One of France's liveliest and most populous cities, Marseille boasts a dynamic nightlife scene that's friendly and diverse. The vibe tends to be more casual than in Paris (not to mention less expensive) and there's little pretension or showiness to be found. Whether you're interested in sipping a cocktail while you kick back and watch the sunset, or an all-night hop across the city's best bars and nightclubs, Marseille has something to offer everyone. Keep reading for our suggestions on where to head, and how to make the most of your night out.
In Marseille, bars are simply part of everyday life in most neighborhoods. You'll often see locals packed tightly around tables indoors or out, enjoying an apéro (before-dinner drink) out on a terrace at sunset, or watching a soccer game over a glass of beer or pastis (a traditional anise-flavored liqueur). But as a city that's become increasingly young, trendy, and internationally-minded, these traditional bars du quartier (neighborhood bars) have been joined by a wide variety of more conceptual spots, from wine and tapas bars to shops and galleries with dedicated spaces for enjoying a glass and nibbles. During the summer, getting a spot outdoors and enjoying the cool breeze and sea views is a must.
Here are just a few creative and inviting places we recommend for a drink or two, whether before or after dinner:
- Bar Gaspard: Regularly cited as Marseille's most stylish and creative cocktail bar, Gaspard's the place to head for thoughtfully mixed drinks and tasty, beautiful small plates.
- Le Trois Quarts: This warm, authentic bistrot and pub is a great spot for a glass of local beer, organic wine, and a hearty but beautifully presented meal. Try a glass of crisp white wine and a fresh shellfish platter for an emblematic Marseillais experience.
- Bar des 13 Coins: This now-iconic bar in the arty, diverse le Panier district is classically Marseillais, and one of the more beloved spots for a glass of beer or wine accompanied by simple but delicious food. Sit on the terrace and people-watch.
- La Caravelle: This historic bar, restaurant, and jazz club has been beloved by locals since opening in 1940. Come for its laid-back vibe; wide variety of cocktails, wines, and pastis; and waterfront views.
Marseille's nightclub scene is generally light, casual, and upbeat. Since it's warm and sunny much of the year many of the best parties are staged outdoors, frequently on terraces with waterfront views. Since the city is so culturally diverse, you can expect anything from dance-'till-you-drop electro parties in sprawling industrial-style clubs to funk or hip-hop parties in the open air. Cover charges are generally reasonable, except at the most high-end venues, and some parties are entirely free, especially in the summer.
- Baby Club: Calling itself "Marseille's first underground club," this trendy spot in the boho-chic La Plaine district is reputed for its DJ sets spinning European and French house or electro.
- Cabaret Aléatoire: Head to this much-coveted industrial music temple, which is worth the trek outside the city center, for a long, intense night of dancing to cutting-edge electronic beats.
- Rowing Club: Boasting stunning waterfront views and a laid-back vibe, this venue is tucked away in a corner of the marina, and is an excellent choice for an adult night out of cocktails or champagne, tapas, and DJ sets, as we you watch the sunset over the St-Jean fortress.
- Le New Cancan: Marseille's most popular and longstanding LGBTQ-friendly dance club is a fantastic spot for an eclectic evening of electro, pop, disco, funk, and other genres. It's open on Friday and Saturday night.
Marseille's live music scene is as diverse and eclectic as its local culture. Whether you're after a dressy evening at the opera, rock or hip-hop show, or a dance-'till-morning electro set, there's generally plenty to choose from. These are some of the top venues in the city.
- Docs des Sud: This industrial-cool, multilevel venue and club is situated on the site of a defunct warehouse, and is known as one of the best spots in Marseille for live music. There's a particular focus on "world" genres like Afro-Cuban and reggae.
- Les Apéros du Bateau: Alfresco shows on the water are one of the best ways to enjoy live music in Marseille, so try to snag a spot on this boat during the summer months and head out to see for jazz, pop, rock, or DJ sets.
- White Rabbit: This casual rock bar and pub across from the MUCem (Mediterranean Civilizations Museum) near the waterfront has a regular program of both live performances and DJ sets, and is also ideal for inexpensive drinks and bar food.
- Marseille Opera: Head to the beautiful building just blocks from the Vieux Port for opera, classical music, musicals, and ballet performances.
Marseille is a nocturnal city with a culture that's decidedly Mediterranean, so late-night dining is rather widespread. But if you're looking for places to burgers, small plates, cheese boards, or bar snacks after a night out of clubbing or bar-hopping, a few places stay open late into the night.
Here are a few we especially recommend.
- Mama Marseille: This popular late-night dining spot is located at the hip hotel of the same name and serves bar food, main courses, salads, and small plates in the main restaurant and on the terrace/bar. The restaurant is open until midnight and the terrace closes at 12:30 a.m.
- Le Relais Corse: Located on the lively Avenue de Prado next to one of the city's most popular cinemas, this popular eatery is open until 2 a.m. and serves brasserie-style fare such as burgers, steak tartare, salads, and vegetarian dishes.
- Pizza Capri Vieux Port: This pizzeria near the Old Port is reputed for its satisfying and tasty pies, and is open until 1:30 a.m. on weekends, (1 a.m. most other days). There's no dining-in option, though, so choose a warm night and have a late picnic on the port.
Marseille's festival scene is vibrant and varied, especially in the summer months when long, warm evenings draw crowds out into the streets. In the summer, pull up a chair or sit on the grass to enjoy open-air movies (generally running in July at several locations around the city). If you're a jazz fan, the Marseille Jazz des Cinq Continents (Jazz From Five Continents) festival in July lets you soak in performances from global jazz artists; if it's electronic music that moves you, don't miss the emblematic Marsatac festival (generally in June).
Meanwhile, the parties aren't over in the fall, when events such as the Fiesta des Suds bring live concerts (from world music to pop and electro) to the streets, generally outside the aforementioned Docs des Sud club.
Finally, food and drink enthusiasts should try to visit the port city during the next edition of Marseille Provence Gastronomie, a festival dedicated to regional culinary arts and traditions. Cooking classes, pop-up restaurants, chef's demos, and dinners staged in unusual and outlandish venues pack the program, which in 2019 extended over several months.
Tips for Going Out in Marseille
- Marseille's public transportation system (metro and tram lines) run until 12:30 a.m., seven days a week, the main bus lines run until 9 p.m. Taking the night bus is also an option, although it can be a bit tricky for visitors to use.
- It's always possible to take a taxi if you miss the last metro or bus, and Uber runs in Marseille. You can find taxi stations in the city center, including nearby the Old Port and the Marseille Opera, as well as outside the Saint-Charles train station. Do be aware that taxis are often full around bar closing times.
- Bars and cafés that sell alcohol are generally allowed to stay open until 2 a.m., and many nightclubs have licenses permitting them to stay open until early morning.
- In France, tipping at the bar is uncommon. However, feel free to round up your bill to the next euro if you have excellent service. If you have table service, you may consider leaving a small tip of around 5 to 10 percent of the total bill.
- While it's generally acceptable to enjoy a drink outdoors as part of a picnic at the beach or park or during a local game of pétanque, make sure to consume moderately in public and refrain from loud or rowdy behavior. Authorities in France have been known to fine individuals and groups for public inebriation, especially when it's judged to be disruptive.
- In the late autumn and winter, temperatures can be quite chilly, dropping to as low as 42 degrees F in January. Even though Marseille is reputed for its sun and warm weather, make sure to bring along a coat, scarf, and even gloves during the coldest months, as the mercury often drops significantly in the late evenings.