I thought, being aged 32, that I was no longer a hostel person, but one look at the prices for hotels in Marseille in August convinced me that I was still a hostel person. But the Vertigo didn't seem like a normal youth hostel, from the website at least. Photos showed designer dorms with artwork on the walls, a cosy lounge area and what looked like a cellar bar.
I soon realised on arrival that there are two Vertigo hostels, and the arty photos must have been taken in the other one down in the Vieux Port area. I was at the one in Belsunce, in a renovated old house. It was nice enough, but not really the hostel I was expecting.
My bed was in a 4-bed mixed dorm, basic and bare, and perhaps not as clean as it could have been, with an en-suite bathroom with shower, which was good news. The bad news was that it was extremely hot, and there was just a very ineffective fan on a table, great for those on the lower bunks, but no use whatsoever for me on the top bunk.
The staff was friendly and helpful, and I imagine the bar and outside terrace would be a great place to sit...but also staying in the hostel was a large group of American girls just out of high school and on a big adventure, doing Europe in the summer. It'sinteresting how a few people with loud voices can completely change the atmosphere of a place, and it was impossible to sit in the bar and not have to listen to their "amazing" stories as they uploaded photos to facebook, courtesy of the hostel's wifi. That explains why I only had one beer in the hostel, escaping to a local bar with another traveller from my dorm who had also had enough!
At 25 Euros per bed in high season, it's not really a cheap hostel, but I suppose this is the south coast of France in summer. Breakfast is an extra 5 Euros in the bar.
Unlike official youth hostels, Vertigo doesn't have a curfew, so you can come and go as you like.
Unique Quality: The location was good, very handy for the train station, and close enough to the centre to walk. I've seen reviews complaining that the area is dodgy and unsavoury, but it seemed fine to me. Belsunce has a reputation, and I read one guidebook that recommended travellers to avoid the area completely, which is over the top. It's not a rich neighbourhood, but not a slum either, and I quite liked walking through Belsunce...it would have been more interesting outside Ramadan though, as during the daytime all the North African cafes and shops were shut. At night, the phone shops and cafes stayed open late, so there were always plenty of people around...not a threatening place, unlike other parts of central Marseille after dark.
Directions: From the station, go down the steps, turn right, then right again, and turn left by the little pizza place. You'll see the Vertigo sign on the wall. In fact you can see the hostel from the train station terrace.