Jardin des Vestiges (Ruins Garden)

Gardens and Historic Site in Marseille

Jardin Des Vestiges Marseille
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Carl Ha

The Jardin des Vestiges is a remarkable garden in Marseille that preserves the archaeological remains of the city’s ancient port. Located in the 1st arrondissement, behind the Centre Bourse shopping arcade, this site was classified as a French historical monument after its excavation in 1967 and was officially opened to the public on October 17, 2009. It forms a crucial part of the ancient Greek city of Massalia, featuring parts of the port and city walls, including remnants of three square towers and a gateway from the second or third century BC.


In 1967, significant archaeological discoveries were made during construction works at the Centre Bourse. These findings included Greek fortifications, funerary enclosures, and elements of the ancient port, leading to the preservation of about 10,000 m² as a historical monument. The excavation, which lasted ten years, revealed an area that served as a junction between the ancient city to the north and a suburban port area outside its walls.

Archaeological Remains

Ancient Port and Quays: The old port, dating back to Greek times, originally extended further east and northeast, ending in a marshy area. Roman-era quays are still visible today, preserved over a stretch of 180 meters, complete with stairs once used for unloading goods.

Greek Fortifications: The oldest parts of the fortifications, dating back to the 6th century BC, were discovered in the northwestern area. These included an early rampart made of white limestone and clay bricks, which was later replaced with large tuff blocks in the 4th century BC. A well-defended gate, flanked by towers or bastions, was also identified.

Defense Towers: The “Porte d’Italie,” a historical entrance, was protected by two towers built in the 4th century BC, now known as the north tower or square tower and the leaning tower. These towers, standing between 12 to 15 meters high, were pivotal in defending the city.

Forewall and Paved Way: A forewall built around the 5th century and a Roman road paved with large Cassis stone slabs represent other significant archaeological features. The road’s design included grooves to prevent slipping and holes for handling the slabs.

Freshwater Basin: Near the Centre Bourse gallery, a large square basin from the 2nd century was discovered, used for supplying water to boats. This basin was fed by a protected pipeline and had mechanisms for clearing alluvium.

Funerary Terraces: Two terraces, used for funerary purposes and dating back to the 4th century BC, were found north of the Voie d’Italie. One terrace remains and is adorned with metopes and triglyphs, likely supporting an altar or statue.

These significant archaeological remains and artifacts from the Jardin des Vestiges are displayed at the Marseille History Museum, offering a window into the rich history of Marseille’s ancient port and its role in the Mediterranean trade networks.

The Jardin des Vestiges (Ruins Garden) appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Marseille!

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Visiting Jardin des Vestiges (Ruins Garden)

Address: Jardin des Vestiges, Rue Henri Barbusse, Marseille, France
Duration: 30 minutes

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