Marseille-Provence 2013 European Capital of Culture is an exciting year-long programme of events all across the Bouches du Rhône département and there can surely be no better time to visit Southern Provence.
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The Marseille-Provence 2013 celebrations extend from Martigues to La Ciotat, including Arles and Aix en Provence as well as Aubagne and other communes in the area.
They go north as far as Saint Rémy de Provence and the Alpilles, stopping just short of Avignon, which had its own moment in the sun as the European Capital of Culture in 2000 (and, besides, is in the département of the Vaucluse).
It's the first time that the European Capital of Culture programme has been extended to cover a whole region rather than just a single city.
Click here to jump straight to our detailled diary of the January 2013 programme and the grand opening of Marseille-Provence's year as the European Capital of Culture, and here for our February 2013, March 2013, April 2013, May 2013, June 2013, July 2013, August 2013, September 2013, October 2013, November 2013 and December 2013 diaries.
The jam-packed agenda is divided into three "episodes". From January to May, Marseille-Provence accueille le monde (Marseille-Provence, Welcoming the World) focusses on the urban Mediterranean.
From June to August, Marseille-Provence à ciel ouvert (Marseille-Provence, Open Sky) has an open-air theme. From September to December, Marseille-Provence aux mille visages (Marseille-Provence, Land of a Thousand Faces) explores the cultural diversity of the region.
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Some of the Marseille-Provence 2013 project involves prestigious brand-new venues, such as the Musée des civilisations de l'Europe et de la Méditerranée (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations), or MuCEM for short, a dramatic building on the Marseille waterfront designed by Rudy Ricciotti.
Interpreting culture in its broadest sense, there are also initiatives such as the Grande Randonnée GR2013, an ambitious 360 km (224 mile) hiking trail created to take you through surprising parts of Provence.
These will become permanent, "legacy" features of the landscape and we'll be reviewing the pick of them in full as they come to fruition.
Many other elements are one-off shows, concerts and happenings, and we preview here the best and most exciting events to look out for in 2013, month by month.
Finally, the Capital of Culture year is not just about the arts, strictly speaking. French gastronomy was famously declared an "intangible cultural heritage" by UNESCO in 2010 and so food too has its place in the celebrations. And fortunately you can not only touch it but eat it as well.
Throughout the year a series of food-spectacles are planned under the banner Le Théâtre des cuisines (it's called What's Cooking? in the English-language programme), from feasts and picnics to reinvented street food, gastronomic cruises, dinner theatre and even an official 2013 loaf.
You can read about a few of the 2013 What's Cooking? events in English here, though Le Théâtre des cuisines, the French area of the website lists many more activities.
Our own coverage of MP2013 will be expanded and updated constantly, so come back soon to check out new additions. Website for Marseille-Provence 2013: European Capital of Culture.
If you read French, you might be interested in Le Routard Marseille, Provence 2013, capitale européenne de la culture, a very comprehensive book-length guide to what's going on.
Visitors to Marseille should also head for the new temporary Pavillon M on the place Villeneuve-Bargemon just off the Old Port, which is a primary source of information.
This large meeting space has a whole range of multi-media displays and installations introducing you to the area, a cafeteria, a small conference area and an army of volunteers ready to help you.
The Pavillon M also organises regular special events throughout the year. It's open from 10.00am to 7.00pm daily. Website for the Pavillion M in Marseille The main Tourist Office at 11 la Canebière will be open as usual too with a more conventional range of maps and brochures.
And, over and above the events in the "official" programme listed here, there is, as at the Avignon Festival, a large parallel fringe event, the Off, with activities too numerous to mention. Website for the Marseille-Provence 2013 Off Festival