Room, Hotel Residence du Vieux Port, MarseilleThe Hotel La Résidence du Vieux Port boasts a magnificent location in the expensive heart of Marseille and very snazzy neo-1950s interior design. logoClick here to book a hotel in Marseille



In January 1943 the Nazis dynamited a large section of the Old Town just behind the northern quay of the Old Port, which today is lined with big, brutalist granite apartment blocks built in the early 1950s.

The most celebrated examples are nos. 42-66, by the noted and prolific post-war architect Fernand Pouillon.

Just along the harbour front at no. 18, the building which is now the Hotel La Résidence du Vieux Port was constructed in 1954 by André-Jacques Dunoyer de Segonzac very much in the same style. Françoise Sagan, Pablo Picasso and Yves Montand were among its early jet-set habitués.

In 2010 a 14-month-long facelift (designer: Franz Potisek) set out to recapture this brave new spirit of post-war modernism, and the entire hotel now throbs with deep primary colours and semi-abstract designs.

To the right of the lobby as you enter, a sitting area (pictured) is set around a large, beautiful tapestry by Jean Lurçat, Le grand arbre (1954).

Tapestry by Jean Lurçat, Le grand arbre (1954)And there are more treasures. At the back of the ground floor is a salon, furnished with ultra-contemporary chairs, by Kwok Hoï Chan, but dominated by vintage stained glass windows dating from the 1920s when this part of the hotel was a bar.

These are the only authentic period pieces: the rest of the decor is retro, but new.

On the upper floors, the long corridors are lined with jewel-bright bedroom doors, very similar to Le Corbusier's experimental 1950s "housing unit", the Radiant City which you can visit on the other side of Marseille.

Inside the rooms, stark white walls are pepped up with red, blue and yellow furnishings. Each of them has an original abstract artwork by Sylvie Nicolas in the manner of Joan Miró (these are for sale on request). Large bathrooms have simple black and white tiling.

Almost every room has a super view south over the Old Port towards Notre Dame de la Garde and most have balconies (an example is pictured below). The cheapest, "tradition" category normally comes without a balcony, but a handful at this price do have them. Enquire when booking, as they are a real bargain.

Bedroom, Hotel la Residence du Vieux Port, MarseilleThe rooms are double-glazed, but be warned: some traffic and street noise from the very busy quai du Port below inevitably seeps in.

If this is an issue for you, you'll need to stump up for one of the more expensive rooms on the upper floors.

The hotel annexe contains six much cheaper rooms. These are noticeably smaller and look out on to a rather dark inner courtyard (though they will also be quieter, of course).

Wi-fi is free but the breakfast is extra, and pricey. La Samaritaine a couple of metres away is cheaper, more fun and an old Marseille institution. There is a (public, pay-for) car-park nearby.

Also done out in 1950s style is the hotel restaurant, Le Relais 50, open since July 2010. Its chef, Noël Baudrand, specialises in regional fare that's sourced locally. Expect Sisteron lamb, line-caught fish, organically produced provençal wines. The restaurant even filters its own water.

Other good restaurants abound in this part of town. Just a couple of doors away is, to one side, Une Table, au Sud and to the other the Miramar, celebrated for its bouillabaisse. Two other restaurants run by Marseille's new generation of young chefs, On Dine, and Vinonéo are very close too.

Visited April 2011

Where: Hotel La Résidence du Vieux Port, 18 quai du Port, 13002 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 91 91 22. Fax: (+33) 4 91 56 60 88 Book a room at the Hotel La Résidence du Vieux Port, Marseille


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