Two hours by plane yet a world away, Out UK’s Adrian Gillan lands on the palmed shores of the Med in macho Marseille: Frances’s oldest and second biggest city.
It's the heartland of the French Riviera, once home to Napoleon’s mighty fleet and a hotbed of nationalism egged on by an intoxicating Arab influx from North Africa.

Marseille’s men leer out their native tongue in a macho southern drawl, vainly suppressing manly passions that in the end must out.


View from the New Hotel Vieux-Port which you can reserve online through Bookings.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The first thing you notice about the scene here is a lack of open brimming bars sprawling out into the warm night air: instead, a thriving yet covert network of door buzzers, dark rooms, saunas and edgy cruising grounds await as the sun goes down on an earthy city of majestic, crumbling beauty - hills, beaches, palms, castles, churches, cafes and the exquisite old harbour of the Vieux Port.

Some initial notes and observations. The age of consent in France is 15 for all persuasions; Mediterranean nights start quite late, eating at 10pm, drinking at midnight and clubbing from 1pm on; drink prices in clubs in France are notoriously steep - you’ll part with 8 euros (well over a fiver) for a small bottle of beer!

BARS & CLUBBING

Caffe Noir is a popular gay bar/café/restaurant that caters for both lunch and dinner and has a number of special events and a nice terrace on the street. Not far away, PLAY is thought by many to be one of the best in Marseille. Nice bartenders and incredibly affordable drinks of good quality - on Wednesday night it's 2 for 1.

Most of the bars, clubs and saunas are fortuitously clustered just north and east of the old Vieux Port around rue Beauvau and la Canebière. Start your night amidst the somewhat dimly-lit interior of L'Enigme on rue Beauvau, where bar staff are friendly and what little summertime crowd amasses is happy to sit on the few tables that venture out into the muggy street.

When your toes start to tap, walk five minutes due north to The New Can Can on rue Sénac just off la Canebière. Can Can holds the queer clubbing court, Thurs - Sun from around 11pm to dawn. On Friday it's free before midnight, and on Saturday it attracts a younger crowd. There is a large bar and lots of lounge-like sofa seating, before you reach a dancefloor and a small stage where timeless chicken bop. A warren of dark-rooms below draws down the older clubbers in between tracks.

STEAMED UP

If you still haven’t emptied your sac, you only have to stroll back out onto the street round the corner back onto la Canebière for Sauna Club, which attracts an older crowd or Cargo Sauna Marseille nearby on Rue Moustier. The latter is a large, modern and well-maintained sauna with Turkish bath, pool, spa, steam room, Finnish sauna and play areas.

There are gay beaches all around the Cèze Valley where you can sunbathe naked. L'Espiguette is the biggest and best gay beach in France with mile after mile of sand and crystal-clear water, popular with naturists and gay men alike.


Frolicking Fun in the Cèze Valley - Photo: OutUK
For serious male bar nights, The Trash Bar is reserved for guys. It's there for those looking out for other men whether they are friendly, professional or sexually intended. It's a cruising bar for sure with clientele of all ages and several themed nights that run during the week. For another serious crusing experience, cut to the chase and visit L'Endroit on nearby Rue Moustier, a no-nonsense bar where most men mean business. It has a good beer selection, but beware this is a smoking bar. I walked out reeking of cigarette smoke and we had only one drink. L'Annexe Bar made in Marseille also attracts a good crowd, but again smoking is allowed, almost encouraged.

OUT & ABOUT

Failing that and if the warm night welcomes, you can catch a cab across town and walk the streets just off the east side of the southern stretch of Avenue du Prado, itself just west of Parc Borély. You’ll meet other men out for fresh jaunts and others cruising these boulevards on wheels. Beware aggressive prostitutes and potential thieves, and avoid any guys walking in pairs. Note: by day, in the Parc Borély itself - along the path and woods immediately north of the Rose Garden, just beyond the statue of Diane out hunting - hoards of horny men are on the hunt themselves.

Or again, if you are one to soak up the sun, check out the gay-frequented nudist beach east of Parc Borély, a fifteen minute walk along the front, beyond the marina at Pointe Rouge. Either lean over the wall and gawp; or jump over, strip off, lay down and get stuck in.

GETTING THERE

Thomsonfly from Coventry, Easyjet and British Airways & Air France all fly direct to Marseille. We have a great selection of hotels in Marseille at special online rates through our partners Bookings.

You can combine a visit to Marseille with a stay at The Lotus Tree a gay guesthouse overlooking the Cèze valley (right) a two-hour drive away. Run by two English guys it's highly recommended and a wonderful base for exploring cities like Avignon and the surrounding countryside. The guesthouse is set in a beautiful rural location, it's clothing optional around the pool and garden and offers massages, an outdoor gym, free wifi and the possibility of going either B&B or self-catering as you wish.



The beautiful sights of the Cèze Valley - Photo: OutUK

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Caffe Noir (3 Rue Moustier; T: +33 4 91 04 08 66; Website)
Cargo Sauna Marseille (7 Rue Moustier; T: +33 4 91 33 45 62; Website)
L'Annexe Bar made in Marseille (7 Rue Saint-Bazile; T: +33 4 91 64 73 38)
L'Endroit (8 Rue Bailli de Suffren; T: +33 4 91 33 97 25)
L'Enigme (22 rue Beauvau; T: 04-91-33-79-20)
PLAY (133 Rue Breteuil; T: +33 4 13 63 70 85; Website)
Sauna Club (117 la Canebière; T: 04 91 64 19 08)
The Lotus Tree (La Micocoule, 30630 Montclus; T: +33 (0)6 87 22 42 05; Website)
The New Can Can (3/7 rue Sénac; T: 04 91 48 59 76)
The Trash Bar (28 Rue du Berceau; T: +33 4 91 25 52 16; Website)


Revised February 2019

 

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