Marseille has a rough-and-ready, not to say, downright macho image. But, thanks to its melting-pot population and very broad cultural diversity, the city's open, easy-going vibe also makes it unusually gay- and lesbian-friendly.
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The proof: Marseille has been selected to host EuroPride, one of the highlights of the pan-European gay calendar, in 2013. The dates for EuroPride Marseille 2013 are 10-20 July.
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.
That 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 pound (and vote) and leading politicians now pitch up for the annual Gay Pride march in July to offer themselves up for photo opportunities.
Pictured right: Jean-Noël Guérini, the President of the General Council of the Bouches du Rhône, at the 2011 event and below left 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 Marseille map produced by Lesbian and Gay Pride is one of the more recent ones.
We list below the best venues and contact points as of the time of writing. Do write to us (email@example.com) with any additions and amendments.
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BARS, BEACHES, BRASSERIES, CLUBS, DISCOS, SAUNAS...
Aux 3G is a mainly lesbian bar/club with poetry, music, table football... what's not to like? 3 rue Saint Pierre, 13005 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 48 76 36. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Casa No Name, in the Cours Julien area, has a regular gay and lesbian clientele and a Mediterranean-influenced menu that changes weekly. 7, rue André Poggioli, 13006 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 47 75 82. Email: email@example.com
Cerber is a newly-opened gay cruising bar that also claims to be "hetero-friendly". 147 avenue des Chartreux, 13004 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 50 67 07 or (+33) 6 50 71 36 48. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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 new 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.
Various Marseille hotels such as the fashionable New Hotel Le Pharo the brand-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.
Here some recommended gay-run B&Bs:
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.
Accommodation will be extremely hard to find in July during the EuroPride celebrations. But check the Europride 2013 Facebook page for offers of private B&B rentals.
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Marseille's annual Gay Pride march is held in early July.
In the summer of 2013 - the year of the region's tenure as European Capital of Culture - Marseille will host one of the highlights of the pan-European gay calendar, the EuroPride Festival, for which the dates are 10-20 July 2013.
EuroPride 2013 will open on 10 July with a gig on the J4 Esplanade by the British DJ Fatboy Slim, along with the Israeili electro-pop band The Young Professionals. Buy tickets for Fatboy Slim at the 2013 Europride in Marseille.
Also planned for the opening weekend: a romantic mass marriage at which 2013 gay couples will tie the knot by the sea, in front of Marseille's spectacular new museum, the MuCEM, presided over by clerics from the major religions. In April 2013 France legalised same-sex marriage, though current plans are for this ceremony to be purely symbolic. Check the EuroPride site if you would like to be part of this occasion.
Incidentally, if you want to fit some culture into your trip, the MuCEM has an interesting exhibition over the summer, Le Bazar du Genre (The Gender Bazaar), which investigates traditional concepts of gender and sexuality in different Mediterranean cultures.
Website for the Marseille 2013 EuroPride event.
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 in 2012 was replaced by Zefestival, which takes place in the autumn and spreads its screenings all across Provence, spanning Nice, Toulon, Aubagne and Marseille.
ORGANISATIONS AND SOCIAL CENTRES
Centre Evolutif Lileth protects lesbian and gay rights and also offers a programme of activities including film screenings, hikes, lectures, self-defence courses and meals. Email email@example.com
Front Runners Marseille is an association for gay and lesbian athletes.
Gay Randonneurs and Rando's Provence (sic) are associations for gay and lesbian hikers in Provence with weekly programmes of organised walks
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)
Homophobia helpline: 0810 108 135 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org