For an amusing and relatively harmless exposure to the town’s saltiness, walk around the Vieux-Port, where cafes and restaurants angle their sightlines for the best views of the harbor.
L’Escale Borély, avenue Pierre Mendès France, is 20 minutes south of the town center (take bus no. 83). With a dozen animated bars and cafés, plus restaurants of every possible ethnicity, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Kick off the evening at Barberousse Shooter Bar, 7 rue Glandeves (www.barberousse.wix.com/barberoussemarseille; tel. 04-91-33-78-13), a popular local spot for—you guessed it—shots. The pirate-themed bar stages a rocking happy hour from 9pm to 10pm daily, and all night on Tuesdays.
Marseille’s dance clubs are habitually packed out, especially Trolley Bus, 24 quai de Rive-Neuve (www.letrolley.com; tel. 04-91-54-30-45; Métro: Vieux-Port), known for techno, house, hip-hop, jazz, and salsa. Equally buzzing is l’Exit, 12 quai de Rive-Neuve (tel. 06-42-59-96-24; Métro: Vieux-Port), a bar/disco with a terrace that profits from Marseille’s sultry nights and two floors of seething nocturnal energy (happy hour starts at 5pm, and runs all night on Thursdays). The New Can Can, 3–7 rue Sénac (www.newcancan.com; tel. 04-91-48-59-76; Métro: Noailles), is a lively, sprawling bar and disco that identifies itself as a gay venue but attracts many straight folks too. It’s open Friday through Sunday midnight until 7am. Brand-new sister bar Le Petit Cancan, 10 rue Beauvau (www.lepetitcancan.com; tel. 06-52-26-90-75; Métro: Vieux-Port) is open daily from 6pm for cocktails and tapas.
For jazz right on the port, head to La Caravelle, 34 quai du Port (www.lacaravelle-marseille.com; tel. 04-91-90-36-64; Métro: Vieux-Port), an aperitif bar and dinner club that serves a different flavor almost every night, including manouche, the French gypsy style most associated with guitarist Django Reinhardt.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.