Les Bords de Mer in the South of France city of Marseille is a stylish seafront stay in an all-white art deco building. The buzzy boutique bolthole has a rooftop bar (marvellous Med vistas, coming right up), Ren spa and a relaxed restaurant serving up the best bouillabaisse in town. The city’s ancient Old Port is a 10-minute stroll away and the corniche setting means you’re close to all the action. The rooms are bright and breezy, with the show-stealing blue sea doing most of the talking.
Get this when you book through us:
A welcome half bottle of wine, free tasting at the winery at the hotel's sister property Domaine de Fontenille in Lauris and 10 per cent off spa treatments
11.30am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 4pm, also flexible.
Double rooms from $163.40 (€147), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.25 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include breakfast.
At the hotel
Gym and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: iPod dock DVD player, air-conditioning, free bottled water, minibar and Ren bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Some of the rooms have French doors that open practically right onto the water’s edge: if you want to feel like you’re out at sea, opt for an Executive Room – Les Bords de Mer, which also has a sizeable terrace and a bright ’n’ breezy all-white interior.
There are two saltwater-filled pools: one indoors and heated and another, unheated, up on the roof. Both are adults only.
The Ren spa has a steam room, pool and sauna, and a treatment list that includes Japanese acupressure, shiatsu facials and good old Swedish massage. Pilates, yoga and personal trainers can also be organised.
Bring nautical but nice clothing, sensible shoes for Old Port strolling and a rotating series of swimwear.
Some bedrooms have been adapted for wheelchair users.
All ages are welcome. Extra beds and cots can be added to rooms. Babysitting is €30 an hour, with two days’ notice. Little Smiths can come along for meals, but there are no special menus or changing facilities (there are colouring books, though).
The hotel uses locally sourced, seasonal produce where possible, and all of its cleaning and bath products are eco-warrior-approved.
Breakfast is a French feast of artisan cheese, cured meat from a local village and a load of homemade pies and cakes, all served with a backdrop of the dazzling blue sea. The majestic Mediterranean setting also inspires the menu, with plenty of super-fresh seafood, not to mention the famous bouillabaisse. Everything is laid-back except the staff, who are working tirelessly to provide faultless service.
The rooftop cocktail bar is perfect for sundowners with a sea view (and a plate of delicious Provençal cheese).
Breakfast is served between 7am and 10.30am, lunch is from noon until 3pm and dinner hours are 7.30pm to 11pm.
The restaurant menu can be delivered to your room when the restaurant’s open, with a selection of cold dishes available at other times. The bar serves food between 11am and 11pm.
You’ll find Les Bords de Mer in the Provençal city of Marseille.
Marseille’s airport is closest, roughly half an hour away by car; hotel transfers cost €70, plus a night and public-holiday supplement.
Marseille is on France’s high-speed TGV line, which links up the southern city with Paris in just over three hours. The station is 15 minutes away from the hotel.
The centre of Marseille is just a five-minute drive from the hotel. You’re perfectly placed for seeing the city, but if you want to explore more of Provence, some wheels will come in handy. There's no parking on-site but, with advance notice, the hotel can help to arrange parking nearby (it starts from €25 a day).
Worth getting out of bed for
Take a dip on your doorstep before exploring the city’s Old Port, which has been a trading spot since settlers set up shop there in 600BC, then head back to basecamp for the bouillabaisse, a spa treatment and a chance to survey the city from the rooftop. Hike theCalanque de Sugiton and reward yourself with a cooling splash at the creek’s beach. Get your contemporary-art fix at the Musée d'Art Contemporain. Set sail for the Frioul Islands, an archipelago of four landmasses four kilometres off the coast.
Join the cool kids brunching at Marseille’s Mama Shelter outpost, or release your inner Francophile and go all out on oysters, at Chez Rogeron Quai du Port. For something a little smarter, also along the port, Une Table au Sudserves sublime seafood as you watch the boats come in.
This university city has a healthy drinking culture – head to La Fabrique on Place Jules Verne for Warhol nods and NYC vibes. Or pick a pew at iconic old-school drinkery Le Bar de la Marine on Quai de Rive Neuve.
If Hercule Poirot ever had a proper holiday in the south of France, rather than just gadding around on the Blue Train solving murders, he’d almost certainly stay at Les Bords de Mer in Marseille. I’m not saying it’s the kind of place where you’re likely to find a duchess strangled by her own diamonds, but the Art Deco aesthetics do cry out for a bit of drama.
Though the building has been a fixture of the Corniche since the Thirties, the clean white lines, silhouetted on our arrival against an obscenely blue Mediterranean sky, are new, part of a recent makeover that’s seen it transformed from grubby peach two-star to a glamorous harbinger of gentrification on a stretch of the coast that has long lacked love.
Certainly when we check in, having struck lucky with a free parking space a few roads away (the hotel, wedged between the sea and the main seafront road, has no garage) and dragging a fleecy dog bed and a sack of kibble behind us, it becomes apparent we are the least cool people in residence by some margin. ‘Do you have to be young and blonde to work here?’ my partner whispers as the lovely receptionist shows us up to our room. I don’t know, I say, but if so, the dog could earn us some holiday spending money…if he’d only stop barking at the waves from our small, but perfectly formed balcony.
In fact, almost everything about this place has been well thought out; all of the 19 rooms have a glorious sea view, taking in the Plage de Catalans on one side and the famous island fort of the Chateau d’If, immortalised in the Count of Monte Cristo, on the other. Given the narrow footprint, this means they’re pretty compact – definitely more of a hand-luggage type of place, we decide, but really, what more do you need in Marseille than a swimming costume, some espadrilles and a well chewed Angry Bird toy?
After a leisurely stroll to the Vieux Port to enjoy a sundowner (pastis for us, water from an old ice cream tub for him) we return our four-legged friend to the marble floor of the unexpectedly roomy bathroom, which he apparently prefers to the bed we’ve driven 800 miles with, and go down for dinner with the happy abandon of two people who have no need of babysitters. Because it’s a Wednesday in October, and the hotel is on the coast road, rather than in the throbbing heart of France’s second city, I’d assumed the restaurant would be as tranquil as the whitewashed decor, but in fact, it’s almost full – those magnificent sea views, and a menu designed by Parisian power sisters Tatiana and Katia Levha mean it’s clearly a draw for locals too.
Indeed, the vibe is firmly, and joyfully as far as I’m concerned, metropolitan hipster, from the natural wine – the charming waiter recommends an excellent limpid garnet rose from the Luberon – to the excellent, and plentiful sourdough and friendly but low-key service. Even the seafood-heavy menu – Camargue oysters, bream, squid mullet, pollock, Mediterranean tuna – boasts unusually generous amounts of vegetable matter for a French hotel, often with a Middle Eastern accent: hummus and sesame with the tuna; pickled plums, Lebanese cucumber and coriander oil with the bream.
To be honest, having sampled almost all of it, come breakfast time neither of us feel very hungry, but faced with a simple buffet of fresh fruit, yoghurt, pastries, cookies, bread, cheese, ham, juices and even an olive and basil quiche, I rise manfully to the challenge, and then slightly regret it. ‘We need to take the dog for a walk,’ I say. ‘Preferably up the steepest hill we can find.’ Helpfully the magnificent church of Notre-Dame de la Garde towers above us, offering both a stiff climb and fantastic views of the city – and the Mediterranean looks so lovely from up there that we decide to grab our bikes from the car on the way down and cycle along the coast to the Calanques national park for a quick dip and, of course, an ice cream.
It turns out to be a three-swim kind of a day: when we get back, we head for the fabulous rooftop pool, where we float lazily in the sinking sun, arguing about which of us should go and try and order some drinks without actually doing anything about it, then, for the sake of completeness, go for a quick dip in the basement spa. Newly blasted out of the bedrock, the vibe down here is more Bond villain than Agatha Christie baddie – I half expect to bump into Jaws in the sauna.
We get those drinks, finally, in the rooftop bar on the second floor, before heading into town for a vast portion of the best couscous I’ve ever eaten at local institution La Femina, chased down by some violently coloured cocktails in a bar that rings to the dulcet tones of a local rugby team celebrating victory with some gusto. Poirot, I think as we meander our way back to the quiet glamour of the Bords de Mer, would definitely not approve. We, however, have had a great time.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Les Bords de Mer’s Guestbook below.
It's all about the views, particularly the sunsets. The food in the restaurant was excellent, some of the best hotel food we have experienced.
A big pool or a private beach.
Stayed on 3 Sep 2019
The whole set-up – the team at Les Bords de Mer have done a huge amount with the relatively small space they had for the hotel, sandwiched between the main road and the beach. Everything is petite, but perfectly formed. The rooms are on the smaller side, but beautifully designed and well-appointed and the views are simply stunning. Everything feels like a whitewashed Grey Malin painting. This is a perfect spot for a weekend getaway, or the start of a honeymoon. The hotel's restaurant is fabulous and their second floor rooftop bar is brilliant, the cocktails are fabulous and the snacks are to die for. There is a small but perfect pool on the very top floor of the hotel, although there are only a handful of loungers. The hotel also has beachfront access and a private space with loungers set up with a hop, skip and a jump to access the beach itself. We didn't try the spa during our stay, but it looked wonderful. The team were super helpful and ensured we had everything we needed to make the most of our stay. One last thing – the beds: wow, like sleeping in a cloud on top of a marshmallow, they were truly sumptuous and the best part of the room (aside from the spectacular view). We will certainly be back.
A lot of space – everything is on the smaller side, but it has been well thought through and it doesn't take away from the fabulous experience of staying at the hotel. Also, don't expect a lot of on site parking – the hotel has access to a small garage with four spots, but make sure that you book in advance.
Stayed on 29 Aug 2019
The balcony, the view, the proximity to the sea. The good food and drink, from breakfast to dinner.
It to be entirely peaceful and quiet – Marseille is a lively place.
Stayed on 6 Aug 2019
The terrace and sea views (as it is genuinely on the sea front), the design of the hotel and the rooms. Ditto the rooftop bar. From the terrace/balcony it's great to watch the complete range of sailing methods from stand up paddle boards to enormous ferries to Algeria. The opportunity to experience the old port and to start to explore Marseille. The staff are genuinely lively and interested, but as the hotel is new there is a little development to go.
Peace and quiet - it's not far from a club that is noisy until midnight. There is also a busy road next to it and a busy adjacent beach.