A vibrant multicultural port city filled with history, grit, grandeur, and salty sailor – Marseille has long been overshadowed by its glitzy French Riviera neighbors. Times are changing, however, as Marseille flourished with cultural self-confidence as the European Capital of Culture in 2013.
In the same year, it also hosted EuroPride, showing the world its queer credentials and solidifying its place as an under-the-radar travel hot spot.
By day there are plenty of sexy French boys and girls shopping in open-air markets of the French-African quarter, wandering past historical landmarks of the vibrant Vieux Port (old port) and or lazing in the iconic terrace bistros of the ancient Le Panier neighborhood. But, by night, is when things really come alive…
A traditionally liberal country that legalized same-sex activity in 1791 during the French Revolution and gay marriage in 2013, France is frequently named one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world.
Gay travelers need not take any more extra precautions in Marseille than they would in any other Western European city. And – as with just about any other port city, Marseille has an active gay scene – though with a distinct lack of any cohesive gay village. This means that while you will be welcomed wherever you go – you are less likely to find gay couples strolling hand-in-hand as you might in Quebec City, Zurich, or Rotterdam.
The infamous salty tough-guy image of people here probably doesn’t help much either.
Despite this, Gay Marseille offers a well-established if quirky LGBT presence with relaxed gay bars, busy saunas, and cruisy clubbing – though we were unable to find any new-age queer parties here. While undoubtedly fun, the scene here can feel dated at times and in need of new life. After 28,000 years of existence, what is one more reinvention?
We loved Marseille for many reasons – but most of all, because it has an air heavy with the spirit of adventure, the warm Mediterranean sunshine, unique architecture, and an almost complete lack of pretension. It might not be a queer mecca, but there is still plenty to love here – including all those hunky bare-chested sailors.
Gay Marseille Guide: The Essential Guide To LGBT Travel In Marseille France
In this article we will cover...
Attractions in Gay Marseille
Being gay does not define which attractions most of us will want to see in each city, and most queer tourists will simply want to check out the top things to see in Marseille during the day! This is a very safe city, but still, all travelers should take caution with valuables.
Queer people in Marseille do not need to take any extra precautions in terms of public displays of affection. Much like nearby Montpellier and Lyon, this very openminded city, and you should have no issues exploring its enchanting beauty! There is so, so much to go here – but here are just a few of our favorite things to do in Gay Marseille!
Top Highlights of Marseille
- Mont Rose Beach – The gay beach of Marseille, one of the oldest in France, where you can spend the day with locals and travelers wearing as little or as much as you want. Don’t expect sandy white beaches like Sydney, Langkawi, or San Diego – its defiantly more rocky coast than anything else. Much like the rocky beaches of Sitges, after the sun goes down, there is plenty of action here.
- Old Port of Marseille – A natural harbor of the city since antiquity and is now the most popular place to visit in Marseille. Largely pedestrianized in 2013 with the creation of a large public square – though works are ongoing to make it even better in the future with the addition of surrounding parks. The best place to stay, people-watch, eat, or just get lost in it all.
- Calanques National Park – Sail along the coast of the Calanques National Park on this 5-hour catamaran cruise. The rocky coastline stretches for 20 kilometers along the Mediterranean Sea between La Madrague and the town of Cassis, via Les Goudes and Callelongue. The national park is one of the most remarkable natural sites in France and attracts over a million visitors annually. Journey to the heart of this outstanding natural heritage, discovering the creeks of Marseille onboard the biggest day charter catamaran in Europe. During the cruise, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the magnificent landscape of the Calanques National Park, to sunbathe on the boat, and to swim in heavenly coves. You’ll also be offered lunch, comprising Spanish plancha, various side dishes, and dessert. During winter, the menu is different and includes fish and other seafood. Flippers, masks, and snorkels are available on the boat.
- Aix en Provence and Cassis Full-Day Tour – Explore the medieval city of Aix en Provence as well as the small fishing village of Cassis, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its white cliffs and turquoise waters.
- Lavender Tour – Visit Sault, the capital of lavender, and its surrounding lavender fields. Then spend the afternoon discover Roussillon and Gordes in the Luberon Valley, two of the most beautiful villages in France.
- Marseille Pass – Valid for 24 hours, 48 hours, or 72 hours and allows access to many attractions, museums, trains, boats, guided tours, public transport tickets, and more. This pass is dedicated to individual visitors who wish to discover Marseille with an all-inclusive package. The visitor presents the pass at the museum entrance or the start of a tour, and gets the keys to the city!
- Musée des Beaux-Arts de Marseille – The first museum created in Marseille, the nucleus of which was the works seized from religious establishments and from those who had fled revolutionary France.
- MUCEM – Learn about the history and culture of the Mediterranean with a skip-the-line entry ticket to the fascinating Museum of the Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean (Mucem). Opened in Marseille in June 2013, the Mucem has now joined the ranks of the most visited museums in the world thanks to its program of exhibitions and cultural programs. Admire the stunning architecture of the building by Rudy Ricciotti, and stroll along the corridors of the museum to get stunning views of the old port and the tempting sea. Explore exhibitions that combine anthropology, history, archaeology, art history, and contemporary art to explain the Mediterranean world and its dialogue with Europe in amazing detail.
- PRIDE (July) – Marseilles annual LGBT Pride festival, the biggest gay meeting in the south of France. This week-long party celebrates the role of the LGBT community in making Marseille what it is today, and is entirely worth planning a trip around. Held annually in July, the highlights are the massive street parties, a vibrant parade beginning at the Palais Longchamp, and all the club events – but there are plenty of other more cultural events too! Today it is mostly about celebrating everything queer and fabulous. However, of course, still much needs to be done to achieve total equality, and there is a strong focus on the political roots of Marseille Pride. So grab your best pride outfit and head along for what is surely the gayest time to visit this seaside city!
Gay-friendly and Gay Hotels in Marseille France
Being located in one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world, basically every hotel and hostel in Marseille can be considered open and welcoming to LGBT travelers. After all, being gay-friendly is about providing a non-judgmental and respectful environment in which all people are treated equally – and thankfully, we have never heard of a problem from any travelers checking in here.
However, elegant design, helpful staff, and excellent value for money never hurt anyone! Some hotels in Marseille have gone above and beyond in recognizing and marketing to the LGBT community – and given their popularity with gay travelers, we would say it has paid off!
There are quite a few popular hotels in Marseille that are go-to hot spots for gay travelers – and really, doesn’t everyone like to be surrounded by people with common interests! These are the hotels we have checked out and included here.
While there are no exclusively gay hotels in Marseille, any hotel close to the Old Port of Marseille is sure to have more than a few gay guests staying – plus being a stumble home from all the nightlife is pretty desirable.
There are hundreds of other good hotel options in Marseille if you don’t find what you are looking for, but we are confident you’ll find something here for you. Whether you want a fun and social hostel, a cheap place to crash after a night of partying, or a chic designer option to sip cocktails and surround yourself with fabulous people – Gay Marseille as something for everyone!
- Grand Hotel Beauvau MGallery by Sofitel ☆☆☆☆☆ – Ideally located overlooking the Old Port, the fully renovated Grand Hotel Beauvau is the ideal place to stay for your break in Marseilles. As the first hotel of the Phocean city, open since 1816, the Grand Hotel Beauvau welcomes you for your getaway in the center of Marseilles. Discover the new ambiance of this location steeped in history, combining modern and traditional styles. Give in to the temptation of their opulent rooms & suites with views over the Old Port, featuring period furniture and Provence-style fabrics and drapery to guarantee your utmost comfort. Take time to relax in a lounge setting over a cocktail at the bar or to have leisurely breakfast in their airy restaurant. There is no need to hurry; you are already at the center of everything. Gay-popular, The Grand Hotel Beauvau is our top recommendation for discerning travelers looking for a dash of extravagance.
- Mama Shelter Marseille ☆☆☆☆ – A hip and very (very) gay-popular boutique hotel near the Cours Julien art district with its excellent mix of concert halls, young fashion designers, sunny terraces and proximity to the Prado beaches, Mama Shelter’s offers 125 unique rooms spread over six floors with 5-star bedding and lively interiors. Cool in the summer, but Mama’ll will keep warm during the rare cold snaps – if you can’t find someone else to help you locally. The ground floor quickly sets the tone with a live music stage, 4-meter long table football game, whimsical restaurant, bar, and open kitchen. Whether working or playing, sandy from the beach, or exhausted from dancing away the night, Mama’s there for you. Our favorite gay hotel option in Marseille for mid-range travelers looking for a memorable stay with an affordable price tag.
- InterContinental Marseille ☆☆☆☆☆ – A luxury hotel that is the epitome of style and timeless elegance with 179 rooms, 15 suites including 72 magical views of the Phocaean city, and 33 with private terrace. Set in a stately building dating from the 18th century, their decoration is a subtle blend of old and contemporary. Besides sleek rooms, there is a celebrated restaurant, a brasserie, luxe indoor pool, refined spa, and gym. It’s also no secret locally that the onsite Capian bar is one of the trendiest in Marseille and a huge favorite among cocktail enthusiasts
- Mercure Marseille Centre Vieux Port Hotel ☆☆☆☆ – Located in the business district of La Joliette right next to the World Trade Center Marseille, this modern hotel is the ideal place for those mixing work and pleasure. Well-connected to public transport options, thanks to the nearby Colbert metro station, Belsunce tram stop, and several bus stops, there are bright and funky rooms, affordable rates, and a fitness center onsite. We also enjoyed relaxing in the bar lounge with views of Notre Dame de la Garde.
- ALEX Hotel ☆☆☆ – A extremely funky hotel that shakes up all the codes of the industry to be a real urban cocoon, with pleasant, comfortable, quiet, and above all original hotel room! Head down to the bar where you can enjoy an aperitif in the lounge or on the terrace or pop into the onsite spa equipped with a sauna, a hammam, a sensory shower, a massage cabin but also a relaxation lounge from where you can admire the blue sky from the glass roof. Located directly across from Marseille Saint-Charles train station, this is a chic hotel that dares to be different!
- Hôtel Maison Montgrand Vieux-Port ☆☆☆ – A charming hotel located in the heart of the city. The main house, set in an elegantly renovated 19th-century mansion, includes a concept store, a restaurant, a bar, a tea room, wellness and beauty room, as well as a 400-sqm interior garden. This precious jewel exhibits talents of French designers on one side and offers a catering space on the other. It embodies the union between aestheticism and taste. The two annexes, dating from the 18th and 19th century and completely renovated in 2017, are entirely dedicated to rooms which are bright, comfortable, and straightforward.
- Vertigo Hostel Vieux-Port ☆☆ – A newly renovated hostel in Marseille where you can find the feeling of your second home. Located in the Old Port area, walking distance from beaches, bars, clubs, central market, and the famous Notre Dame church. Every room in this charming hostel is carefully designed and decorated by local artists according to the unique character of each room. A daily breakfast is included, and there is a communal kitchen and sunny terrace. Perfect for gay travelers on a budget or looking to make new friends (without resorting to dating sites.)
Gay Nightlife in Marseille
Marseille might not be one of the best gay destinations in Europe, but when it comes to nightlife, we loved the affordable prices, relaxed scene, and all those smoking hot French boys (and girls!).
Compared to Queer Paris, we found the queer nightlife here to be more carefree with less attitude – but don’t misconstrue this to mean dull, because Gay Marseille is anything but! There is an attractive but not overwhelming assortment of gay bars to pick from – though only one actual gay nightclub.
Most nightlife spaces here don’t kick off till late, but there are plenty of cute cocktail spots and welcoming terraces to relax in until then. New bars and club events are taking place consistently, so it pays to ask around when you arrive (hotel staff, bartenders, or apps are often a good bet). Unlike many other European cities, there is no formal gay village here, and venues are spread around, making things a tad more difficult. Don’t be dissuaded; however, as things can still get a little crazy and a night out in Gay Marseille is still very much a must.
- Play Bar – One of the most happening gay bars in Marseille offering cocktails, music, and handsome boys Wednesday through Sunday. Five minutes from the Vieux Port, Play is popular with the after-work crowd and offers a variety of music styles every night and occasional special theme parties. Weekend nights things get a little crazy, though Wednesday nights are our favorite time to visit thanks to 2-for-1 cocktail specials.
- L’Endroit – A cozy but fun gay with friendly service and a mix of English French and Spanish tunes. Not to be confused with a larger hetero-club of the same name, this queer spot is covered with pink flowers and feather boas hanging from the ceiling. Play is only a 15-minute walk away, and a bit cheaper, but we recommend you try both to see which suits your tastes more. Remi, the host/owner, is definitely the life of the party!.
- Polikarpov – A gay/open-minded vodka bar in the center of the city with affordable drinks and friendly service. Equally perfect for a glass of rose outside on the street during a sunny day or alternative-electro music late at night on weekends. Queer without being queer.
- l’Annexe – A mixed/gay bar in Marseille opened by the owner of the New CanCan gay club. A fabulous place for dancing late at night, or people watching on the terrace with live music earlier in the evening. Conveniently located in front of the metro station.
- Aux 3G – A women’s association bar created by lesbians and for lesbians, this welcoming place is open to everyone but is the ideal place for queer girls to meet like-minded people. Lesbian bars are incredibly uncommon, so we recommend supporting this space unless you want to be stuck with dating apps or festivals as your only options. From Thursday to Saturday evenings, pop in for a festive evening of DJs and dancing, or simply to chat and meet over a drink. Theme events, art exhibitions, workshops, and more are announced on Facebook.
- Le 5.5 – A gay-friendly karaoke bar in Marseille where you can claim your 3 minutes of fame as you take the and are cheered on by a – hopefully supportive – audience. With funky stone walls and mirrors creating a retro-chic atmosphere, the 5.5 is always a fun option proving themed events all year round but offers a specific LGBT+ evening every Wednesday.
- Caffe Noir – A mixed bar and bistro- café serving affordable lunch meals daily in their shaded and cozy terrace. Always a fun option, but if you are in Gay Marseille for the third Saturday of the month, you can attend their 80’s party evening – Caffē Kitch – which tends to be very gay-popular.
- Le Pulse – A LGBT-friendly/ open-minded bar perfect for wine and cocktails with a sunny terrace. On weekend nights, there are electronic music DJ sets that attract both guys and girls, looking for an attitude-free party vibe.
- New Cancan – The only dedicated gay nightclub in Marseille operated by Mr. Michel Piacenza, a prominent figure in the local LGBT scene, which opened the first gay bar in Marseille back in 1978. The New Cancan is open Friday to Sunday and welcomes everyone who accepts and celebrates diversity and queerness. Each week, the New Cancan hosts different theme parties, often brings in DJs from the international circuit scene to keep things interesting. The entertaining shows, dark basement room, and sexy go-go boys also help draw in crowds. If you are looking for a club in the center of Marseille to dance until dawn with new friends, you’ve come to the right place!
Gay Sex Clubs & Saunas in Marseille
Had enough of fruitless gay cruising in Marseille – either in the bars or elsewhere? For those who want a bit more guaranteed action, the gay saunas in Marseille will not disappoint you (unlikely all those faceless accounts on Grindr or the other hook up apps).
Foreigners are typically welcoming throughout the Marseille gay scene. Still, many guys don’t speak English in the saunas, so you’ll need to be good at reading non-verbal cues. You might also want to busy up on etiquette with our gay sauna guide.
Most gay saunas are centrally located near the historic center of Marseille. They are generally crowded on weeknights after 5 pm and on Sunday afternoons. There may only be three gay saunas in Marseille, but they are some of the best we ever experienced, and each on their own is well-worth exploring.
And if these are still a little too vanilla for you, perhaps the Marseille gay sex/ cruise clubs might be more suited to your tastes?
- Les Thermes Sauna – A modern gay sauna in Marseille open every day from noon until 2 am recently reopened after a seven-month renovation, which saw its redesigned from top to bottom. Spread across 600 m², they offer a swimming pool, open showers, a hammam, a Finnish sauna as well as three levels of fun and themed cabins. A “Fetish Zone” can be found in the basement around a collective bed, while there is also a cabin-sling and a XXX video room. Tuesdays are youth night, and Thursdays are naked evenings. Everything we wish a gay sauna would be, and then some!
- CARGO Sauna – A gay spa and sauna where aquatic pleasures and fiery encounters take place in facilities worthy of the Turkish baths of Istanbul and Antalya. Spread across four floors, its swimming pool, spa, steam room, Finnish sauna, communal showers, and recreational facilities are perennially popular with tourists, young athletes, and business people who are looking for fun. In reality, Cargo is the most popular gay sauna in Marseille, and the spot most recommended to us by locals – It is not hard to see why! With its resolutely modern and masculine decor, the materials and atmosphere entice you to relax and encourage erotic intimacy amongst its guests. Constantly renovated and almost impeccably clean – Cargo is the biggest and best gay sauna on the Meditteranean, and one of the best in the world.
- Sauna Salvator – A busy but rather old-school sauna that may need a refreshment to keep up with the others in town. Not that its clientele seems to mind, as Sauna Salvator was busy each time we visited, and we never left disappointed. It is offering three floors and over 300 m² of fun with open showers, dry sauna, steam bath, hot tub, dark rooms, cabins, XXX video rooms, and more.
- Eros Center – A 4-story straight/gay sex shop with movies, lube, underwear, fetish gear, and more – with private cabins and cruising outback.
- Le Mineshaft – A private men’s leather/fetish sex club open on Friday and Saturdays from 11 pm to satisfy all your wildest fantasies. Extremely hardcore with BDSM and fisting parties and an onsite leather shop
- Le Trash Bar – The name says it all really at this gay fetish and cruise bar, which is unashamedly about one thing: hot, kinky fun! Le Trash is the only space of its kind in town offering themed nights, DJ’s and parties, including a popular naked party on Wednesdays and Sunday. The clientele here are just as comfortable crouched over in a backroom as enjoying a flute of Champagne in a bespoke suit, making everything all the more intense.