Bedroom, Sofitel Vieux PortIf you're after traditional pampering in Marseille, you have the choice of four five-star hotels, including the Sofitel, with correspondingly lavish room rates. Is it worth it? Yes!

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Despite the name, Sofitel is not really within the Old Port, but sits on a small hill guarding its entrance, nestled in between the Fort Saint Nicolas and the Palais du Pharo. The panorama from here across the harbour and the city are stunning.

It's about a 15-minute walk along the busy seafront road to the Old Port and the Tourist Office on the Canebière. The hotel is fairly close to the beaches of Marseille in the other direction.

You enter via a vast lobby decked out in shades of chocolate brown and burnt orange. However, despite the retro-1970s colour scheme, the Sofitel, which was built 30 years ago, has been almost completely refurbished since it was finally promoted from four to five stars in 2009.

The lobby is scattered with marine-themed modern art and broken up into "zones." Le Carré, a informal bar-brasserie, overlooks the port and has an open-air terrace for sunny days and balmy nights. It offers all-day food, ice-cream and drinks - plus one of the best views in town.

marseille sofitel lobbyAlternatively, head to the top floor for the Dantès Skylounge. Named after Edmond Dantès, the hero of Alexandre Dumas's legendary, Marseille-set novel The Count of Monte Cristo. It serves cocktails and has music at weekends.

Elsewhere in the lobby a screened-off corner has computers for guests' use and a reading area (the Sofitel chain has a scheme to sponsor leading authors and hosts regular literary events).

Bravo here to the architects who really have maximised the harbour-side location with a great, dramatic sweep of picture windows looking over the Old Port.

There are 134 rooms and suites, some with balconies or terraces. The first thing to be said is: don't bother staying here unless you want to pay splash out for a room overlooking the port.

The ones at the back (just over a third of the total) face an uninteresting urban landscape. But the others have fabulous views.

Some rooms have chaises longues, and the bed is the Sofitel's ultra-comfortable MyBed, whose design has been parented by the chain.

Even the cheapest rooms are good-sized and have top-class toiletries, espresso machines and other luxury bells and whistles.

The rooms aren't cheap but you are getting rock-solid value for money. And, as usual, it's often possible to secure a fat discount on the rack rates by booking ahead and / or shopping around.

Internet access is free, with wi-fi throughout the hotel. There's a spa in the basement, with a sauna and a hammam, a fitness and business centre, a hairdressing salon and the usual facilities you expect in a hotel of this calibre.

It's all immaculately presented and the Sofitel is renowned for its service: in our opinion, it is easily the best of Marseille's five-star hotels in this respect.

The swimming pool is shared with the next-door Novotel, the Sofitel's more workaday sister. A huge bonus for keen swimmers: free access to an Olympic sized pool and other professional amenities at the Cercle des Nageurs de Marseille just up the road.

Trois Forts restaurant, Sofitel MarseilleIt goes without saying that the top-floor restaurant, Les Trois Forts, also has stunning views pictured. Its shape continues the nautical theme by suggesting the curved prow of a ship.

Offering Mediterrean cuisine, this isn't one of Marseille's restaurants with Michelin stars. But it is eminently affordable and is favoured by locals for destination dinners.

The Sofitel scores top marks on the breakfast front and has even won an award for the best breakfast in Europe.

It includes the hotel's own-brand honey, produced by five hives of bees on the roof and many regional specialities.

The Sofitel has three five-star competitors in Marseille. Two of them are boutique hotels: Le petit Nice is a little further out of town, and the C2 Hotel is a little up on the hill on the south side of the Old Port. The more immediate rival is the InterContinental Hôtel Dieu.

This majestic former hospital occupies a prime position in the heart of Marseille between the Old Town and the Old Port and has been converted into a luxury hotel which opened in 2013.

Visited April 2011, May 2014 and October 2018.

Where: Sofitel Vieux Port, 36 boulevard Charles Livon, 13007 Marseille. Tel: (+33) 4 91 15 59 00 or (+33) 4 91 15 59 50. Book a room at the Sofitel Vieux Port, Marseille

 

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