An oft sun-soaked city flanked by the Mediterranean, Marseille is a multicultural metropolis with a history spanning 26 centuries. It is also the birthplace of the first café in France – a heritage that lives on today in its best cafés and coffee shops.
Beyond discovering attractions like the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde and the Old Port, one of the best ways to explore culture in Marseille – founded in 600 BC by the Phocaeans – is to sit down with a cup of coffee. This is especially true when you consider that France’s first café opened in Marseille, in 1671. Today, sitting at the counter with friends or taking a moment to meditate over a brew in near inevitable sunshine is nothing short of a local institution. Though Marseille’s best cafés include trendy hangouts and historic coffee bars, the common theme is top-notch espresso, s’il vous plaît.
Whether you’re a hot chocolate fanatic or in the market for flavourful slow-brewed coffee – made with an authentic 1965 Faema machine – Coogee will not disappoint. Coogee was founded by Yohan Fisel, a real coffee aficionado, in 2013, and quickly became an institution in Marseille. Everything is home-made and served in stylish yet cosy surrounds: from the brick wall where Fisel hangs up his bike every day to the big soft armchairs and the vintage furniture, the place is reminiscent of Central Perk of Friends fame. In addition to speciality coffees and chai lattes, here you can enjoy a wide array of tempting patisseries, along with build-your-own salads. Anaïs from popular local blog Anaïs et Pedro calls it “the best coffee in Marseille”.
Formerly a cabaret, this historic bar dating from the ’30s is located on the first floor of the Hotel Bellevue and has become a must-visit in the cité phocéenne. Very music-oriented, the café hosts live concerts every Wednesday and Friday night in the purest jazz tradition. As well as a morning coffee, this is a great place to discover typical Provençal cuisine and enjoy cocktails into the evening – and, if you’re passing by for lunch on a sunny day, its intimate terrace offers stunning views of the Vieux Port (Old Port) and the Basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde.
La Samaritaine is one of the oldest brasseries in Marseille, dating back to 1910. This is where you’ll enjoy one of the most incredible views of the Vieux Port and the Notre-Dame de la Garde (also known as La Bonne Mère among local residents). The café is renowned for its immense cultural diversity – anyone and everyone is welcome here and many different languages can always be heard. La Samaritaine owes its name to the old fountain formerly located next to the café and references the biblical story of the Samaritan woman, whom Jesus speaks to at a well. Though the fountain may be gone, the name still seems suitable for a place where people come to drink – even if today it is more coffee and pastis than water! If you visit La Samaritaine, you’re well placed to enjoy a trip to explore the rocky inlets and sandy creeks of the Frioul Islands – the shuttle boat is just a one-minute walk away.
Located on rue Breteuil, this micro-roastery offers a range of coffees from across the world. Owner Florent has travelled the world in search of the very best beans. From his experience abroad, he brought back three varieties of top-quality arabica coffees, which are now freshly ground on-site and feature in a range of speciality drinks: salted butter caramel latte, white hot chocolate, hot pistachio, creamy Vietnamese coffee and cinnamon-infused cold coffee. Florent has not only mastered the art of coffee making, but his café also offers an array of sweet pastries to enjoy with your drink, inspired by Australian, Brazilian and American delicacies. Café Piatã Torréfaction is the perfect pit stop on a shopping trip – explore the boutiques of rue Paradis, rue de Rome and rue Saint-Ferréol, just a few minutes’ walk from this coffee emporium.
Small and very friendly, Le Café de l’Abbaye is a popular meeting point where you can enjoy what Elodie from trendsetting local blog Chut Mon Secret calls “a unique view of the Old Port”, which comes into its own at sunset. As well as morning coffee or an afternoon caffeine fix, here you can enjoy home-made tapas and cocktails in a cosy and intimate atmosphere – a taste of la dolce vita à la phocéenne. Drop by to indulge in Marseille’s finest tradition: sitting and relaxing while enjoying panisses (chickpea fries) with your drink.
Ideally located in the bay of Marseille – the Corniche – Le Petit Pavillon offers an exceptional waterside setting for a delightful coffee-based interlude. This elegant café, with its wooden floors, seems almost enthroned above the water. Here, indulge in typical local cuisine, or enjoy a good coffee or a velvety ice cream on the beautiful terrace looking towards the Frioul Islands. Pair your coffee with a dip in the sea at the Plage des Catalans – the most accessible beach from the centre of Marseille and only a five-minute walk from Le Petit Pavillon.
Siest’in is a café-bar like no other. Hands down the best place to recharge your batteries after a good lunch break, Siest’in offers six cabins where customers can opt take a nap after their food. At the Siest’in, everything is home-made – from the decor to what’s on your plate. You can enjoy a selection of light dishes, all made with fresh ingredients, including salads, sandwiches and wraps. Located on Paul Peytral Boulevard, in Marseille’s 6th arrondissement, Siest’in is in the cultural heart of Marseille, only a few steps away from the Plaine Market and the art exhibitions of the Cours Julien.
Le Môle Passedat Café is located within the cultural hub that is Marseille’s Museum of the Civilisations of Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM) and boasts a superb view of the Mediterranean Sea and Cathédrale de la Major (Marseille Cathedral). Nestled in the garden of Fort Saint-Jean, Le Môle Passedat Café is one of three venues at MuCEM run by Michelin-star chef Gérald Passedat.