Sometimes, all the right things come together to make a truly special luxury hotel. Location, history, management, food and design are all variables that can be easy to get right individually, but almost impossible to synchronize simultaneously. I am happy to report, the new (opened May 2013) InterContinental Marseille Hotel Dieu has achieved this wonderful combination of perfection on so many levels.

 History
The history of the hotel is fascinating and the building’s classic design dates back to its construction in the 18th century. Built first to house the religious pilgrims coming the city’s important cathedral, the building then became the city’s public hospital, a function it served until the 1990s. Marseille’s government then decided the property would make a a great luxury hotel and InterContinental was chosen to develop and manage the property. Almost 20 years after the last patient left, the first guest checked into what is now one of the best hotels in Europe.

Hotel Dieu
The classic facade

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Location
After the great InterContinental service, the next key here is the hotel’s location, on a hill overlooking the old port. The vantage point, raised above the city, offers some spectacular views from the terrace, entrance and guest rooms. Guests are literally steps away from the Vieux Port area (and its Metro stop) and in a perfect location to explore Marseille’s many historic sites and museums. Beyond the hotel’s physical location in the city, Marseille itself is a vibrant, exciting destination and visitors will find themselves feeling welcomed. Marseille, the second largest city in France, is a real city and unlike Paris, offers visitors a chance to get to know the real France.

Service
As someone who stays in a lot of luxury hotels, I find great hotels and great guest experiences start with great management. The attitude and standard that nothing less than perfection is acceptable trickles down and great hotels have staff who live by that ethos. InterContinental’s spectacular Hotel Dieu Marseille is one of those properties where the excellence comes through, starting from the top and their great GM, Madelijn Vervoord, expects and delivers only the best.

Hotel Dieu
With Madelijn the GM

My room
I had a sublime Executive Terrace Room, located right in the center of the hotel. The room’s best feature was a huge, outdoor, private terrace overlooking the old port, city skyline and cathedral, accessed through original 10 foot tall doors. The terrace was huge, with a sofa on one side, a table in the middle and two arm chairs on the other. The city and cathedral view were framed perfectly in the carved window with a rounded top.

The bathroom featured a huge, standalone bathtub, along with a large marble shower with rain shower head and full body jets. Very stylish and contemporary fixtures, which are consistent throughout the rooms and suites. Big comfortable bed, seating area, workspace and all the usual amenities like WiFi, minibar, luxury bed linens, etc. It really felt luxurious and beautifully designed, yet comfortable and welcoming at the same time.

 

Spa
The hotel’s large building allows space for a lot of luxury amenities and the Hotel Dieu’s Spa by Clarins sets new level for luxury in the city and in whole South of France. They offer a range of Clarins beauty and spa treatments, along with a beautiful indoor pool, two saunas and two hammams (Turkish baths). There’s a full gym with personal trainers available.

Food
I must mention the amazing food, all prepared under the watchful eye of executive chef Lionel Levy. Chef Levy oversees all the food at the property: room service, the bars and the hotel’s two restaurants. I had a great lunch on the terrace at Brasserie Les Fenetres, if you go, get the bouillabaisse milkshake. The hotel also features a serious, Michelin-starred gastronomic experience at Alcyone. The restaurant has only 30 tables and serves only dinner, five nights per week. The chef uses the same team for each service, waiters, kitchen staff, chefs, even the cleaning crew is the same. They work together as a team to try to achieve perfection on a nightly basis. The crew even vacations together, strengthening that bond.

Marseille
This is a very cool French city and a lot different (and friendlier) than Paris. I think of it as the Brooklyn of France, long disrespected, but always really cool and now coming into the mainstream. With a five-star hotel like the InterContinental, the city now has the luxury infrastructure to attract that level of guest that demands it. There’s a airport but the main access is by train, the city is a stop on France’s TGV (bullet train) system, placing it two and a half hours from Paris. The area is also considered the gateway to Provence and makes a great base or starting point for exploring some of the most beautiful areas of the South of France, filled with wonderful food and incredible wine.