Gare de Marseille-Saint-Charles
New York’s Grand Central Station has its iconic constellation ceiling that entices even the most harried commuters to look up. The lofty iron roof at Paris’ Gare Saint-Lazare is immortalized in Monet’s masterpiece, his sumptuous clouds of steam capturing the romance of train travel. Here in Marseille, the Gare Saint-Charles has a grand staircase that spills into the city. The escaliers are flanked by majestic statues and palm trees with rows of Art Nouveau bronze dolphin lampposts cascading down the middle. You feel like a royal descending into a ball, even when lugging an awkward suitcase. There’s so much architectural eye candy the stairs are a destination in its own right.
The escaliers were built eight decades after Saint-Charles’ 1848 construction. Seeing the need to connect the hilltop train station to the Boulevard d’Athènes--the main artery that descends to the Vieux Port--city planners bid au revoir to obstructing buildings to make space for the stairs. Eugène Sénès, architect of the nearby Bourse de Travail, completed the 104 steps of history in 1927. Made by prominent Marseille sculptors, the statues are full of regional, colonial, and maritime motifs that pay homage to this multinational nautical nature of this port city.
Information provided in part by: yeswaymarseille.com