The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

Street art and charm in Le Panier Marseille

Recently JF and I had a lovely long weekend away in Marseille.  We met my parents there who were trying out the direct Eurostar service from London to Marseille, something you can do during the summer months now, and we left the children at home.  What a treat it was to have an adult weekend, not that I don’t love travelling with my kids, of course I do, it’s just that this was different. My parents didn’t sulk once, nor spend their time finding wifi hotspots and snapchatting their friends; they didn’t need to be bribed with ice-creams or cajoled with “just 5 more minutes here and we’ll go to a playpark…” and there were no meltdowns at all! They were excellent travelling companions and as I’ve said before I hope I’m still travelling the world like them when I’m in my 70s.

le Panier Marseille street art

I’ve been to Marseille a few times before, mainly for daytrips and once overnight, and JF goes often for work, but this was the first time we’ve actually really spent time exploring France’s second city and we loved it.  It’s a big place and surrounded by some magnificent scenery so let’s face it, even though we explored a lot, we really only scratched the surface but living only 2 hours away we’ll definitely go back soon.  One area we loved, so very different from Nice and other places near home thanks to all its street art, was le Panier.

panier street art 01

Le Panier is a vibrant multicultural district of Marseille with a long history.  It is the area where the Greeks originally founded the city of Massilia around 600 BC and has welcomed immigrants from all over the world ever since, notably Neapolitans in the 19th century, Corsicans after the First World War and more recently North Africans.  Just steps away from the Vieux Port, tucked in behind the Hotel de Ville and la Joliette, this inner-city neighbourhood prospered thanks to rich seafaring traders, but in the17th century the middle classes started moving out to newer areas of the city leaving the Panier to become a distinctly working class district.  Many buildings were destroyed in the Second World War however the resilient locals rebuilt their homes and continued to welcome immigrants.  The thriving multicultural community also attracted artists who set up studios and workshops in the myriad of narrow lanes.

Le Panier art in the street

Marseille was the European Capital of Culture in 2013 and with this came enormous investment and regeneration.  For the visitor this can only be seen as a positive thing; the areas around the Old Port, Cathedral and St Jean Fort are now all stunningly beautiful places to visit and spend time in.  However some feel the Panier, so close to the central tourist area, has lost a part of its soul owing to so much renovation, with traditional shops and trades being pushed out to make way for souvenirs and other commerce catering to tourists.  There is talk of “gentrification”:  I don’t know what the Panier was like before 2013 but it didn’t feel gentrified to me.  There’s evidence of renovation going on but it still retains a faded, well-lived in feeling.  It oozes charm and feels like a separate village within a city.  Locals sit and chat in shady streets, men drink pastis in cafés, laundry hangs out to dry across the streets and kids play in the many squares.  It’s buzzing with ordinary life and despite the only vehicle allowed within the labyrinth of otherwise pedestrian alleyways being the “mini train” the place isn’t over run with tourists (or not in May at any rate). 

cafés in le Panier Marseille

There are some souvenir shops but the ones I saw were not full of run-of-the-mill tacky t-shirts and keyrings, rather soaps and paintings, and there are still plenty of picturesque boutiques and artists’ studios to peer into.  But one of the most striking things about the Panier is all the street art, found in every alley, nook and cranny.  This is not the legally sanctioned elegant murals that you find in Cannes but raw, gritty and often grungy street art with plenty of graffiti too.

le Panier Marseille typical street

I can’t admit to being an expert in street art, in fact I knew very little about it but I do know that I like a lot of it and find the areas in cities full of it to be dynamic and alive.  It is not without controversy though and tends to divide opinion as to whether it is truly “art” or just plain vandalism.  Many cities spend a fortune getting rid of it while others allow it to a certain extent.  There’s no doubt there’s a huge difference between a creative mural and a gang signature but what I like is the vibrancy of it, the fact that it carries a social message, creates debate and makes you think.  I read that street artists are like dogs leaving their scent, where one leaves his/her mark another comes along and adds to it or draws/writes over it.  It is forever changing and the murals, stencils, tags and perhaps to a lesser extent the mosaics that I saw recently might not be there next time I go.

panier street art facebook wall

"I didn't wait for Facebook to write on walls"!

If you go to Marseille I recommend putting time aside to explore the steep, winding lanes of the Panier, just wander around, soak up the atmosphere and admire the views.   I’ll leave you with more photos of some of the street art I saw. 

Marseille le Panier street art mural

panier street art 02

panier street art 03

panier street art murals

Le Panier street art and laundry

steps and street art le Panier Marseille

café and street art le Panier

panier street with graffiti

panier street art womans head

panier street art 07

panier street art 05

panier street art 04

panier street art 06

la vierge revisité par Flavie

lane in Le Panier Marseille

panier street art 08

panier street art 09

panier street art 10

panier street art Nhobi and Kajaman

 work by 2 Brazilian artists KajaMan on the left and Nhobi on the right

and finally a familiar sight that even I recognise, a giant Space Invader.

Space Invader Marseille le Panier

What do you think?  Is it art, or is it vandalism?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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visiting the Panier district of Marseille

 

 
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Comments

  • Guest
    Ting at My Travel Monkey Wednesday, 15 June 2016

    I love adult only weekends too! And feel very lucky when I can get one :) Panier looks like a wonderful town to visit and as for the street art - I think they're fantastic. Brightens up any dull wall in my opinion! Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 19 June 2016

    Our kids are older than yours Ting so we can get away more often.

  • Guest
    Kate Sunday, 12 June 2016

    Wow - these are fantastic! Great photos #MondayEscapes

    Kate | http://www.petiteadventures.org/

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 19 June 2016

    Thanks Kate

  • Guest
    Cal at Family Makes Wednesday, 08 June 2016

    A really interesting post, and an interesting debate. I like the art, but I'm not so sure about the 'works' that are just name tags etc. I'm also unsure whether I'd be so pleased if I was the property owner, depending on what had been painted on my wall, of course! #AllAboutFrance

  • Guest
    Phoebe Sunday, 19 June 2016

    I don't like the scribbles but most of what I saw in le Panier was more elaborate than mere scrawls.

  • Guest
    Lia Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    Some of these murals are beautiful! I'd like to see some of them in time :D

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    I hope you get to Marseille one day Lia

  • Guest
    Ruth Monday, 06 June 2016

    Wow! I am surprised by the large number of street arts scenes you found out. There are a lot of intricate pieces. I love owls, so, the one featuring one has to be my favorite.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    The owl was very unusual, it really caught my eye. There were plenty more pieces that either I didn't photograph or did, but didn't include in this post, it's everywhere in the Panier Ruth.

  • Guest
    Emily Sunday, 05 June 2016

    This was really interesting, thank you Phoebe. I have never been to Marseille - but now I want to go!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    You must Emily, and it's only a couple of hours from Lyon on the TGV if that. (Can't be much more than that to drive either). It's a great place for a weekend.

  • Guest
    Lolo Sunday, 05 June 2016

    What a unique part of Marseille! A friend and I were just talking about possibly going there for a girls weekend this summer! I'll keep this in mind! #TheWeeklyPostcard

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    You'll have a great time if you do go Lolo, Marseille offers so much.

  • Guest
    Mary{The World Is A Book} Sunday, 05 June 2016

    I love all the street art here. It's great to see cities incorporate murals whether intentional or not. It gives a lot of character to a city. I don't hear too much about Marseille so this was wonderful to read and see all the street art.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    I'll be writing more about Marseille soon Mary, so look out for it! It deserves to be better known.

  • Guest
    Jim | ReflectionsEnroute Sunday, 05 June 2016

    We haven't been to Marseilles since 1984. I remember it as a gritty sea port with some incredible but crumbling architecture. I think it must be time to go back and renew the image in my mind. I tend to flip flop on the art or vandalism debate. I love the murals and well thought out pieces, art for sure; but the simple tags and splashes of paint, often defacing the murals themselves, vandalism. Great photo walk Phoebe! #wkendtravelinspiration

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    I pretty much agree with you Jim, the scribbles are hard to see as art. You must go back to Marseille, it'll have changed enormously since 1984 and I think almost definitely for the better. Most of the architecture is no longer crumbling and there are some stunning pieces of modern architecture cleverly woven into the old now. It's a beautiful place and so much more than just a sea port now.

  • Guest
    Brooke of Passport Couture Saturday, 04 June 2016

    When I visited Marseille I unfortunately saw very little of the city since my family and I got lost driving around trying to find our hotel. We spent hours on the road and saw very little of Marseille. After seeing all this wonderful street art, I'd love to have the opportunity to return and experience such a cultural city!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    Oh no that's such a pity Brooke. We got lost trying to find our hotel too because our GPS was out of date for the one way streets, but luckily we didn't get so lost as to miss out.

  • Guest
    Rhonda Saturday, 04 June 2016

    Amazing street art. I prefer the pictures as opposed to stylized graffiti. The half mannequin and doll tied to the statue display platform on the building is amusing.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    The doll was quite bizarre, I didn't really know what to make of it!

  • Guest
    Cathy Saturday, 04 June 2016

    I've come to look for street art on my travels, it is like finding a hidden treasure. Very cool to find a space invader piece- I've never seen any. Just watched the movie- Exit Through the Giftshop. Amazing movie, if you haven't seen it you must!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    Yes I know I should watch the movie: every time I leave a museum/gallery through the gift shop (which is quite a lot right now as I'm writing a series about museums!) I think of it. Thanks for reminding me again. There's a space invader in a nearby hill village too, so if you come here Cathy I'll show you it!

  • Guest
    swapna Saturday, 04 June 2016

    Hi! Vandalism or Art? It depends on the graffitti! I've never seen as much graffiti in any other city than I've seen in Buenos Aires...I think every wall was covered! While some were really good, some were very plain. Did you really take the effort to find good ones or most of them are this good?

    nice! #weeklypostcard

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    Hi Swapna, there were some places where the grafitti was just scribbles but not many. I didn't have to seek out all these pieces, in fact I left out plenty more good ones as I thought the post was getting too long. In the 14th photo down you can see the nearest it got to just scribbles.

  • Phoebe
    Phoebe Friday, 03 June 2016

    I love to visit cities with a history, especially ones with stories that go back to ancient times. Every time we visit Europe we gravitate to medieval city centers ... they fascinate us so much that we never find time to see the rest of the area.

    I never suspected that Marseille had such a history as you've shared. With all the street art Le Panier sure could have fooled me, but heck, the same could be said for Athens; it's got tons of graffiti as well. No matter where we go we are blown away by the talent some of those guys have. Maybe I'm too traditional, but I like the faces the most.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    Naples is another very historical place (and port) absolutely covered in grafitti. I don't think street art shies away from historical places, and Marseille being the 2nd biggest city in France is home to a massive melting pot of nationalities, cultures and socio-economic classes so it didn't surprise me to find so much raw creativity. I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by medieval city centres so while I love them I also try and find other areas to visit and write about.

  • Guest
    Girl Gone Gallic Friday, 03 June 2016

    Love Marseille! It's completely authentic, historic, architecturaly beautiful, and so interesting on many levels... Still haven't done the ferry to the Friouls either yet! Waiting for beach weather :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    I knew you'd be a fan GGG!

  • Guest
    Italian kiwi Friday, 03 June 2016

    I vote for "amazing artwork"! I haven't got to Marseille yet, but I want to go one of these days. This quartier looks incredible!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    You must go Lisa, it's such a dynamic place and very different to Nice.

  • Guest
    Carolyne Friday, 03 June 2016

    Hi Phoebe: Great photos of the street art in Marseille! We are addicted to street art and often take photos along our travels http://bit.ly/1X27bXo ( old post with a couple Marseille photos included too).

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    I checked out your piece Carolyne, I wish I'd read it before I wrote mine, I needn't have been so ignorant!

  • Guest
    Lauren Bishop Thursday, 02 June 2016

    I visited Marseille in 2012 just as the city was preparing for their year of culture and the whole downtown was under construction (or see it seemed like!). I'd love to see it again today with everything finished. What I remember is that Mareille felt gritty and real and slightly fringe. Based on these cool pieces of street art it seems to have retained its soul.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    Yes I think it has. I've been visiting since about 2008 I think and it just gets better and better.

  • Guest
    Little Wandering wren Thursday, 02 June 2016

    I'm a huge Street Art fan, although I must admit I love it when it brightens old horrible buildings and alleyways, I wasn't so sure about the one with the gorgeous building, even if it was under the washing! Thanks for hosting Phoebe.
    Wren x

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    Most of the buildings in the Panier looked like that one Wren it's just that I took close ups, it's a charming area.

  • Guest
    Sami Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Love the street art, I really think it makes cities come alive!
    I've just arrived from Portugal where I also went hunting for street art. In Australia it seems to be everywhere these last couple of years and I heard there are tourists that visit cities just to see these murals.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    I keep hearing about good street art in Lisbon, I'll look out for it when I'm there in July.

  • Guest
    Christy Thursday, 02 June 2016

    I love the colors too much to hate it. That quote about facebook walls is hilarious and a great punchline! I don't think I could ever bring myself to start scrawling on public spaces, though! Thanks for the best link-up, Phoebe!

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    Thanks Swags, you always say the nicest things! I loved the FB quote too.

  • Guest
    Curtis Bausse Thursday, 02 June 2016

    A great place to wonder round. It's changed so much since we first arrived 25 years ago - gentrified now! As you say, Marseille is often underestimated, or talked about for the wrong reasons.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Tuesday, 07 June 2016

    Not overly gentrified Curtis! The Panier isn't at all in my opinion, but then I didn't know Marseille 25 years ago. I think the port area has been regenerated brilliantly.

  • Guest
    Margo Lestz Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Really interesting - like an outdoor museum! I've heard so many good things about Marseille recently that I'm looking forward to visiting.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    You must go Margo! It's an easy and very scenic train ride from Nice. I'm sure you'd love it.

  • Guest
    Vanessa Couchman Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Fabulous photos and some really great street art. I've never been to Marseille (we live in SW France) but I'm a great fan of Marcel Pagnols oeuvres, which are set in and around the city, so I must visit one day.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Marseille deserves to be visited so much more than it is, it's a beautiful and dynamic city in a magnificent setting. Being a fan of Marcel Pagnol I'm sure you'd love it. I hope you get over this way one day.

  • Guest
    de tout coeur limousin Thursday, 02 June 2016

    beautiful images - love checking out and photographing street art in every place I visit. This is a great selection. Thanks so much for sharing :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    I'm glad you liked it Ema, I take it you're on the side of "art" then!

  • Guest
    Harriet Springbett Thursday, 02 June 2016

    I love the idea of visiting a town and taking street art as a theme - it helps you understand more about the people who actually live in the town, rather than the history of the people who used to live there. And yes, as you say, it's a living art, constantly changing. Well done for this fascinating tour of Marseille.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Thank you Harriet, there's another area in the city with even more street art which I hope to get to next time. I've really fallen for Marseille.

  • Guest
    Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Gosh - I had only heard bad things about Marseilles but always believed there was more to to see there. Allowing the artists so much free rein was brave but it has worked. I can't say I like all their work but then I rarely like all the works in an art gallery ... but they certainly get you thinking. Your photo of the man in front of the green "man" is brilliant.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Marseille doesn't deserve its reputation. Of course there are dodgy areas just like in any big city, but no visitor would ever think to go to them, just like they don't visit the no go areas of Paris, London, Chicago wherever! The central area around the port is stunningly beautiful and everywhere we went never at any time did we feel even the slightest bit unsafe. I'll be writing more soon.... I liked the candid shot of the guy infront of the green "man" too, I think they even look a little alike!

  • Guest
    Catherine Wednesday, 01 June 2016

    Art for sure. I' m sorry we missed out on seeing this, next time. Glad you enjoyed your visit with your ancient parents. Thank goodness they behaved. What would a melt down been like?

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Very alarming I would think Catherine!!! Luckily they know how to behave!

  • Guest
    Mandy Wednesday, 01 June 2016

    Thanks for sharing the street art in Marseille. I've been once before to Marseille, but we focused our time on the coast taking a boat ride and hiking around one of the local parks. I guess I'll have to make a return visit. Clearly I didn't see everything! :)

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    We also did the boat trip which I'll be writing about soon. It's such a big, vibrant and beautiful city you can't do everything in a short visit. The Calanques however are one of the best things to see if you're short of time.

  • Guest
    Maria Belfort Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    Thank you for sharing this, I really enjoyed the read. I personally love street art, you can learn so much about a city/culture through it - or just enjoy the art! I haven't been to Marseille since I was 13, and even then it was a fleeting visit. I'd love to go back, it looks so raw and full of character- your photos make me think of Lisbon a bit.

    #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Hi Maria, I don't know how old you are but I'm guessing 13 wasn't yesterday so I think you'll find Marseille hugely changed...for the better. It is a raw place but one of beauty and culture too. I'm glad you enjoyed my look at the Panier.

  • Guest
    Elizabeth (Wander Mum) Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    Fantastic pictures Phoebe - so vibrant - and on the whole what I would consider impressive street art. We are considering visiting Marseille this summer so this has been very helpful #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    I'll be writing more about Marseille soon so look out for it Elizabeth. Good to hear you might be coming this way, any chance you could stretch yourselves over to Nice while you're about it?!!

  • Guest
    Cathy (MummyTravels) Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    It's interesting how quickly attitudes have changed to street art - I'm sure only 10 years ago it was dismissed as graffiti and vandalism, and now it's at the heart of some cities. I've been on mural tours and there seem more and more street art tours too, it's a genuine tourist attraction in many places. Marseilles has always been a city that's tempted me - it seems so much grittier than a lot of the coast, so multicultural and such a long history, suddenly back in the spotlight thanks to Eurostar. #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    You're right about attitudes changing but I reckon the appreciation of street art as art is also a generational thing. I doubt many young people would see it as vandalism. It has become a big tourist attraction in many citie and I think of Melbourne as a prime example. When I lived in Australia, over 20 years ago now, there wasn't any and certainly Mebourne wasn't known for anything as cutting edge. You must go to Marseille, it's got everything going for it, beautiful setting, stunning landscape around, fabulous climate, great food, amazing modern architecture mixed in with the old, gritty cutting edge neighbourhoods and of course FOOD! There's something for everyone and I really can't see how anyone could fail to fall under its charm.

  • Guest
    Katy Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    oh bonjour Marseille! This is my kind of place. I love street art and have done a bit of research over the years about what many people call 'graffiti' or 'tagging' - this is the . My understanding is that tagging is almost like an apprenticeship where artists learn brushstrokes and develop their style. It is seen as an important step in becoming a street artist. However, like most things in life there seems to be a minority that spoil it for the rest of us. These taggers have the aim of being seen all over town. Anyway, I guess that has been going on for centuries as people etched their names in stone and on cave walls. Thank you so much for sharing these photos Phoebe. Now I just need the name of the best ice-cream place and where to find an amazing bouillabaisse and I'll be all set for a trip to Marseille

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Thanks for your added information, that's interesting to know. I can tell you where we ate delicious ice-cream and a wonderful bouillabaisse, but you'll have to wait till my next post on Marseille! It's really a great place to visit, you must go there Katy.

  • mummyshire
    mummyshire Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    I'm a massive fan of street art, atlhough I know it's controversial and some say it's nothing but grafitti. But I think street art is - and always has been - progressive which is why the comment 'I didn't wait for Facebook to write on walls' made me laugh.
    This is a really lovely review of Le Panier and your photography is just great.
    Love this review!
    #CityTripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Thank you so much for your lovely words!

  • Guest
    Erin Gustafson Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    ART! For sure. I adore street artists. I believe it gives places a unique and special quality. Even non sanctioned street art has value. I love the Facebook comment and the mosaics. Thank you for sharing! There is a vibrant street art culture here in Copenhagen and I loved the quirky things I found in Florence. You may have inspired a new post! Cheers from Denmark. #CityTripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Oh I happy to hear I have inspired you Erin. I'm dying to visit Copenhagen and it's gone up even more in my estimation to hear that it's got great street art too.

  • Guest
    Clare Thomson Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    I love the art on these walls. It's so vibrant and colourful - and such a great variety of it. I'm all for street art as long as it's not just meaningless graffiti. I'm really keen to visit Marseille. I loved reading Simone de Beauvoir's accounts of living in the city while she was teaching. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    I haven't read Simone de Beauvoir's take on Marseille, I must look it up, thanks for the heads up Clare. I'm sure you'd like Marseille, it's hard not to I reckon.

  • Guest
    Wilbur Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    A wonderful post. Marseille is still on my 'to visit' list and I will definitely look up Le Panier when I do. I like the idea of the direct train. Loved your photos of the street art.

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    Thank you Wilbur. My parents liked taking the Eurostar, but the return journey isn't as convenient as border formalities have to be done at Lille somewhat breaking the journey and the whole point of it being a direct train! Train there and flight back?

  • Guest
    Ahila Tuesday, 31 May 2016

    Enjoyed your tour of Le Panier. My favourite street art is the fisherman in his boat, carrying the fishes. #CityTripping

  • Guest
    Phoebe Thursday, 02 June 2016

    I loved that one too Ahila!

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