The old Port of Marseille.
In France’s oldest city, celebrated for an ethnic diversity that stems from centuries of trade, a growing number of boutique hotels are reflecting the local culture and connection to the sea.
One of the spots bringing new energy to the ancient city of Marseille is Tuba Club, set on the waterfront in the neighbourhood of Les Goudes. The 2020 opening took over a century-old building, which started life as a restaurant before becoming a diving club frequented by legendary French free diver Jacques Mayol in the 1980s.
Fast-forward to today, and it’s been completely reborn as a stylish, sea-facing retreat, designed by a local collective of friends with backgrounds in cinema, architecture and fashion. Tuba Club celebrates its setting through its design, with upcycled furnishings appearing alongside the work of local artists and raw materials such as wood, stone, pearls and shells.
Minimalist and bright, the hotel’s five bedrooms feature seagrass on the floor, rope lamps and headboards in marine plywood. Within the seafood-inspired Tuba Restaurant and on its terraces, diners tuck into seasonal Mediterranean dishes, including the catch of the day.
The bar complements this culinary offering with cocktails that reflect the flavours and stories that shape Marseille, as Tuba’s own radio station provides a soundtrack for it all. Outside on the rocky shoreline, guests can soak up the sun on yellow-striped loungers before jumping straight into the sea. Activities include diving excursions, boat trips and canoeing. From €160 (£140).
Le Petit Nice Passedat.
Founded in 1917, this five-star Relais & Chateaux property pairs Riviera glamour with a celebration of its waterfront setting. Perched on rocks descending into blue waters, the retreat offers two villas and 16 rooms with coastal decor and, in some cases, terraces with sea views. Dine at the three-Michelin-starred on-site restaurant, on the poolside terrace, or at Le 19-17 Bar. From €395 (£345).
This boutique property occupies the seafront building that previously housed the Richelieu hotel. Preserving the art deco exterior, the owners transformed it into a contemporary space, featuring 19 guest rooms with floor-toceiling windows. A rooftop pool, two-storey spa and direct access to the sandy shores of Plage des Catalans add to the appeal. From €180 (£158).
New Hotel Le Quai.
Sitting opposite Marseille’s Old Port, this heritage hotel has recently been renovated to draw on the area’s multicultural heritage and links to overseas travel. From the lobby and breakfast room to the 48 bedrooms, international details such as Moroccan tiles run through each space of the six-storey building. From €100 (£88).
Published in the December 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)
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The old Port of Marseille.