marseille hotel c2Discreet is the word that springs to mind when describing the C2, a gorgeous, slightly secretive five-star boutique hotel in Marseille's newly fashionable district on the hill just south of the Old Port.

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One entrance is on a wide boulevard, and you could easily walk straight past what looks like a classy 19th century hôtel particulier (a rich family's private residence) - which, in fact, the C2 used to be.

The other entrance - a small door in a stark glass and concrete wall - is round the corner and even more anonymous. Apart from a modest plaque, there's nothing to indicate that this is a hotel.

Step inside the C2, though, and it's a whole different story. You enter a peaceful, sunlit patio garden flanked by two high vegetable walls, then, crossing it, discover the cool elegance of the house itself.

It has been lovingly converted by the owner-architects, Claire Fatosme and Christian Lefèvre: the "two Cs" who lend the hotel its curious name. They spent two years working on the project, which opened in 2014. And their attention to detail has been meticulous.

marseille c2 hotel staircaseThe period features have been carefully restored, where possible: watch out for the ornate stucco and a ceiling fresco populated by cherubs, pictured top left. Then they're mixed and matched with ultra-contemporary touches by top international names.

The colourful chairs in the garden are by Spain's Patricia Urquiola. The German lighting designer Ingo Maurer devised glamorous lights plated with gold leaf for the bar. The twelve splashy crystal, origami-like chandeliers in the stairwell, pictured. come courtesy of Milan's Paolo Rizzatto.

 

 

Guy Bargin's unusual - actually, rather odd - carpet in the public areas and some of the bedrooms enables you to walk across a black and white aerial view of Marseille. A little C2 icon marks the spot announcing, "You are here".

On the upper floors, the roll call of designer names goes on, this time modern classics from the recent past. On each landing stands a chair by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Frank Lloyd Wright or Le Corbusier, who created Marseille's iconic Radiant City.

On the lower level is the spa, powered by the French body care brand Filorga, which has an indoor swimming pool carved into the rock.

So the C2 is lovely to look at, delightful to visit (the bar and salon are open to the public, and host regular exhibitions and music nights). But what's it like to stay in?

By the piano in the stair well where, rather oddly, the concerts are held, a marble period staircase sweeps up to the hotel's 20 bedrooms, scattered over five floors.

Each one is slightly different. Some are all white while others have period touches. The only room on the ground floor (which is also equipped for disabled guests) has a ceiling fresco and a four-poster bed.

marseille hotel c2 bedroomIn all of them the decor is on the pared-down side and some might find it a little too minimal, but they're bright and airy. The largest are a very generous 67 square metres / 720 square feet, but even the cheapest are spacious, with high ceilings.

They also have a mini-bar with free (non-alcoholic) drinks and an espresso machine. Some incorporate a private steam bath.

Most have floor-to-ceiling windows, which look on to the street or the courtyard. The main boulevard, the cours Pierre Puget, has a lot of traffic and while the music in the hotel doesn't go on late, this could also be an issue if you're planning an early night.

Best of all are the two fourth floor suites, which have private terraces with stunning views up to Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille's hilltop church.

Obviously the C2 doesn't offer all the facilities of a huge five-star hotel such as the InterContinental Hôtel Dieu or the Sofitel Vieux Port.

There's no restaurant, for example, though it does provide breakfast and 24 hour room service, and tapas are available at the bar.

The immediate area round the hotel is populated with residential or office buildings. But you're a very short walk away from the Old Port and the shopping area around the Opéra.

Moreover this area of Marseille itself - the sixth arrondissement - is buzzing with some of the city's trendiest new bars, restaurants and shops, such as the Bar de la Relève, La Ruche, Il Clandestino, the Marché Saint Victor and the Jardin Montgrand, to name but a few. A metro stop (Estrangin Préfecture) is five minutes' walk away.

Like most hotels in Marseille, the C2 isn't on the seafront and has no sea views. Some hotels such as Mama Shelter compensate for this with their own private beaches. The C2 has a whole private island to itself, the Île Degaby.

The downside: the hotel offers no regular boat shuttle. You have to buy a full-day trip, which includes a posh picnic hamper and sunbeds, is quite expensive and available in summer only.

The starting price for rooms at the C2 is surprisingly low for a hotel of this quality, but you should, as ever, beware the extras: apart from the Degaby, you'll pay a hefty supplement for the lavish buffet breakfast and valet parking which can quickly push up the cost.

Visited September 2015 and September 2016

Where: C2 Hotel, 73 cours Pierre Puget / 48 rue Roux de Brignoles 13006 Marseille. Tel (33) 4 95 05 13 13. Book a room at the C2 Hotel in Marseille.

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