The cafés around the Vieux Port, where glistening fish are sold straight off the boats on quai des Belges, are wonderful spots to observe the city’s street life. Particularly good in the afternoon is the north (Le Panier) side, where the terraces are sunnier and the views better. A free ferry shuttles across the port from the Hôtel de Ville on the north side to the quai de Rive Neuve opposite.
Two fortresses guard the harbour entrance. The construction of St-Nicolas, on the south side of the port, represented the city’s final defeat as a separate entity: Louis XIV ordered the new fort to keep an eye on the city after he had sent in an army, suppressed the city’s council, fined it, arrested all opposition and set ludicrously low limits on Marseille’s subsequent expenditure and borrowing.