the third of our city’s population, that is to say about 300 000 inhabitants in total. No, they’re not just Council flats or towers and “cités” (or guettos).
The true nature of Marseille quartiers nord is to be discovered during a long visit to explore the history and the life of this area. Far from the clichés and any prejudices, you’ll make your own judgement!
Live a rich experience in total immersion
There is beauty and diversity in these quarters, and the best way to discover it is to meet the inhabitants. The locals, happy to fight stereotypes, will indeed tell you all about their story and quarter.
The Hôtel du Nord collective offers bed and tours in the quarters: you’ll be hosted by one of the collective members (private bedroom or cottage) and share the everyday life of your host: an unknown heritage, local events and products.
The Promenades Sonores offer a total immersion with discovery walks inside the quarters. The concept is really cool: you can download an audio file that guides you along your walk. Launched by the iconic local Radio Grenouille (yes, “frog radio”!) these tours can be done on your own or with a group of friends.
The audio files have been created by artists, documentarians or inhabitants whose desire was to share the well known and unknown places of their quarters. The audio guides of the quartiers nord will take you to Verduron, Saint-Antoine, Sainte-Marthe and La Cabucelle. For more information you can read our report here (only in French, sorry!) click here.
To see the quartiers nord from a different perspective and discover the beautiful “massif de l’Étoile” (small mountains range) take the GR13, a walking trail of 365 km crossing 38 towns and villages of our area. Some of the walks are not even in other touristic guides… Far from the crowds we told you!
Learn about the agricultural past of the quartiers nord
In the 19th Century, when Marseille canal was built to supply all city zones, northlands were converted into farmlands. Agriculture developed well until the 20th Century agricultural crisis happened with the borders opening and the coming of Italian and Spanish concurrency. But today, some of these lands are reused as farmlands. In Sainte-Marthe quarter, the Mas des Gorguettes extends on 1 000 m² of farmlands managed by Terre de Mars collective. Vegetables are completely organic and cultivated without pesticides. There are sold as organic boxes in La Plaine quarter.
Talking about food in the quartiers Nord, the little farm La Tour des Pins in Sainte-Marthe makes local cheese (100% Marseillais!). It’s possible to visit the farm and meet the owner and animals, and a small boutique directly on the site sell the farm products. For more information about La ferme de La Tour des Pins, read our report here (only in French, sorry!).
2 traverse Cade, 13014 Marseille
Discover Marseille heritage: soap!
A must-do if you want to discover the quartiers nord, visit the savonneries (soap small factories or ateliers). You will see how Marseille famous soap is make in the pure artisanal and traditional way. La savonnerie Le Sérail is actually just opposite to La Tour des Pins farm! If you’re in Les Aygalades, look for La savonnerie du Midi.
The golden age of Marseille soap is around 1880. At this time, Marseille counts many savonneries making tonnes and tonnes of small cubes of soap. But this industry ends in the middle of the 20th Century with the arrival of synthetic detergents… Today, only a few savonneries still work in Marseille. You can visit them and admire the art of Marseille last “maîtres savonniers” (soap masters), and of course, take some soap back home!
Le Sérail – 50 boulevard Anatole de la Forge, 13014 Marseille
Savonnerie du Midi – 72 Rue Augustin Roux, 13015 Marseille