Marseille (also known as Marseilles or Masalia in antiquity) is the second-largest city in France after Paris and the oldest city in the country with a history going back more than 2,600 years. In 2014, Marseille has an estimated population of 855,000.
Marseille has an estimated population of 855,000, up slightly from 850,700 in 2010. Population growth in Marseille has been fairly stagnant except for sizable growth in 2006 through 2008. Sometimes called the secret capital of France, Marseille has an urban population of more than 1.58 million and a metropolitan population of 1.62 million.
City Size and Population Density
The population density of the city proper is 3,500 people per square kilometer (9,200/sq mi). The city proper encompasses a total area size of 240.62 square kilometers (92.90 square miles).
Marseille has always been an important gateway into France as a port city. Over hundreds of years, this has transformed Marseille into a cosmopolitan melting pot with many immigrants. The 20th century in particular saw many large waves of immigration due to political unrest and poor economic conditions in Europe and globally. At the end of the 19th century, Italians and Greeks began immigrating to Marseille, with about 40% of the city's population being Italian by the 1950s.
Other major waves of immigrants have included Russians (1917), Armenians (1915 and 1920s), Vietnamese (1920s, 50s and post-1975), Corsicans (1920s and 30s), Spanish (post-1935), North Africans (between WWI and WWII), and Sub-Saharan Africans (post-1945).
In 2006, the single largest nationality was residents of Maghrebian origin from Algeria (70,000), followed by Comoros (45,000). About 30% of the population today has Italian ancestry. Marseille is now home to the second-largest Armenian and Corsican population sin the country, with large populations of Chinese, Comorians, Turks, Maghrebis, and Vietnamese.
Just a decade ago, the majority of the population were Roman Catholic (405,000), followed by Muslim (150,000), Armenian Apostolic (80,000), Jewish (80,000), Protestant, Eastern Orthodox and Buddhist. In 2014, an estimated 40% of Marseille is now Muslim, and it is predicted that Marseille will become the first Muslim-majority city in France. Marseille also has the 3rd largest urban population of Jewish people in all of Europe.
Marseille: Most Dangerous City in Europe
Aside from being a major tourist destination, Marseille has also come to be known for its violence, drug war and even poverty on the outskirts. Outside of Marseille sit some of the poorest areas in the poorest city in the country with nearly 40% of the population below the poverty line, compared to a still-high 26% in Marseille and 15% in France as a whole.
While the risk of dying before 65 is 23% lower than the national average in the richer areas of Marseille, the risk is 30% higher in the northern region. Marseille, with its population of 800,000, has nearly as many drug-related murders proportionally as New York City, with a population 10 times higher.
Marseille also follows a reversal of the typical French pattern -which is- the interior city boundaries being wealthier with the suburbs being more troubled and burdened with less income. However, in Marseille, the population in the city proper is fairly poor, while the rich live in the suburb.
Marseille was recently ranked as the most dangerous city in Europe, as the city has a reputation for being the drug-smuggling hub of Europe where entire neighborhoods are out of police control.
Marseille Population Growth
Between 1975 and 1990, Marseille lost 12% of its population, or over 100,000 people, with its population remaining stagnant at about 840,000 for over a decade. Despite its troubles, Marseille is preparing for renewed population growth over the next decade.