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 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. Renovated to four-star standards, the entire hotel now throbs with deep primary colours and semi-abstract designs. Inside, it's warm and inviting, much more so than the stark exterior leads you to expect.

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 / reading room, furnished with ultra-contemporary chairs, by Kwok Hoï Chan, and dominated by vintage stained glass windows and bold floral frescos.

These are the only authentic period pieces: the rest of the décor 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, 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; not all have separate showers.

Every room has a super view south over the Old Port towards Notre Dame de la Garde and most of them, apart from rooms on the first or second floors, have balconies: an example is pictured below.

Bedroom, Hotel la Residence du Vieux Port, MarseilleThe rooms are double-glazed and have two sets of thick curtains, but be warned: some traffic and street noise from the busy Old 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.

Wi-fi is free but the breakfast, served in a bright salon overlooking the port, costs as usual, extra. La Samaritaine a couple of metres away is an old Marseille institution. There is a public, pay-for car-park nearby for which the hotel has negotiated reduced rates for its guests.

Also done out in 1950s style is the hotel restaurant, Le Relais 50. Its chef, Noël Baudrand, specialises in regional fare sourced locally and is cited as a rising star in the Michelin and Gault & Millau guides. Expect Sisteron lamb, line-caught fish, organically produced provençal wines. The restaurant even filters its own water.

It's closed two days a week, but 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.

The other huge bonus here is the hotel's proximity to everything: the Old Town, Marseille's major museums, boats to the beaches, calanques and Château d'If and all transport connections, including the metro and bus routes and the tourist train and hop-on-hop-off bus. It would be difficult to find a better base for a Citybreak.

Visited April 2011, June 2018

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


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