Open since last April, the Intercontinental occupies what was, until 2006, a hospital dating back to the 1800s (institutions that are commonly nicknamed “Hotel Dieu”, God’s Hotel, across France). Architect Jean-Philippe Nuel oversaw the e120 million transformation of the local landmark.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
While the grand façade remains, the interiors have been highly modernised. Guests arrive either by walking up several flights of marble steps to the right of the building, or up a winding driveway to where a water feature marks the entrance.
There is a “Mediterranean and mineral” theme throughout, with soft grey carpets with sand-like swirls, ceramic shell lamps, exposed stonework, and black and white furnishings. It’s contemporary and masculine, and the glass-roofed lobby is filled with light. Because of its age, though, the layout can be confusing.
WHERE IS IT?
Well located on a hill overlooking the Vieux Port, a short walk from the waterfront and the cobbled Panier district. Gare St-Charles is five minutes by car and the airport 20km away.
Just over 70 rooms look on to the old town and harbour, while 33 have private terraces. All are non-smoking.
Entry-level Deluxe rooms are 28-35 sqm, Executive 35-40 sqm and Junior suites 45-50 sqm. They feature spacious bathrooms with white honeycomb tiles, walk-in showers and separate tubs (about ten rooms have showers only).
They also come with kettles and coffee machines (I couldn’t get mine to work), electronic minibars, free wifi (25 euros for high-speed), LG flatscreen TVs, double-glazed windows that open, air conditioning and 24-hour room service.
My Executive room looked on to the inner courtyard. As this area is used for corporate breakout sessions, I had to keep the muslin curtains closed to avoid delegates looking in. This meant it was quite dark during the day.
The king-size bed was very comfortable and there was a long workdesk. Some of the other rooms were more attractive, with wooden floors and views of Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica in the distance.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS
The high-ceilinged Les Fenêtres (“the Windows”) opens on to the hotel’s glorious 750 sqm terrace, which can accommodate up to 160 people for dinner and has sweeping vistas.
Open all day, as well as sampling the generous buffet breakfast, I enjoyed an al fresco dinner one mild evening (heaters and blankets can be provided). I started with a deliciously spicy black tomato gazpacho with burrata mozzarella and spring onions, followed by a rich, green vegetable risotto with Parmesan foam. Other dishes include beef tartare, and linguine with blue lobster, with prices at e26-e51 for mains.
Bar le Capian is a smart place to relax with a cocktail, while fine-dining restaurant Alcyone recently earned a Michelin star.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES
There is 1,000 sqm of event space, including the ground-floor Cultural Space, which can seat 80 diners under its vaulted ceiling.
There are two venues on the same level for 210-220 delegates in each, as well as three meeting rooms on the first floor (each for 20 guests classroom-style). There is a business corner in the lobby.
The hotel has a modest indoor pool and a Clarins spa with six treatment rooms, although I found them difficult to access.
From my room on level two, I had to take a lift down to level one, then walk into the spa reception, take another lift down to zero, and walk through the men’s changing rooms. A lack of signage made the experience even more Kafkaesque, though I was told they were going to improve this.
There was also a fitness room with Technogym kit.
A welcome newcomer to Marseille’s top-end market. An executive lounge would have been welcome, but the hotel is a good option for business travellers, especially if you get a room with a view.
- HOW MANY ROOMS? 172 – 67 Deluxe, 51 Executive, 26 Deluxe Harbour View, 28 Executive Terrace, plus 22 suites (11 Junior, four Junior Terrace, six Prestige, one Presidential).
- HIGHLIGHTS The wonderful panoramic dining terrace, the food served at Les Fenêtres and the imposing architecture.
- PRICE Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in May started from 3290 for a Deluxe room.
- CONTACT Intercontinental Marseille Hotel Dieu, 1 Place Daviel; tel +33 413 424 242; ihg.com