Some find the Belle-Vue friendly, central and hyper-cool. Others damn it as run-down, over-priced and lacking in many hotel facilities. In fact it's all these things at once.
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The hotel is situated on Marseille's Old Port. Its frontage (pictured above left) is unobtrusive and easy to miss: a door sandwiched in between two harbour-front cafés leads up to a tiny reception desk perched on the first-floor landing, just by the entrance to La Caravelle, one of Marseille's most fashionable bars.
Some of the Belle-Vue's features are things you might expect to find in a travellers' hostel, such as a book exchange, free use of board games and a laptop for hire by the day if you don't have your own.
The website blithely states, "The magnificent staircase made of wrought iron is the central element of the hotel and every traveller will enjoy going up these impressive stairs since the lift has been deliberately banned to keep the authenticity of the building."
This may not be the case. The stairwell (as are the corridors and other public areas) is, frankly, scruffy, with peeling paint and worn carpets, and every traveller may not enjoy toiling up the stairs to the fourth or fifth floor with heavy baggage and no porterage.
Parking is also likely to be an issue, although there is a public car-park close by, at the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall).
Having said all this, the Hotel Belle-Vue has bags of character and, if you are aware of its downsides and are not bothered by them, it is a cultish and pleasant place to stay.
The rooms themselves are moderately sized, clean and tastefully decorated, with adequate, minimally equipped bathrooms, free wi-fi and flat-screen TVs. Some people may be disturbed by the noise wafting up from the busy Old Port.
The best bargains are the two rooms (nos. 51 and 52) on the fifth floor, which are a snip for this location (try to book ahead). Be advised, however, that these are mansard rooms with very low ceilings and are rather compact, although two people could sleep there at a pinch. Also, the final flight of stairs up to the top floor is narrow and steep.
Breakfast (check that it's included in the room rate: it may not be) is served either in the rooms or in La Caravelle bar. The Caravelle has a basic menu of cold spreads in the evening, but there are dozens of excellent restaurants just outside the hotel.
Just a couple of doors away is the Miramar, celebrated for its bouillabaisse. Two Michelin-starred restaurants are nearby, Une Table, au Sud and Alcyone at the InterContinental Hôtel Dieu. Also recommended in the immediate area: Le Café des Epices, Vinonéo and On Dine.
Visited July 2011
Where: Hotel Belle-Vue, 34 quai de Port, 13002 Marseille. Book a room at the Hotel Belle-Vue, Marseille