With quarantine scrapped for UK holidaymakers returning from France, we select chateaux, hotels and B&Bs across the country
On rocks overlooking the beach in the cheerful town of Le Conquet, the Sainte Barbe isn’t your usual seaside hotel. Transformed from a derelict husk after being abandoned in 2006, it is now a bright and modern retreat. Every one of its 34 rooms has a sea view – some with floor-to-ceiling windows – while its decor includes photos of the graffiti-clad walls from its years as a squat. There’s a small indoor pool and spa, a good restaurant and a rooftop bar from which to gaze upon the swirling Iroise Sea, one of the most treacherous shipping lanes in the world. Days out can take in the sweeping golden beaches up and down the coast or a ride on small passenger ferries from Le Conquet to the wild and remote islands of Molène and Ushant (Ouessant in French).
€110pp half-board with its Sun-Thurs Après Weekend package, from September to March, hotelsaintebarbe.com
Sea views don’t get much better than those from Les Charmettes, a friendly hotel set in two 19th-century villas on the Saint Malo seafront overlooking Rochebonne beach, where sand-yachts zip past at low tide and catamarans at high tide. The 16 cosy bedrooms are individually decorated with funky statement wallpaper and have either sea or garden view. Breakfast is served on the terrace or in the lively beach house restaurant, which offers dishes such as moules marinières and seafood platters at lunch and dinner. The hotel makes a great base for exploring the walled town of Saint Malo, with its cobbled streets and towering townhouses, as well for venturing further afield along the beautiful Emerald Coast.
Doubles from €74 room-only, sawdays.co.uk
With 20 bright, fresh rooms decorated in pale wood tongue-and-groove and vintage furniture, Lodge Kerisper makes a tranquil base for exploring southern Brittany – its soft sandy beaches, and unique megalithic alignments at Carnac and Quiberon peninsula. Breakfast is served in the sun-drenched atrium and, after a day out, guests can while away the late afternoon reading in deckchairs in the flower-strewn garden and swimming in the bijou pool. Come evening, they can saunter over to the zinc-topped bar for cocktails, then stroll down the hill for dinner on La Trinité-sur-Mer’s quayside.
Doubles from €89 room-only, lodgekerisper.com
On the edge of Picardy’s Compiègne forest, minutes from where the first world war armistice was signed, Villa du Châtelet is a wonderfully welcoming three-bedroom chambres d’hôtes. Host Alix de Lauzanne is a superb cook who runs cookery classes in one wing of the house, so be sure to request her evening table d’hote. The villa was built for 19th-century composer Léo Delibes, of Lakmé fame (known to most for the Flower Duet used in British Airways ads), and Alix hosts regular concerts and recitals. Nearby is the chic town of Compiègne with its imperial chateau, and on the other side of the forest is Napoleon III’s turreted folly, Château de Pierrefonds.
Doubles from €120 B&B, villaduchatelet.com
Since the middle ages, Amiens has been known for its hortillonnages, a 300-hectare area of floating gardens where the city’s flowers, fruit and vegetables were traditionally grown. These tranquil spaces can be explored on a guided electric boat tour, or by sailing a hired barge or paddling a canoe down the canals that run between them. Better still, it is possible to stay overnight in one of the many self-catering cabins for rent among the market garden plots. One such is Chez Mouch à Miel, a 19th-century cottage that has been decked out with a chic living room, kitchen and mezzanine bedroom for two. There is also a boat to use and two bikes for exploring the city, with its Unesco-listed gothic cathedral and Jules Verne museum, and the attractive Saint-Leu district with its canalside restaurants.
From €240 for two for two nights, meals available on request, french-weekendbreaks.co.uk
Get to know your inner Gaul with a stay at Parc Astérix, all about the enduringly popular Astérix and Obélix and one of France’s best theme parks. Hotel La Cité Suspendue, one of the park’s three hotels, is in woods at the edge of the park, with cosy forest cabin rooms in three “hamlets” linked by footbridges. Though tickets are extra, you get entry to the park 30 minutes before day visitors arrive, and the hotel makes a great base for exploring the area, with the Château de Chantilly and Ermenonville Forest nearby, or even a day trip into Paris, which is 80 minutes away by train.
From €185 a night half-board for a family room, up to five sharing. Packages with park tickets available, parcasterix.fr
Pigalle is now one of Paris’s hippest districts, with a host of excellent bars and restaurants. At the heart of the action is Grand Pigalle, the cheaper of the Experimental Cocktail Group’s two hotels (the other, Grands Boulevards, is also excellent). The 37 bedrooms are bright and well-equipped, even if they are a bit on the compact side, with the hotel’s signature decor coming from the award-winning designer Dorothée Meilichzon. Breakfast is served in the restaurant, Frenchie Pigalle, where chef Gregory Marchand’s evening menus are inspired by his global travels. The Sacré-Coeur basilica is just 10 minutes up the hill, and the Louvre is within half an hour’s stroll.
Doubles from €169 room-only, grandpigalle.com
This eco-friendly hotel in a quiet road just west of Le Trocadéro is an ideal escape from the hubbub of the capital. Its 25 bedrooms have almost all been refurbished recently and those on the upper floors have views over the rooftops towards the Eiffel Tower. The hotel’s green credentials include renewable energy, a fully organic breakfast and paying their staff to take public transport to work. It’s close to the Passy Métro stop and then just a five-minute ride over the River Seine to the Champs de Mars and Eiffel Tower.
Doubles from €100 room-only, sawdays.co.uk
Not far from Monet’s garden at Giverny, Les Hautes Sources is a beautiful B&B run by friendly hosts Amaury and Audrey de Tilly. It’s set in extensive grounds with a swimming pool and tennis courts, and the three spacious guest rooms have exposed wooden beams, polished floorboards, tasteful furnishings and superb views over the valley. The gourmet breakfast features locally sourced ingredients and homemade jams. As well as the B&B, there’s also a dinky cottage that sleeps five and a cosy, off-grid treehouse for four perched on six-metre struts above the valley.
Doubles from €130 B&B, les-hautes-sources.fr
The Perche regional park in southern Normandy is a favourite among those who like to shop for interesting bric-a-brac and antiques, thanks to its numerous brocante markets and warehouses, and the town of Mortagne-au-Perche makes a good base for exploring. Set on an attractive square in a 16th-century residence, Hotel du Tribunal has 22 attractive and comfortable rooms with bold wallpaper and plush furnishings. In the excellent in-house restaurant, chef Vincent Biset uses local produce for his gourmet menus, including the celebrated boudin à la royale (house black pudding in prune and orange sauce).
Doubles from €81 room-only, hotel-tribunal.fr
If the way to your heart is via your stomach, you will love La Ferme de Marie-Eugénie, where the eponymous hostess treats guests to gourmet dishes made with Burgundy’s seasonal produce. In an 18th-century farmhouse, her guesthouse offers four bright, stylish rooms overlooking the garden and cornfields. Not far away is Bourg-en-Bresse – known for its gothic architecture and white-feathered, red-crested, blue-footed Bresse chickens (it’s the place to eat coq au vin) – as well as the Jura mountains and the town of Mâcon.
Doubles €135 B&B, bnb.lafermedemarieeugenie.fr
When the time comes, there’ll be no better way to celebrate our newfound freedom than with a trip to the hub of France’s champagne industry, Épernay, to stock up on fizz. The apartments of Bubble 8, in an elegant converted townhouse, make a great base for touring both the big-name houses and the smaller, family-run vineyards that offer more affordable vintages. Owner Pascale Lelong-Macra offers one studio and two apartments (sleeping two or four), with well-equipped kitchens and chic, modern decor. She’s happy to bring up breakfast, or guests can saunter round the corner to get something from the boulangerie.
Self-catering apartments from €109, bubble8.fr
In the sleepy départment of Mayenne, on a huge site dotted with ponds and surrounded by woods and fields of sunflowers, the three treehouses and one Gypsy roulotte caravan at La Chouette Cabane are great for families and couples. The treehouse cabins sleep two to four and come with comfortable beds and pretty bed linen, as well as a sink and dry toilet. Each treehouse has its own deck and they are all far enough apart for guests to feel as though they have the site to themselves, with just the birds for company. Breakfast and dinner (if ordered ahead) are brought to the cabin and drawn up to the terrace with a pulley. Kids will love the on-site farm, with goats and donkeys to feed, and guests can also go fishing or hire bicycles to explore the lovely surrounding countryside.
Treehouses from €130 B&B, chouettecabane.fr
Motor racing fans attending Le Mans will love this three-star hotel, once the drivers’ chosen pit stop, with previous guests including Bruce McLaren, Stirling Moss and Jackie Stewart. The rooms feature memorabilia from the races, but even those with no interest in motor racing will love the friendly atmosphere, attentive staff and classic French bistro. There’s also a small swimming pool. It makes a great stop on a road trip south.
Doubles from €93 room-only, lhoteldefrance.fr
If you fancy throwing a big post-pandemic family reunion in style, one of France’s many chateaux rentals may well fit the bill. The 15th-century Château du Breuil is set in its own parkland and architect-owner Roxanna McDonald has spent years collecting period furniture, fascinating artefacts and objets d’art to decorate the place. The chateau sleeps 14 in total, with room for eight in one wing and an additional six in an apartment (or it can just be booked for eight). It is in the attractive village of Chédigny, famous for its roses, and is in easy reach of the Loire’s big-hitter chateaux, such as Chenonceau, Amboise, Villandry and Valençay.
One week for eight people from €840, loire-chateau.fr
With the mighty Loire and three other rivers running close by, the city of Angers makes a great spot for lovers of the outdoors, and its City Kamp campsite is near Lac de Maine, not far from the city centre. It has modern, two-bedroom cabins as well as tent pitches, plus a pool, a pizzeria, watersports activities on the lake and bikes to hire. There are cycle paths into the city centre and along the rivers; look out for the numerous riverside bars or guingettes, which offer streetfood-style plates or full restaurant menus, as well as their own entertainment, be it gigs, dance classes or yoga.
Chalets sleep 3-6, from €69 a night, campingangers.com
At the top end of the Chaîne des Puys, the line of extinct volcanoes in the Massif Central, this peaceful chambres d’hôtes has two cosy suites that each sleep four or five. Converted from former barns, they have stone walls, rustic beams, vintage furniture and soft neutral linens – and a generous breakfast is on offer each day. It will be hard to tear yourself away, but nearby there are lakes for swimming, the volcanoes to climb and superb walking trails.
Suites from €145 B&B, leseydieux.com
There’s nothing like waking up to views of a lush forest canopy, but to do so from the comfort of a spacious cabin, complete with woodburner, in the Haut-Languedoc regional park is an added bonus. Château dans les Chênes (Castle in the Oaks) is perched on a hilltop and has two double beds and one single, as well as a kitchen and lounge area. Being off-grid, the lights and fridge are gas-powered and the shower uses rainwater heated over a stove. Guests will want to embrace the rugged scenery with walks, canyoning trips, donkey treks and swimming or canoeing on the river.
Cabin for five from £89 a night, canopyandstars.co.uk
The village of Assignan has been brought back to life thanks to this hotel, which occupies several buildings on and near its central square. Visionary owners Tine Claeys and Marc Verstraete have decorated all the hotel buildings the colour of wine lees, making them pop in shades of pink, red and purple, and have also built an architecturally striking winery on the edge of the village; its cork-clad walls are shaped like a wine bottle on its side. The whole ensemble is wonderfully attractive. Wifi is almost nonexistent – good reason to switch off and enjoy cycling through the vineyards, chilling out at the new spa and meals at the three restaurants: one Thai, one bistro and one Michelin-starred.
Rooms from €130 room-only, villagecastigno.com
You can’t help but swoon at the sight of the village of Grignan in the Drôme départment: its 15th-century chateau is encircled by a jumble of houses, with lavender fields all around. For an enchanting place to stay, book this “scattered hotel” with 16 spacious rooms in 17th- and 19th-century mansions and two other village houses. Each room is decorated in rich colours, classic florals and antiques. The Michelin-starred restaurant is also a draw – chef Julien Allano is spoiled by the area’s abundance of produce, from olives and cherries to cheeses and truffles.
Doubles from €169 room-only, clairplume.com
Not far from the emerald green Lac de Montriond near Morzine, this characterful chalet is a fun place to chill out after hiking or biking the mountains in summer, or hitting the ski slopes in winter. Each of its 15 spacious, en suite rooms (with three more in the adjoining smaller chalet) has vintage furniture and cosy blankets and rugs. British owners Lucy and Rob Mundell pride themselves on their three-course dinners, served to all guests together at a long table, after a cocktail aperitif to break the ice. There is also afternoon tea in the comfortable lounge area, and a hot tub on the terrace to help sooth aching limbs.
Doubles from €130 B&B, lafermedulacvert.com
The Côte d’Azur has always attracted artists and Hôtel Windsor celebrates this heritage by inviting different artists to put their unique stamp on its bedrooms. Other rooms feature frescoes by local painter Antoine Baudoin or pay homage to creative types such as Jean Cocteau and Coco Chanel. As well as all this arty fun, there’s a tropical garden with a heated swimming pool between tall bamboos, bougainvillaea and palm trees, plus a terrace restaurant and a spa and fitness room. The hotel is just a few steps from the Promenade des Anglais and the beach, and 15 minutes’ walk from the old town, with its narrow streets and vibrant market in the Cours Saleya.
Doubles from €90 room-only, hotelwindsornice.com
Just over the road from the railway station, this chic hotel opened in 2019 and is ideal for exploring the historic town, its excellent restaurants and the gastronomic delights found along the Rhône valley, such as Tain-l’Hermitage, birthplace of syrah grapes. The hotel’s 12 rooms are decorated in dark colours which add to the cocoon-like atmosphere. They are well soundproofed, assuring a good night’s sleep, and the breakfast salon has a terrace.
Doubles from €130 room-only, hotel-victoria-valence.fr
Sandwiched between the touristy hotspots of the Côte d’Azur and the Luberon massif, the Var department offers a sleepier, more chilled-out version of Provence. In the village of La Cadière d’Azur, Hostellerie Bérard is a friendly, family-run hotel, spa and restaurant perfect for kicking back and taking in the sunshine and the views of vineyard-lined hills. It has 36 light and modern rooms, an enticing pool and an excellent spa, while culinary options include a bistro serving local cuisine, a Michelin-starred restaurant and a cookery school. Sandy beaches and the coastal resorts of Bandol and Sanary-sur-Mer are just a short drive away.
Doubles from €109 room-only, hotel-berard.com
Bang in the heart of Marseille’s vibrant Noailles district, where Middle Eastern bakeries nudge up against aromatic spice shops, Maison Saint Louis offers a retreat from the buzzing streets. Its rooms sleep two, four or six, and have simple, airy decor dotted with flea market finds and wooden furniture. There’s a classic bistro on the ground floor for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or to simply watch the world go by with a café en terrasse. The hotel is just a few minutes’ walk from the Vieux Port, which is usually packed tight with yachts, and is home to the architectural wonders of Norman Foster’s Ombrière – a giant mirrored canopy – and Mucem, the Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et la Méditerranée.
Doubles from €82 room-only, hotel-maison-saintlouis.com