Culture: Mediterranean Civilizations Museum

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Located at the entrance to Marseille’s Old Port, the ponderously named Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée (MuCEM) is the boldest architectural innovation in Marseille since the sloping glass skyscraper by London-based Zaha Hadid – a new headquarters for shipping company CMA CGM – arose on the waterfront in 2010. The museum was designed by French architect Rudy Ricciotti, and it joins the historic Fort Saint-Jean to two elegant modern pavilions in a complex that was the focal point of Marseille’s year as European Capital of Culture in 2013. The mission of the museum is to examine the art and cultural interactions of the countries around the Mediterranean, and somewhat surprisingly – the subject is complex, to say the least – it does so successfully, with a fascinating set of permanent exhibits and regularly changing displays. The showstopper, however, is the main building itself: a glass structure sheathed in a lace-like concrete envelope that creates a remarkable play of shadow and light in the interior spaces. 1 Esplanade du J4. Tel. (33) 4-84-35-13-13.

The museum is hugely popular, so avoid long lines by going early in the day. Plan on lunch at chef Gérald Passédat’s crow’s nest restaurant, Le Môle Passédat (La Table). There, you will enjoy very good modern Mediterranean cooking, with dishes such as dressed crab with harissa (the North African hot sauce), and sea bass with sautéed fennel. Online reservations only.

Dressed crab with harissa, Le Môle Passédat

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