There have been thermal baths on this site since the 1870s, but it wasn’t until 1974 that the first hotel was built. Several incarnations later it has now been reborn as the Nhow Marseille, aimed at tourists and business visitors, designed by architects Claire Fatosme, Christian Lefèvre and Teresa Sapey, and owned by the Société Hôtelière du Palm Beach.
Where is it?
Three miles east along the Corniche seafront from the city centre, this part of Marseille is known as Le Roucas-Blanc. The area combines upmarket residential housing, parkland and city beaches, with the centre an hour’s walk away. The airport is half an hour in a taxi on a good day. There’s no metro station nearby, but a bus route connects to the city.
What's it like?
Since the hotel is on a hill, reception is on level three, while the rooms are lower down. Your eye is drawn to one design feature after another around every corner of this modernist 1970s building. A steel-sardine chandelier, psychedelic armchairs, wall-mounted cicadas, fish-shaped cushions, diver murals, prints of graffiti from Marseille, the Cactus Bar… the interior designers have certainly been busy. And you’d better like yellow, since this is the dominant hue throughout.
Instead of wall-mounted signage, there are way-finding instructions projected in light onto the carpet at every corridor junction – more confusing than helpful. Fortunately the friendly staff will point you in the right direction. The overall look is let down by a small, grubby beach just beyond the pool.
The hotel’s 150 rooms span two floors. Inspired by typical Marseille beach huts, the interiors are splashed with black, yellow and white, and range from standard and family up to premium and suites, with one split-level penthouse. Many have sea-view balconies on one side; all have dark, moody corridors on the other. Each room features a Nespresso machine and large flatscreen TV. And don’t be confused by the plastic wall hanging behind each bed with the phrase “MRS 43-5” emblazoned on it. It’s Marseille’s latitude and longitude.
Food and drink
The main restaurant overlooks the swimming pool. Chef Benjamin Mathieu offers Mediterranean dishes such as octopus, barbecued beef, spiced lamb, tuna and mullet.
On the pool level, the Tunnel Bar is open until 11.30pm. Above is the Skybar until 2am. For an extra charge, the hotel can arrange parties and formal dinners at Degaby Island, a fortified island a boat ride away in the Bay of Marseille.
There are 16 meeting spaces, with room for 420 people, available in various configurations. Half of them have sea views. In addition is the amphitheatre, with 322 seats and a vast cinema screen, which Nhow claims is the largest such meeting space in Marseille. There’s also complimentary and (for France) surprisingly strong wifi throughout the hotel.
Thermal spring water flows down from the hills to fill the huge pool right on the seafront, which has a deck large enough to accommodate all the hotel guests, with views right across the Bay of Marseille. Don’t be put off by the sulphurous water – it’s very good for the skin. There’s also a tiny spa (€15) with two spa baths, a plunge pool, hammam and a distinctly underwhelming fitness room (free to use). Right next door is Marseille’s municipal sailing club, host venue for the 2024 Olympics. Here you can hire any floating vessel you’d want.
Away from the bustle of central Marseille, this completely refurbished hotel offers a relaxed atmosphere with good facilities.
The very chilled central atrium known as the Cactus Bar
The salty, sulphurous waters of the swimming pool. Smelly but great for the skin
Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay started from £138 for an Nhow room with sea view