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Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde
The Vieux Port – Jewel at the heart of the city
The natural inlet, locally called a calanque, which the Phocaean navigators found so attractive as a harbour and built up to become one of the Mediterranean's major ports, has through the years become known as the Vieux Port, undisputed jewel in Marseilles' crown.
In the Middle Ages there was no constructed quay as such but the entrance was protected by two towers, the present day forts of St Jean and St Nicolas. The quay was constructed in 1512 and soon became a promenade for the population. The new docks of the Joliette allowed the Quai des Beiges to be enlarged to 45 metres wide in 1855 but reduced the area of the Vieux Port.
The city has always had to struggle to keep its port clean. However in 1850, the Durance river water first reached the city via a new canal. This greatly improved sanitation by pouring 1000 litres per second of fresh water into the harbour. The bombings of 1944 changed the features of the Vieux-Port. Nevertheless it has still managed to reserve the picturesque charm of Marseilles life with its many restaurants, fishermen's stalls and its daily fish market.
The ferry which crosses the harbour between the Town Hall and the Huiles Square offers very pleasing general views of the harbour and the town.