Marseille Durable
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A stroll through the Réformés district

Sport, Pedestrian sports, Hiking itinerary in Marseille 1er
2.0 km
  • This itinerary lets you explore the Réformés district on foot, ideally located in Marseille's 1st arrondissement. Come and discover the many architectural curiosities hidden within.

  • In the Réformés district, you'll have to look up to see the sights we're about to show you.

    The starting point for this walk is opposite the Eglise des Réformés (1), built in neo-Gothic style. Although its spires rise to a height of 75 meters, it holds no special place in the hearts of Marseillais.

    Walk up the Cours Franklin Roosevelt until you come to the Maison Castel (2).

    Retrace your steps and turn right into rue Saint-Savournin. Cross Boulevard de la Libération and continue...
    In the Réformés district, you'll have to look up to see the sights we're about to show you.

    The starting point for this walk is opposite the Eglise des Réformés (1), built in neo-Gothic style. Although its spires rise to a height of 75 meters, it holds no special place in the hearts of Marseillais.

    Walk up the Cours Franklin Roosevelt until you come to the Maison Castel (2).

    Retrace your steps and turn right into rue Saint-Savournin. Cross Boulevard de la Libération and continue straight ahead on Rue Bernex. When you reach boulevard Longchamp, walk a few meters down the boulevard to stop briefly at number 18. This is where you'll come across the first high relief dedicated to the Virgin Mary (3).

    Cross Boulevard Longchamp and take Boulevard National almost opposite to reach the building at number 9 (4).

    Continue along rue de la Rotonde, which runs along the north side of the Picon factory. Number 63 is the birthplace of Gaby Deslys, the internationally-renowned (in her day) singer and music-hall star who owned a sublime "folie" on the Corniche, the Villa Gaby (285 Corniche Kennedy).

    Admire the decorative elements of the entrance porch at number 16, headquarters of the "Les Excursionnistes de Marseille" association (5). A few more steps and you'll arrive at Place Alexandre Labadie (6).

    Turn right into Rue des Héros and follow it all the way up. At the far right, you'll see a large statue of a golden Virgin (7).

    Staying on the sidewalk on the Virgin's side, walk down Boulevard de la Liberté, looking up to admire the richly-decorated façade with its expressive faces and cat's mouths. The entrance, at number 46, is also adorned with two atlatls. However, we can't tell you the name of the architect. It's not known.

    At 23 rue de la Grande Armée, you'll discover a Greek Orthodox church (8). Then you reach Square Stalingrad, where you'll find a beautiful Art Nouveau fountain, the Danaïdes fountain (9). This square is particularly pleasant, as it is well shaded. Go downhill a little further and take the allée Gambetta.

    Three points of interest stand side by side: The Monument des Mobiles (10), the Byzantine building (11) and the Zarafa giraffe (12).

    The stroll ends on the upper part of the Canebière, renowned for its cultural and leisure establishments: the Artplexe cinema (13), with its rooftop café-restaurant, the Théâtre de l'Odéon (14) and the Théâtre du Gymnase (15).
  • Difference in height
    50 m
  • Plain text period
    All year round.
  • Environment
    • In centre of town
    • Town location
    • Close to a public transportation
    • Bus stop < 500 m
    • Tram station < 500 m
    • City bike station < 500 m
  • Spoken languages
    • French
  • Documentation
    GPX / KML files allow you to export the trail of your hike to your GPS (or other navigation tool)
Points of interest
2 House - Castel workshop
It is one of the few Art Deco buildings in the city. Built in 1924 by the architect Gaston Castel, it was later elevated in a style combining cubist modernism and Mediterranean architecture. Its position on the corner of the street gives it a false air of a ship's prow facing the city.
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3 High relief of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus
If you pay close attention, you'll find a large number of Virgins on the corners and facades of buildings. Their role is to protect the town from the return of epidemics. They were originally erected in response to the great plague of 1720, which scattered the city's inhabitants, and these statues reflected, at least in their architecture, a revival of religious faith in the first half of the 19th century. A cholera epidemic in 1835 led to a second phase of settlement.
Here, the Virgin is holding the infant Jesus, who is making a sign of peace with his right hand, and they are surrounded by a garland of fruit. The whole piece is depicted in the style of the Della Robbia school, an Italian family of sculptors who invented glazed terracotta during the Renaissance. This process, combined with the moulding technique, made it possible to produce works in larger quantities, while cutting production costs.

Affixed to the façade at the entrance, this religious work is a clear indication of the social success of the owner of the residence.
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4 Société Picon
It was in 1837 that Gaëtan Picon invented an aperitif drink made from bitter oranges and cinchona, the famous "Picon-bière". Admire the richly decorated facade with its lion's head sculptures and, above the first floor, the portrait of the owner and, even higher up, his entwined initials, G P. Here you are in front of the factory's historic headquarters, built in the Haussmann style and occupying a vast area between the Boulevard National, the Rue du Coq, the Rue des Abeilles and the Rue de la Rotonde. Behind the facade, architect Louis Peyron placed an immense hall, the factory, covered by an 800m² glass roof by Gustave Eiffel. Production, distillation, bottling - absolutely every stage of the manufacturing process took place on site in the various buildings that made up the block: garages, technical workshops for repairing delivery lorries, various entrances to the factory, a ballroom, offices and flats. All the staff, whether workers, managers or even members of the Picon family, were also housed on site. Having passed through several hands, the site is now looking for a new future.
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5 Excursionnistes Marseillais headquarters
The "excurs", as it is known here in Marseille, is one of the oldest walking associations in France. It was founded on 24 January 1897 by two men: Dominique Piazza, the inventor of the photographic postcard, and the publisher Paul Ruat, who set up the Marseilles tourist office (the forerunner of today's tourist office).
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6 Square Labadie
This small square was the natural setting for the documentary drama "Shéhérazade", which won several César awards in 2018. More generally, Marseille has always been a popular location for film shoots. It has to be said that the city is very photogenic, doesn't it?
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7 Golden Virgin
In 1854, the Catholic Church decreed that the Virgin Mary was exempt from original sin, inherited by all men since Adam and Eve. This was the birth of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. In 1857, to celebrate this event, the bishop of Marseille, Monseigneur de Mazenod (bishop between 1837 and 1861), had three commemorative monuments erected in the city, including this golden Virgin. The building is very imposing and monumental. The statue of the Virgin is 3 metres high and stands on a column that itself rests on a pedestal.
Vierge_dorée_angle_bd_Liberte_bd_Voltaire  (5).jpg Vierge_dorée_angle_bd_Liberte_bd_Voltaire  (4).jpg Vierge_dorée_angle_bd_Liberte_bd_Voltaire  (1).jpg
10 La Byzantine building
An architectural curiosity dating from 1860. The building was commissioned by a merchant from Odessa who was an influential member of Marseille's Greek community.
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11 Monument des Mobiles
This monumental sculpture commemorates the painful loss of many young men who fought in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and 1871. It depicts 4 groups of soldiers of all arms leading the assault. The whole is dominated by an allegory of armed France, brandishing its sword. Too many men lost their lives during the fighting. Unable to name them all, as is normally the custom on this type of monument, the names of the main battles in which they lost their lives have been engraved in the stone.
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12 Zarafa giraffe
This free-access book terminal in the shape of a giraffe pays tribute to France's very first giraffe, Zarafa, who arrived in Marseille from Egypt by boat. After a stay in quarantine and several adventures, including an uncontrolled escapade in the sandpits of the King of Spain, where she escaped from her keeper, she crossed France on foot to Paris in 1827. This journey unleashed a veritable "giraffomania" among the country's entire population. As a royal gift to Charles X, her passage through the cities was worthy of a major star. She lived in Paris for a dozen years, before being naturalised and her body transferred to the Natural History Museum in La Rochelle, where she can still be admired today.
50 meters of difference in height
  • Maximum altitude : 67 m
  • Minimum altitude : 21 m
  • Total positive elevation : 50 m
  • Total negative elevation : -51 m
  • Max positive elevation : 36 m
  • Min positive elevation : -26 m