Would you believe that France is home to more than 40,000 castles? Admittedly, under the sobriquet châteaux, you will find anything from sturdy and fortified forts, royal hunting lodges, grand country mansions, fancy palaces, plus a few ruins, but in most cases, they are all gorgeous and oh-so-French.
When traveling through France, you can barely move about without coming across a château, and visiting some of the royal palaces is pretty much on everybody’s itinerary. I mean, you won’t go to Paris without visiting Versailles, nor would you pass by the Loire without popping into one or two of the lovely castles along there, would you?
But what makes traveling through France even better, is when you can stay the night at a lovely château and enjoy a royal bed. Luckily, many of those 40,000-plus castles in France have been turned into superb hotels, and they are enjoying an upsurge of interest ever since the UK TV series Escape to the Château has had people from around the world dreaming of either owning one or at the very least staying at a proper French château once in their lifetime.
While the Château de la Motte Husson is only available for weddings, there are plenty more stunning places you can book when in France.
I selected some of my favorites, dotted across the country, from a super-luxury stay to vineyard domains, from sturdy forts to lovely options at a more affordable budget. I am sure you’ll find one that fits your dream of the perfect French château.
1. Airelles Château De Versailles Le Grand Contrôlé, Versailles
The Airelles Château de Versailles Le Grand Contrôlé is the château hotel to end all château hôtels. Utterly luxurious, and with a price tag to match, this hotel is located within the grounds of the Palace of Versailles and has been the most anticipated hotel opening in recent history. The hotel has transformed Le Grand Controle, dating to 1681, and initially was the home of a government official under Sun King Louis XIV. Later, it became the fancy offices of France’s Ministry of Finance where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919, and finally into a palace where visitors feel like royalty for the duration of their stay.
Mind you, with rooms starting at around $2,000 per night, up to $13,000 for the opulent Necker Suite, you might just have to be royalty to afford it. But, staying on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles even for just one night, and dining at the Michelin-starred in-house restaurant would certainly add glamour to any special occasion.
Pro Tip: You are already within the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, so each room booking comes with a tour of the château, breakfast, afternoon tea, and even the use of the boats on the Grand Canal in the palace gardens, as well as use of the golf carts. That’s okay then, no?
2. Domaine Les Crayères, Reims
In the heart of Reims, the capital of the Champagne region, and surrounded by 17 acres of lush green parkland, lies a beautiful château turned luxury hotel. Intimate, with only 20 rooms, the building is grand, especially its central staircase. The rooms range from plush and floral to simple elegance, but all with sumptuous curtains and beautifully designed wallpaper, comfortable squashy armchairs, and views of the garden. Two superb in-house restaurants will tempt you not to leave at all, but remember, this is Reims, and the champagne house of Pommery is right next door.
Pro Tip: When in Reims… drink champagne. Pop over to one of my all-time favorite places to sit and sip champagne, the Café du Palais.
3. Château St. Martin & Spa, Vence
Standing on a hill in the middle of Provence, Château St. Martin is a haven of tranquillity and calm. You’ll hear the birds sing, the crickets chirp, and the frogs croak, but otherwise, silence. The views from the restaurant’s terrace are simply so stunning, you will not be able to tear yourself away. But it is not all about the location and the views. This is also a beautiful, ancient castle that started life as a Knights Templar castle back in 1150. It has been updated since, and the rooms are stunning, the lobby gorgeous, and even the old, historic nooks and crannies have been spruced up with some modern adornments while keeping it original. And did I mention the restaurant terrace? Just go for lunch, keep drinking a nice regional rosé all afternoon until dinner time, while enjoying the changing light across those views.
Pro Tip: The spa is in the name, so don’t miss it. This is a La Prairie spa that offers signature white caviar facials, or even more regionally appropriate, lavender and honey treatments.
4. Château De La Treyne, Lacave
Right in the heart of the Dordogne region, in the southwest of France, perched on a rocky outcrop by the meandering Dordogne River, the Château de la Treyne is a medieval castle as picturesque as they come. Surrounded by the river on one side, a forest perfect for walking on the other, a French garden, ornate and dotted with large urns and tiny hedges, a rose garden, and a swimming pool. The rooms are generous, with wooden window seats, beautifully designed wallpaper and curtains, all old medieval charm but with modern amenities. Some rooms even come with a comfy four-poster bed.
Pro Tip: The nearby town is not called Lacave for nothing. The Dordogne is riddled with caves, but the Lacave Caves are some of the best, and so vast that there is an underground train to take you around.
5. Château Hotel & Spa Grand Barrail, Saint-Emilion
St.-Emilion is known for its cutesy little town, but more so for its superb wine, and fun harvest festival. Staying in and around St.-Emilion means looking at vineyards, drinking wine, trying to figure out whether the winery ships cases of wine overseas and staying in castles. This château was built in 1903 complete with towers and turrets as part of a vineyard. Now a superb hotel with all amenities, it contains an outside pool with cabanas, a spa, and Turkish hammam, also a restaurant that will take your breath away. Encased in beautiful leaden-glass windows, arched, and stained, looking like one of those grand Victorian palm houses, the restaurant really is the piece de la resistance, a masterpiece.
Pro Tip: The St.-Emilion market opens every Wednesday and Sunday between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., and is not only in a lovely setting but also has a superb little stall selling fresh oysters accompanied by a chilled local white wine. Don’t miss it.
6. Château Le Mas De Montet, Petit-Bersac
By the Dronne River in the Dordogne, roughly an hour from Perigueux, this picture-perfect castle is a hot spot for outdoor pursuits. Perfect for birdwatching, with nightingales, Siberian cranes, and birds of prey in residence certain times of the year, there are opportunities to explore the vast grounds by bicycle or on horseback. There is great fishing in the river (just ask at the reception where to obtain a permit) and an outdoor swimming pool, together with plenty of forest hiking trails. When you are indoors, though, you can feel like royalty again, because the castle is cozily decorated, and some of the 10 rooms have four-poster beds that will be perfect after a day’s many activities, and this stay won’t bust the budget either.
Pro Tip: There are plenty of other activities nearby, such as sturgeon fish farm tours and caviar tasting or exploring the lovely canals of Brantôme, called the Venice of the Perigord, by boat.
7. Château De Fonscolombe, Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade
Just a few miles north of lovely Aix-en-Provence is a château you will want to own. More a grand country house, the building has a sweeping driveway, a soft yellow hue, blue windows with shutters, a double staircase up to the front door, beautiful grounds offering a mix of ornate gardens and big trees with comfortable reading chairs below them, a space to play boules, or as it is locally known, petanque, a pool, restaurant, a neighboring vineyard, picnics at the ready, and yes, gorgeous rooms.
Pro Tip: This is a place to relax, so maybe come after you have explored Aix-en-Provence, just to wind down for a few days.
If the luxury châteaux in France are too pricey, there are other options: