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Marseille (in English also Marseilles, mɑrˈseɪ; ; locally ; in Occitan ''Marselha'' or ''Marsiho'', pronounced ), formerly known as Massalia (from ), is the oldest city in France, and currently its second most-populous, behind Paris, with 852,395 residents as of 2007.
It forms the third-largest metropolitan area, after those of Paris and Lyon, with a population recorded to be 1,516,340 at the 1999 census and estimated to be 1,605,000 in 2007. Located on the south east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, Marseille is France's largest commercial port. Marseille is the administrative capital (''préfecture de région'') of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, as well as the administrative capital (''préfecture départementale'') of the Bouches-du-Rhône department. Its inhabitants are called ''Marseillais''.
View of the "Petit Nice" on the Corniche with Frioul and Château d'If in the background.
Marseille is the most populous commune in France after Paris and is the centre of the third largest metropolitan area in France. To the east, starting in the small fishing village of Callelongue on the outskirts of Marseille and stretching as far as Cassis, are the Calanques, a rugged coastal area interspersed with small fjords. Further east still are the Sainte-Baume, a mountain ridge rising from a forest of deciduous trees, the town of Toulon and the French Riviera. To the north of Marseille, beyond the low Garlaban and Etoile mountain ranges, is the Mont Sainte Victoire. To the west of Marseille is the former artists' colony of l'Estaque; further west are the Côte Bleue, the Gulf of Lion and the Camargue region in the Rhône delta. The airport lies to the north west of the city at Marignane on the Étang de Berre.
Marseille seen from Spot Satellite
The city's main thoroughfare, the wide boulevard called the Canebière, stretches eastward from the Old Port (Vieux Port) to the ''Réformés'' quarter. Two large forts flank the entrance to the Old Port - Fort Saint-Nicolas on the south side and Fort Saint-Jean on the north. Further out in the Bay of Marseille is the Frioul archipelago which comprises four islands, one of which, If, is the location of Château d'If, made famous by the Dumas novel ''The Count of Monte Cristo''. The main commercial centre of the city intersects with the Canebière at rue St Ferréol and the Centre Bourse (the main shopping mall). The centre of Marseille has several pedestrianised zones, most notably rue St Ferréol, Cours Julien near the Music Conservatory, the Cours Honoré-d'Estienne-d'Orves off the Old Port and the area around the Hôtel de Ville. To the south east of central Marseille in the 6th arrondissement are the Prefecture and the monumental fountain of Place Castellane, an important bus and metro interchange. To the south west are the hills of the 7th arrondissement, dominated by the basilica of Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde. The railway station - Gare de Marseille Saint-Charles - is north of the Centre Bourse in the 1st arrondissement; it is linked by the Boulevard d'Athènes to the Canebière.
Marseille has a Mediterranean climate, with mild, humid winters and hot, dry summers. January and February are the coldest months, averaging temperatures of around 8 to 9 °C. July and August are the hottest months. The mean summer temperature is around 23 to 24 °C (75 °F). In July the average maximum temperature is around 30°C.
Marseille is known for the Mistral, a harsh cold wind originating in the Rhône valley that occurs mostly in winter and spring. Less frequent is the Sirocco, a hot sand-bearing wind, coming from the Sahara Desert.
Prehistory and classical antiquity