The coastal road and the seaside
This beautiful walkway overlooking the sea, running from the Catalans cove to the Prado beaches, offers some magnificent views of the Frioul islands and the Château d'If. In 1848, it was decided to create a seaside thoroughfare in order to provide work for the numerous unemployed of the time, leading to the creation of the Municipal Workshops and the hiring of 8,000 workers. The 25 m wide thoroughfare initially consisted of two sections: the first part as far as the Fausse Monnaie cove and the second up to the Pharo, Napoléon III's imperial residence. The work lasted 15 years. From the twenties on, the Corniche became a very popular spot with the locals for a day out, thanks to the tramway line which ran along it and could carry up to 20,000 passengers on a Sunday. There were departures every 5 minutes
Today the Corniche is 5 kilometres long. It was redeveloped at the end of the fifties and renamed Corniche J. F. Kennedy in 1963. In the 19th century, rich merchants had magnificent villas built here, of which there remain a few very beautiful examples. They are hidden away from public view in grounds planted with luxuriant vegetation. Standing on the Corniche, and towering over the sea is a huge propeller blade, a sculpture created in 1971 by César , a native of Marseille in commemoration of people repatriated to France from North Africa...
The opening of the entire Corniche during the Second Empire, gave Marseille' rich bourgeoisie the opportunity to have some magnificent villas built. It was considered good taste only to stay in them for a short while, in spring, just before leaving for the country house for the summer season. The merchants and ship-owners employed famous architects and sculptors to build eccentricities for them whose whimsical nature has something of the 18th century about it. Indeed, historic references are numerous if one takes the time to look at these villas of which the most remarkable are Château Berger and Villa Valmer.
Villa Valmer, the "Vague à la Mer" villa was erected in 1865 by the Marseille architect Condamin, in a renaissance style. It is situated at the top of vast grounds planted with tropical plant species brought back by the owner, who was a trader in oleaginous plants, from his journeys to the East. The villa currently belongs to the City of Marseille. Château Berger was built for Baron Houitte de la Chesnaye in 1860 in the French renaissance style of Château de Chambord. It is currently a seawater therapy centre.