The crossroads of Cours Belsunce and Cours Saint-Louis are the zero point of the city. All distances between Marseille and the other cities of France are measured from this point.
In the 17th century, following the example of Aix-en-Provence, Marseille decided to open the esplanade which was the favourite walk of the inhabitants of Marseille. On this Cours, later called Belsunce in the memory of the bishop of Marseille who became famous during the Great Plague of 1720, the Foire à l’Ail et aux Taraïettes (Garlic and earthenware fair) is held every year from 15 June to 14 July.
When crossing Cours Belsunce you can see on the left the Arc de Triomphe of the Place d’Aix erected in 1839 by the architect Penchaud. During the expansion of the city in 1666, the opening of the Porte Royale (the future Porte d’Aix) gave Marseille a wider entrance for passenger and goods traffic between France, Marseille and the Orient.
On the other side is Cours Saint-Louis, where the 18 cast iron kiosks of the flower sellers were installed. From 1847 to 1968 their colourful stalls delighted the passers-by and the artists of the Alcazar always bought a rose to bring luck before going on stage.
On the right you can see Castellane fountain, located on the Porte d’Aix -Obelisk line, one of the longest perspectives of Europe.
This famous music hall, opened in 1857, brought many artists on the stage. Great names of singers like Rellys, Dario Moréno, Yves Montand, Henry Salvador, Sacha Distel and even Johnny Halliday made their first nervous appearances here, in front of the highly critical Marseille audience!
The Alcazar closed in 1966, and the wooden awning survived the years in more or less good shape. It will come to life again thanks to the Bibliothèque Municipale à Vocation Régionale (BMVR) of the architect Adrien Fainsilber (he designed the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie of Paris). This library fulfils the basic functions of a large institution for public reading, study and research and also for the conservation of the heritage collections.
The departments are open for all publics and the library does not only cover the Marseille metropolitan area, but also the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. Due to its location in the very heart of the city, it is part of the renovation of the city centre with the advantage of public transport and car parks. Since 2004, the site is home to the Regional City Library (BMVR), designed by the architects Adrien Fainsilber and Didier Rougeon.