At only a few kilometers from Marseille, an impressive wild landscapes spread between the Mediterranean Sea and the “Etang de Berre”, the largest mixed soft & sea water lake in France: it is called the “Côte Bleue” or Blue Coast.

The "Bird Mirror"

The “Bird Mirror”

Nearby seats the town of Martigues, at the mouth of a long channel, the Chenal de Caronte, connecting the lake with the sea. Thanks to luminous open views across the water and great expanses of lakeside frontage, Martigues likes to call itself the “Venice of Provence”.

The best way to visit the city is simply to stroll along the banks of the canals and through the pretty cobbled streets and squares.

First settled by Gallo-Romans in the fifth century BC, Martigues took shape in the Middle Ages.

Three fortified villages, Ferrières in the north, L’Isle in the middle and Jonquières in the south, had sprung up in this important strategic location, which controlled access to L’Etang de Berre from the Mediterranean.
In order to dissolve the rivalry between these villages and to preserve the strength of the place against the Spanish, King Henri III ordered their unification by a treaty signed on 21 April 1581. bateaux - fleurs

L’ILE (the central island) is the district of the greatest interest. Once inhabited by merchants and members of the wealthy bourgeoisie, it was, and remains, the most prosperous of the villages: you can find some of their beautiful old houses and a grand 17th century fountain on the place Mirabeau.
Former fishermen pastel houses (the owners used paint left over after painting their boats) and colorful wooden fishing boats line the Miroir aux Oiseaux (the Bird Mirror). This place has long inspired artists such as Eugène Delacroix, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Raoul Dufy and Félix Ziem who spent part of his life in Martigues. (visit the Museum dedicated to the painter – admission free).
A short walk from there is the Eglise de Sainte Madeleine (1670), with its richly carved baroque facade and luxuriantly decorated interior.

Front of the Madeleine Church

Front of St Madeleine Church

Interior St Madeleine Church

Interior St Madeleine Church 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nearby on the place Maritima, a Gallo-Roman house dating back to the fifth century BC has been rebuilt on its original foundations.

JONQUIERES is the best district for shops and also has a large clothes and food produce market every Thursday and Sunday morning

FERRIERES is the modern part of the city, a ten minute walk from l’Ile. You can visit there the Galerie de l’Histoire de Martigues, a large display of photographs, sketches and other material explaining the town’s history.

Don’t miss, overlooking the city, the 17th century chapel of Notre-Dame des Marins, offering superb panoramic views of the town, the Chenal de Caronte, the Mediterranean and l’Etang de Berre.

To finish on a gourmet note: The speciality of Martigues is poutargue, also called caviar martégal (Martigues caviar). It’s dried and salted mullet roe, which is presented in the form of a sausage coated in wax to preserve it and can be eaten either thinly sliced or grated on pasta.

 

The whole place is worth to visit. Don’t forget your camera!

Poutargue, delicacy made in Martigues

Poutargue, delicacy made in Martigues