Marseille, with its rocky hills, calanques and the sea, offers the visitor many breathtaking views. And one of the most spectacular – and easily accessible – can be found at the Jardin du Pharo, also called the Jardin Emile Duclaux.
It all started in 1858, when Louis Napoléon Bonaparte (Napoléon III) started construction on what was to be an imperial residence for himself and his wife, the Empress Eugénie. The palace was still not completed in 1871, at the fall of the empire and was never occupied by the imperial couple. After years of wrangling with the government, Eugénie offered the palace and gardens to the city of Marseille, on the condition that they would be used for the public good. The building today houses an international conference center as well as the headquarters of the Aix-Marseille University. In front of the palais is a striking sculpture – Désordre – by the conceptual artist Bernar Venet.
The garden, located on a peninsula jutting out into the sea, is a short walk along the south side of the Vieux Port. It offers a panoramic view of the north of Marseille, stretching from the hills of Estaque to Notre Dame de la Garde. Below is the Mucem, that looks as if it’s floating on the water, with the Fort Saint Jean to one side and the Cathédrale de la Major behind it. You’ll have a wonderful view of the Vieux Port, with boats silently leaving the harbor. As you stand on the promontory, try to see how many monuments and sites you can pick out.
The garden itself is very well maintained, with a vast expanse of lush green lawns, ideal for picnicking, playing or sunbathing. Stroll around the garden or sit back on a bench overlooking the sea, enjoying the beauty and calm of these surroundings.