In France, when the sun begins to glow low on the horizon, the aperitif stands out as the most sacred of traditions - especially when paired with a striking vista.
Fortunately, Marseille is full of fumble-for-the-camera-now aspects. Blessed with a panoramic Mediterranean coastline, lively piazzas and endless hip bistros, here are the 10 best aperitif bars with a view in Marseille.
Aperitif and architecture at Le Ventre de l'Architect
When famed architect Le Corbusier dotted the isometrics and crossed the tees on his brutalist masterpiece La Cité Radieuse in 1952, little could he imagine that it would become a Unesco World Heritage Site. Three floors up, suave restaurant Le Ventre de l'Architect (hotellecorbusier.com) is a treat for architecture and interior buffs alike, mixing the elegance of the 1950s with tables designed by Charlotte Perriand. Naturally, a terrace aperitif will lead into a main meal with views across the Mediterranean for company.
Marvel at the panoramic views from the R2 Rooftop
Perched above Marseille's new shopping mecca Les Terrasses du Port, the R2 Rooftop (airdemarseille.com) offers startling panoramas and a diverse DJ line-up in a single, unique outdoor event space. Open from Wednesday to Sunday, its six shipping containers dole out international street food and feisty cocktails alongside countless Mediterranean jaw-falling opportunities.
Travel back in time at La Caravelle
Located on the first floor of the Hotel Bellevue on Quai du Port, the legendary La Caravelle brims with vintage nautical decor and cosy, lacquered wood seating. If you can beat the crowds, snag one of the coveted tables on the small terrace which has views across Vieux Port. If the organic wine doesn’t take your fancy, get the talented barman to shake you up something special. Small nibbles are free and there's live jazz from time to time.
Enjoy sweeping views from Restaurant Rowing Club
Hidden at the end of boulevard Charles Livon, the 5th floor of Restaurant Rowing Club (rowing-clubrestaurant.com) serves up Mediterranean and Provençal tapas alongside some great local wines. Once you see the stellar views of the MuCEM museum, the curves of the 17th-century Fort St-Jean and the glimmering sailing boats in the Vieux Port, you’ll be glad you stuck your oar in here. Reservations recommended.
20,000 leagues from the city centre
Located in Les Goudes, known for its quaint fishermen's cabanons (cabins) and lunar-like landscape, the Jules Verne-inspired pub 20,000 Lieues (20000lieues.fr) is like nothing else you'll seen in Marseille. The decor is sports-bar-meets-diving kitsch (complete with vintage diving suit), but it’s the spectacular terrace view of the wide open sea at sunset that makes the trek to the city's southern tip worth it.
Squeeze in at Café de L'Abbaye
Don't worry if you can't get a seat on the triangular-shaped terrace at petite Café de L'Abbaye (facebook.com/CafédeL'Abbaye), simply follow the lead of the locals and place your drink on the nearby wall, where the view of Fort Saint-Nicolas is even better. To complete the scene, order a classic aperitif drink pastis (an anise-flavoured spirit mixed with water and ice) and a bag of fried panisse (chickpea chips) - it doesn't get more Marseillais than that.
Wine and dine Corsican-style at Viaghji di Fonfon
Nestled in the quaint port of Vallon des Auffes, Viaghji di Fonfon (viaghjidifonfon.com) is the place to come if you want to gaze out at fishing boats and arched stone bridges. As this tiny enclave radiates at dusk, it’s all picture postcard stuff, enhanced further by simple Corsican, Sardinian and Provençal dishes. Wash the food down with a crisp white wine as the stars begin to twinkle above the sea.
Make a splash at Bistrot Plage
For sublime views of the Mediterranean without the need for inflatable armbands, peel south from the city centre along Corniche J.F. Kennedy until you reach Bistrot Plage (bistrot-plage.fr), a terraced restaurant which clings gallantly to the coastal wall. For nibbles, the tapas and pizza are the mainstays, but you're really here to soak in the warm glow of a sunset aperitif.
Soak up the city’s history from Bistrot L'Horloge
Not all great views require a body of water. Case in point: lively Bistrot Horloge, a modern industrial bar in historic Cours d'Estienne d'Orves. Mere steps away from the Vieux Port, the scent of the sea’s salt still catches the air from the tables outside as lingering customers take in the pastel-shades of the historic local architecture. The bar even serves the best mojito in town, making this an unexpected delight in an otherwise touristy enclave.
Chic cocktails at a converted historic hospital
Formerly a hospital from the 1860s, the luxurious Intercontinental Hotel Dieu cut the ribbon when Marseille became the European Capital of Culture in 2013. Located on a hill in Le Panier, the city's oldest neighbourhood, its Capian Bar (marseille.intercontinental.com) has an outdoor terrace which overlooks pastel-coloured buildings of yore, the Vieux Port and the towering Notre-Dame de la Garde. Dress to impress.