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Marseille is one of the oldest cities in Europe, but it's also one of the most alive. It thrives on change and the influx of the new, a true global melting pot since its founding in 600BC. The best places to stay in Marseille reflect this diversity with everything from cheap and chic to five star luxury on offer.
Marseille is also the second largest city in France, by population, and the largest by area. So get ready to jump into the colourful markets - which will transport you to more distant lands, to marvel at the natural beauty of the Calanques - fjord-like cliffs which fall dramatically into the sea, and to delve into the history of the old part of town and the old harbour - le Vieux Port.
Being European Culture Capital in 2013 meant museums, galleries and accommodation options have had a recent spruce up, so it's a great time to visit Marseille. It wasn't just the galleries and museums given a spruce up leading up to 2013, it was also many of Marseille's historic palaces, churches and other treasures. And with 2600 years of history to explore you'll find plenty to keep you interested.
Whatever your reason for being in Marseille, hanging around by the old port and seeing local fishermen auction off their catch is worth doing. As is the Notre Dame de la Garde, a big old church with wonderful views over the entire city.
Marseille also has numerous museums worth poking your way through, and you should definitely stroll through le Cours Julien, which is the trendy area of Marseille, full of bookshops, cafes and a lively market on Thursdays and Saturdays.
Everyone who visits Marseille also takes a stroll along la Corniche, which is right beside the sea, and has a drink at Escale Borely, which also has great sea views. If it's a nice day it's also worth considering a trip out to the Chateau d'If, a fortress on an island just off the city. First a city defence, it was later turned into a prison, and is best know for appearing in The Comte de Monte-Cristo.
The areas of La Panier, the historic home of Marseille's marketplace, and Noailles, which is lined with Arabic and Indo-Chinese shops, are worth exploring as well if you have time.
Marseille is a great spot for romantics who thrive on buzz. Relaxing this town is not, but if you want lively nightlife, plenty of choice when it comes to cultural events - and even more when it comes to eating and drinking, then Marseille is for you.
For city chic
- Mama Shelter is the ultimate chic city break hotel, care of Philippe Starck, naturally. A short stroll from the old port, this hotel occupies a cluster of old houses, so it's old and graceful on the outside and high concept on the inside. As well as plenty of clean, white lines there are whimsical touches, like ceilings doused with graffiti, and Marseillaise slang in the lift. And with prices starting from less than £60 per night this is also one of the best places to stay in Marseille on a budget.
For central location
- If you're looking for somewhere memorable right in the centre of town, one of the best places to stay in Marseille is Casa Honore, a four bedroom B&B converted from a printing works. Beautifully designed, every care has also been taken over your comfort, and the huge all-white bedrooms have generous granite bathrooms, there's a tranquil courtyard swimming pool and it's only a few doors down from a truly excellent restaurant.
Slightly out of town
- La bastide de Cabries is one of the best places to stay in Marseille if you want a base for exploring more of the charms of Provence. Peaceful and beautiful, this attractive sandstone bastide has panoramic views over the rooftops and a gourmet restaurant.
Best Hotels in Marseille
Mama Shelter 126 rooms from $72Marseille
Stylish modernity close to the old port. This Philippe Starck designed Marseille hotel offers industrial-meets-kitsch style and caters for a trendy crowd. Good for solo travellers, couples and families who like a buzzy atmosphere in minimalist surroundings. Excellent value.Value chicCity StyleDesigner - Philippe Starck has worked his magic hereSights nearby - Port is nearbyRecommended by - CN Traveller
Au Vieux panier 5 rooms from $89Marseille
A hip bed and breakfast well located in the charming old quarter of town. Each room has been styled by an individual artist and is annually changed giving the whole building a sense of constant evolvement. Excellent home-made breakfasts are served and many attractions are within walking distance.City Style - A stylish bed and breakfast with ever changing designs by contemporary artists, in a trendy part of town.Sights nearby - Just a ten minute walk from the Cathédrale de la Major.Full of characterQuirky - An experience!
La bastide de Cabries 12 rooms from $104Aix-en-Provence (Cabries/Calas)
Panoramic views over Provencal rooftops, gourmet food, and pop-art inspired rooms at this attractive sandstone bastide. A romantic setting for couples and great venue for a wedding reception.FoodiesSights nearby - Some 10km south of Aix en ProvenceLocal markets - Good for local colour.Views - Great views from hotelRecommended by - Sawdays
Hotel 96 13 rooms from $109Marseille
An excellent hotel set in a beautiful secluded 19th century house, on the outskirts of Marseilles. Designed with modern interiors, the rooms are sleek and stylish with uncomplicated decorations. Perfectly placed for exploring Marseille or the national park to the south.Local exploring - Set just outside Marseilles, it's perfect for exploring the city and also the Calanques National Park.Sights nearby - The hotel is located less than a mile from Parc du Roy d'Espagne.Swimming Pool - Indoor/outdoor
Casa Honore 4 rooms from $157Marseille
Designer B&B in central Marseille. Huge all-white bedrooms and granite bathrooms, courtyard swimming pool, and an excellent restaurant a few doors down. A chic spot.City StyleQuirky - Pretty much all items in the house are for sale if they take your fancy!Swimming Pool - Small Outdoor PoolSights nearby - Well located for major sights.Recommended by - I Escape
Le Petit Nice 16 rooms from $207Marseille (Marseilles)
Where the Mediterranean sea ends there lies this five-star hotel. The spectacular views and calming ambiance extend to the cocktail bar, leafy terrace, swimming pool, famous Gérald Passédat restaurant and spacious rooms. These are immaculate and simple, decorated in a lovely contemporary style.Views - Incredible spot overlooking the sea. Gaze into the horizon with the Château d’If and the Planier lighthouse in the backgroundFishing - Calanque de Morgiou has been famed for tuna fishing since 1622.Sights nearby - Visit the old port of Marseilles.Sailing - Can be booked nearby.Recommended by - Relais & Chateaux, Tablet
La Residence du Vieux Port 50 rooms from $188Marseille
A stylish contemporary hotel overlooking the Vieux Port in Marseille. The modern rooms are spacious and sleek with many affording beautiful views out over the rooftops. Within easy reach of the sights and sounds of the city, it's perfect for a weekend's exploring the seaside city.Value chic - An affordable jem, overlooking the beautiful old port, inspired by Le Corbusier and filled with vintage design features.Sights nearby - Just a five minute walk from the Old Port of Marseille.
Hotel C2 20 rooms from $281Marseille
A sharp snazzy five-star hotel in Marseille's city centre. The Haussman-style townhouse features ornate period ceiling frescos, side by side with cutting edge contemporary design furnishings. The deluxe suites, excellent restaurant, vibrant music bar and heavenly spa, exude a quiet sense of luxury.City Style - A charming 19th-century mansion, turned chic contemporary urban retreat, filled with funky design details and orginal features.Local exploring - Just minutes from the Vieux Port, surrounded by smart boutiques and cool cafes, it's the perfect base for exploring Marseille.Sights nearby - The Old Port of Marseille and Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica are ten minutes walk from the hotel.Seaside - Ideal for a seaside holiday.