marseille hotel mercure facadeA great location and affordable rooms make the Mercure Marseille Centre ideal for a city break or business trip.

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This comfortable, unassuming four-star chain hotel occupies a stark, early 1970s tower block, and the brutalist architecture is beginning to show its age. But the interior décor has been fully renovated and the turquoise and deep purple bedrooms are bright and pleasant.

They're all perfectly comfortable. But (depending on the season), a "privilege" room can cost only a little more for extra space and creature comforts.

These include king-size beds, iPad docking, slippers, bathrobe, separate WC, individual toiletries, Nespresso - though, alas, you still get the same disposable cardboard cups for your coffee as the standard rooms.

A slight downside for business travellers: none of the rooms has a desk, and laptops and papers must jostle for space on a small coffee table (there is free wi-fi, however). Five rooms are adapted for wheelchairs and some have a free extra fold-out bed.

marseille hotel mercure bedroomNone of the rooms has a balcony. Depending on the floor and location, your smallish window might have a middle-distance view of the masts of the Old Port, the hillside tumble of the Panier (Old Town), Notre Dame de la Garde and other major attractions.

Or alternatively it might just look on to other modern high-rise blocks. Note that the more expensive rooms don't necessarily have the best views!

But the location – a five minute walk from the Old Port and close to the train station and other public transport connections - is excellent.

The Mercure sits right next to 2600 years of history in the shape of the ancient Greco-Roman harbour (the Jardin des Vestiges) and the city's superb Musée d’Histoire, pictured below, which you can see from some rooms. The hotel itself can be glimpsed in the background of the photo.

The Mercure is on a quiet, side street between Marseille's business district (Chamber of Commerce, World Trade Center, Stock Exchange) and the colourful and lively working-class and multicultural quarter of Belsunce.

So it is not a glamorous part of town. But Marseille is a melting pot where rich and poor, old and new jostle for position alongside each other in the city centre. And anyway whoever came to this fascinating city for glamour?

jardin des vestigesThe Mercure's vast lobby and first-floor breakfast room are functional spaces that aren’t really designed for lingering, though the bar does have table football.

Watch out for the specially commissioned ceramic tile mosaic near the reception desk showing the Mercure standing proudly among Marseille’s more attractive landmarks.

Breakfast (which is charged extra) is a hearty basic buffet including Nespresso, fresh juice and fruits, cheeses and cold meat and eggs cooked to order.

In the evening simple meals (pasta, club sandwiches, cheeses, etc.) are available, either in the bar or as room service. But most people will prefer to head for one of the dozens of restaurants just round the corner on the Old Port.

Service – which can sometimes be brisk in chain hotels of this size - was immaculate when we stayed here. Secure parking is available (at a fee) in a reserved area of the shopping mall car-park next door.

The modular meeting rooms have leisure spaces and direct connecting doors to the serviced offices of a public business centre, also next door.

Tourists are likely to regret the lack of a swimming pool and outdoor seating area though, to be fair, many hotels in central Marseille share the same problem. Overall, though, the Mercure represents terrific value for money.

Visited April 2017

Where: Hotel Mercure Marseille Centre Vieux Port, 1 rue neuve Saint Martin, 13001 Marseille. Tel (+33) 4 96 17 22 22. Book a room at the Hotel Mercure Marseille Centre Vieux Port

Photo credits: all images © AccorHotels Group

 

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