Autumn is nearly upon us, vacationers! The leaves will soon be golden, the air more crisp. You’ll be taking your sweaters out of storage; hotels will begin charging their “off-season” rates. What better way to welcome the season than by taking a short break in one of our charming hotels in France?
What do you fancy? Outstanding views, vineyards close by, a day at a golf course or on horseback? Perhaps you’re looking to be pampered, to escape the office for a short weekend away from technology? Are you interested in architecture, history, or Roman ruins? Do you want to see a bullfight, or go on a stargazing tour? Are you looking to taste the finest regional cuisine prepared from locally sourced ingredients by expert chefs? If “yes” is the answer, then you will love our list of our favorite hotels, chateaux, and guesthouses below.
If you’re looking for peace among the wilderness, look no further than Instants d’Absolu Ecolodge and Spa. This unique hotel—built from lava rock—is located in the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Park and overlooks the serene Lac du Pecher. Owners Laurence and Daniel have wisely kept the guestrooms TV-and-telephone-free, perfect for a short break from the constant buzz of technology. Their spa and facilities, however, are not lacking in technological advancements. Relax in the Nordic hammam, the sauna, or the outdoor hot tub with views onto the lake. Book a massage or treatment for maximum relaxation. At the in-house restaurant, feast on local seasonal cuisine. The lodge partners with regional producers who practice nature-friendly farming. Ecotourism at its finest!
The area is not lacking in natural beauty. Rife with flora and fauna, your closest neighbors are the deer, foxes, and other wildlife that inhabit the region. Spot lapwings from the bird observatory or on a walk along the 20-acre lake. The lodge offers many guided outdoor activities including fly-fishing, horseback riding, paragliding, and stargazing just to name a few. Immerse yourself in this nature park for a few days away from the hustle and bustle of real life.
Not ready to let go of summer just yet? The Hotel des Ormes boasts a beachy atmosphere that is sure to keep you in warm spirits even as the weather cools down. In this cozy cottage hotel, you will find perfection down to the smallest detail: beach prints hanging over the bed in your guestroom, cool blues and greens throughout, white-painted furniture, and wood-slatted tables in the garden. If you choose to take your meal outside underneath one of the canvas umbrellas, your meal will not be the only thing regaling your senses. The garden overflows with greenery and flowers. In fact, the owners have taken care to include flora wherever possible: from your dining table to your guestroom to the entire façade of the hotel. The added floral element to the hotel invites you to breathe deeply and relax; this time is for your enjoyment.
The hotel is located a stone’s throw from the beach. Pack a picnic and take a walk; enjoy the revitalizing sea air. Mont-Saint-Michel is only an hour’s drive from here and would make an excellent day-trip. Other options include cruises to the Channel Islands or a tour of the Normandy Landing Beaches. Hotel des Ormes makes the perfect stopover or starting point from which to explore the region.
This private mansion in the heart of Provence—only 20 km from Avignon—is built like a Moroccan riad; the building surrounds a private inner courtyard replete with shrubbery and shaded by a lime tree on one side and a chestnut tree on the other. A high 13th century wall surrounds the 17th century guesthouse; its luxury is a secret kept just for you. Carolo and Joël, seasoned hoteliers, bought the three-roomed mansion in 2008 and renovated it to their high ecological standards, completed in 2011. Carolo is a landscape architect who has worked abroad, so her vast knowledge of gardens and décor is utilized throughout the grounds and rooms of La Carol’Isle. Each guestroom has access to a personal terrace with views of the town and surrounding area.
This hotel is located on a quiet alley of the old town in the village of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, a lively Provencal village overflowing with waterside cafes and restaurants, daily markets and baroque churches. For the avid antique collector, you will have over 300 upmarket antique shops to choose from.
For a true Basque experience, book a getaway at Auberge Ostapé. Halfway between the mountains and the coast at Biarritz (only a 30-minute drive), Bidarray is the ideal countryside location for the vacationer looking to experience both. Upon arrival, guests will be presented with a golf cart with which to explore the 45-hectare estate. Here you will find plentiful sheep and wildlife, as well as porcini mushrooms growing “in the shade of the oaks” (the meaning of the word ostapé). Your guestroom is located in either the 17th century manor house or in traditional Basque-style villas. Every room features a terrace overlooking the mountains. Also available for your enjoyment are plentiful spa features including a heated swimming pool, a hammam, sauna, hot tub, and fitness room. Book a massage for a relaxing day indoors in or spend the day among nature on a guided hike.
Nearby, you will find copious outdoor activities ranging from white water rafting to hiking to surfing to golfing, and nearby towns San Sebastian, St. Jean de Luz, or Biarritz offer plenty of opportunities to spend the day shopping and wine-and-dining.
Planning a trip to the wine capital of the world? At L’Hotel Particulier, you can choose from self-catering apartments—excellent value for your money—or luxurious guestrooms where classic décor meets modern simplicity. Stick around in the morning for either a continental or the full English breakfast—an extensive spread of breads, cheeses, quiches, cold cuts, cakes, and more. It’s absolutely worth your money. The hotel is only a block from the tram stop, and has a lovely open-air courtyard where guests can enjoy a glass of wine and a book before venturing into the city.
Some of the world’s most renowned vineyards are on the city’s doorstep, including Le Chateau Haut-Brion, and this hotel has a wine shop on-site. If you’re interested in architecture, medieval villages like St-Emilion abound in the region, and at L’Hotel Pariculier, you are only 100 meters from Bordeaux Cathedral, the seat of the archbishop of Bordeaux-Bazas. Besides medieval architecture, the city also boasts a wide array of 18th century monuments such as the Opera House and Place de la Bourse, earning its place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Le Sambuc, Provence
Who says you have to go to America to experience ranch life? On the 1300-acre estate of Le Mas de Peint, you can take part in the real lifestyle of a Provencal cowboy. Go to a bullfight in the historic Roman arena, or take a tour of the grounds on horseback to observe herds of wild horses and flocks of flamingoes in their natural salt-marsh habitat. You can even sign up for the “cowboy experience” and spend a few days learning what it means to be a true cowboy.
The hotel itself is a vine-draped French farmhouse, complete with country-chic style and restored wooden ceiling beams. With only 11 rooms, the hotel feels much more private than a large hotel. Lounge by the outdoor pool with a cool drink or take a light lunch outdoors. Dinner is served in an intimate setting—as if you’re visiting a friend’s gourmet kitchen. Eat in front of an open fireplace in the beautifully restored 19th-century building or on the garden terrace shielded by gauzy white curtains. The set menu changes daily, and often features homegrown ingredients such as beef from the farm’s herd.
Conflans-sur-Anille, Loire Valley
Staying at Chateau de la Barre is a unique experience. Think of it more as visiting a wealthy friend or distant relative than staying in a hotel. Recently named “France’s Best Chateau” by the Sunday Times, this special estate has been in the family of your hosts, the Comte and Comtesse de Vanssay, since 1404. Three nights a week, they host grand-siècle candlelit dinners, so be sure to reserve a spot for a true experience of the French art-de-vivre. The guestrooms are steeped in authentic style from various periods: a canopied bed with toile fabrics and trimmings, oriental rugs covering parquet flooring, a marble fireplace… When you arrive, the Comte will be more than happy to give you a private tour of the chateau, explaining each room’s history along the way.
Nearby, you’ll find the little Loir winding through the bucolic countryside alongside vineyards, manor houses, Romanesque chapels, and small quaint villages. Come in time to watch the legendary 24-hour race of Le Mans, and don’t forget to visit medieval city. It is surrounded by the longest and best-preserved Gallo-Roman walls in France, dating from the third century. This town—a UNESCO Heritage site candidate—is a hidden gem not to be missed.
Quelle vue! From almost every window in Artemisia, there is an astonishing view of the Corsican mountains. Bastelica is nestled in a valley only a 15-minute drive from Val d’Ese ski resort and 35 km from the sea. In some guestrooms, windows at the foot of your bed or bath resemble framed pictures—overlooking picturesque nature scenes. The rooms are minimalist and straightforward, leaving your surroundings as the focal point. Owner Christophe has put much thought and care into the furnishings and attributes of the hotel to showcase Bastelica’s natural beauty; there are floor-to-ceiling windows in the tearoom and library, a terrace with lounge chairs and a calm dip-in pool, a façade that blends into the landscape.
Food is at the heart of Christophe’s philosophy. He knows where to find the very best local jams, meats, and cheeses. Breakfast is a moment to be savored (with mouthwatering views to match). The restaurant is simple and quality-focused, emphasizing regional cuisine without over-doing it. So do yourself a favor and take a slice out of the Corsican lifestyle for a weekend: slow and stress-free, appreciative of all that nature has to offer.
La Pommeraye, Normandy
Leave the kids behind and take a romantic getaway to Chateau de la Pommeraye. This chateau has only five rooms and suites, so the extensive rooms and grounds are yours to discover without interruption. You will feel like the king or queen of the castle. Each room radiates charm and elegance; a blend of period and modern furnishings lend the hotel a casual historic look alongside more modern amenities. Your guestroom will have a view onto the grounds or neighboring historic buildings, and the spa is just a stone’s throw away.
Explore the hotel’s extensive grounds on foot or borrow a rowboat for a relaxing afternoon on the lake. Nearby, you’ll find archery, pony trekking, paragliding, and other adventurous pastimes. Not sure what to choose? Host Alexandre will be more than happy to offer advice on how to spend your day. If you’re looking for a day trip, try a hot-air balloon tour over Falaise (17 km away) after exploring the castle there. Or drive to the Clécy Cantelou golf course (11 km away) for a solid 18 holes.
Proprietors Sophie and Laurent are collectors of designer furniture. At Le Clos des Tilleuls, each of the five suites has a specific name and theme, and a unique centerpiece you won’t find anywhere else. Ultra-modern design spices up this renovated 18th-century presbytery, creating an affect unlike anywhere you’ve ever seen (think stainless steel appliances, funky lighting, lots of glass, and polished wooden beams and floors). Outside, you’ll find a heated pool—perfect for those months where it’s just beginning to get cool—an orchard, and a vegetable garden. The atmosphere here is family-friendly; they even offer childcare for those days when the adults want to take a wine tour.
Here, you are in the heart of Burgundy’s wine region, only a short distance from the area’s finest vineyards such as Pommard, Meursault, and Chassagne Montrachet, waiting to be explored. Host Laurent will arrange private wine tastings from their extensive cellar upon request, and can recommend the wine makers best suited to your tastes in Côtes de Beaune and Nuits. Rained out? No problem. The hotel has two reading rooms available for your relaxation. Grab a book or a board game and get in some family time.