Age-Old Cannes Glamour At The Hotel Martinez – Review
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Age-Old Cannes Glamour At The Hotel Martinez – Review

This legendary hotel doesn't disappoint

It’s difficult to believe today that Cannes was once a simple fishing village – and the land around it owned by monks – until it became a winter retreat for British aristocrats, led by Lord Brougham, in the mid-19th Century. By the early 1900s, it had become a chic, fully-fledged resort with luxury hotels by the sea along the legendary Promenade de la Croisette. Later, thanks to American tourists, it became a summer destination, famous since 1946 for its glamourous film festival in May. Today, with its mild climate, Cannes draws visitors year round, particularly for the many events the city stages. But whether you’re a movie star, attending a trade show, or simply on holiday, everyone wants a piece of Cannes’ mystique and magic – and the places to find them are the grand hotels, not least the illustrious Martinez. Anwer Bati reviews.

Hotel Review: Hotel Martinez, Cannes

Penthouse bedroom at Hotel Martinez, featuring pale blue carpets and curtains, a blue velvet chaise longue, and white furniture.

© JF Romero

STAY

Sitting like a stately liner at the eastern end of the Croisette, The Martinez has been a centre of life in Cannes since it opened in 1929, designed in distinctive Art Deco style, with a majestic central staircase. And as one of the main hubs of the Cannes Film Festival, the guest list couldn’t be more gleaming. Given that it’s the furthest of Cannes luxury hotels from the red-carpeted Palais des Festivals, it’s traditionally been the hotel of choice for stars looking for a little privacy – with recent guests Julianne Moore, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Natalie Portman among them. It is also traditionally the location of the eve of festival dinner for the awards jury.

Both the hotel’s public areas and its 410 rooms and suites (spread over seven floors) have been redecorated many times since it opened, but the latest refurb is possibly the most extensive ever. The pool is bigger and has been moved from the front of the hotel to the back – a part of the hotel once wasted as a utility area – and now also offers a relaxing garden well away from the hubbub of the Croisette. As a result, guests staying at the back of the hotel can at last enjoy a view. 

The lobby is now host to exhibitions from major contemporary artists including Damian Hirst.  And the rooms, many with sea views and balconies, have been brightened up in a cool contemporary take on Art Deco style, with white lacquered furniture and the hotel’s signature pale blue giving them a yacht-like feel.  The bathrooms –  featuring marble fittings and textured doors –  also have both Art Deco and nautical touches, and the Fragonard toiletries are exclusive to the hotel. If you opt for one of the 16 Oasis suites, you’ll find a rather warmer palette, as well as terraces and skylights to make the most of the Riviera sun.

As you would expect, a hotel of the Martinez’s reputation, history and size, it has all the facilities you could ask for, including the much prized private beach just in front, and classic service to match.

EAT

Hotel Martinez bar featuring a gold ceiling mural and white furniture.

© JF Romero

The new all day lobby-bar restaurant, Le Sud, brings fresh life to the front of the hotel, replacing the swimming pool. Set in lush garden, with atmospheric lighting, it has already become a key meeting place on the Croisette.  The space was designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, who also redesigned the rooms, and the restaurant interiors are also yacht-inspired. The emphasis is on Mediterranean seafood, but classic French dishes, as well as pasta and pizza are also on the menu – and everything is top notch. The lively bar is open until 1am. Le Sud is also the place for a varied, high quality, beautifully presented breakfast – much improved in the opinion of regular guests. 

Styled by yacht designer Remi Tessier, La Plage du Martinez, the hotel’s beach restaurant, with nautical chairs on a decking floor, is ideal for lunch or an early drink.  The extensive menu covers most palates and appetites –ranging across fresh fish dishes, grills, Provençal specialties and Italian food.

All the hotel’s food is overseen by chef Jean Imbert, who formerly held a Michelin star at the Plaza Athénée in Paris and took over at the Martinez in 2023. The hotel’s legendary gastronomic Palme d’Or restaurant, with its sea view, will reopen in time for this year’s film festival. It was the star of Cannes’ dining scene for decades with two Michelin stars under previous chefs Christian Willer, who founded it, and then his protégé Christian Sinicropi, and there are high hopes that Imbert will retain its stars.

DO

Rooftop swimming pool with views of indoor spa

© Jerome Kelagopian

With its pier and excellent service, if the Martinez’s lively private beach (the largest of the hotel beaches) isn’t peaceful enough for you, then you can always relax by the pool, which is complete with its own bar. And, of course, head for the sparkling new L’Oasis spa, also on first floor level, with seven treatment rooms and ultra premium Carita products for everything from facials to detox to a range of massages and even osteopathy.  Yoga is also on offer, and you can make sure you look your best by visiting the spa’s hairdressing and beauty salons – for men as well as women. Or tone up for the beach in the large fitness centre.

Cannes has surprisingly few formal attractions, but most people are happy to soak up the atmosphere in a beach restaurant or a Croisette café. A wander round the narrow streets of the old town and up Le Suquet is always a charming option, particularly for more authentic restaurants. And having lunch at one of the seafood places in the old port area could almost make you believe that you were wafted back to the days when Cannes was a fishing village. Otherwise, walking along the elegant Croisette (particularly in the morning and at sunset) is  a favourite local activity. It takes around 15 minutes to walk from the Martinez to the Palais des Festivals.

Then there’s the shopping. Most of the top luxury brands are arrayed along the Croisette, with high street brands and smaller shop – as well as some good bars and restaurants in the streets behind. It’s also worth visiting the covered Forville food market to ogle some of the best Provençal produce.

Hotel Martinez beach area, with orange striped parasols.

©Photo: Boby | Design: Remi Tessier

THE FINAL WORD

The Martinez is rightly one of France’s most famous hotels, and a byword for the glamour so long associated with Cannes. It’s also the biggest in town, with some of the best food and facilities.

BOOK IT

A double room with breakfast at the Hotel Martinez starts from £310 per night. hotel-martinez.com

Anwer flew one-way from London to Cannes, with a carbon footprint of 157kg of CO2e. ecollectivecarbon.com