Marseille has a rough-and-ready, even macho image. But the city's melting-pot population and cultural diversity create an easy-going vibe that makes it unusually gay- and lesbian-friendly.
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Unfortunately the city's LBGT community has been dogged for some years by infighting between rival factions. It has often had a negative effect on events such as the annual Gay Pride march and on Marseille's turn in 2013 as the venue for EuroPride, one of the highlights of the pan-European gay calendar.
However this local feuding should not have much impact on the casual visitor. Admittedly, there's not much of a queer scene in the conventional sense. One gay travel website holds out the delicious prospect of hunky, bare-chested sailors mending their fishing nets on the Old Port. Sadly, we've never seen much sign of any of these.
Marseille's LBGT subculture is discreet, low-key and rather un-camp compared to many European cities of its size and it has no clearly demarcated gay quarter - although you might also see this secret quality as one of its charms.
All this said, you'll find a number of spots clustered at the top of the Canebière and, unsurprisingly, in the hip Cours Julien / La Plaine district.
The city has its fair share of gay and lesbian bars, clubs, saunas, shops and accommodation and there's plenty going on here if you know where to look.
The authorities, too, have not been slow to note the attractions of the pink €uro (and vote) and leading politicians now pitch up for the annual Gay Pride march in July to offer themselves up for photo opportunities.
Pictured: Jean-Noël Guérini, the President of the General Council of the Bouches du Rhône, at the 2011 event and below a moment of passion from another recent march.
There's also no shortage of gay-oriented websites for Provence but many are in French only and the information they provide on this very fast-changing scene is not always up-to-date. This online guide produced by Lesbian and Gay Pride is one of the more recent ones.
BARS, BEACHES, BRASSERIES, CLUBS, DISCOS, SAUNAS...
Cargo consists of a mini-complex of gay and lesbian facilities. Its sauna is reputedly the largest in the south of France. There is also a shop, a restaurant - Caffè Noir - and a sex club, SMall (sic) which, as the name suggests, has a rather harder edge. 3-11 rue Moustier, 13001 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 04 08 66.
Les Danaïdes is a popular bistrot/brasserie with a mixed gay and straight clientele on an attractive square at the top of the Canebière. 6 square Stalingrad, 13001 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 62 28 51. Fax: (+33) 4 91 62 26 50.
L'Endroit is a small gay-friendly bar just off the Old Port, with a popular karaoke evening each Wednesday. 8 rue Bailli de Suffren, 13001 Marseille. (+33) 4 91 33 97 25.
Le Gecko, a café-bistro, was launched in spring 2011 by the gay event organisers Foli Queer Party. It offers drinks, food, a gallery space for temporary exhibitions and DJs at weekends. 22 rue Pavillon, 13001 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 84 18 62 93.
La Mare au Diable, a gay and lesbian disco, is somewhat out of the centre in Allauch, though still perfectly accessible by public transport. 1 chemin de bon Rencontre, 13190 Allauch. Tel: (+33) 4 91 68 24 10.
Moby Dyke is a wondrously named lesbian / gay-friendly bar, famed for its rums, in the Cours Julien district. 55 place Jean Jaurès, 13005 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 6 58 33 78 42.
Mont Rose is the closest nudist beach to Marseille and one of the oldest-established (male) gay beaches in this part of France.
The New Cancan is Marseille's oldest gay disco, presided over by Michel Piacenza who has been active in the local gay community for over 30 years. It's 1980s inflected, both in decor and in music. 3-7 rue Sénac, 13001 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 48 59 76. An adjunct of the New Cancan is the MP Sauna at 82 la Canebière, 13001 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 48 72 51.
Les Petroleuses, named after a 1971 spaghetti Western starring Brigitte Bardot and Claudia Cardinale (pictured), is a late-night lesbian bar that also hosts music events in the Old Town or Panier. 4, rue Saint Thomé, 13002 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 6 67 61 14 49.
Play Bar is a gay, lesbian and gay-friendly bar just behind the Préfecture. 133 rue Breteuil, 13006 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 13 63 70 85.
Le Trash is a popular cruising venue that holds regular themed parties. 28 rue du Berceau, 13005 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 25 52 16.
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Various Marseille hotels such as the fashionable New Hotel Le Pharo the new and ultra-hip Mama Shelter Marseille and, at the lower end of the price spectrum, the colourful, funky Hotel le Richelieu (pictured below left) put themselves forward as gay-friendly.
Les Amis de Marseille, 84 rue de Lodi Building F, 13006 Marseille. Tel (+33) 6 74 89 66 26 or ( +33) 6 63 76 88 49.
Patrick & Bruno, boulevard Longchamp, 13001 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 9 51 60 64 91 or (+33) 6 75 25 10 10.
Romain & Pascal, 33 rue Falque, 13006 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 6 77 94 34 50.
Each July a Gay University on Marseille's Luminy University campus offers twelve days of courses exploring gay, lesbian and transgender questions.
The Festival Reflets, a LGBT-themed film festival in Marseille in the spring, has now been discontinued and is replaced by Zefestival, which takes place in the autumn and spreads its screenings all across Provence, spanning Nice, Avignon, Salon de Provence, Toulon, Aubagne and Marseille.
ORGANISATIONS AND SOCIAL CENTRES
Front Runners Marseille is an association for gay and lesbian athletes.
PRACTICAL HELP AND EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE
A number of centres offer free, anonymous AIDS tests in Marseille (and other towns in the Bouches du Rhône département). The French word for AIDS is SIDA. A test, or screening, is dépistage.
AIDS helpline: 0800 840 800 (freephone number).
Hepatitis helpline: 0800 845 800 (freephone number)