These days Marseille opens at night and rustles with new concepts and venues. A Marseille evening often begins on an aniseed note, from a seat on one of the city’s several terraces, with a glass of the famous pastis. Tourists from France and Europe are now rushing to enjoy the charms of this popular and friendly town.
Is Marseille the new place to be in France? Some date the boost in visitors to 2013, when the European Union named it the European Capital of Culture. Others cite 2001, when the arrival of the high-speed rail service, which quickly carries south its hordes, both cosmopolitan and not. Marseille has always been underground. An evening in the city comes with the promise of beautiful sunsets, but also of secret venues, hidden in unusual and unsuspected places.
For years Marseille has been underestimated—yet praised for its richness and diversity. Still, the city hides its treasures and does not allow itself to be explored easily. For the uninitiated, it can be difficult to find your way. Once the evening aperitif is done, the streets are often deserted. Additionally, the city suffers from a lack of public transport, which can leave the thirsty partygoer stranded when it’s time to call it a night. It must be said that the size of the city does not help this. “A whole part of the town is still enclaved when it comes to partying,” says Iliès Hagoug, of La Nuit Magazine, a local reference for all lovers of Marseille culture and nightlife. Marseille’s night reflects the city: “Always beautiful but sometimes complicated to apprehend,” summarizes Hagoug. Let me show you how.
If you ask where to go out in Marseille, the first address you will surely be given is Le Cab, a friendly abbreviation for Cabaret Aléatoire. Nestled in the heart of the Belle de Mai district, in an old industrial wasteland turned cultural space, this venue was born in 2003 from a desire to promote contemporary music. Under the high ceilings of the industrial cathedral, the acoustics and sound are excellent. Every Friday evening the Cabaret patrons dress up in their club clothes for electro parties where the whole of Marseille—from students to older revelers—line up to get inside. The venue offers an accessible and friendly mix of music, curated in close collaboration with the collectives and labels of the region. Le Cab also hosts international artists, who mix jazz, hip-hop, and rock. In the summer Le Cab flies the coop and takes possession of the La Friche rooftop or the Parc Valmer, at the foot of Marseille’s corniche.
Location: Friche La Belle de Mai, 41 Rue Jobin, 13003 Marseille, France
Contact: +33 4 95 04 95 09
Take advantage of rooftop venues to soak up the agreeable Marseille climate. Overlooking the cruising boats of the Joliette district in the old dock area, R2 Rooftop offers an eclectic range of music from electro to commercial. Whether it’s an after-work visit to enjoy the sunset or dancing to disco tunes on Tuesdays, rock on Thursdays, or house on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, there is something for every taste.
(Open from mid-April to mid-October, depending on the weather.)
Location: 9 Quai du Lazaret, 13002 Marseille, France
Contact: +33 4 91 91 79 39
Having cocktails on a boat is the new trend in Marseille, and fresh air and flapping sails are the pleasant promise on the bridge of Erre 1930, moored in the harbor. At nightfall chef Christian Qui offers his culinary creations based on fresh fish bought just a few miles away on the Vieux Port. The clientele is varied; they come for the chef’s delights or for the electro tunes. Erre 1930 plays a sharp set list that highlights the city’s underground artists as well as international acts. If you go after nightfall, do not forget a little cardigan.
Location: Quai du Port Fort St. Jean, 13002 Marseille, France
Contact: +33 6 67 51 65 51
It’s Saturday night in Marseille: Let’s go to the Molotov for a big punk evening. Hidden in the shade of the trees of Paul Cézanne Square, the concert hall has made a name for itself on the city’s nightlife scene since it opened in 2012. A thousand concerts later, fans of hip-hop, cumbia, ska, and Latino music are still coming together here—a success for the partners who wanted to make it a neighborhood space open to everyone.
A crowd forms in the low-ceilinged room. A body rises and floats atop hands and arms. One group follows another onstage, and the bodies chant the chopped rhythms. Neither a club nor a theater, the Molotov has become a standard-bearer for an urban culture that previously lacked places to express itself in Marseille.
Location: 3 Place Paul Cézanne, 13006 Marseille
Contact: +33 6 33 63 48 57
The ephemeral parties of the MIA collective
Once upon a time a band of friends joined forces to reinvent the nightlife in Marseille. They put together ephemeral evenings in completely unusual places. In the last year and a half, Marseille Is Amazing (MIA) has taken possession of a car park, a shipyard, and the walls of a former monastery, bringing together anywhere from 300 to 3,000 people. MIA offers a way to discover the city in a new light. Before each party, decorators and programmers transform the current location and make the evening unique. The next party is an Alice in Wonderland theme, set in the gardens of the Palais Longchamp—don’t miss it if you’re in town.
Location: Anywhere in Marseille