In a nutshell: The original Grand Dame of this gritty-glam port city.
Price point: £££
The InterContinental – also known as Hotel Dieu – occupies a prime position just a street away from Marseille’s charming Old Port. Its buttercream stone façade, all lit up by night, is instantly recognisable. This is where you want to be as a tourist in France’s second city – within spitting distance of a wealth of restaurant terraces, serving the freshest seafood alongside reasonably priced wine by the glass from neighbouring Aix en Provence. The hotel’s position - slightly up the hill - is not the best when on foot trying to wrangle a suitcase up the stairs, but more than makes up for it with sublime views over the city, across to the famed Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde.
A chic monochrome palette dominates here; the lobby is all black and white striped walls, guarded by orderly rows of black vases on plinths. Seating areas channel the greyscale further still, with high-backed ink-black thrones alongside charcoal and silver ones, all in velvet. The only pops of colour come courtesy of the floral displays, in fuchsia, magenta and lilac. Head upstairs to the first floor to find cathedral-like high arched ceilings and black and white checkerboard floors reminiscent of The Queen’s Gambit. The theme is carried into the bedrooms, with black walls, white headboards, a hanging trio of long black lampshades and plush grey carpets.
Chilled out luxury. I arrived hot and sweaty from lugging a suitcase from St Charles station in Indian summer temperatures and felt no judgement. As Marseille’s premier hotel, it attracts all sorts – on the breakfast terrace I spotted a mix of young couples and groups of friends, solo travellers and people on business trips (though no families). Service is what you’d expect from a five-star, but relaxed and discreet – reception staff helpfully printed off my negative PCR results, translated my travel instructions and gave tailored restaurant recommendations. Marseille isn’t Paris (and all the better for it), and in many places staff speak only French. But if that’s a worry, know that the InterContinental, being part of a global brand, can do either – put up with your fumbled verb conjunctions with a smile or switch into anglais parfait.
Bed and bath
Rooms are all about the understated luxury, with blackout curtains, coffee machines and a gratifying lack of complicated light switches to navigate. Bathrooms have the added bonus of both the toilet and rainfall shower being behind separate frosted glass doors – not a concern for the solo traveller, but reassuring when you’re not at the stage in your relationship where you’re comfortable with an open-door policy. Toiletries are local, courtesy of Compagnie de Provence, with 96 per cent natural ingredients.
Food and drink
Breakfast is on the sprawling terrace on the first-floor, capitalising on the hotel’s stellar views over the Old Port and across to Notre-Dame de la Garde. When I visited it consisted of a buffet with everything you could expect: hot items, including specialities such as Provençal roasted tomatoes encrusted with herbs, alongside an edifying selection of pastries, cakes, cereals, yoghurts and cold meats and cheeses. Staying in for dinner? Alcyone is a Michelin-starred restaurant serving up Mediterranean refined fare; a five-course menu costs from €99, while eight courses will set you back €139. There’s also Les Fenêtres, a more laid-back brasserie which nevertheless has innovative dishes like “milkshake de bouille-abaisse” (a reimagining of the classic seafood stew), plus you can grab drinks at trendy cocktail bar Le Capian.
Pools, spas and public areas
Guests have access to the pool via the Clarins spa, though they currently have to book a slot. It features a waterfall at one end and, where hotel pools are often shoved into the basement, is bathed in natural sunlight courtesy of long windows on either side. There is also a range of spa treatments available for maximum R&R.
Nuts and bolts
Room count: 179 rooms and 15 suites, including 72 with views of the Old Port and 33 with private terrace.
Freebies: Local soap and biscuits.
In the bathroom: Provencal toiletries.
Extra charges: N/A
Disability access: Five rooms are fully compliant with accessibility standards for disabled guests. All public areas of the hotel are accessible.
Pet policy: Small dogs weighing up to 6kg are permitted for an extra charge. Please note that you must inform the hotel in advance.
Best thing: The location and grand façade.
Worst thing: Access for pedestrians; and the hairdryers are surprisingly mediocre.
Perfect for: A stress-free base for work or leisure, escaping the heat and hustle of Marseille in a cathedral of calm.
Not right for: People looking for a “local” experience or quirky charm.
Instagram from: There’s a designated selfie spot out front to capture yourself in front of the hotel; better still, from the breakfast terrace with the city laid out behind you.
Room rate: From €233, room only.
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