The Grand Hotel Beauvau is one of the oldest in Marseille and superlatively located for tourists. The view over the Old Port could barely be bettered, the tourist office and dozens of restaurants and shops are close by and the metro is a few metres away.
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Chopin stayed here with George Sand; so did many writers including Prosper Mérimée - the author of the book on which Bizet's Carmen is based - Alfred de Musset and Jean Cocteau.
This elegant old establishment - part of the same group as the Grand Hotel Roi René in Aix en Provence -certainly has history in spades - even if its thunder has been stolen lately by five-star newcomers like the InterContinental Hôtel Dieu and the C2 Hotel (the Beauvau has just four stars).
Splash out on a room with a sea view (or one of the two large suites for a very special occasion); those with courtyard and city views are smaller and much less interesting.
As with all the hotels around the port, a busy road separates you from the sea. But traffic has quietened considerably since the arrival of the semi-pedestrian plaza just in front of the Beauvau in 2013, and its rooms are well sound-proofed.
The main entrance is not on the Old Port itself, but round the back on a pedestrian side-street and there is much-needed valet parking (though parking itself comes at a hefty extra charge).
Built in the 1780s and originally the residence of the local Post Master, it became a hotel in the early 19th century. It was renovated in 2002-2004, perhaps losing a little of its shabby-chic panache in the process.
It currently has 73 rooms decorated in a classically ornate Louis-Philippe or Napoleon III style, all extravagant gilt and swags, but with a slightly quirky Mediterranean twist.
The local influence is visible in the some of the antique furniture and colourful provençal fabrics. The lobby is decorated with hat boxes, old travel trunks and amusing period advertisements publicising the stables for diligences and horses.
There is free wi-fi throughout the hotel, a business centre and a bar (no restaurant, but there are plenty in the area). Three rooms are equipped for disabled access.
Breakfast is pricey, so pop across the road for coffee and croissants at La Samaritaine brasserie, another venerable Marseille institution.
Visited October 2010
Where: 4 rue Beauvau, 13001 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 54 91 00. Fax: (+33) 4 91 54 15 76. Book a room at the Grand Hotel Beauvau
Find further reading on Amazon: The American travel and food writer MFK Fisher stayed repeatedly here over a period of many decades during the last century, and devotes an entire, diverting chapter to the "Good Old Beauvau" in her excellent book on Marseille and Aix-en-Provence, Two Towns In Provence