In a country strewn with centuries-old castles, where better to unpack your bags and call home than among the shadows of royalty. Whether reuniting with family and friends or seeking a romantic escape, there’s no more authentic way to connect with France’s cultural landscape than by renting a chateau. Having experienced many a sojourn in these former royal residences, here’s why they top my list when it comes to notable stays.
Enjoy French art de vivre
The French way of life or art de vivre includes appreciating beauty and the art of dining, bubbles included. Nowhere is this better demonstrated than at the luxury hotel Le Domaine Les Crayères in the heart of Reims in France’s Champagne region. The former house of the De Polignac family sets an elegantly classical French scene in each of its 20 refined rooms, where every detail is carefully considered. Choose from over 600 champagne labels and a variety of wines at 2-Michelin starred restaurant Le Parc helmed by Chef Philippe Mille.
Live within a historic setting
Welcome to the birthplace of writer Guy de Maupassant and former home to the Marquis de Miromesnil (the Keeper of the Seals under Louis XVI) near Normandy’s coastal town of Dieppe. Château de Miromesnil dating back to 1590 is an invitation to stay in regal rooms and suites outfitted in antiques. There are also historical lodgings nearby to accommodate larger groups. This chateau featuring Henri IV and Louis XIII style facades is set upon a lush park and vegetable garden, providing serene views from the grand salons. The greatest medieval treasure is a small 15th-century chapel.
Learn French history
When staying at the Chateau de Colombières, allow Count Etienne de Maupeou and his children to offer you a tour of their antique-filled medieval castle, home to their family for 300 years. This imposing chateau was once called the Watchtower of the Marshes for its location on the edge of the Isigny Bay marshes in Normandy. Settle into one of three spacious suites while getting a lesson in history from the days of William the Conqueror to the Allied Forces Landing on June 6, 1944. Omaha beach, which is also worth exploring, is just a quick car ride away.
Discover French savoir-faire
While you can’t sleep in the Queen’s Chambers at the Palace of Versailles – a stay at Airelles Le Grand Controle is a close second – you can wake up in the Medieval castle that housed one of King Louis’s favorite mistresses. It was at Le Château des Ducs de Mortemart in France’s Limousin region where Françoise-Athénais de Rochechouart-Mortemart, better known as Madame de Montespan, was born. When not meditating upon life in the 17th-century, learn all about French savoir-faire including fine porcelain in the neighboring village of Mortemart.
Immerse yourself in a charming, old-world village
Book a stay at a 10-room family house turned hotel Chateau de Verrières in the heart of Saumur to become enamored with this historic town set between the Loire and Thouet rivers. Facing the Cavalry School “Le Cadre Noir” designed under Napoleon III, this regal castle built in 1896 welcomes guests into the 19th century. Classified as a City of Art and History and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, explore the “Pearl of Anjou ” at Château de Saumur and its charming cobbled streets.
You can go castle hopping
Savor the views of the Loire Valley from the medieval hilltop village of Candes-Saint-Martin when staying at Chateau de Candes. With 10 double rooms plus a number of lofts, there’s the perfect space for every party. From here, you can explore the many remarkable castles defining the Loire Valley, including the Royal Fortress of Chinon and the Château de Chenonceau. Just a few minutes drive away, enjoy local wine tasting at Chateau du Petit Thouars with the owner Sébastien.
Host a large gathering
Whether you’re planning a family reunion or a gathering of friends from all chapters of life, staying in a spacious 13th chateau or luxurious farmhouse promises a trip to remember. Spread upon 2,500 acres in Massignac in the southwest of France, the regal estate of Domaine des Etangs has eleven suites brimming with fascinating art and antiques and six farmhouses. Amenities include plush spa treatments and a restaurant with cuisine crafted by a Michelin-starred chef.
Taste the fruits of the land
For a premium taste of what France is best known for, book a stay at 19th-century wine estate Château Troplong Mondot, just steps from the medieval city of Saint-Émilion. In addition to their boutique hotel and rustic 2-bedroom Vineyard House, this property revered for their Premier Grand Cru Classé also houses an artfully restored 18th-century chateau. This regal 5-suite castle filled with custom-made furniture and antiques accommodates up to 10 people. Feast in the adjoining dining rooms at the helm of Chef David Charrier while sipping on the estate’s award-winning wines.
Hire a private chef
For a taste of Provençal life where time appears to pass more slowly, book a stay at French historical monument Château de Tourreau in the heart of Provence. Set upon 20 acres of gardens, woods, orchards, streams and a small lake, amenities include a gym, swimming pool, grass tennis court and squash court. Here a private chef mans the well-equipped kitchen, so you can expect an amazing French gastronomy experience and even learn a few culinary tricks. To accompany the gourmet feasts, head 25 miles north to the vineyards of Serre Besson and pick up a few bottles of their highly-acclaimed organic wine.
Wake up in nature
From blooming gardens and vineyards to verdant parks, enjoy the gifts of nature from the comfort of a turreted 19th-century castle. Wake up to bucolic scenes at Château Les Carrasses offering 11 luxurious hotel suites and 19 self-catering cottages, many with private pools. This 25-acre estate includes a clay tennis court, a large heated pool and a Mediterranean-style restaurant serving local produce. Set on the banks of the Canal du Midi, this wine Domaine also serves its own vintage.