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La Digue du Large

Between maritime history and heritage

Located at the entrance to the port of Marseille, the Digue du Large is a maritime structure of crucial importance to the city’s history and economy. It was built to protect the port from the onslaught of the sea and provide a safe haven for the many ships passing through.

Origins and construction

Construction of the Digue du Large dates back to the mid-19th century, a period marked by major infrastructure works. The project was initiated in 1844 under the reign of Louis-Philippe and continued to evolve under Napoleon III. The breakwater was a direct response to the need to modernize the port andincrease its capacity to accommodate ever-largerships, in step with growing industrialization.
Today, the Digue extends for almost 7 kilometers from the entrance to the Vieux-Port to l’Estaque.

Developments and improvements

Over the years, the Digue du Large has undergone several modifications and extensions. Initially conceived as a purely functional structure, it has been strengthened and lengthened several times to meet the changing needs of the port and the challenges posed by erosion and weather conditions. Each modification has contributed to its sturdiness, making it today an impressive monument and an integral part of the port’s infrastructure. It was completed in 1925. As the port’s protective shield, it plays a crucial role in maritime safety.

La Digue today

If, during the Belle Époque, citizens used to stroll, picnic or even fish there, today it’s a little-known place for most Marseillais. Since 2001, the dike has been closed, with a few exceptional openings, such as in 2013 for Marseille Provence 2013, when a monumental structure was installed by artist Kader Attia. In 2019, Artist Alexandre Périgot installed his works (containers with words inscribed on them). More recently, in 2023, salt sculptures created by Mathieu Lorry Dupuy blended into the dike’s landscape.

Today, the dike features a lighthouse (Phare de Sainte-Marie) and, at its southern tip, 5 rail-mounted cranes almost 40 meters high, which enabled dockworkers to load and unload goods more easily. These 5 cranes, nicknamed “Les Elegantes” (The Elegants), have survived the wars and the port’s new developments. They ceased all activity over 20 years ago. On the Estaque side, there’s a building that used to be the headquarters of the Paquet company. Abandoned, it was nevertheless occupied for 25 years by an artist, Hartmut Bosbach, who was forced to leave in 2018. Today, the building is completely abandoned.

Special tours of the Digue du Large

As part of the Summer of Marseilles, the Digue du Large will be open to the public for special tours organized by the Marseilles Tourism, Leisure and Convention Bureau. Open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, it will once again be accessible thanks to the Grand Port Maritime de Marseille.

The tour :
Departing from the Vieux-Port and aboard a boat, discover the history of the port of Marseille and enjoy a stopover on the Digue du Large. The tour lasts approximately 2 hours.
Departure point: Boarding opposite the Samaritaine

When: July
July :
Saturdays 6 (10am-12pm), 13 (10am-12pm), 20 (8:30am-10:30am), 27 (10am-12pm)
Wednesdays 10 (8am-10am), 17 (8:30am-10:30am), 24 (10am-12pm) and 31 (10am-12pm)
August :
Saturdays 3 (10am-12pm), 10 (10am-12pm), 17 (10am-12pm), 24 (8:30am-10:30am) and 31 (10am-12pm)
Wednesdays 7 (8:30am-10:30am) , 14 (10am-12pm), 21 (10am-12pm), 28 (10am-12pm)

Registration: Free, mandatory
Please arrive 30 min before departure. Reserved places are held until 15 min before departure. After 15 minutes, they will be made available to non-ticketed guests.

/!\ Tickets sold out, online tours fully booked

Please note

It can be hot on La Digue, and there’s no shade. So bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and water.
Bring comfortable shoes too, as the ground is uneven.
Access for disabled people and baby carriages is possible, but traffic on the cobblestones is difficult (please let us know in advance at booking@marseille-tourisme.com).

On the dike, please do not eat, throw garbage or dive.
Dogs not allowed (except assistance dogs)
Please check departure times (different schedules)