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Coordinates: 43°30′N 5°5′E / 43.500°N 5.083°E / 43.500; 5.083
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Bocas de Ròse (Occitan)
From top down, left to right: Marseille, the department's prefecture, Les Baux-de-Provence, Cassis on the Mediterranean coast and the Arles Amphitheatre
Flag of Bouches-du-Rhône
Coat of arms of Bouches-du-Rhône
Location of Bouches-du-Rhône in France
Location of Bouches-du-Rhône in France
Coordinates: 43°30′N 5°5′E / 43.500°N 5.083°E / 43.500; 5.083
RegionProvence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
 • President of the Departmental CouncilMartine Vassal[1] (LR)
 • Total5,087 km2 (1,964 sq mi)
 • Total2,056,943
 • Rank3rd
 • Density400/km2 (1,000/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+2 (CEST)
ISO 3166 codeFR-13
Department number13
^1 French Land Register data, which exclude estuaries, and lakes, ponds, and glaciers larger than 1 km2.

Bouches-du-Rhône (/ˌbʃ dj ˈrn/ BOOSH dew ROHN, French: les Bouches-du-Rhône French: [le buʒ dy ʁon], locally [le ˈbuʃə dy ˈʁɔnə]; Occitan: lei Bocas de Ròse [lej ˈbukɔ de ˈʀɔze]; "the Mouths of the Rhône") is a department in southern France. It borders Vaucluse to the north, Gard to the west and Var to the east. The Mediterranean Sea lies to the south. Its prefecture and largest city is Marseille; other important cities include Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Martigues and Aubagne.

Marseille, France's second-largest city, has one of the largest container ports in the country. It prizes itself as France's oldest city, founded by Greek settlers from Phocaea around 600 BC.[3] Bouches-du-Rhône is the most populous department of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, with 2,043,110 inhabitants as of 2019.[4] It has an area of 5,087 km2 (1,964 sq mi). Its INSEE and postal code is 13.


A view of Marseille, prefecture of Bouches-du-Rhône

The history of the area is closely linked to that of Provence. Marseille has been an important harbour since before Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul. The Roman presence left numerous monuments across the department. Notable people born in the area include Romantic painter Camille Roqueplan and his brother, journalist and theatre director Nestor Roqueplan.

Bouches-du-Rhône is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790. It was created from the western part of the former province of Provence and the principalities of Orange, Martigues and Lambesc. It lost part of its territory in 1793, including Orange and Apt, when the department of Vaucluse was created.

Following its creation, the department strongly supported the French Revolution, containing 90 Jacobin Clubs by 1794.[5] It was also noteworthy that more than half of the priests in the department accepted the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which in effect subordinated the church to the government.[6] During the ascendancy of the French Communist Party in the 20th century, election results showed that support for left-wing politics remained relatively strong there, especially in the northern suburbs of Marseille.


Natural regions[edit]

TER PACA service in Le Rove, on the Côte Bleue

The department is part of the current region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. It is surrounded by the departments of Gard on the west, Vaucluse on the north and Var on the east, as well as by the Mediterranean Sea on the south. The Rhône river delta forms a vast swampy wetlands area called the Camargue in the southwestern part of the department. The Rove Tunnel, the world's longest canal tunnel from Marseille to the Étang de Berre, as well as smaller canals further west, allowed for waterway transport from Marseille to the Rhône until 1963, when the Rove Tunnel closed to traffic.

Bouches-du-Rhône is bordered by the rivers Rhône to the west and Durance to the north. The Rhône divides into the Grand Rhône and Petit Rhône south of Arles; the area between forms the Camargue. The principal mountains of the department are the Sainte-Baume massif (1,042 metres – 3,418 feet), Montagne Sainte-Victoire (1,011 metres – 3,316 feet), the Garlaban and Alpilles massifs.

Seismic activity[edit]

The department of Bouches-du-Rhône is also known for its seismic activity: the zone II ("average seismic activity") townships of Lambesc Peyrolles-en-Provence and Salon-de-Provence are the most exposed.

Seismic risk in the department

Areas Ib ("low seismic activity") including the cantons of Aix-en-Provence, Trets Eyguières, Orgon, Berre-Pond, Istres, Istres-North and South, and Ia areas ("very low seismic activity") including the other cantons in the district of Aix-en-Provence, Arles-East, Châteaurenard, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Marignane, Martigues-East and Roquevaire-West, are least exposed. Zone 0 ("negligible seismic activity") includes the rest of the department.


The department has a Mediterranean climate, with contrasting temperatures within a range of 15 degrees. Precipitation is irregular, with only 65 days per year where rain falls in excess of 1 mm. However it falls in sudden downpours, with an average of 500–700 millimetres (20–28 inches) annually. This mainly happens in the spring and autumn; summer is very hot, winter mild. Violent winds are common, especially the mistral, which blows 100 days per year with a maximum of 100 km/h (62 mph). The coast is drier, especially along the Côte Bleue, the Calanques and the bay of La Ciotat, which include some of the driest areas in France, with only 450 mm (18 in) of rain per year. Higher areas receive more precipitation and lower temperatures. The Arc region in the interior is much colder than other areas, with heavy frosts in winter.


Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
YearPop.±% p.a.

Principal towns[edit]

The most populous commune is Marseille, the prefecture. As of 2019, there are 14 communes with more than 20,000 inhabitants:[4]

Commune Population (2019)
Marseille 870,731
Aix-en-Provence 145,133
Arles 50,454
Martigues 48,574
Aubagne 47,535
Salon-de-Provence 45,386
Istres 43,626
La Ciotat 35,993
Vitrolles 33,333
Marignane 32,384
Miramas 26,428
Les Pennes-Mirabeau 21,623
Gardanne 21,521
Allauch 21,372

There are 15 more communes with over 10,000 inhabitants: Châteauneuf-les-Martigues, Port-de-Bouc, Châteaurenard, Tarascon, Fos-sur-Mer, Bouc-Bel-Air, Berre-l'Étang, Saint-Martin-de-Crau, Auriol, Rognac, Plan-de-Cuques, Septèmes-les-Vallons, Pélissanne, Trets and Fuveau.[4]



The cantons of Bouches-du-Rhône

Since Bouches-du-Rhône is one of the most populous and diverse departments of France, it has long been the scene of particularly fierce political battles. The development of the Marseille-Fos Port, the relationship maintained between France and its colonial empire, the industry around coal mining in Provence, as well as significant immigration, especially coming from Italy, from the end the 19th century and during the period between the two world wars are all factors that led to the emergence of a large and militant working class. From the late 19th century, the socialist movement gained influence, such as in 1881 by the election of the country's first socialist member of parliament, Clovis Hugues. Rural areas, particularly in the region of Aix-en-Provence, have tended to favour the influence of right-wing parties, including monarchists and Catholics at the beginning of the French Third Republic. The interwar period and the time of the Popular Front marked the beginning of the dominance of the left in the department, first with the election of the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO).

Map of the communes of Bouches-du-Rhône and the political majority of their municipal council after the 2014 municipal elections. Grey signifies no political majority.
  Left-wing independents
  Right-wing independents

After the Second World War, the Marseillais right, linked to the underworld and who collaborated with the German occupation, was widely discredited. The left largely dominated the Liberation and Marseille even saw the election in 1946 of Communist Mayor Jean Cristofol. In 1947 the SFIO led an alliance with right and centre parties against the Communists, resulting six years later in the election of Gaston Defferre as Mayor of Marseille, a position he held until his death in 1986. The dominance of socialism was, however, challenged by deindustrialisation. The conservative success in 1995 by Jean-Claude Gaudin in Marseille is a symbol of widespread political shifts while even the former communists bastions of La Ciotat and Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône voted for the right. The 1990s saw the rise of the National Front, including its victories in municipal elections of Marignane and Vitrolles.

The President of the Departmental Council has been Martine Vassal of the right-wing The Republicans party since 2015, after former Socialist President Jean-Noël Guérini was voted out of office and has faced corruption charges.

In the 2022 French presidential election, just like five years prior, Marine Le Pen of the National Rally (formerly National Front) won a majority in Bouches-du-Rhône in the first round, before incumbent Emmanuel Macron of La République En Marche! won a majority in the second round.

Members of the National Assembly[edit]

Bouches-du-Rhône elected the following members of the National Assembly in the 2017 legislative election:

Constituency Member[9] Party
Bouches-du-Rhône's 1st constituency Julien Ravier The Republicans
Bouches-du-Rhône's 2nd constituency Claire Pitollat La République En Marche!
Bouches-du-Rhône's 3rd constituency Alexandra Louis La République En Marche!
Bouches-du-Rhône's 4th constituency Jean-Luc Mélenchon La France insoumise
Bouches-du-Rhône's 5th constituency Cathy Racon-Bouzon La République En Marche!
Bouches-du-Rhône's 6th constituency Guy Teissier The Republicans
Bouches-du-Rhône's 7th constituency Saïd Ahamada La République En Marche!
Bouches-du-Rhône's 8th constituency Jean-Marc Zulesi La République En Marche!
Bouches-du-Rhône's 9th constituency Bernard Deflesselles The Republicans
Bouches-du-Rhône's 10th constituency François-Michel Lambert La République En Marche!
Bouches-du-Rhône's 11th constituency Mohamed Laqhila MoDem
Bouches-du-Rhône's 12th constituency Éric Diard The Republicans
Bouches-du-Rhône's 13th constituency Pierre Dharréville French Communist Party
Bouches-du-Rhône's 14th constituency Anne-Laurence Petel La République En Marche!
Bouches-du-Rhône's 15th constituency Bernard Reynès The Republicans
Bouches-du-Rhône's 16th constituency Monica Michel La République En Marche!

Departmental Council of Bouches-du-Rhône[edit]

Martine Vassal, current President of the Departmental Council

Below is a list of seats won by the department's different parties after the 2015 departmental elections.

Party Seats in the Departmental Council
The Republicans (LR) 25
Socialist Party (PS) 15
Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI) 7
French Communist Party (PCF) 5
Europe Ecology – The Greens (EELV) 2
La Force du 13 2
National Front (FN) and France Arise (DLF) 2


Paul Cézanne's Mont Sainte-Victoire and the Viaduct of the Arc River Valley

The department is well represented in French art. Paul Cézanne painted numerous representations of the Mont Sainte-Victoire. Vincent van Gogh spent two years in Arles, painting many scenes in the area. The department's main museums include the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, the Musée de la Faïence de Marseille and the Marseille History Museum.


Main sights[edit]

Major sites of tourism include:

Natural landmarks[edit]

Rivers include:

  • The Rhône, which forms the border with the department of Gard
  • The Durance, which forms the border with the department of Vaucluse
  • The Arc
  • The Huveaune

Lakes include:

Mountains include:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Répertoire national des élus: les conseillers départementaux". data.gouv.fr, Plateforme ouverte des données publiques françaises (in French). 4 May 2022.
  2. ^ "Téléchargement du fichier d'ensemble des populations légales en 2021" (in French). The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies. 28 December 2023.
  3. ^ Vella, Alexandre (7 February 2022). "« Marseille est la plus vieille ville de France, mais il n’y a rien à voir »… Mais où sont les vestiges archéologiques ?", 20-minutes.fr (in French).
  4. ^ a b c Populations légales 2019: 13 Bouches-du-Rhône, INSEE
  5. ^ Albert Ceccarelli, La Révolution à l’Isle sur la Sorgue et en Vaucluse, Éditions Scriba, 1989, 2-86736-018-8, p. 27.
  6. ^ Albert Ceccarelli, La Révolution..., p. 30.
  7. ^ "Historique des Bouches-du-Rhône". Le SPLAF.
  8. ^ "Évolution et structure de la population en 2016". INSEE.
  9. ^ Nationale, Assemblée. "Assemblée nationale ~ Les députés, le vote de la loi, le Parlement français". Assemblée nationale.

External links[edit]

Bouches-du-Rhone at Curlie