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Marseille, a Capital Experience

Marseille, the regional capital of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, is also European capital of culture for 2013.

marseille-provence-2013Walking the streets of Marseille, you will discover a vibrant multicultural city mixing sounds, scents and artists from around the Mediterranean. Marseille’s famed creative spirit reaches a high-water mark in 2013, with the program of events linked to its status of European capital.

This programme includes a marine festival entitled "The Sea, Our Capital". Its main highlights are an exhibition at the Pavillon M, held during IMPAC3 under the motto "The Sea Is Source of Inspiration!", and the 40th edition of the World Underwater Film Festival, right after the congress ends.

But in Marseille, you can easily get away from the crowd if you so wish. Magnificient landscapes and seascapes are waiting for you.

The City of Marseille cherishes this natural heritage and is taking decisive action to preserve it.

Pharo Palace

The Congress is housed inside Pharo Palace, a 19th-century historic landmark built by Napoleon III on a stunning headland overlooking the Old Port.

Prince-President Napoleon III visited Marseille in September 1852, a couple of months before being crowned Emperor. He expressed his desire to build a residence “on the water’s edge” meant to embody Marseille’s submission to the new régime. Napoleon III also saw it as a token of affection for his wife, Empress Eugénie, to whom he dedicated the domain.

Begun in 1858, construction was still underway when the French Second Empire collapsed in 1871. Pharo Palace came under the ownership of the City of Marseille and housed various medical and higher-education institutions.

Today, the Palace has been converted into a world-class convention center, covering close to 40,000 square meters. Next to the twin Napoleon-era reception rooms, it features a 900-seat auditorium, conference rooms and an extensive exhibition hall.

Getting There
Floor Plans

Find out more at

Pavillon M, an Outpost of the Congress

marseille pharo vieux port vue aerienne ville_de_marseilleThe Pavillon M: headquarters of MP2013 events © Ville de Marseille

The Pavillon M serves during the congress as IMPAC3’s outpost in the city centre, drawing residents’ attention to the capital role of the sea in their development.

Located on the Old Port’s main quay, next to the City Hall and right across the water from Pharo Palace, the Pavillon M is a 3000 square-meter wood-and-Perspex temporary structure that serves as both the showcase and the orientation center of Marseille’s European Capital of Culture celebrations.

From Oct. 22 to Oct. 27, some thirty artists invited by the Pavillon M explore Marseille’s (and, generally, modern society’s) link to the sea. Under the title The Sea Is Source of Inspiration, they stage exhibitions, plays, screenings, workshops and dances that question the meaning we attach to the sea, and emphasize its influence in inspiring art and shaping civilizations.

Highlights including acrobats performing aboard a sailboat, street artists who are given free rein, and dancers and painters that seem to be just as much in their element under the surface as above.

During the congress, the program of the Pavillon M is structured around several main exhibitions:

  • Marine paintings
  • The sea, a living museum – archeological artefacts recovered from the deep, offering a preview of the World Underwater Festival
  • Calanques: Photographer Philippe Richaud captures the light around Marseille-Cassis-La Ciotat
  • Portraying the Mediterranean from within: painting underwater

Writing and artistic workshops, seminars, lectures and live performances are designed to draw in the public and turn them into contributors rather than just onlookers. They aim to foster a spirit of respect, solidarity and openness – values that lie at the heart of marine protected areas.

The Pavillon M offers an immersive experience not just for the eyes and the mind, but for all the senses. Close your eyes and you can hear the swell and feel the spray on your skin.

Pavillon MAdress: Pavillon M
Place Villeneuve-Bargemon
Quai du Port
13002 Marseille
Free entry

Full details:


The Sea, Our Capital

La mer, notre capital © Ville de Marseille© Ville de Marseille

"The Sea, our Capital" is a program created by the City of Marseille and IUCN's French Committee within the framework of IMPAC3. The wealth of activities it includes reflects the debt Marseille owes to the sea.

In short:

  • 90 events from September to October in Marseille and its surroundings: hikes, kayak outings, science cafés, exhibitions...
  • 25 artists gathered at the Pavillon M for "The Sea Is Source of Inspiration";
  • Conferences, seminars, and more.

Full Program
in French (PDF)

But the program is also an accoasion to raise awareness among local residents, encourage them to take responsibility and bring home the benefits of marine protected areas.

A booklet has been published to that effect:

Protecting the Sea
Benefits to All! (pdf)

Marseille: Culture

Marseille has been designated as the European Capital of Culture for 2013. As celebrations unfold all along the year, they will turn the city – and the whole of Provence – into a hub for creative, artistic encounters and dialogue across the Euro-Mediterranean region.

marseille pharo vieux port vue aerienne ville_de_marseilleThe "Pavillon M", which serves as the focal point for all operations relating to Marseille Provence 2013. © Ville de Marseille

Throughout the year, Marseille-Provence will open a string of new cultural facilities: museums (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations, Regards de Provence Museum), concert halls (the Silo, the J1), cultural centers (Villa Méditerranée), galleries (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Regional Contemporary Art Fund), and artist studios. Many of these venues are located on the mile-long seafront, helping to forge a stronger link between the city center and the port.

Marseille: Nature

marseille-calanques marie-aude-sevin aamp 493x380 34Calanque. © Marie-Aude Sévin / AAMP

Marseille is surrounded by the French Provence, a country of rugged hills where charming sun-drenched villages are scattered across the Guarrigue – lavender- and thyme-covered slopes. Moving away from the Mediterranean, the hills grow higher and gradually blend into the French Alps.

But the area’s extremely diverse coastline constitutes its main attraction. It ranges in aspect from sophisticated urban landscapes to pristine wilderness.

You can, of course, walk in the footsteps of celebrities who descend on the French Riviera every spring. Yet a stone’s throw from Marseille, in Calanques National Park, you can also explore secluded creeks of crystal-clear waters surrounded by chalky white cliffs.

They form a natural playground for trekkers, climbers, sailors and divers alike.

Groundbreaking Conservation

For over a decade, the City of Marseille has been implementing exemplary policies in terms of marine and coastal conservation and development.

On the occasion of IMPAC3, a booklet published by Marseille and the French committee of IUCN underlines this determination:

Protecting the Sea
Benefits to All! (pdf)

But more than words, achievements in and around Marseille are proof of their commitment.

  • the creation in April 2012 of Europe’s first peri-urban national park, Calanques National Park, combining marine and land conservation;
  • the construction and submersion of nearly 30,000 cubic meters of underwater ecological habitats as part of the RECIFS PRADO program, the largest artificial reef in Europe and the Mediterranean;
  • the replacement of traditional navigational-aid markers with seabed-friendlier devices;
  • the development of a partnership with the Conservatoire du littoral (agency responsible for the preservation of the French coastline) within the framework of the Mediterranean Small Islands Initiative (PIM);
  • involvement in national, Mediterranean and European marine-protection networks, such as Eurosite and MedPAN

The Marseille Harbor Management Plan brings overall coherence to the various efforts carried out along the coast and at sea. It encourages cross-sector partnerships among institutional and economic players.

World Underwater Film Festival

World Underwater Film Festival. © Uwe Schmolke / FSISMWorld Underwater Film Festival © Uwe Schmolke / FSISM

From October 30 to November 3, 2013, the World Underwater Film Festival joins forces with IMPAC3 in Marseille. By enabling spectators to experience the beauty beneath the surface, it encourages them to own up to their environmental responsibilities.

Each Fall since 1973, the world’s greatest (sub)marine photographers and directors gather in Marseille. This year, the festival comes right after IMPAC3. And for its 40th birthday, it expects around 100 exhibitors, 140 films, 450 competing photos, and more than 10,000 visitors.

The festival’s atmosphere will be both festive and educational. For instance, in addition to the jury choosing the “palme d’or”, high-school students from across France will cast their ballot to choose the best aquatic film of the year for youth.

On the morning of Friday, Nov. 1st Oct. 21, the festival’s Ocean Forum hosts several IMPAC3 participants: Sandra Bessudo (Columbian Presidential Agency for International Cooperation), Philippe Vallette (Nausicaa National Sea Center), Christophe Lefebvre (French Committee of IUCN) and a representative of MedPAN, together with circumnavigator Jimmy Cornell and with closing words by Jean-Michel Cousteau. The same day, in the afternoon, two other forums will be another forum is dedicated to archeology, with presentations on recent explorations in Lebanese MPAs and new marine technologies and innovation.

The photo exhibition Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas by Renaud Dupuy de la Grandrive and Mathieu Foulquié will also be displayed at the festival after IMPAC3.

…And during three days amazing films will be screened.

Discover the festival’s photos and videos at

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