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

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. Then pop a few doors down to MP Bar to buzz a door to summon an extremely cute tender lad who leads you through to a brightly-lit bar with stools and a lounge at the back, with lots of mirrors and the latest pop tunes sounding off.

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 Thus - Sun from around 11pm to dawn. On Friday it's free before midnight, whilst a 13 euro entry charge thereafter also gets you a drink. On Saturday, which generally attracts a younger crowd, there's an 8 euro entry charge from the start, rising to 14 euro after midnight, likewise buying a drink. There is a large bar and lots of lounge-like sofa seating, great for groups of friends, before you reach a dancefloor and a small stage where timeless chicken bop. A warren of dark-rooms below draws down the older crowd 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 MP Sauna or Sauna Club, all much-of-a-muchness - many complaining of poor hygiene standards. However, few saunas stay open beyond midnight, so - if desperate - your best bet might be to cut to the chase and visit L'Entrepôt on nearby rue Moustier, a no-nonsense cruising bar where most men mean business.

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 if you can 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 LITTLE BLACK BOOK
MP Bar (10 rue Beauvau, 13001 Marseille; T: 04 91 33 64 79)
L'Enigme (22 rue Beauvau; T: 04-91-33-79-20)
The New Can Can (3/7 rue Sénac; T: 04 91 48 59 76)
MP Sauna (82 la Canebière; T: 04 91 48 72 51)
Sauna Club (117 la Canebière; T: 04 91 64 19 08)
L'Entrepôt [Cruising Bar] (7 rue Moustier; T: 04 91 33 51 70)

 

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