Looking for good ideas and places? With exhibitions, festivals, concerts, shops, capsule collections, restaurants, bars and more, our Urban Guide pages tell you what's on and what's just opened. A great way to discover all the richness and diversity of the Provence culture, shopping, food and drink, from. Local creators also have their say in these pages.

February 2023

Marseille Provence 2013

Looking back to a capital year for culture

2013, when Marseille was European Capital of Culture, was a magical year for Provence. It featured 900 successful artistic projects of many different kinds and has left a host of memories in people’s minds throughout the region. So much so that, ten years on, it’s worth looking back to take a journey through that remarkable time. 

12 January 

To launch the city’s Year of Culture,  a great clamour arose from the streets of Marseille as people everywhere made noise however they could – singing, ringing bicycle bells, whatever. Part of the opening ceremony was a “flight of angels”, a spectacular aerial acrobatics show on Cours d’Estienne d’Orves. There were 400,000 people there to watch, with feathers drifting down around them.

Un homme de lumière au château d’If.

13 January

At precisely 6:30pm, in Arles, Groupe F lit up the Rhône and its banks with a breathtaking son et lumière fireworks show called Révélation. Figures decked in lights performed among the fireworks. The show was performed eight times during  the year, in creeks around Cassis, at Château d’If, the Vasarely Foundation in Aix-en-Provence and elsewhere. Altogether, the eight performances attracted 266,000 people including 25,000 in Arles.

© Jean-Christophe Lett / Frac Provence-Alples-Côte d’Azur

23 March

Opening of FRAC, the Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain. The building is an ode to light, with a “pixelated” glass front and indoor streets in the style of Le Corbusier. 40,000 visitors.

Alfred Casile, La Barque rouge, collection Fondation Regards de Provence.

1 March

The Regards de Provence foundation opened its eponymous museum in the old quarantine station in the Pouillon district of Marseille. The inaugural exhibition, Reflets de Méditerranée, spotlighting the museum’s own collection, showed the influence of the South of France on art since the 18th century. 90,000 visitors.

Joliette, in the mood for love, direction artistique et photographie Coco Malet


COTE Magazine mounted an exhibition at Le CEPAC Silo, under the title of NB, COTE Exclusivement. It featured black and white photos by Jean-Michel Sordello, Christophe Billet, Michel Eisenlhor and Coco Malet from three of COTE’s special Collectors’ issues.

Auguste Rodin, « Eve », sculpture en bronze. © Musée Rodin Paris

6 April

A new wing was added to the Musée de l’Arles Antique, making room to display a Roman barge in a remarkable state of preservation. At the same time, the exhibition Rodin et l’Antiquité displayed 250 artworks, 125 by Rodin alongside 125 Greek and Roman sculptures for comparison. Rodin was deeply inspired by Greek and Roman statues, especially for his female figures. 139,000 visitors.

Picasso, céramiste de génie, en 1953 à Vallauris.Tanagra noire et bleue & Femme aux mains jointes © Succession Picasso

27 April

Picasso céramiste et la Méditerranée welcomed its first visitors at the Pénitents Noirs art centre in Aubagne. The ceramics on show were from Picasso’s time in Vallauris in the post-war years. 150 original items, one-of-a-kind or from rare series, on loan from private collections and partner museums. A splendid treat for the 53,000 visitors.

7 April

Official opening of the Regional Council’s Villa Méditerranée cultural centre with its impressive cantilever. 261,000 visitors.

Le Vieux-Port s’habille de bougies. © M. COLIN / Provence Tourisme

3 and 4 May

Entre Flammes et Flots: the Vieux Port was lit up by 6,000 candles, two evenings in a row. The event drew 420,000 people altogether, for a dreamy communion with floating flames.

18 May to 9 June

Conceived and produced by the Centaure circus (ten humans and ten horses in perfect symbiosis), TransHumance was a chance to walk with sheep flocks along the dusty cattle droves at the peaceful, leisurely pace of the animals. Through Provence from Cuges to Marseille, through villages and across the plain. A vast symbolic echo of past times. 330,000 people.

La grande table Méditerranée. © Agnès Mellon

7 June

The Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée opened, a symbol of this special year of culture. At last Marseille had a museum worthy of its status. The opening exhibition was Le Noir et le Bleu, with an evocative exhibition design: a blue glass table represented the Mediterranean sea, each chair around it a country. Between 7 June and 31 December, 1,824,000 people visited, including 600,000 for the exhibitions. It was also an occasion to explore the newly renovated Saint Jean fort nearby.

Le Château Borély, un joyau d’architecture comme écrin du nouveau Musée des Arts Décoratifs. © Christophe Billet

15 June

Château Borély, a gem of 18th century architecture, reopened. The grand mansion had been a museum before, but has since then focused on 18th century lifestyle and decorative arts, from china ware to fashion. 50,000 visitors.

Emile Othon Friesz, Paysage méditerranéen, Vers 1907, Musée Cantini.© Claude Almodovar/ Michel Vialle

13 June to 13 October

The year’s big exhibition, Le Grand Atelier du Midi, was in two parts, at the renovated Palais Longchamp in Marseille and Musée Granet in Aix-en-Provence. A memorable display of 20th-century art in celebration of Provence. 462,000 visitors.

Vue panoramique depuis le local d’accueil, rue Henri-Barbusse. © Golem Images

12 September

The Musée d’Histoire de Marseille, underneath the Centre Bourse shopping centre, reopened. Local history across 2600 years, with two themes: Marseille as the oldest city in France, and Marseille as a seaport. The place is huge – 15,500m2 including the outdoor parts. Its correspondingly vast collection gives a wonderful illustration of the city’s history. 80,000 visitors that year.

11 October to 22 December

LC au J1. Le Corbusier et la question du brutalisme. This was the year’s last big exhibition. The J1 had run an exhibition in January, and reopened in October for this fascinating exhibition about the great architect Le Corbusier. 216,000 visitors including 70,000 for Le Corbusier.

25 September

Inauguration of CIAM (Centre International des Arts en Mouvement) in Aix-en-Provence, dedicated to the circus arts. It opened with the festival Jours [et nuits] de cirque(s).

Feu d’artifice pour la soirée en bouquet final sur le Vieux-Port. © Groupe F
By Valérie Rouger


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