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La Canebière, the emblematic avenue of Marseille

Whether you are a local or a tourist on holiday, La Canebière is one of Marseille’s must-see places. The real heart of the city in action, it is certainly the most famous avenue in Marseille. Let’s take a look at this shopping street that attracts the crowds.

A short history of La Canebière

The Canebière is a kilometre-long shopping avenue in the centre of Marseille that stretches from the Eglise des Réformés to the Vieux-Port and, since 1927, has included the Rue Noailles and the Allées de Meilhan. Its name comes from the Provençal word canebiera, which means “chènevière” (hemp field) in French, referring to the economic activity of Marseille. The city was indeed one of the largest hemp trading posts in the world for the manufacture and trade of slings and ropes for sailing ships.

This Marseille arterial road was built in the mid-17th century when the city was enlarged under the orders of Louis XIV, King of France. Initially, it was located between the Cours Saint-Louis and the arsenal des Galères and was 250 metres long and 11 metres wide. Its layout continued to evolve over several centuries. Between 1743 and 1751, several buildings were constructed between the rue Saint-Ferréol and the cours Saint-Louis and luxury shops (perfumery, bookshop, confectionery, etc.) were set up there. In 1785, following the abandonment of the Galleys’ arsenal, the Canebière was extended to the Vieux Port.

The current appearance of the street – from the Quai des Belges to the church of Saint-Vincent de Paul – dates back essentially to the 19th century, during the Second Empire. But it was not until 1928 that the Canebière was officially extended from the Vieux-Port to the Eglise des Réformés. Today, the three distinct sections can be seen, marked by the succession of styles and the different wishes of the town planners.

A tourist promenade, between strolling and shopping

Since the return of the tramway in 2007, the Canebière has been extensively restored in recent years to make it more attractive, and has even been returned to pedestrians. Passers-by can stroll leisurely along the wide, tree-lined pavements that make up the artery. Various cafés, restaurants and shops welcome customers for a moment of relaxation or shopping.

The Canebière is close to the Centre Bourse (shopping centre) and perpendicular shopping streets where it is possible to go window-shopping. For example, rue Saint-Ferréol is the place to be for shopaholics (Zara, Celio, H&M, jewellers, cosmetics shops, etc.). Rue de Rome is one of the most fashionable places to shop at low prices, often sought after by teenagers and young adults who flock there to find unbeatable clothes. If you have your arms full of bags after your shopping trip, don’t panic! The tram stops right in this street with its wide pavements.

 

An avenue in the heart of Marseille, open to the sea

Connecting the Old Port to the neo-Gothic-style Eglise des Réformés, the Canebière provides access to some of the most emblematic monuments and districts of Marseille, such as:

  • The Palais Longchamp, continuing along the Boulevard de la Libération;
  • The Cours Julien, an artists’ district renowned for its street art;
  • The Vieux-Port, with its esplanade and its Norman Foster-designed shade, the starting point for discovering the islands and calanques by boat.

From the Old Port below La Canebière, you can also go to the Panier district – the oldest district in Marseille with its colourful, green streets – the Abbaye Saint-Victor, the Mucem – the first museum in France dedicated to the Mediterranean arts and cultures – or climb up to Notre-Dame de la Garde, commonly known as the Good Mother by the city’s inhabitants.

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