Perched high above the city of Marseille lies the crowned jewel The Notre Dame de la Garde which affords the most spectacular 360 degree view that can be found in all of Provence. Founded on the site of a small chapel built in 1214 overlooking Le Vieux Port of Marseille, the Notre Dame de la Garde is the most majestic basilica in the region and can be seen standing prominently from nearly every street in the city. Literally translated as “Our Lady of the Guard“, “La Bonne Mère” or “Good mother” as she is lovely called, is as symbolic to Marseille as the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. Locals have believed for centuries that she watches over the city and protects its inhabitants.
Getting to the Notre Dame de la Garde is half the fun. There are three main options: Walk, city bus or take the blue tourist train. Twenty years ago I did the long, grueling uphill walk. This time we opted for the city bus which can be caught right alongside the Vieux Port and swiftly takes you to the top and down.
The bus took us up the winding, narrow streets of Marseille offering one dramatic view after the next. I regret not being able to get off the bus and take photos of the sensational views and gorgeous architecture along the way. Yet the best view of all awaited for us at the top.
Once we reached the top, we were let off and could access the Notre Dame de la Garde for free. The gentle breeze of the Mediterranean felt serene against my skin and the view was utterly breathtaking. You could see forever into the distance.
The Basilica was built between 1853-1864 in a Neo-Byzantine architectural style.The inside of the basilica is absolutely spectacular and is incredibly colorful with mosaics, stained glass windows and gorgeous painted depictions of religious scenes.
It was hard to believe that the inside of the Notre Dame de la Garde would be as beautiful and spectacular as the view. But it is.
There is so much attention to detail within the interior of this sacred place. I loved the painted archways, the alter, the stained glass windows and the overall feeling of tranquility and peace.
If only I had a book to read and not so much to see in town, I would have spent the afternoon there perched high above the city and the sea and took it all in.
If you go:
You can take a low cost city bus from Vieux Port, or else the open-air bright blue tourist train. However, if you are fit the best way to see the Notre Dame de la Garde is to take the long, winding road up the hill and down where you will see gorgeous traditional architecture and of course fabulous views. Your best bet: Ride the city bus up and walk down for the views!