Arsenal fans' guide to Marseille

While our International Ground Guide is undergoing some maintenance, we thought we'd provide our usual service of advice and information for travelling supporters in brief blog form.

Once up and running again our ground guide will cover all manner of information from travel options to hotel advice, eating and drinking suggestions to practical tips on getting around, along with safety and security advice and anything else we think will be of use to travelling supporters. 

In the meantime, while the below might not necessarily have all the information you'll be after if you're heading out to France this week, we're always available to help - just drop us an email if you have any questions.

We'll do our best to find out what you need to know, either from our own vast experience in covering England and Wales games abroad, or from our friends at Football Supporters Europe.

The Ground

The Stade Vélodrome is fairly centrally located, approximately 2 miles south of the city centre. Facilities inside the ground, which means toilets as well as subsistence facilities, are rather poor, and there have been problems with English fans getting in to the ground in the past. We'd advise fans to arrive in plenty of time, as away fans are cordoned in a warehouse before being escorted to the away section. If you turn up 15 minutes before kick-off then expect to miss the start of the game.

The stadium is currently undergoing a renovation project - for more details, check out the English-language version of the Arema Velodrome site.

The Stade Velodrome is located on Boulevard Michelet. From the train station “Saint-Charles” it takes around 8 minutes by subway to get to the stadium. You can access the stadium by 2 stations on the 2nd subway line (red line): Take the subway in the direction of Sainte Marguerite-Dromel and get off at either Rond-Point du Prado (located in the south of the ground) or at the terminal Sainte Marguerite-Dromel. The latter is the quickest way to get to the away fans entrance. Alternatively a taxi from the city centre takes no more than 10 minutes.

The Team

The club was formed in 1892 but the name Olympique de Marseille wasn’t adopted until 1899. OM are one of the largest and most successful clubs in France, and are the only French club to have won the European Champions League (in 1993), as well as finishing runners up in the same competition in 1991. They are also twice runners-up in the Uefa Cup, have won 9 Ligue Un titles, and a record 10 Coupes de France.

Their list of former players reads like a who's who of French football - Deschamps, Cantona, Pires, Papin, Djorkaeff, Blanc, Boli, Angloma - while their international contingent has included the likes of Gabriel Heinze, Didier Drogba, Enzo Francescoli and Chris Waddle. That loveable rogue Joey Barton even stopped by for a season on loan.

The City

Notre Dame de la Garde, the big church which overlooks the city, represents the main landmark of Marseille and is thought to protect the city and especially the sailors that leave its harbour. From the church you can enjoy a glorious view over the whole city and a perspective on the Stade Vélodrome that is equivalent to an aerial picture.

Another main attraction of the city is the Vieux Port (Old Port) - the main harbour and marina of the city. It is guarded by two massive forts - Fort St. Nicolas and Fort Saint Jean, and is one of the many main places to eat out in the city. There is a large concentration of bars and restaurants overlooking the harbour, and in the various side streets, and you won't go far wrong when looking for a spot for a beer or a bite to eat. It is the most 'touristy' place in the city, but by the same token is much safer than some of the bars around the stadium, or in the city's back streets.

The main shopping areas in central Marseille are the Centre Bourse and the adjacent Rue St. Ferreol district. Near there you can also find the Palais de la Bourse, a 19th Century building housing the chamber of Commerce, and the so-called Arabian district with a food market and loads of oriental shops. A very cosy and traditional French market is to be found on the Prado (Metro station: Castellane). La Plaine or Cours Julien is the less touristy and more alternative/student area packed with bars and tiny shops.

The centre of Marseille has several pedestrianised zones, most notably rue St. Ferreol, Cours Julien, the Cours Honoré-d’Estienne-d’Orous off the Old Port and the area around the Hotel de Ville. The city’s main thoroughfare, the wide boulevard called La Canebiére stretches eastward from the Old Port. 

The train station is north of La Canebiére at the northern end of the boulevard d’Athenes. The ferry terminal is west of place de la Joilette, a few minutes walk north of Nouvelle Cathédrale. The city is walkable, although if you want to see the sights beyond the centre, you should use the reliable local transport system.

Thanks to Flickr user Jeanne Menjoulet for the image used in this blog, reproduced under creative commons licence.