Marseille is booming. Since its successful year as European City of Culture in 2013 the face of this gritty seaport has been given a facelift, no more so than in the docks area and the historic central Panier district.
The Ibis Vieux Port offers a perfect jumping off point to explore the revitalized zone of this buzzing city, as it is in the heart of the old port area. Not only that, it is a short walk from the Gare St Charles, which welcomes train passengers and visitors arriving on the airport bus. Just around the corner is the metro stop Colbert and a tram stop is just outside the hotel door. Ibis Vieux Port is a very wise strategic choice for a Marseille visit.
The hotel itself is on the corner of a Haussmannian block and harks back to the glory days when steamers were bringing in people and cargo from the Orient. The glory days for Marseille are coming to life again and this area is the heart of the action.
Rooms in the hotel offer all traveller needs for a city break, and the upper floors give an incredible view over the harbour and the city rooftops across to the symbol of Marseille, Notre Dame de la Garde. It is known locally as La Bonne Mère and is a welcome sight when you wake in the morning and look out to see the whole of Marseille laid out before your eyes.
The hotel lobby is also the atypical morning breakfast room with nooks and crannies. And the breakfast offering is also atypical. A full spread indeed. The highlights are jams and honeys locally produced and a really hearty selection of breads which makes toast a real treat. Also on offer are a selection of grains to sprinkle on cereal and fruit and yoghurt or any combination to make for a truly tasty bespoke breakfast.
One of the other features of Ibis makes for a truly flexible approach to your stay. Breakfast can be taken as early or late so guests need not arrange their day around a fixed breakfast time slot. For the busy traveller this is a true bonus.
Fortified by a hearty breakfast start, the day can begin. From here it is a short walk to the newly revamped La Joliette district where the old solid stone warehouses have been turned into designer offices and restaurants. This is the Soho business district of Marseille and offers a new face to the city of the French Connection. From there you can loop back to the Vieux Port via the newly gentrifying Panier. For many years these quaint narrow streets were one of the poorest quarters of Marseille and were avoided by many and considered something of a no go area. Now they are bustling with café life and artists ateliers.
As you make you way through the Panier you will emerge looking down on the Vieux Port and see the newly created esplanade behind the Town Hall. This is landscaping at its best and, yes, there is a wonderful view of La Bonne Mère across the port. Turning right towards to the harbour mouth you will see the jewel in the crown of the new renovations of Marseille, the MuCEM. The Museum of European and Mediterranean Culture has proved an instant landmark and has been a runaway success. Visitors numbers have shot up into 7 figures in the first year of opening. Reach the open air, enclosed roof terrace by the dramatic linking walkways and you will enjoy a coffee in a place which is the heart of the new 21st Century Marseille.
In a little over 15 minutes you can be back at Ibis Vieux Port on foot having taken in the highlights of a world famous city which is re-inventing itself for the future.
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