A visit to Marseille and its stunning MuCEM
Although I live but an hour’s drive from Marseille, France’s principle Mediterranean port and second largest city, I do not visit it all that frequently. This month, however, I had the opportunity to spend an entire day there and I decided to dedicate most of that precious time to a first visit to MuCEM. If you have been then you will understand my excitement, if you haven’t, it is a must.
What is MuCEM? It is the Museum of the Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean. (Le Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée). It was conceived in 2000 as part of the seven-billion-euro Euroméditerannée redevelopment of the city’s dock areas. It was built alongside and integrates several medieval stone structures. The complex is situated on the waterfront at the far extreme of the western arm of Marseille’s huge and very splendid harbour. MuCEM was opened on 7th June 2013 to celebrate Marseille as European Capital of Culture, 2013. It is the first museum anywhere to be dedicated to the culture of the Mediterranean.
There is so much that is remarkable about the place that it is hard to know where to begin to describe it. Its architectural brilliance is what struck me first and, of course, its location. I spent hours, literally hours, wandering around the old stone Fort St-Jean built in 1660 on a site previously occupied by the Knights of St John, hence its name. The fort guards the entrance to the Vieux Port and sits across the water from the cuboid museum, which is accessed by a high-flying footbridge. I left the fort area mid-afternoon making my way by the footbridge to the museum. It was with some regret that I felt bound to move on because I had been told that with its westerly aspect, watching the sun set from the fort is a very memorable experience…