Hotel review: Hôtel-Dieu, Marseille

A former hospital has been transformed into a beautiful 5 star hotel in the heart of Marseille. Zoë McIntyre tests it out.

Marseille’s year as European capital of culture in 2013 was one of regeneration: derelict buildings were refurbished, the Vieux-Port was refashioned and a host of new art installations and cultural venues breathed new life into the historic city.

Among the myriad restorations was InterContinental group’s five-star hotel, which occupies the 18th-century Hôtel-Dieu and stands high on a hill between the Vieux-Port and the historic Le Panier district.

A five-year restoration project has transformed the listed landmark into a lavish residence while staying true to the building’s original character and framework. The soaring façade, made from Provençal Cassis stone, creates an immediate impression, particularly at night when the vaulted passageways and arched galleries are lit up.

The interior’s black-and-white-striped colour theme echoes the stonework of the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde and the Cathédrale de la Major. A sense of history is further evoked in the lobby where cabinets display fragments of Roman mosaic discovered during the site excavation. Modern touches are seen in the decor, which is sleek and unflashy, befitting the mix of tourist and business guests who use the hotel.

Two monumental stairways lead to the 194 rooms and suites. My front-facing room had glorious views of the basilica on its hilltop site, which I could admire from the private stone terrace. The bathroom is separated from the bedroom by a sliding wooden panel, so you can still admire the window view while relaxing in the roll-top bath.

Downstairs, guests gather on the sweeping outdoor terrace and take in the cityscape and Mediterranean climate before going to dinner. There are two dining options, both presided over by Michelin-starred chef Lionel Lévy, who offers creative menus inspired by Mediterranean cuisine. The Brasserie Les Fenêtres is intimate and stylish with exposed brick walls, low lighting and long banquet tables, while Alcyone is a classic and elegant restaurant with high ceilings, heavy drapes and blanched white tablecloths.

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Further luxury is found in the Clarins spa, which has an indoor pool set in a light-filled room, as well as a sauna, two steam rooms and massage facilities.

The hotel is in the heart of the city, so Marseille’s many attractions are within easy reach and the affable staff were happy to advise me on the best place for an evening aperitif, museum visit or souvenir shopping.