Marseille Gay Travel
Marseille gay guide to the LGBT friendly hotels, things to do, restaurants, gay bars, saunas & more.
The Gay Travel Experience: Marseille, France
A bustling city in the south of France, Marseille has a sizeable gay community. You may not be able to recognize it right away, though! Marseille’s gay scene is a bit hidden and LGBT nightlife is more subdued.
Gay saunas on the other hand, almost outnumber gay bars in Marseille. They’re actually much more popular (and surely worth a visit). This definitely supports how a decent portion of the city’s gay community is not as publicly open with their sexuality.
I spent nearly a week in Marseille seeing some Lebanese friends who live in the city for work. I had the chance to experience local gay life, meet a couple of new people, and explore all the wonderful things to do here.
Gay Friendly Hotels in Marseille
Alex Hotel & Spa
Alex Hotel & Spa is an incredibly popular and highly-rated gay-friendly hotel in Marseille. Their rooms have modern layouts decorated with fun colors.
The hotel’s fitness center and spa facilities are also quite enticing, which consist of a hammam and sauna. Alex Hotel is located in a quaint part of town near the city’s main train station, not far from the popular Vieux Port. It’s a convenient place for travelers.
Mama Shelter Marseille
Mama Shelter Marseille is a women-owned Marseille hotel that caters to LGBT travelers. They’re popular for their quirky-styled bar and lounge, where guests love to gather after hours.
While Mama Shelter isn’t located in the exact center of Marseille, the hotel is only a 9-minute ride away from the Vieux Port. Here you can get more of an authentic neighborhood vibe.
Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port
A five-star hotel with idyllic views of the port from both the rooms and rooftop terrace, the Sofitel will cost a little more than the average accommodations in Marseille.
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Marseille Gay Travel Experiences
Explore the Vieux Port
Le Panier de Marseille
Le Panier is an old Marseille neighborhood that has some incredible street art. The area is just north of the Vieux Port and relatively easy to walk to.
You can find these detailed murals in the old quarter, Le Panier Marseillais. Some of them span several stories of building facades. Their vibrant colors jump right off the walls! The art here was one of the most memorable sights of Marseille.
At Mucem, you’ll see a beautiful contrast between old and new architecture. Mucem is the Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean.
Walk around the beautiful fortifications, which have been neatly restored in the late 1960s. The views of the harbor and port are stunning, especially on a sunny day.
The museum itself is in a newly-constructed, futuristic structure adjacent to the Fanal Tower. Two long narrow bridges connect the tower to the museum and the neighborhood to the north.
There’s space to relax on the museum’s roof and take in views of the water through large glass walls. You can also grab a coffee or a snack at the small outdoor café here.
Churches in Marseille
Cathédrale La Major is one of the most impressive Marseille churches. The interior is certainly something you won’t want to miss. Its sheer size is breathtaking. It’s not far from Le Panier, so you can plan to visit both sites at once.
Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde is by far the grandest church of the city, perched at the highest point of Marseille. A golden statue of the Virgin Mary sits atop the basilica, symbolically guarding the people below.
It takes a bit of effort to get to the top. Taking a taxi is easiest. Riding an electric scooter is another option, although you will still need to park it in the designated area and climb quite a few sets of stairs afterward. Keep in mind the basilica closes at 6 PM.
You can also take a 2-hour segue tour to Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde. I saw a couple of groups riding these. They looked like they were having such a fun time together!
La Corniche refers to the long stretches of promenade along Marseille’s waterfront. A stroll along the city’s west-facing corniches is perfect at sunset.
Corniche Kennedy is one of the most popular viewpoint spots. The views of the seaside to the north are fantastic. Staircases along the corniche lead you down to the rocky water’s edge.
Les Goudes is about a 20-minute drive from central Marseille. You can also reach the town by public bus, which takes a little over half an hour.
I grabbed a beer at Le 20,000 Lieues, an outdoor pub overlooking the village of Les Goudes. It’s a great local spot to relax.
Parc National des Calanques
Some of these inlets have stunning sandy beaches. Check out the bright blue water at the famous Calanque de Sormiou.
The Calanques are all easily accessible by car. Renting a car for a day or two is more than worth it, especially if you prefer to relax on the beautiful beaches.
If you don’t have a car, you can book a Calanques day cruise and depart from central Marseille on an epic catamaran. The cruise includes lunch and a snorkeling excursion.
Restaurants in Marseille
Chez Lulu is the perfect spot for an outdoor dinner near Marseille’s Vieux Port. If it’s warm enough to sit outside, check out this restaurant. I love their side-by-side seat setup. It’s a nice change from sitting across the table from your partner or friend.
Dinner at La Villa was the best food I had in Marseille. They’re a Mediterranean-French restaurant that serves seafood and delicious gourmet pizza. My friends and I couldn’t get enough of the mussels.
My friend Elio recommended Chez Yassine, a highly-rated Tunisian restaurant. I didn’t get a chance to go, but he loves the food here.
Try the chic Restaurant 1860 Le Palais in the Vieux Port area for a fine dining experience. They’re popular for dinner, so definitely make a reservation. They also serve brunch outside with a great view of the port.
Marseille Gay Bars
Gay bars in Marseille are on the smaller side. They’re truthfully are not as popular as much as in other European cities, but on certain nights it is possible to find some great gay nightlife.
If you want to get out and explore the local gay bars, it’s best to plan to go on a weekend. I also recommend checking their social media pages to see if any specific events are planned.
Le Pulse is a gay bar open Tuesday through Saturday. They host lots of weeknight events, live music, and parties on the weekend.
During the summer, Le Pulse makes use of the ample outdoor space of the adjacent plaza of Cours Julien, setting up a small outdoor bar.
L’Annexe Bar is popular for its music and upbeat atmosphere. People come here to dance and always rave about the friendly bartenders!
They brand themselves as a straight-friendly gay bar, however, the vibe is largely gay.
L’Endroit is the most centrally-located Marseille gay bar, just steps away from the Vieux Port waterfront. There aren’t any rainbow flags on the building’s façade, so if you don’t see the colorful sign above, it can be easy to miss.
With a dive-bar ambiance, L’Endroit is on the smaller side. But it’s really all you need. Drinks are pretty cheap, too!
Marseille Gay Saunas
Marseille has quite a few gay saunas, which I’d say makes up for a less than stellar gay bar scene! While I didn’t get to visit them myself, here are the top gay saunas in Marseille.
Les Thermes – Sauna Masculin
Les Thermes is a relatively new gay sauna in Marseille that opened in 2019. Inside you’ll find a spacious swimming pool, dry sauna, video rooms, all open until 2 AM.
Weekly events include Thursday naked parties and La Cruise Wednesdays. Guys aged 25 years or younger typically get a discount on entry!
Cargo Sauna takes pride in its four floors of updated facilities which include group showers, lounge areas, a Finnish sauna, swimming pool, jacuzzi, and smoking room. Underwater lights in the jacuzzies give the room a sexy, comfortable ambiance.
Conveniently located right near the Vieux Port, Cargo is super easy to get to from anywhere in Marseille.
Marseille Travel Tips
The restaurants along the Vieux Port waterfront will look convenient and pretty, but you’re better off eating somewhere just a few blocks inland.
Most seaside restaurants here are going to cater to tourists and likely won’t have as good of food. Don’t stress though, because there are loads of great restaurants just south of the Vieux Port.
Immigrant Communities in Marseille
Marseille has a huge immigrant population. The city has especially large Algerian, Tunisian and Moroccan communities. These people bring with them a lot of culture and tradition.
Embrace this and go eat at one of the many Tunisian or Moroccan restaurants in Marseille!
Driving in Marseille
One of the most populated metro areas of France, driving in Marseille can be tricky. People also tend to drive more aggressively here compared to other areas in the south of France.
Be aware of toll roads and tunnels, for which you should always have a credit card handy. If you’ll need parking near the city center / Vieux port area, plan ahead. You’ll likely need to use a parking garage.