These are two good chain hotels if you need to stay near Marseille's main railway and bus stations at Saint Charles, each equally close to the main concourse, but with slightly different advantages to commend it.
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Opened in 2010, the Holiday Inn is the more modern of the two. To get there from the station, take the down escalator opposite Platform F and cross the road (there is a pedestrian traffic light): the hotel is bang opposite. When booking, do not confuse it with Marseille's other Holiday Inn, which is way across town on the avenue du Prado.
Once you get past the unprepossessing entrance, the lobby is bright and spacious with a large bar area and open-air terrace looking out onto a sunny, if rather scruffy backyard; there's also a drinks dispenser, a small business centre and two conference rooms and a private car-park.
Free wi-fi is available throughout the hotel for guests and continental breakfast is included.
The 120 rooms are relatively large by HI standards, all of them are well sound-proofed and some have terrific views across the city to Notre Dame de la Garde and/or the sea. A handful have balconies. Four rooms have facilities for disabled access.
The Ibis has the bonus of being within the main station area. Take the exit by Platform A, turn left and the hotel is a very short walk.
It has been open for 15 years, so is slightly worn compared to the Holiday Inn, but remains clean and well-maintained.
It has a small outdoor terrace, pictured, and a restaurant offering some local specialities.
The rooms, also very well sound-proofed, overlook the station, the street or a small private park belonging to SNCF (French Railways).
None of them have balconies and they may be smaller than those over at the Holiday Inn (depending on the category of room), but the rates are slightly lower. Six rooms have disabled access. There's free wi-fi and a 24-hour bar and snacks service.
For a very low-budget alterative, try the Hotel Vertigo. It's a few steps down a side street just round the corner from the Holiday Inn. More upmarket, the recently opened stylish boutique Alex Hotel has been a enormously popular addition.
The downside: sandwiched between Saint Charles and the Arab quarter of Belsunce, these hotels are not in the smartest part of town.
If you want to eat out close by, the choice is limited to a couple of French brasseries at the bottom of the station steps and the fast food joints in the concourse.
However, a few minutes' walk will take you to a very cheap couscous in one of the labyrinthine backstreets, and the excellent Comptoir Dugommier is just down the road.
Both of Marseille's metro lines have stops at Saint Charles and it's about a ten-minute walk to the Old Port. The location is perfect too, of course, if your train arrives late or leaves very early in the morning (you are also a minute from the airport shuttle bus-stop, which leaves from the Saint Charles bus terminal).
Visited October 2010
Where Holiday Inn, 15 boulevard Maurice Bourdet, 13001 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 99 59 90. Book a room at the Holiday Inn Express Marseille Saint Charles
Ibis, square Narvick Esplanande, Saint Charles 13001 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 95 62 09. Book a room at the Ibis Marseille Saint Charles