Tel: 33 3 80 49 02 29
A stay at the Abbaye de la Bussière suggests that monastic life isn't so bad after all. The setting alone is divine—an idyllic village in Burgundy with canals and poplars. The estate dates back to the twelfth century, and most of its stone buildings, from a crypt to a wine press, haven't been touched for some 700 years. The main house consists of 12 plush chambers, and even the smallest have giant Jacuzzi tubs, feather beds, DVD players, and a castle's worth of polished antiques. Its three sitting rooms are ideal for contemplating a glass of the local vintage, which the pleasant staff can obtain for you. As with any respectable French country hotel, this one comes with a Michelin-star restaurant (featuring a $110 seven-course degustation menu) and a casual bistro. Since both dining rooms feel somber, get a table on the terrace overlooking the immaculate gardens.
Allée des Marmousets
Tel: 33 4 50 54 65 36
On the edge of a tony Alpine resort, the new 22-room Alpaga offers a fresh take on French chalet chic. The lodge is a majorand welcomechange from the folklore-heavy decors of heart motifs, plaids, and mounted stags that have long prevailed at such well-known local hotels as Les Fermes de Marie. With its pine exteriors and low-slung roofs, Alpaga's complex of Savoyard chalets may look traditional, but inside their ash-gray pine walls and oak plank floors you'll find bronze silk curtains, simple metal lamps with natural linen shades, black velvet armchairs, black-painted radiators, and built-in slate-topped desks that cop a sophisticated Zen look. Balconies offer stunning views over the surrounding mountains, and beds have oxblood-leather headboards and are made up with faux-fur throws. Baths are done up in slate and black granite and come with bathtubs and walk-in showers. A spa with picture window walls features a large indoor pool, steam room, and sauna, and in keeping with the hotel's quietly modish atmosphere, the hotel's restaurant skips fondue and tartiflette and instead serves delicious contemporary French bistro dishes like oeufs en meurette (poached eggs in bacon-and-redwine sauce) and roasted cod with black olive mashed potatoes.
1890 Route de Chalon
Tel: (33) 3 84 47 05 52
Fax: (33) 3 84 43 26 53
At the 11-room Auberge de Chavannes, a welcome addition to eastern France's hilly Jura region, chef-owner Nicolas Pourcheresse has updated the wayside auberge for a new century. The largest nearby town to minuscule Courlans, Lons-le-Saunier (where La Vache Qui Rit cheese is made), may not be Ian Schrager territory, but the auberge's rooms are stylish and comfortable, with dark-stained floors, Moroccan lamps and pillows, flat-screen TVs, and spacious showers with inlaid pebble floors. Reserve a table in the restaurant when you book your room, and order the déclinaison de canardduck prepared four different ways.
20 Rue La Fayette
Tel: 33 1 55 33 22 22
The first French property of the Spanish Derby Hotels group, known for such edgy properties as the Urban in Madrid and the Claris in Barcelona, occupies a gorgeous turn-of-the-twentieth-century bank building just steps from the Palais Garnier and the city's big department stores. The stunning round glass-domed lobby of the 94-room hotel has a decor that recalls a lush Proustian bordello with vermilion walls, an original mosaic floor, a long gold-leather sofa, and low lighting in the adjacent bar, restaurant, and reception area, and it's ringed by an elegant mezzanine gallery. The standard rooms are small but comfortable with built in desks, high ceilings, and white walls wittily decorated with theater set-like black drawings inspired by the moldings and caryatids that make the hotel's jewel box of central atrium such a stunner. The contemporary art displayed in the hallways and public spaces create an elegant atmosphere, and the fact that you don't need to rob a bank to stay here means that this newcomer has been attracting lots of travelers who formerly swore by the Left Bank. To be sure, this business neighborhood is quiet at night, but the locals know that nearby Chez Georgette is one of Paris's best and cheapest bistros. A spa is scheduled for July.
Rond Point de la Fontaine
Tel: 33 4 42 32 20 16
This rambling stone manor in a park full of plane trees is just a few miles from the A8 highway between Cassis and Aix-en-Provence, making it a fine launching point for exploring western and central Provence. The 24-room hotel is furnished in über-classic Provençal style, without a hint of modernity: Antiques are everywhere, and the ground floor is a succession of stately salons that serve as reception, dining, and lounge areas. Gobelins tapestries and vermilion silk wallpaper adorn the walls, occasionally enlivened by oddly amateurish Romantic paintings. Rooms feature four-poster beds with pastoral prints and curtains and tile floors. It's not modern luxury, but the mazelike corridors give the whole place the feeling of a crazy 18th-century country house. Half- and full-board options are well worth it: The in-house restaurant serves up elegant country food, including foie gras with lentils, seared sea scallops, firm sea bass on a bed of forest mushrooms, and meltingly tender baby lamb chops flavored with rosemary. The only danger is in getting lost on your way back to your room through the labyrinthine hallways. Waking up to the views of the park out front or the mountains behind is worth the price in itself.
Open mid-March through September.
24 Rue Saint François de Paule
Tel: 33 4 92 47 82 82
In another sign of Nice's accelerating South Beachstyle comeback, the venerable 119-room Beau Rivage (Chekhov and Fitzgerald scribbled here) has been made over by influential French interior designer Jean-Michel Wilmotte. Think louvered teak window shades over leather window seats, chaise longues upholstered in charcoal worsted wool, flat-screen TVs, and contemporary oil paintings. The rooms don't offer much in the way of views, but the beach and the Promenade des Anglais are just out the door, as are many of the city's best restaurants, shops, and museums. The only fly in the ointment? Slack service.
11 Chemin du Pinet
Tel: 33 4 94 97 04 37
This 39-room property has been attracting the hot crowd since opening in 2006. The requisite star designer—this time it was Patrick Jouin—helped: His look here is appealingly minimalist and vaguely Asian. Details include a cedar deck surrounding the pool, and the rooms done up in a scheme of oyster and white, with streamlined contemporary furniture. The best Thai chef in France, Oth Sombath, is running the restaurant. Don't miss his fabulous salads—seared beef and chilis, shrimp and lemongrass—and rich coconut milk soups. Even before it opened, the supermodel crowd already had the address in its Sidekicks. Put it in yours, too, if you simply have to be on top of the latest, coolest, and hippest. Which you probably do: You're not coming to St. Trop for stimulating political discussions, now, are you?
12 Boulevard Victor Hugo
Tel: 33 4 97 038 989
Like an art gallery waiting for an installation, the Exedra in Nice—a historic Belle Époque hotel that was recently taken over by the Italian luxury chain Boscolo—is an exercise in extravagant white space. Set on a busy boulevard just off the central Place Masséna, near Nice's old town, the hotel's lobby is an expanse of white marble with a glass winter-garden roof and oversize chairs set at huge tables, with copper horse statues and a red-felt pool table. The bar, an open space adjacent to the lobby, offers some wood-toned relief from the bleached-out public spaces (drinks are the usual luxe-hotel price, around $20 and up), as does the Michelin-starred fish restaurant, Pescheria, in a glass box that looks onto the sidewalk. The hotel's lovely underground spa includes a pool, hammam, and sauna, and at 5,400 square feet provides enough space for those seeking solitude. The 113 generously sized rooms are future-retro, with white wooden floors and rain showers done in gold mosaic tiles and partitioned from the living area by glass walls. Go for the deluxe rooms, which start at 330 square feet (basic rooms are 250 to 300 square feet). It all feels very stylish, and it certainly appeals to a trendy, international party crowd. But depending on your tastes, all that white either makes the place feel a bit chilly—a big contrast to the vibrant, buzzy city outside—or like a pleasant refuge.Ralph Martin
Avenue Paul Signac
Tel: 33 4 94 56 68 00
Just about as scene-y and in-your-face as St. Tropez gets, the legendary Byblos has been the reigning address in town since 1967, when Brigitte Bardot and husband no. 3, Gunter Sachs, stopped by on their honeymoon. The 1971 marriage of Mick and Bianca Jagger (he proposed in room 401) further boldfaced the Byblos. The hotel maintains its Tropezian vive le jet set cool, particularly at the in-house Les Caves du Roy—the most famous nightclub in the French Riviera. (Guests get velvet-rope privileges.) So would you actually want to stay here? The cluster of buildings designed to look like a Provençal seaside village is well run, luxurious, and surprisingly traditional. After a 2008 renovation, the 94 modest rooms—now with flat-screen TVs and free Wi-Fi—are still decorated in tasteful Mediterranean shades of ocher and blue. The best rooms have terraces overlooking the pool, where an amusing gaggle of St. Tropez types—aging French movie stars, international fashionistas—drag themselves to the mouthwatering breakfast buffet (served until 1 pm) and show up for "lunch" around 5 pm at the B Bar & Lounge. Other amenities here include the Alain Ducasse concept restaurant Spoon and the Sisley Spa, which includes perhaps the world's only disco spa shower: Les Caves du Roy's resident DJ, Jack E., shouts out his traditional welcome as throbbing disco beats crescendo and you're washed clean in a blast of strawberry-scented shower gel. If this is not your thing, a more traditional rain-forest spa shower with recorded birdcalls is also available.
12 Rue Vieille du Temple
Tel: 33 1 42 72 34 12
Metro: Hôtel-de-Ville or St. Paul
Playwright, spy, financier, and American revolutionary sympathizer Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais wrote The Marriage of Figaro in his town house at 47 Rue Vieille-du-Temple, a few hundred yards east of this family-run, 19-room property. Add to that a 1792 Erard pianoforte, an equally vintage harp, and Mozart's opera playing in the lobby, and the Figaro theme becomes inescapable. Luckily, the property has personable staff, some with a sense of humor. High-tech goodies (like free Wi-Fi) help you overlook the fact that "cozy" here means shoehorning the minibars, flat-screen TVs, and antiques into the dimensions of a violin case. Well, a few rooms, like number 10, are more like cello cases; and bathrooms are surprisingly decent-sized. Rooms in back are less sunny than those on the Rue Vieille du Temple side, but they're also dead quiet—important, because this is the 24/7 backbone of the Marais's gay district. Caron de Beaumarchais is stylish only by 18th-century standards, but the charm-to-price ratio is as harmonious as the music, so it often books solid months in advance.
Route de Palombaggia BP 93
Porto-Vechio , Corsica
Tel: 33 4 95 72 34 34
Casadelmar has breathed new life into the boutique-hotel idiom with a modern wood-paneled exterior and an array of original and amusing details. All 20 rooms and suites have drop-dead views over the Bay of Porto Vecchio and are done in an appealing Japanese-Scandinavian style of raw-oak furniture, beige upholstery, Frette linens, and sisal-edged rugs made from thin strips of wood on mushroom-colored tile floors. The infinity pool has the same stunning bay views, and there's a dock for anyone who wants to take a dip in the Med. The exceptionally intelligent and friendly staff and spectacular setting more than make up for the lack of a proper beach, and besides, the gorgeous white sands of Plage Santa Giulia are less than five minutes away.
705 Route du Chapeau
Tel: 33 4 50 54 03 76
This four-star hotel in the hamlet of Le Lavancher, between Chamonix and Argentière, has 23 wood-clad rooms decorated in chalet style, each with a balcony. They come in three types: the Balme rooms have views of the Argentière Valley, the Aiguilles look out onto the distinctive Aiguilles Rouges peaks, but best are the Balneo rooms, which are more spacious and have bathrooms with hot tubs. Chalet Emmanuelle is a separate quaint building that sleeps six in three bedrooms. It has its own private garden and full access to all hotel facilities. The hotel's Rosebud restaurant serves regional, classic, and "world" dishes, ranging from freshwater Lake Leman crayfish in tomato confit to king prawns in Chinese spices, crunchy veg and beetroot millefeuille.
Open early June through early May.
159 Rue Monseigneur Conseil
Tel: 33 450 93 07 15
This intimate boutique chalet-hotel is situated in the center of Megève, within easy reach of the Chamois gondola. Regine Goudal, who runs the place, is on hand to make you feel as if you're a guest visiting her home, as you relax in front of the living room's blazing log fire. The 24 pretty bedrooms (five of them suites) have hand-painted wood, stenciled borders on the walls, and teddy bears on the beds. You can stay on either a bed-and-breakfast or half-board basis, the latter including dinner. The two à la carte restaurants specialize in game (La Table du Trappeur) or fish (La Terrasse du Pêcheur).
5 Rue du Château
Tel: 33 3 80 21 98 57
Winemaker Michel Picard spent a decade and millions of dollars restoring this château in Chassagne-Montrachet from the 11th-century cellars up to the tiled roof. Opened in 2007, the one-of-a-kind B&B houses five suites, each spectacular in its own way. All have thick stone walls, modernist furniture (Mario Bellini's Cab armchair, Arne Jacobsen's Egg chair), original artwork, and neo-Baroque bathrooms designed by local artist Jean-Jacques Argueyrolles (two suites have pool-size sunken bathtubs). The billiard room, salons, and lounge areas are sometimes used for temporary art exhibits, but the pièce de résistance here is the glittering, climate-controlled tasting room. Picard, who got his start at age 14 selling wine from a cart, now owns 325 acres in Burgundy, including several Grand Cru and Premier Cru parcels: The winery's best vintages include Clos de Vougeot, Puligny-Montrachet Village, Chassagne-Montrachet Village en Pimont, and Corton Grand Cru Clos des Fiètres. A winery tour and tasting are included in the room rate; reserve a week ahead and you can do a tasting and catered lunch of rustic regional fare. Since there's no concierge, night porter, or room service, the posh premises feel more like a wealthy friend's home than a B&B: Once the staff leaves for the night, you and your fellow guests—often international wine connoisseurs—have the place to yourselves.—David Downie
Hotel open year-round; winery open Mondays to Saturdays 9 am to 6 pm for visits and tastings; lunch served March through November by reservation only.
Moyenne Corniche Rue du Barri
Tel: 33 4 92 10 66 66
In a medieval village perched on a cliff above the Mediterranean between Monte Carlo and Nice, this property is divided between a castle and surrounding buildings. Among the four restaurants, the namesake La Chèvre d'Or serves a dégustation dinner that is "nouvelle cuisine with a theatrical presentation." Staff "give you your space." New in 2010: a suite with a terrace whirlpool. The hammam has sea views.
Route de Chançay
Tel: 33 2 47 52 11 01
Yet another of the Loire's four-star châteaux with a revered restaurant, this handsome early 16th-century building has steep slate roofs, a balustraded double flight of entry stairs, and oeil-de-boeuf windows. Inside, the succession of fine, beamed public rooms are attractively furnished in homage to Louis XVI. Each of the ten bedrooms up the imposing oak staircase (there's no elevator) has its own decor and character: One is full of floral-print bedding and curtains and a black marble fireplace; another has blood-red walls and a huge wooden canopy bed. There are also five rooms in the adjacent 19th-century Clock House. Most accommodations overlook the château's 15 acres of formally landscaped gardens, which hide a decent-size swimming pool.
Closed mid-January through mid-March.
Rue de la Pise
Tel: 33 4 93 41 12 24
Atop one of the most dramatic peaks on the Côte d'Azur, the ten-room Château Eza has the feel of an old Hollywood hideaway. You'll have to climb a winding street in the town of Eze to find the tiny excuse for a lobby—a bench and some chairs set off a narrow passageway—but then the adventure begins. Rooms are set into the cliff, and each has a door onto the street. The biggest draw is the view: vertiginous, cloud-level vistas of the entire Riviera, extending on clear days to St. Tropez and even Corsica. The guest rooms (once you've torn yourself away from the window) are high-end homespun Provençal, with checked linens, fleur-de-lis wall coverings, and much stone. Rooms come in standard, superior, and deluxe sizes; there are also junior and big suites. The junior suites have the best views, while the larger suites have tiny balconies and whirlpool tubs. Avoid the standard rooms, which look into the village rather than toward the coast. The Eza is certainly not a value proposition in terms of room size and amenities; what you're paying for are the views and the otherworldly location. With that in mind, off-season could be considered a bargain, with basic rooms starting at $260 (they go for $915 during the Monaco Grand Prix in May). Whether you stay at Château Eza or not, you should eat at its Michelin-starred restaurant, which serves vertical seafood creations that match the peerless vistas and even has a special table for two that sits on a promontory outside, dangling over the cliff and coast. Say it's your anniversary when reserving.Ralph Martin
64 Boulevard Henry Vasnier
Tel: 33 3 26 82 80 80
Restaurant Le Parc's haute cuisine, matched with more than 300 labels of champagne, is a highlight of this early-twentieth-century stone house. "Impeccable staff" arrange everything from transportation to tours of the nearby cathedral and Roman ruins. Rooms with canopy beds and private terraces, and named for French noblewomen's titles, are "in need of updating."
74 Promenade des Sonnailles
Tel: 33 4 50 90 96 56
The Clubhouse is a boutique hotel in an Art Deco mansion that was given a $1.5 million refurb in 2005. It has seven stylish rooms with accommodation for up to 20 guests, a bar and restaurant, spa, and a clubhouse lounge (linked to private member's club Milk & Honey in New York and London). The idea was to create a hotel with rooms to suit all pockets. At the top of the range is the Myla Suite, which has a custom-made nine-foot bed, double shower, and great views to Mont Blanc. At the other end of the price scale is the Bunkhouse, a luxury dorm for six people. All rooms have Frette linen, teak-decked rainforest showers, flat-screen TVs and DVD players. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price. Bookings are for stays of three or four nights or for whole weeks only.
Open mid-December through September.
Tel: 33 2 47 55 50 11
A country retreat hidden in the woods a few miles northwest of Tours, the historic manor of the Lords of Beauvois spans the 15th to 17th centuries in its architecture. Bedrooms come in two distinct styles and moods, so you can choose between Louis XIII baronial in the circular tower and older wing (massive chestnut beams, stone fireplaces, and heraldic upholstery) and the bright Louis XVstyle rooms in the newer wing (large windows and flamboyant fabrics, some rooms with canopied beds). Service is superb and there's an excellent restaurant, serving cutting-edge cuisine in an ornate old-world setting. In addition, the hotel can organize wine tastings on the spot in cellars that extend deep into the bedrock. The other big plus here is the grounds: Beyond the decorative formal garden on the terrace, the swimming pool, the tennis court, and a fishing lake around which Louis XIII is said to have gone hunting, there are 345 acres of private woodland traversed by footpaths and cycle tracks (bikes are available to borrow).
Route de Herbault
Tel: 33 2 54 20 72 57
A publishing magnate with aristocratic pretensions built this ivy-covered faux château in 1860. The estate covers 173 acres of woodland and includes two swan-filled ponds (one for fishing, the other just for looks). There are also 19th-century greenhouses, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and flower gardens. Not all the 25 guest rooms and 11 apartments (by far the best accommodations available) are in the main house, and the carriage house has been carefully designed to reflect vernacular styles. Most accommodations are spacious and strike the right balance of antique and modern: It's not unusual to find a room with arcs of rough wooden beams and fat antique chests of drawers set off by a flat-screen TV and walls of glass overlooking the gardens. A treat to stay at and impeccably run, this is also the perfect base from which to visit Château de Chambord (François I's 440-room pleasure palace) or Chaumont-sur-Loire, just across the river. The Michelin-starred restaurant serves seasonal fare in three dining rooms.
Tel: 33 4 67 07 26 00
With the opening of the 20-room Domaine de Verchant, the area around the sun-kissed ancient southern city of Montpellier finally has a hotel that shows off its edgy Latin style and joie de vivre. Working with architect Raymond Morel, who did the Murano hotel in Paris, owners Chantal and Pierre Mestre have transformed this handsome nineteenth-century limestone manor house into a superb showcase of contemporary European design, including furniture from Poltrona Frau, Casa Milano, Bellato, and other makers, and this contrast between old and new really sizzles. Rooms are individually decorated and come with great fittings like electrically operated draperies, lighting on dimmer switches, in-room computers, CD/DVD players with Bose speakers, and huge open baths with oversized showers and Ermenegildo Zegna toiletries. A well-equipped gym, to open in September, overlooks the free-form pool and the surrounding vineyards that produce the hotel's own wines. A spa will also open at the same time, and a restaurant is in the works.
Tel: 33 3 85 28 08 48
Travelers looking for family-style hospitality at bargain prices and wholesome French country food will be delighted by this B&B on a working farm in southern Burgundy. With its tiled roof, heavy timbers, and imposing tower, you'd never guess that this stone farmhouse was completed in 1992. The guest rooms, decorated with a mix of contemporary and vintage furniture, aren't fancy, but they all have private bathrooms, and at $70 per night—including a breakfast of fresh bread and local honeys and jams—they're a great value. The best and biggest room is in the tower; four others are tucked under the roof of a two-story wooden loggia that faces the auberge. In the restaurant, homegrown produce and meats from local farms make for a memorable meal. Dinner might include the best oven-roasted chicken you've ever had, chèvre topped with fresh cream or honey, apple or apricot tarts, and, if you preorder a week in advance, exquisite gâteau de foies de volaillesa chicken-liver paté that's as thick and chunky as meatloaf (prix fixe options start at $20; à la carte is about $40 per person). Since the stone-walled dining room's communal tables are often packed with both locals and vacationers, reserve at least a week in advance—and request a table on the terrace to avoid the noise. Finding the Ferme-Auberge de Lavaux can be a challenge (drive east from La Clayette about six miles on highway D987, then one mile north on D300), but once you pull up to the landscaped grounds, which include a fishing pond surrounded by weeping willows, you'll see why this rural idyll is worth seeking out.—David Downie
Inn open spring through mid-November; restaurant open by reservation only from noon for lunch and from 7 pm for dinner.
31 Avenue George V
Tel: 33 1 49 52 70 00
Metro: George V
Just off the Champs-Élysées, this grande dame completely changed the luxury-accommodation game in Paris when it reopened as a Four Seasons after a top-to-toe redo in 1999. Think French chic and polish with North American creature comforts and standards of service, and you'll get the idea. It's all kid-glove from the moment you arrive—a chorus of "bienvenues" invites you into a marble-floored lobby bursting with the work of in-house floral designer Jeff Leatham: He goes through thousands of dollars of perfect blooms each week. The 245 plush rooms exude wealthy, if bland, good taste and have state-of-the-art features, from climate control to plasma-screen televisions. The much-in-demand honeymoon suite has an outstanding view of the Eiffel Tower. Its acclaimed restaurant Le Cinq is still drawing in the gourmand crowd with two Michelin stars and a new star-chef Eric Briffard. And the indoor pool is surrounded by a "let-them-eat-cake" mural of the gardens at Versailles.
Domaine de Terre Blanche
Tel: 33 4 94 39 90 00
"The location is isolated but very scenic" at this contemporary resort 30 minutes from Cannes. "Beautiful rooms" in hillside villas have rattan chairs, local artwork, and private patios with "gorgeous mountain views." At the spa, treatments like a sugar and honey scrub "are expensive but worth it." Guadina serves Provençale specialties on the terrace. "Staff are very friendly and speak many languages."
89 Rue du Docteur Paccard
Tel: 33 4 50 55 37 80
The Grand was built in 1840 and is located right in the centre of town, convenient for both the Aiguille du Midi cable car and the restaurants and nightlife. A 2004 renovation gave each of the 30 rooms and three suites a tasteful makeover (all have wood-paneled walls, traditional wallpaper and upholstery, and marble bathrooms). The relaxation center has a swimming pool with a wave machine, hot tub, steam room, and massage rooms.
Open mid-December through mid-April and early June through late September.
71 Boulevard du Général-de-Gaulle
Tel: 33 4 93 76 50 50
You may never see more entitled-looking children than at the Grand Hôtel du Cap, a family-friendly but ultraluxurious palace on 17 manicured acres overlooking the Mediterranean from St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Like its similarly named competitor down the coast, the Hôtel du Cap Eden Roc, the Grand Hôtel du Cap specializes in treatment worthy of a pasha, with prices to match (standard rooms start at $820 in high season, and suites quickly go into the thousands). The hotel reopened in May 2009 after extensive renovations and the construction of a curvilinear terra-cotta wing which has regular or deluxe suites, each with its own infinity pool. The ceilings in the old core of the hotel are dizzyingly high; the lobby is filled with light and has sea views (and includes the original glass-doored, wood-paneled elevator); the pool has its own funicular railway connecting it to the hotel; and there's a Michelin-starred restaurant on the terrace. All the guest rooms are done up in a low-key, predominantly white and beige decor, with floor-to-ceiling sliding glass windows overlooking the sea. The suites in the historic hotel are huge, with dazzling sea views from the higher floors. Other features include automated lighting and curtains as well as beyond-luxury linens, huge flat-screen televisions, and walk-in wood-paneled closets, even for the lowest-category rooms. Guests tend to check in and stay on the premises for weeks at a time: no mystery why, as you watch the sun set over well-tended cypresses and the big blue sea, knowing that the real world is a million miles away.Ralph Martin
33 Cours Mirabeau
Tel: 33 4 42 27 74 22
Smack in the middle of Aix-en-Provence's bustling Cours Mirabeau, this hotel is a bargain-priced gem of old-school grandeur—slightly rough around the edges, but in the most atmospheric way. Don't let its location next to a garish neon-lit store put you off. The narrow lobby of the city's first hotel leads up marble stairs and into a maze of wide corridors. Rooms are furnished with antiques and gaping French windows; we recommend the superior rooms for their king-size beds, and, in some rooms, ancient, grandiose writing desks. Walls are done up in classic silk wallpaper; the bathrooms seem to have been left unrenovated since the 1970s, but that's part of the charm. Underground parking is available and recommended, since there's nowhere to stash your car on the Cours Mirabeau or on the tiny streets behind the hotel. Staff is friendly, though services are limited—you can ask at the desk for advice, but don't expect much in the way of concierge services, dry cleaning, or other full-service options.
Chemin de Curutcheta
Tel: (33) 559 29 67 86
Arnaud and Véronique Daguin, who previously ran Biarritz's one-Michelin-star Les Platanes restaurant, converted a 1746 stone farmhouse in the Basque region into a highbrow inn housing five striking modern rooms with oak floors, baths with Boffi fixtures, hand-forged iron windows, and Caudalie amenities. The whole property has Wi-Fi access, and every room comes with a Bang & Olufsen CD player/radio but no TV (the Daguins don't like it), no phone (you can use theirs), and no AC (the up-country breezes are refreshing enough). The large lounge area has a fireplace and there are horses to ride, but Hegia's heart is its kitchen, where Arnaud produces a different menu daily. Keep your fingers crossed that he'll do his baby squid stuffed with country ham or braised dove with cèpes.
3 avenue des Fleurs
Tel: 33 4 97 07 26 26
This has to be the most moderne hotel on the coast, designed by the school-of-Philipe-Starck Matali Crasset with all the wacky concepts you can handle: raspberry-colored bedrooms with open closets; an all-wood room with bed set into the floor; yellow glass shower stalls, or clear glass sinks and black slate tubs; a wall lined with monkey bars; wall-to-wall electro-triphop-jazz DJs…You get the picture. If your spiritual home is Ibiza eight years ago, you'll love its 38 quirky rooms.
5157 Rue de Courcelles
Tel: 33 1 58 36 67 00
Fax: 33 1 58 36 67 77
Since the new Paris Hilton is a real ocean liner of a hotelwith 525 rooms, it's the largest to be built in the City of Light since World War IIit makes sense that designer Alexandre Danan resorted to the same Art Deco decor that made the French Line's fabled La Normandie feel both luxurious and intimate. The profligate use of expensive materialsrosewood, black and green granite, marble (in the mosaic work)doesn't hurt. Sure, standard doubles are a bit snug, but they work, from the reproduction Arte drawings and quality beds and bedding to a tempting 24-hour room service menu and all the requisite twenty-first-century technology. A great location, a lavish Carita spa and well-equipped gym, a happening lounge bar, and a surprisingly good restaurant, Le Safran, reveal a Hilton unshackled from the rest of the chain.
18 Rue Jules-Rathier
Tel: 33 3 86 42 10 63
Don't expect surprises or compromises from this hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant in the middle of Chablis town. The 36 guest rooms have an old-fashioned, French country look, with overstuffed furniture, floral upholstery, thick carpets, and flowing drapes. Those on the top floor are the most atmospheric, with gabled windows under the sloping mansard roof. In the dining room (which overlooks a leafy back garden), the food is artfully presented and lighter than traditional preparations, yet an underlying rusticity reflects chef Michel Vignaud's roots in the nearby Morvan mountains. Like so many starred practitioners, Vignaud goes for variations on foie gras and seafood, but his classic oeufs en meurette (eggs poached in Irancy red wine), signature chicken-liver paté macerated in Chablis, and earthy sautéed sweetbreads are well worth sampling, too. The wine list includes hundreds of Burgundy's best bottlings; sommeliers lead Chablis tastings in the restaurant's cellar. If the prices here seem steep (prix fixe menus start at $55; à la carte can run upward of $130 per person) and you don't mind sitting cheek by jowl with fellow diners, head a few doors down to Le Bistrot des Grands Crus, where prix fixe menus start under $30 and you can sample Vignaud's peppery tripe sausage, garlicky snails, and boeuf bourguignon.—David Downie
Hotel and restaurant open late January through mid-December; restaurant open Mondays through Fridays 7:30 to 9 pm and Fridays through Sundays noon to 2 pm and 7:30 to 9 pm.
28 Rue du 4 Septembre
Tel: 33 4 42 54 82 01
Tel: 33 4 42 54 82 01
Just steps from the spattering fountains of the Cours Mirabeau, this handsome seventeenth-century townhouse is owned and run by the same team that originally created the Villa Gallici, Aix's chicest hotel. Here, their bold talent means that each of the four rooms is a different riff on traditional Provencale interiors and cutting-edge contemporary design. Room 1, a romantic charmer, features a four-poster bed with a champagne silk canopy, Wedgwood-like wall medallions, and a celadon crushed velvet couch on which to cozy up with a book or watch the chrome pedestal Bang & Olufsen TV. When the weather's warm, you might prefer to don a Via Notti cotton kimono, make yourself an espresso using the machine on the landing, and relax on the open-air balcony. It's a perfect perch from which to enjoy the small but beautifully landscaped garden, where tea and pastries are served as part of the hotel's salon du thé in nice weather. The only fly in the ointment is that the boys who run this beauty are a little too self-satisfied.
35 Quai des Belges
Tel: 33 4 91 33 66 97
A far more modest inn than most of those listed here, the Alizé has something none of the others do: the most envious location in town. This 18th-century stone building sits at the center of the U-shaped harbor, bang at the very heart of the Vieux Port overlooking the masts of bobbing boats. It's also quite a bit cheaper than the competition. However, make sure to book a sea-facing room since the focus of this basic hotel is the views. Tear your eyes from the harbor, and you'll notice the 39 smallish rooms have a rustic simplicity, brightened by saturated Provençal shades of yellow and blue and solid, unstained wood furnishings.
79 Avenue du Mont-Blanc
Tel: 33 4 50 53 47 77
Despite the soulless, contemporary architecture, the 136 rooms at this huge hotel are spacious and comfortable. Most have balconies and all have stunning views of either Mont Blanc or Mont Brévent. The airy, seventh-floor restaurant serves traditional French cuisine, and there's live entertainment in the lounge each evening. Families with kids will appreciate the "mini-club"—sneak away to the slopes while the friendly staff amuses your darlings with sleighing, dancing, and handicrafts. A free hotel shuttle whisks guests to the ski areas.
Open December through April and June through August.
9 Rue Navarin
Tel: 33 1 48 78 31 80
Metro: Saint-Georges or Pigalle
André, the mono-monikered artist and nightlife impresario, has reworked this Montmarte building into a hip bobo (bohemian bourgeois) flophouse, where the 20 rooms bear the idiosyncrasies of different artists. For example, No. 105 features bubble gum–pink carpeting, a purple-tiled bathroom, and a Terry Richardson photo of a male couple in crotchless Batman and Robin costumes. Traditional amenities are nil—rooms have iPod docks but no phones or TVs—but since even arty types like some comforts, there are Kiehl's toiletries and beds are by the company that supplies the Ritz. The point, however, isn't to hang in your room but to join the nightly party in the restaurant-bar, where the wine is well-priced.
Avenue de Tamarès
Tel: 33 5 59 24 89 29
No place shows off Biarritz's renewed chic better than this eight-room bijou in the midst of a vast park in the center of town. Owner Frédéric Hubert converted the Marquise de Moratalla's old stables into an elegant hotel and also designed its lush Napoleon III–style decor, a mélange of period oil paintings and antiques, accented by rich fabrics and wall colors. The spacious rooms contain antique armoires, oversize beds with Porthault sheets, tufted armchairs, and large stone bathrooms. Breakfast is served table d'hôte–style on Hermès Guadalquivir porcelain downstairs, and the honor bar has a wood-burning fireplace. There's a beautiful dark blue–tile lap pool in the garden, and when settled in one of the wicker chairs strategically placed around the grounds, you get refreshing breezes and views of the distant Atlantic.
711 Rue St-Benoît
Tel: 33 1 42 61 53 53
Hotel Bel-Ami isn't new, but it's dynamic and has come into its own since opening in the bull's-eye of St-Germain-des-Prés in 2000. Hong Kong–born luxury hotel maven Grace Leo-Andrieu is behind this 115-room property, and the Asian touch shows: thick carpets, contemporary wood armoires, and a muted palette of olive and taupe accented by crimson fabrics. All rooms have AC, quadruple-glazed windows, well-stocked minibars, and marble-clad bathrooms. The catch is the shoebox size of the standard ("Rive Gauche") rooms—numbers 110, 117, 121, and 129 are just too small to be true. Even the Superior rooms are snug, so pop for a pricey Deluxe room or Junior Suite (only those on the fourth floor have rooftop views). Still, it's booked pretty much year-round by European business and media types who care more about chic and convenience than space. There's a compact sauna and fitness room (with aquariums and a flat-screen TV); and the free Internet access in the lobby is accompanied by a life-saving American QWERTY keyboard (Wi-Fi is also available).
19 Rue du Bourg-Tibourg
Tel: 33 1 42 78 47 39
Metro: Hôtel-de-Ville or St. Paul
Prices at this hip place run just a little beyond budget territory, but the few extra dollars are justified by its location (in the heart of the Marais, right down the street from Mariage Frères—the cult tea shop, tea salon, and lunch spot) and inventive decor (by star decorator Jacques Garcia, of Hôtel Costes fame). Garcia's 30 funky Napoleon III–style rooms are a mixture of neo-Gothic and Asian influences, with lush colors, rich fabrics, and one-of-a-kind period pieces. A lot of comfort is packed into modest-sized spaces, too, from beds made up in crisp white linens to well-lit bathrooms with mosaic tiles. One of France's hottest landscape architects, Camille Muller, designed the small interior garden. The Bourg Tibourg is Paris HQ for the fashion herd—designers, buyers, photographers, and so forth—so be sure to book well ahead.
115 Rue Georges-Bonnac
Tel: 33 5 56 90 16 16
Located just outside the historic city center in a largely commercial district, the 68-room Burdigala caters more to business types than vacationers and is uninspiring despite its four-star rating. That said, the rooms are tastefully done with mass-produced furnishings that nonetheless manage to reproduce a vaguely antique air. The "tradition" rooms are decorated in cheery Provençal shades of blue and yellow set off by burgundy carpeting, while "luxury" rooms are done in more formal and somber dark woods and parquet floors, with marble-topped double sinks in the bathrooms. For something less standard, book the "Le Corbusier" or "Art Déco" suite; each is furnished in a manner befitting its namesake.
10 Avenue Font-de-Veyre
Tel: 33 4 93 90 52 52
Sitting in its own palm-lined park in the hills above Cannes's western outskirts, the Château feels like a slice of southern California slipped onto the Côte d'Azur. Sure, there's the Château itself (really a pair of old Provençal-style estate houses), but it's the hedged-off grounds that really get your attention. A long outdoor terrace contains the Château's restaurant on one side and a cabana-style bar on the other, ending in a landing with a lap pool, all set in a lush grove of palm trees, pines, and floral bushes. The restaurant serves excellent fish (sea bass in anise sauce, especially, is spectacular) and Provençal dishes in an almost ridiculously relaxed poolside ambience; the late 20searly 30s clientele keeps its oversize sunglasses on while sipping tropical-colored drinks. Back inside, rooms are covered in traditional prints and white-painted boiserie, including headboards and armoires. Of the 34 rooms, standard and superior ones are on the small side, but the blue-tiled marble bathrooms compensate. Superior-class rooms have balconies overlooking the gravel driveway, a great way to play lord or lady of the manor.
20 rue du Portail Boquier
Tel: 33 4 90 27 55 55
Fax: 33 4 90 82 24 01
An inexpensive alternative to the grand, luxe La Mirande—though with rather smaller rooms and nowhere near the antique style—the Cloître gets its name from its 1580 cloister, which once belonged to a Jesuit school. Most of the 80 guest rooms, however, are in a stylish modern wing and are fitted with contemporary furnishings. The hotel's claim to fame—aside from the peaceful cloister—is the rooftop swimming pool designed by Jean Nouvel and blessed with fantastic views.
81 Rue Vallot
Tel: 33 4 50 53 00 11
This 35-room, alpine-style inn, conveniently situated in the heart of town, is Chamonix's oldest hotel (established circa 1793). It has a white stucco exterior and modest, pleasant rooms with good-sized bathrooms (in one, there's even a view of Mont Blanc from the tub). Be sure to request a room in the new building for more space and the convenience of an elevator. The excellent restaurant, La Brasserie de L'M, serves reasonably priced Savoyard specialties. The hotel shuttle bus can take you to the slopes in the morning.
Open mid-June through April.
14 Place Crillon
Tel: 33 4 90 14 76 76
Built in 1580 as the Marquis de Graveson's palace, the Europe has been a hotel since 1799. Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning eloped here, and a who's who roster of famous Frenchmen have stayed there—from Napoléon, Victor Hugo, and Chateaubriand to Mitterrand and Chirac—not to mention such esteemed foreigners as John Stuart Mill (after whom the hotel named its business center), Tennessee Williams, Charles Dickens, Salvador Dalí, and Picasso. The hotel is a plush oasis of elegance, sophistication, and calm. The staff is outstanding, and the decor is traditional and quintessentially French. With three categories of rooms, there's something in size, style, and cost to suit any taste.
8 Rue Frédéric Bastiat
Tel: 33 1 42 56 17 00
Metro: Saint-Philippe-du-Roule or Franklin D. Roosevelt
The elegant "voyage to the Indies via the Casbah" decor of this well-mannered 26-room town-house hotel in Paris's stylish 8th Arrondissement instantly won it a worldly following. Fashion types adore this Relais & Châteaux property's exotic aesthetic, and financial high-fliers (there are a lot of banks and law offices nearby) appreciate its comfort, convenience, and well-groomed service. Pedigreed objets d'art—vintage ginger jars, mother-of-pearl-inlaid Syrian accent pieces, Murano glass, and Oriental carpets from Kazakhstan—adorn the bar and lobby, and the globe-trotting theme extends to the individually decorated rooms upstairs. Fabrics from some of the grandest European textile houses, including Manuel Canovas, Brunschwig & Fils, and Zoffany, animate the small but extremely well-thought-out rooms, all of which have spacious bathrooms with tubs and walls lined with Italian marble or zellige (Moroccan glazed tile). This place effortlessly passes the Sunday-morning test—to wit, you'd happily laze away a few weekend hours here. And don't worry about sleeping in—unlike in many Paris hotels, breakfast is served all day.
11 rue de la Bancasse
Tel: 33 4 90 86 34 11
Fax: 33 4 90 86 27 41
Call this a 17th-century boutique hotel: just 16 stone-walled rooms decorated in a refined Provençal style. The hotel lies in the heart of town, installed in the converted town house that once belonged to Marquis de Blauvac, the Seigneur of Tonduty. With such luxurious decor and a primo location, it's fairly astounding that the rates only top €100 ($136) if you book the very largest double rooms in the height of the July summer season. A real find.
10 Place de la Concorde
Tel: 33 1 44 71 15 00
In this, its flagship property, Concorde Hotels manages to make the the oppressive designs of the ancien régime—stone staircases, mile-high frescoed ceilings, monumental chandeliers, and endless salons—seem somehow humanized. But when it comes to exclusivity (and price), the place is as authoritarian as Louis XVI. The 147 rooms and multiple-bedroom suites are outfitted with Aubusson carpets, Baccarat crystal chandeliers, and the red velvet-upholstered armchairs and gilded, leather-topped desks and tables are the real deal. The views (over Place de la Concorde) are the best of all the Paris palace hotels, and top-of-the-line technology (flat-screen TVs and broadband Internet access) is in place, too. Guests wash up surrounded by polychrome inlaid marble floors, marble-clad walls, saunas, Jacuzzis, and Turkish baths. Service, of course, is fawning and ubiquitous—there's even a special brigade to coddle canine guests. Dinner reservations at Les Ambassadeurs can be hard to come by; the Crillon Bar serves drinks and light meals to a modish crowd. Emperor Hirohito, Winston Churchill, Bill Clinton, Madonna, and, yes, the Dalai Lama have all stayed here, and the pedigree continues to draw a power-elite clientele—all you have to do to join the ranks is pony up at checkout time.
Place Auguste-Pierre Pont
Tel: 33 4 68 71 98 71
The only luxury hotel within the town's medieval walls, this neo-Gothic structure was built in 1909 on the site of a bishop's palace. "Beautiful and delightful" rooms vary in shape, layout, and furnishings"ours had wonderful views of the cathedral and the street below." Chez Saskia Brasserie, decorated with photos of such guests as Grace Kelly, serves dishes like curried mussel soup with fennel. Staff are "attentive without being overbearing."
79 Cours du XXX Juillet
Tel: 33 5 56 52 16 80
Old-fashioned (but refurbished in 2006), the three-star, 100-room Normandie is a great bargain in a prime location on Bordeaux's main street of wine tasting. Balconies of upper-floor "Grand Confort" rooms afford sensational views of the city and the Garonne River—but for that pleasure, you pay twice as much, and the rooms still suffer from the bland, modular decor shared by lower-level accommodations. At least the boring interiors are usually offset a bit by floor-to-ceiling windows framed by heavy drapes.
41 Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie
Tel: 33 1 53 23 75 75
Even though it stands in the very grand shadows of the George V in the heart of Paris's "golden triangle" luxury district, the Hôtel de Sers is no also-ran. In fact, it's frequently recommended by its posh neighbor when the latter is sold out. Originally the private residence of the Marquis de Sers (built in 1880), and most recently known as the Hotel Queen Elizabeth, this 52-room property was overhauled in 2004 under the aegis of Thibault Vidalenc (whose family has owned the place for three generations) and his architect-cousin Thomas. There's now a visual give-and-take between a certain Haussmanian elegance (a paneled lounge, a portrait gallery) and modern panache (dark rosewood furniture, a pearl-gray and plum color scheme). Well-bred extras run to Ladurée pastries on the breakfast tray and a steam room and sauna in the small gym. When booking, note that suites 75 and 81 have drop-dead views of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower and Sacré Coeur; 67 and 68 have terraces overlooking the courtyard garden.
1 Quai Job Foran
St-Martin-de-Ré , Île de Ré
Tel: (33) 5 46 35 40 32
Fax: (33) 5 46 35 64 59
In the pretty port of St-Martin, on the French equivalent of Martha's Vineyard, the Hôtel de Toiras, a cluster of beautifully decorated stone houses, is the kind of place where you'd happily spend the day curled up with a novel. The 17 rooms, each named for a figure associated with Île de Ré, are handsomely furnished: antiques, rugs, and walls swathed in fabrics of vivid yellows, pinks, reds, and blues. You'll get a warm welcome from the young bilingual staff, and find a roaring fire in the lobby during the off-season. Talented chef Thomas Urbanek will custom cook your dinner at the restaurant; ask to join him when he goes to market.
Tel: 33 4 93 61 39 01
Fax: 33 4 93 67 13 83
From this resort on nine forested acres, most rooms have views of the sea and the Lérins Islands. The restaurant serves traditional French cuisine "that you can't get enough of," while the grill turns out tapas and sushi. Get treatments at a spa set among the rocks at the water's edge. Villa Eleana, with two floors, three bedrooms, and its own pool, opened in 2010.
2 Rue Traversière
Tel: 33 2 47 05 37 37
This converted 19th-century townhouse offers exceptional service and midsize, light-filled rooms mixing traditional furnishings (big, old mirrored armoires and ladder-back chairs) with bland functional pieces and halogen lamps. Accommodations tend toward Laura Ashley due to the flowery curtains, bedspreads, and carpeting in rich primaries. It's located in the city center, about a seven-minute walk from the train station and a short hike from the Loire. The prices are excellent and the included buffet breakfast is stupendous.
11 Rue du Temple
Tel: 33 1 42 72 72 22
Metro: Hôtel de Ville
Here's a tale of two hotels: The modest, family-run Axial Beaubourg and the once-seedy Duo Hotel next door were skillfully merged by rising-star architect Jean-Philippe Nuel and reopened in fall 2006. The result is an affordable, high-design property one block from the Hôtel de Ville and the Pompidou Center, edging the Marais neighborhood's lively gay area. The playfully contempo lobby is framed by big windows and rustic ceiling timbers, and furnished with oversize lampshades and boxy armchairs in olive green or black checks. The 39 wholly remade rooms in the Duo are now understated and plush; angular yet comfortably overstuffed armchairs and thick drapes in shades of green and brown trim the living areas, while bathrooms have full tubs and stone-and-tile sinks. But aside from a paint job and new carpets, Nuel didn't touch the Axial Beaubourg's 19 rooms, so they remain unexciting habitats with poky bathrooms; the only accommodations on this side worth booking are the fifth-floor street-side units, for their rooftop views. Like a mating call for the modeling and design crowd, there's a basement fitness center and sauna, free Wi-Fi in the lobby, and a breakfast room that mimics a hip diner-cum-sushi bar, with raw concrete pillars and contemporary photographs. Amazingly, the place is still family-run, unaffected, and friendly—and booked weeks ahead.
29-31 Rue de Poitou
Tel: 33 1 42 74 10 10
Metro: Filles du Calvaire or Saint-Sébastien-Froissart
In the most happening corner of Paris—the northern edge of the Marais in the 3rd Arrondissement—this 17-room hotel with 17 different interiors by designer Christian Lacroix was an inevitable hit with the international style set when it opened in 2005. Hipsters love the location, the laid-back atmosphere, and the lushly funky Baroque look that is Lacroix's signature. Walls in room 302, for example, are covered in anise-colored leather and chocolate-brown canvas, while others are themed around Lacroix croquis (fashion sketches), Toile de Jouy (18th-century French prints), '60s Pop and Op art, Baroque Paris, and the Opéra. What all the accommodations have in common are Wi-Fi connections, air-conditioning, and exceptionally comfortable king beds dressed up in quality linens and accented with fur throws. They're also uniformly snug—best for people traveling light and probably on their own, since there's hardly room for a suitcase in most standard rooms. Still, few hotels have decor with this much wit and taste. Witness the reception area with its painted ceilings, a holdover from the space's former incarnation—the oldest bakery in Paris.
Tel: 33 3 87 06 50 85
Deep in a storybook-perfect forest in the eastern region of Moselle, the sleek Hôtel K is the project of chef Jean-Georges Klein and his wife, Nicole, and across the street from his three-Michelin-star restaurant, L'Arnsbourg. Don't expect cuckoo clocks and knotty pine here—the hotel is furnished with gorgeous contemporary Italian furniture, and the mood is more Bauhaus-meets-Tokyo than gemütlichkeit. The 12 rooms are large and light with niceties such as ash gray wool–upholstered armchairs and a free minibar stocked with beer and fruit juice. Bathrooms have separate tubs and showers as well as shaded peekaboo windows looking into the bedroom. A country breakfast is served in the stylish lounge-lobby downstairs, and on cool nights, a fire burns in a rotating steel chimney in front of a red Man Ray–esque lips-shaped sofa.
63 Rue St-Lazare
Tel: 33 1 48 74 78 24
Metro: Trinité-d'Estienne d'Orves
Though it offers great value for the money, there's nothing visibly budget about this Belle Époque beauty, with a great Right Bank location. It was built as a bank in 1870 then converted into a hotel in 1896. Most of the 28 rooms are outfitted with École de Nancy–style (Art Nouveau) furniture and 19th-century paintings, but contemporary fabrics and lighter color schemes prevent this look from feeling too weighty. Book one of the doubles with a grande salle de bain (large bathroom) on a top floor. Word to the wise: Skip the overpriced breakfast here and catch a seat in one of the busy cafés around the corner on the Place de la Trinité instead.
27 Rue Maufoux
Tel: 33 3 80 22 35 48
There's nothing trendy about the Hôtel le Cep, a collection of handsome town houses near the Hospices de Beaune built between the 14th and 16th centuries. Unlike at many new designer hotels, where showy public spaces are all too often underutilized, guests here regularly congregate in the leafy garden courtyard and the maze of wood-paneled salons ornamented with giant Gothic fireplaces and original oil paintings. Each of the 57 guest rooms is conservatively decorated with antiques, thick curtains, and plush carpets, often in shades of gold and scarlet. Deluxe rooms are $70 more per night than a standard room but are worth booking for the extra space (320 square feet compared with a standard room's 225), king-size canopy or four-poster beds, carved wooden armoires, gilt mirrors, and bathrooms with tubs and double sinks. Breakfast is served in a 16th-century stone loggia, making it worth the extra $30 in summer; at other times of the year, consider grabbing breakfast at one of Beaune's dozens of attractive cafés. Expect quietly professional, Old World–style service, and plan to dine at the Loiseau des Vignes—the standout restaurant that helps cement Hôtel le Cep's status as Beaune's top hotel.—David Downie
269 Corniche John F. Kennedy
Tel: 33 4 91 52 01 77
Fax: 33 4 91 52 49 82
This grand three-star hotel on the Corniche offers nothing but sea-view rooms, half of which have small private terraces. Aside from vistas across the Bay of Marseille, one really stays here to take advantage of the restaurant. It's a signatory of the "Bouillabaisse charter" to uphold the strictest traditions of the famed seafood stew, and the kitchen does a superb job of keeping the faith. As a lunch spot, it's long been favored by the rich and powerful, including former president, Jacques Chirac.
43 Rue de l'Abbé-Grégoire
Tel: 33 1 45 48 23 23
Tucked away on a narrow street between Montparnasse and St-Germain-des-Prés, this 20-room hotel, in an 18th-century mansion, is popular with fashionistas, the literati, and stylish French visiting from the provinces. All rooms are done up in a classic Gallic tour-de-force of floral chintz curtains, white-varnished furniture, and embroidered coverlets. Oil paintings, framed mirrors, and Oriental accent rugs abet the impression of being a guest in the private house of some very refined Parisians, and the English-speaking manager is on hand for restaurant and shopping recommendations or information on the latest gallery shows. Wi-Fi is available in all rooms, and breakfast is served in the vaulted stone cellar.
2 Rue de Condé
Tel: 33 5 56 52 60 44
The Hôtel Majestic is an inexpensive, friendly B&B in a white-shuttered, balconied 18th-century townhouse. The 49 rooms are furnished in a modern take on French Provincial style, and not much changes as you go up in room category (and price), except for the size. The standard rooms are extremely cramped, so it's worth it to bump up to the supérieure or privilège levels. The location is excellent, close to the Grand Théâtre, in a happening part of town just off the riverside Quai Louis-XVIII and Quai de la Douane.
73 La Croisette
Tel: 800 888 4747 (toll-free)
Tel: 33 4 92 98 73 00
Fax: 33 4 93 39 67 82
This 1927 Art Deco palace defines Cannes's Croisette and is a favorite of jet-set families thanks to the large suites, palm-lined pool, and private beach. The lobby has given over its old-fashioned style to businesslike polished marble, but hallways and many of the 412 rooms still retain a strong Art Deco imprint everywhere from lamps to carpet patterns. Be aware that only the Prestige rooms (the top category) have sea views; the rest look out onto the city or the surrounding hills. The amenities are top-notch, including the Michelin-starred Palme d'Or and a Givenchy spa. It all comes at a steep price (the breakfast buffet is $48 a person and things only go up from there), but the beachside Zplage restaurant and bar is a relative bargain.
21 Rue Molière
Tel: 33 1 42 96 22 01
Metro: Palais RoyalMusée du Louvre
Paris used to have dozens of small, independently owned inns with busy floral wallpaper, tiny bedside tables, and curious telephones. However, these good-value places have recently become a rarer breed as they're bought up by chains that modernize them into a state of dull international uniformity. Happily, the 32-room Molière, a delightful spot with a superb location (the Palais Royal, Louvre, Opéra, and Tuileries are all within a 15-minute walk), survives and has even been improved. Almost all rooms now have renovated bathrooms. With faux-marble pillars and a stone bust of Molière in the lobby, this place continues to exude a delightful only-in-Paris atmosphere. Plus, there are lots of excellent, inexpensive Asian restaurants on the neighboring Rue Ste-Anne.
3 rue de Montalembert
Tel: 33 1 45 49 68 68
Metro: Rue du Bac
When the Montalembert was renovated and reopened in 1990, it rocked the hotel world with its radical departure from traditional hotel designan uncluttered contemporary aesthetic by Christian Liaigre. This being Paris, the hotel's 56 guestrooms (which have received some updates over the years), are plush but snug. Upgrade to a junior suite if you require more than 300 square feet or an Eiffel Tower view. (Street-facing rooms on the lower floors have views into offices and apartments). Most rooms have clean-lined furniture and subtle earth-tone or plum-colored fabrics; some deluxe rooms are more traditional, with Louis Philippe-style furnishingsbut even then, there's not a stitch of toile in sight. All have marble bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, and WiFi (about $16 per hour). The restaurant serves a menu of border-hopping dishes, such as lemongrass-marinated chicken and seared tuna in sumac, although peckish gourmands may prefer to pull up a stool at neighboring L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon. The Saint Germain neighborhood's many hopping cafés are also nearby. Even though the boutique hotel concept is no longer novel, and a night here will set you back at least $400, it's a refreshing alternative to the city's fussy grand dames and a good base for imagining yourself as a 21st-century Parisian.
Place de l'Église
Tel: 33 450 21 20 02
Celebrated designer and artist Jocelyne Sibuet has updated the Mont-Blanc—situated right in Megève's center—and added her classy touch to another three hotels in town (including Les Fermes de Marie and the Fer à Cheval), as well as similarly stylistic masterpieces in Lyon and Provence. In the Mont-Blanc's former heyday in the 1950s and '60s, wild-child artist and author Jean Cocteau held court here. Rita Hayworth and Prince Ali Khan were caught having a tryst, and Brigitte Bardot was a regular guest. Two of the 40 rooms and suites have Cocteau murals, and the decoration overall is a Tyrolean-Provençal blend, with fabrics in rich cream, dark green, and burgundy red. The hotel's restaurant, Les Enfants Terribles, was independently run for many years, but the Sibuet empire reclaimed it and transformed it into a Parisian brasserie.
62 Allée du Majestic
Tel: 33 4 50 53 05 64
Since 1878, this 40-room Belle Époque hotel in the center of town has welcomed the rich and famous. Guests enter a sumptuous lobby with period furnishings (there's also a sitting room/library) before retiring to the spacious, elegant bedrooms. Most have French doors that open onto private balconies perfect for enjoying views of Mont Blanc or Mont Brévent. The restaurant, Le Matafan, offers modern French cuisine at tables arranged around a pentagonal stone fireplace. In summer, you can lunch in the garden.
Open December through September.
37 Promenade des Anglais
Tel: 33 4 93 16 64 00
Fax: 33 4 93 88 35 68
With its world-famous pink dome, white wedding-cake facade, and liveried porters, the Negresco is as iconic as hotels get. No wonder it is referred to as a "Museum Hotel." (This preserved-in-aspic feel applies to many of the guests as well.) The interiors are intense: The Salon Royal alone has an Art Nouveau cupola ceiling designed by Gustave Eiffel, vermilion walls, white pillars, and chests full of expensive Negresco-branded knickknacks. The 145 rooms are decorated with layers of details spanning French history from Louis XV to the Belle Époque. The atmosphere can be a bit like a theme parkthose porters wearing sansculottes start to look a little silly on your fifth or sixth trip through the doors. But the location right on the Promenade des Anglais, looking onto Nice's pebble beach and the startlingly turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, can't be beat.
4 Rue de la Monnaie
Tel: 33 4 90 52 51 40
Built in the early 18th century for the mayor of Arles, the Baron of Chartrouse, this grand gated stone house opened as a hotel in 2002, the handiwork of owner Brigitte Pagès de Oliveira. She has exquisite taste. The original eight rooms have white plaster walls, some rough, with vaulted beamed ceilings, others refined, with moldings and dados (depending whether they're in the main house or the converted stables). There's furniture to match—Louis love seats, gilt-framed mirrors, and coroneted beds, or slipcovered shabby-chic chairs and low, carved-wood tables; all have minibars, cable TV, and a/c. Outside, the grounds feature a cypress-shaded terrace with dark green slatted Paris park chairs and stone urns, a lounging terrace under a curtained grass roof, and a pool (unheated). A decadent-looking spa-hammam opened in 2004 down in the atmospheric stone vaults, with white buttoned lounging seats and grand Moorish chandeliers, and in 2007, the property expanded to another 18th-century house next door, adding seven rooms decorated in both Baroque and contemporary styles.
23 Avenue Jurot
Tel: 33 1 53 41 81 40
Tucked down a romantic stone-paved lane in Montmartre, the five-suite Hôtel Particulier is an extraordinary guesthouse that skillfully demonstrates how edgy modern design and Old Paris can work in utter harmony. This magnificent eighteenth-century Directoire-style mansion surrounded by intimate gardens created by Louis Bénech, one of the landscape architects who renovated the Tuileries, combines snappy contemporary looks with a lot of comfort. Each of the five rooms has a distinct personality; among the standouts is the third-floor Vegetal room, designed by contemporary artist Martine Aballéa, who created a view-from-a-tree-house wallpaper in green, blue, and vermilion. The designers of the other four rooms are photo artist Natacha Lesueur (room theme: Curtain of Hair), painter Philippe Mayaux (Vitrine Room), fashion and textile curator Olivier Saillard (Poems and Hats), and illustrator Pierre Fichefeux (Tree with Ears). Finnish designer Mats Haglund, who has worked for Chanel, furnished the salon on the ground floor with originals of classics by Arne Jacobsen, Mies van der Rohe, and Alvar Aalto, and guests, as interesting as the hotel itself, linger in this handsome space with an honor bar.
25 Avenue Montaigne
Tel: 33 1 53 67 66 65
Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt or Alma-Marceau
The 191-room Plaza Athénée has pulled off the neat trick of becoming the hippest grand hotel in Paris. The world's young, rich, and titled check in here to check out one another, disporting themselves in one of the city's hottest bars and two of its highly rated restaurants—the gorgeous Art Deco Relais Plaza (Yves Saint-Laurent is a regular) and Alain Ducasse, where an extravagant breakfast is also served (the pastry basket is so copious it requires its own printed guide). During the summer, the hotel's ivy-covered and geranium-planted courtyard is one of the loveliest places for a drink or dinner, and tea in the gallery is a major event for those who live la vie en rose. Upstairs, you have a choice between Art Deco or Louis XVI grandeur; we prefer the latter for its higher ceilings and more classic feel, but either way, you'll score CD players, remote-controlled air-conditioning, extensive closet space, and gorgeous marble bathrooms. Serious shoppers can't do better than the Avenue Montaigne location—Christian Dior's main boutique is just across the street, and Prada, Balenciaga, and the rest of the gang are just a skip away.
149 Allée du Recteur Payot
Tel: 33 4 50 53 20 72
This large hotel has 91 generously sized rooms with ubiquitous chalet-style design—lots of warm pine and cheerful fabrics. All have balconies that look out on the Mont Blanc massif. The piano lounge has an après-ski-appropriate fireplace, and the La Baïta restaurant serves hearty four-course dinners and an acceptable breakfast buffet. Situated near the village center, the hotel is a five-minute walk from the "Chambus" bus stop and just down the road from the Aiguille du Midi cable car.
Open mid-December through mid-October.
7 Rue Edith Cavell
Tel: 33 4 92 99 62 62
Tucked on a tiny street behind Cannes' police headquarters, the Renoir's understated Art Nouveau townhouse exterior is slightly deceiving. The lobby is nondescript, but the hallways are lined with leather and mirrored tables and the 26 rooms are pure 1950s Hollywood glamour with a light beige palette, wall-to-wall cream-colored carpeting, and silver-painted furnishings. The sea-view rooms also overlook a busy boulevard and include a fair amount of street noise, while those facing inland are quieter. In either case, the neighborhood is a treat in itself: Away from the glitz of the beach, it's an enclave of Beaux Arts facades and tile roofs, mixing Parisian bustle and Mediterranean ease.
3 Place Camille Hostein
Tel: 33 5 57 97 06 00
A five-mile trip from the city center, across the River Garonne in the hilltop village of Bouliac, this 18-room faux-industrial palace of eccentric minimalism was designed by France's premier architect, Jean Nouvel. Although the place is calm and starkly elegant, its pretentious take on art and kitsch can be wearing (Room 9 has a Harley-Davidson parked in it). But the views, the inventive lighting, and the striking navy swimming pool make up for a lot. The very formal Michelin-starred restaurant serves outstanding food—at outstanding prices. The hotel also has a cheaper postmodern brasserie called Le Bistroy, as well as a café, La Rôtisserie, for light meals.
79 Rue St. Dominique
Tel: 33 1 47 05 79 00
Tel: 33 1 47 05 49 75
Chef Jean-François Piège (who ran the two-Michelin-star Les Ambassadeurs) and hotelier-restaurateur Thierry Costes have created a charming and exceptionally comfortable 15-room hotel upstairs from the two excellent restaurants they run on the rue St-Dominique (one of the more charming streets on the Left Bank). Among designer India Mahdavi's witty tongue-in-cheek references to small, traditional Paris hotels: In the stairwells are potted plants on lace doiliesonly instead of the rickety bamboo stands of yore, this greenery sits atop sleek turned-wood tables. In place of alarming floral-print wallpaper, rooms are done in William Morris meets op art geometric prints that recall sixties Miami Beach. Thick wall-to-wall carpeting, beds with crisp linen sheets, and flocked patterned damask curtains give these cozy cribs a lot of style. Spacious bathrooms come with square sinks on counters (that extend into the bedroom to become a desk) and a heated towel rack. Well-equipped rooms include an iPad, an Illy espresso maker, and a minibar with complimentary soft drinks. The staff are eager to please and there's a hearty room-service menu, but with two terrific restaurants on the premises, it's more fun to go to the see-and-be-seen brasserie or Piège's intimate haute-cuisine table on the first floor.
8 Rue de Verneuil
Tel: 33 1 42 60 82 14
Metro: Rue du Bac or Saint-Germain-des-Prés
It's just steps away from hopping Boulevard Saint-Germain and the tourist thrum at Les Deux Magots (6 Place St-Germain des Prés; 33-1-45-48-55-25; www.lesdeuxmagots.fr) and Café de Flore (172 Boulevard St-Germain; 33-1-45-48-55-26; www.cafe-de-flore.com), but the 26-room Hotel Verneuil is a sweet little respite, one of those hotel finds you don't tell anyone about. It's in a 17th-century building on a quiet residential street speckled with antique shops and galleries, and retains a historic feel: The downstairs salon has red paneling and exposed beams, and rooms on the second floor have vintage printed wallpapers. On the other hand, there are private marble baths, Wi-Fi access, and—most important—an Anglophone staff. Rooms can be small and only 15 have air-conditioning, but at rates like this, what did you expect?
3 quai Amiral Courbet
Tel: 33 4 93 76 27 62
A gem of a place on the seafront at relatively unspoiled Villefranche-sur-Mer which, while no great metropolis, makes a great touring base between Nice and Monte Carlo. All 36 rooms have satellite TV, minibars and a/c, and the standard ones, with their louvered doors onto curly-iron-railed balconies, are an amazing value. The decor, with its light blue walls and nautical stripes—or all-over florals in the suites—is adorable, too. Meanwhile, splashing out on a still reasonable corner room with a pair of balconies buys you one of the best views on the Riviera. Beaches and boats to Cannes and Monaco are close by the hotel, and a dive shop lies right in front. There's also a cute wine bar with seafront terrace, and lots of nearby restaurants. As management is fond of pointing out, Jean Cocteau was among the fans of this longstanding institution.
Closed November 11th through December 21st.
12 Rue des Bons-Enfants
Tel: (33) 2 96 49 01 10
Fax: (33) 2 96 91 16 36
Breaking away from the stone cottage idiom that has been the prevailing look of Perros-Guirec, L'Agapa, a winsome 1950s-style beach resort on Brittany's northern coast, is a showcase of edgy contemporary architecture and modern gardens. The 50-room property's interior design is derived from Charlie Chaplin's By the Sea, frames from which can be viewed as you ascend in the glass-walled elevator. Guest rooms, accented with black-and-white Mondrian-esque fabrics, have bedside curtain control, and the bathrooms have deep tubs. Too bad they're kitted out with boring bath amenitiesespecially since Brittany produces superb seaweed-based sundriesalthough the spa's kaolin bath has you lolling around in heated clay that has the consistency of dough.
Tel: 33 559 51 7000
With its terra-cotta tile roof, whitewashed walls, and dark-green trim, L'Auberge Basque doesn't look much different from the neighboring farmhouses that dot the cornfields and lush pastures of this tranquil valley a few miles inland from Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Step inside, though, and this 11-room inn shows its true colors as an edgy mix of urban good taste and farmhouse Basque. The bath vanity is dark-gray stone quarried in the Pyrenees, floors are waxed oak, and framed black-and-white photos of the Basques and their region hang on the walls. Lamps are nickel silver reproductions of thirties models from the stylish Belgian home-furnishings shop Flamant, which supplied all of the furniture. Chef-owner Cédric Béchade, who previously worked at the Hôtel du Palais and the Plaza Athénée in Paris, also runs the excellent open kitchen downstairs. On a warm afternoon, it's a delight to have dessert in the shade of the surrounding trees, listening to cooing doves.
69 Chemin de L'Hermine
Tel: 33 4 50 53 33 51
The Bois Prin describes itself as a mountain inn, albeit a very smart one with a good restaurant (try the rack of wild boar with cocoa sauce, apples and bilberries), sauna and hot tub. The 10 spacious rooms and suites each sleep up to four people and most have a private terrace with views of Mont Blanc. The décor perfectly pairs old and new, with wooden walls and ceilings, antique furniture, and rich natural fabrics.
Open early December through early May and late May through early November.
Tel: 33 3 85 37 10 26
On the Beaujolais border, in a town named "Saint Love," this eight-room hotel and restaurant run by brash young chef Cyril Laugier and the love of his life, wife Valérie, is ideal for a romantic rendezvous. Decor in the dining room and public areas—old trunks, crystal chandeliers, mannequins draped in lacy lingerie, and more wrought-iron, textile, and plaster hearts than you can count—looks as if it's been lifted from a funky Victorian inn. Upstairs, each guest room is different: Gingembre has a claw-foot tub and a view over the village square; Réglisse is tucked under the eaves; Sésame has a private entrance, balcony, and a freestanding bathtub; Nigelle has a sultry Art Deco feel with a black four-poster bed, black lamps, and polished plank floors. All the rooms are ideal for exhibitionists, with bath and bed within view of one another. There's a small swimming pool, a landscaped yard, and in the restaurant, Laugier's ever-changing daily prix fixe (around $55), which focuses on spicy world cuisine. In fall or winter, you might find a silky coriander-spiked pumpkin soup with foie gras, curried squab with ginger and mint-perfumed chickpea purée, and cinnamon crème brûlée with diced Jerusalem artichokes and chocolate ganache. If you're looking for classic Burgundian lodgings and food, you might feel slightly lost here, but it's a tantalizing option for intrepid travelers who aren't shy.—David Downie
Restaurant open Wednesdays through Sundays noon to 1:45 pm and 7 to 9:30 pm.
13 Rue des Beaux Arts
Tel: 33 1 44 41 99 00
Oscar Wilde moved to this Saint-Germain address (then the Hôtel Alsace pension house) in the late 19th century and died here in 1900—but not before quipping, "My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death; one or other of us has got to go." Unfortunately, the wallpaper won; in 2000, Jacques Garcia revamped what is believed to be Wilde's room with a phoenix mural flanked by the writer's unpaid bills. Actually, Garcia's ongoing refurb has wrapped everything—except the fabulous arcaded spiral staircase—in his signature neo-Baroque style. Plush velvet curtains flow from molded ceilings down to faux-leopard runners. Marble columns, crystal chandeliers, and brass wall sconces dress the secluded lobby and bar. A mosaic-paved pool occupies the vaulted cellar. And the atrium restaurant, which serves classic French cuisine, comes as a sunny, dress code–free surprise. Each of the 20 rooms is individually themed: Art Deco furniture, including a mirrored bed owned by 1930s singer Mistinguett, fills the room she preferred; original Belle Époque oil paintings depict idealized city scenes in the Rues de Paris room; lavish chinoiseries bedeck the Pagode room. In its mid-20th-century heyday, L' Hôtel attracted the likes of Salvador Dalí, Frank Sinatra, and Ava Gardner, and word has spread again: The glitterati and sophisticated couples keep this 20-room property booked solid, so reserve two to three months in advance for high-season accommodation.
Chemin de Quinson
Tel: 33 4 92 70 47 47
Alain Ducasse is no mere chef with a growing worldwide empire of exceptional restaurants and a constellation of Michelin stars, you know. No, he's also a hotelier. He's been president of Châteaux et Hotels de France for some years, but he only actually owns four places, of which this 17th-century bastide was the first. Set in the Alpes de Haute Provence near the Gorge du Verdon, it's a heavenly, peaceful spot, selected by Ducasse himself originally as a place to lay his head during motorbike forays. Now he's rarely here, needless to say, but the kitchen team, headed by Eric Santalucia, is school-of-Alain through and through. The 12 rooms vary quite widely in situation (few are in the main building) and decor details, but they share a romantic, pastel-shaded country air with Salerne floor tiles; in one, the bathroom is open to the bedroom through an archway; a couple have sleep lofts, others private terraces. The park has a small pool; huge vegetable, fruit, and herb plots for kitchen use; and a small menagerie of child-friendly domestic beasts (not for kitchen use).
Route des Carles
Tel: 33 4 94 55 82 55
If you're well into your middle decades and need your beauty restbut still can party till 4 am when necessarythis is your place. La Bastide is the best of both St. Tropez worlds: in town but set in a tranquil garden, and with a staff that lavishes attention but does so quietly and respectfully. The 26 ocher-and-rose rooms, housed in four buildings laid out like a southern French hamlet, have pastel stripes and furnishings with a traditional Provençal heart, such as painted wooden armoires and rush-bottomed chairs. The best rooms have private terraces with Jacuzzis. Popular with celebrities who want to be left alone, it's an easy ten-minute walk to the harbor. There, the hotel's private yacht, a 72-foot San Lorenzo, can be chartered for the day, a great way to really escape from the maddening crowd.
5 Avenue Ney
Tel: (33) 3 87 17 17 17
Fax: (33) 3 87 17 17 18
As the name suggests, the 79-room Citadelle occupies a thick-walled former military arsenal and barracks in the heart of this charming eastern city. The original architecture, including the barrel-vaulted basement, has been preserved, while the spacious rooms have vivid jewel tone decor and mod cons including flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi access. Too bad the restaurant is so expensive, but there are lots of good places to eat in Metz, many serving the region's signature quiche lorraine.
Place du Général de Gaulle
St-Paul de Vence
Tel: 33 4 93 32 80 02
This 1920s café turned hotel has a strong artistic heritage, and past guests Matisse, Miró, and other painters have left behind "artwork better than at many museums." The restaurant serves traditional Provençale dishes such as chicken fricassee with cream and morels under the dining room's exposed beams or the terrace's overhanging trees. Rooms and suites have a rustic feel, with wooden bed frames and patterned canopies.
Tel: 33 450 58 77 88
Jean-Marie and Christine Allard's traditional chalet-hotel is set on its own grounds just a few minutes' walk from both the lifts and the resort center. The lounge area is light, airy, and furnished with fabrics in sunny Mediterranean colors—a warming contrast to the white winter landscape. All 22 bedrooms have balconies and are individually furnished with cheerful fabrics and pine paneling. The hotel restaurant's simple Savoyard cuisine focuses on recipes passed down through the generations, with an emphasis on locally cured hams and cheese dishes such as fondue and raclette.
Tel: 33 3 86 87 18 26
In Burgundy's far north, medieval Villeneuve-sur-Yonne is home to this wantonly romantic, blissfully quiet hotel and restaurant owned by actress Leslie Caron (An American in Paris, Le Divorce). It's housed in four landmark buildings on the Yonne River's north bank and attracts a primarily Parisian clientele. Caron herself decorated the four love-nest rooms with canopy or four-poster beds, antiques, and oil paintings. In the airy dining room, 31-year-old chef Grelier adds a touch of creativity to refreshingly simple dishes. The seasonal menu might include fresh fish in an aromatic herb sauce, crispy escargots with homemade puff pastry, or rhubarb mousse with almonds and a strawberry sauce; the wine list includes many regional bottles. Don't expect Hollywood glitz or cutting-edge style—Caron's tony establishment is best suited to savvy, seasoned travelers and attracts a number of aging boomers and hip professionals.—David Downie
Hotel open February through December. Restaurant open Tuesdays through Saturdays 12:30 to 2 pm and 7:30 to 10 pm, February through December; Tuesdays through Saturdays 12:30 to 2 pm and 7:30 to 10 pm and Sundays 7:30 to 9:30 pm, July and August.
2 Route de St. Roch
Tel: 33 4 90 546 546
Run by a delightful English-Scottish couple, this hôtel de charme will set more than one nine-to-fiver to dreaming of following in their footsteps. Right in the heart of tiny Le Paradou, the old stone house offers five rooms that have been individually decorated in such rich Provençal colors as apricot, poppy, and olive and furnished with large beds, televisions with movies-on-demand and CD/DVD players, and objects from the owners' travels in Morocco, India, and Asia. An upholstered lounger under one of the shade trees next to the small heated pool in the garden is an ideal place to spend an afternoon dozing or reading, and a sitting room in the main building, a seventeenth-century coaching inn, is perfect for tea or an honor-bar drink. Though the rooms are a luxurious step up from the region's usual B&Bs—few of which have the Etro toiletries, bathrobes and slippers, or great contemporary art found at this hotel—the best part of staying here is the warm hospitality.
9 Quai de la Loire
Tel: 33 2 41 50 18 21
Situated in a pretty riverside village between Chinon and Saumur, this boho boutique hotel looks as if it's straight out of an interior design magazine. The 11 suites and bedrooms, each different, have been lovingly decorated by the owner, with whitewashed beams, lots of pearl grays and soft beiges, and nautical touches that recall the village's past as a navigation stop on the Loire River. The best rooms are Les Grandes Sablées, with its pebble lamps and river view; Jardin Secret, with its private terrace; or Sous la Lune, a starry attic suite. Rooms come with flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi, and amenities include an indoor heated pool, spa treatments, and personal trainer on site. Montsoreau's château and monthly flea market are just outside town. Renting bikes and packing a picnic is a great way to explore the area.
4 Place de la Mirande
Tel: 33 4 90 14 20 20
When you exit the Palais des Papes, dazzled and seduced, you'll be relieved you had the foresight to secure one of the 20 rooms across the street in Avignon's grandest, most gorgeous hotel. La Mirande is situated behind a 17th-century fa¿ade in a 14th-century cardinal's residence that couldn't have been better appointed. You enter ornately carved doors and cross worn flagstones and elaborate marquetry floors past tableaux morts of clustered terra-cotta urns, Louis XVI mirrors with slightly worn gilding, and acres of silk brocade curtains. Mount the grand staircase to palatial rooms with tapestries and wood paneling, historically informed chintzes and toile de Jouy, huge Carrara marble soaking tubs, and divine views. Contrary to appearances, the rooms have AC, Wi-Fi, and flat-screen TVs that look like mirrors when not in use. As if more inducement were necessary, the restaurant, with chef Sébastien Aminot at the helm, is one of the region's top tables.
3 Rue des Remparts
Tel: 33 4 94 97 02 53
One of the few hotels in St. Tropez that's actually on the sea, the intimate La Ponche has an artistic, intellectual ambience: It was a favorite of actress Romy Schneider and writer Françoise Sagan. And with its reputation for discretion and appealing simplicity, it still attracts the César-winning crowd—Catherine Deneuve more so than the starlet of the week (except when Kylie Minogue visited). There are 18 rooms and suites in the main building; request one of the six with private terraces, which have wonderful views of the sea and are big enough to serve as a perch for bronzing, napping, or reading outside of the public eye. Otherwise book one of the two junior suites in a former guard tower across the plaza. The restaurant serves piquant Provençal dishes, including a fine fish soup and sea bass cooked with branches of wild fennel. And though there's no pool, the public beach of La Ponche, directly at the property's front, is a better alternative. Speaking of art history, a scene from And God Created Woman was shot there.
5 Boulevard Général Leclerc
Tel: 33 4 93 01 00 01
Once a seafood restaurant, this early-twentieth-century Florentine-style villa between Nice and Monaco occupies "an idyllic part of the world," hence the perfect location score. Rooms in cream and gray overlook a pool set just above the sea. Restaurant des Rois uses local fish and regional meats in classic preparations like suckling veal and South Finistère scampi.
Chemin de la Quessine
Tel: 33 4 94 44 94 44
Despite its proximity to the rocking scene in St-Tropez, six miles away, this discreet little oasis feels a world away from the high-octane glitz. Its 23 spacious rooms and suites, all with terraces or private gardens, have spectacular sea views and are nestled into a ridge overlooking a secluded cove near the medieval hilltop village of Ramatuelle. The creation of Jean-Michel Wilmotte, one of the designers behind Doha's Museum of Islamic Art, the hotel uses floor-to-ceiling windows and open balconies to capitalize on the region's famed light. With natural stone in ocher and white and touches of unfinished wood, the undulating, interlocking structures create a modernist effecta welcome change from the more classic and frumpy properties of the Côte d'Azur. And despite their simplicity, rooms are extremely comfortable, with plump white sofas positioned to let you gaze at the view. The sundeck hugs a 100-foot-long swimming pool, and there's an indoor option in the spa for the cooler months. With understated but warm service and arguably the area's best spa, La Réserve deserves an almost perfect score. The only misfire is the restaurant, which touts a healthy menu but serves rather bland food that's pricey considering the portions.
9 Place de l'Abbaye
Tel: 33 3 85 27 00 47
The charming owners of La Tour du Trésorier, former wine merchant Michel Vialle and his wife Lotti, call their antique-filled B&B near the Romanesque St. Philibert Abbey a "guest mansion"—and the name is apt. This is no ordinary chambre d'hôtes: Two of the four bedrooms are in a 1643 tower that once housed the abbey's treasury. The most romantic is dubbed La Tour, a crow's nest with exposed beams and 360-degree views of the abbey, the Saône River valley, and Tournus's rooftops; La Saône is a two-room suite with classic red-check textiles and a roof terrace. On the ground floor, the L'Abbaye room has a Victorian feel and a pocket-size private garden, while the Gladys suite on the second floor is filled with 1920s Art Deco furniture and artwork. This hotel is perfect for those who prefer intimate, highly personalized accommodations to a full-service hotel: There's no restaurant, but breakfast is memorable (particularly the homemade jams), and Michel organizes wine tastings by request. Reserve several weeks in advance; if the rooms are booked, the neighboring 26-room Hôtel de Greuze is a good alternative.—David Downie
Open February through December.
8 Rue de Bellechasse
Tel: 33 01 45 50 22 31
Inspired by theater sets as well as tarot and playing cards, couturier Christian Lacroix has designed Le Bellechasse's 34 rooms as colorful little nests. With the Musée d'Orsay practically across the street, you couldn't want for a better location, but the tiny rooms might make even lovebirds claustrophobic. However, it's a terrific choice for solo travelers, since the rooms are as intelligently designed as cruise ship cabins, with desks covered in hobnailed black leather, lush damask curtains, bold graphics, and large tubs. With space at a premium, the service matters a lot, and here too the hotel scores high.
6–8 Rue Duphot
Tel: 33 1 42 60 34 12
If location is everything, this 59-room beauty, born from a nondescript hotel on the same site, lords it over other new small hotels in Paris with an unbeatable address midway between the Place de la Concorde and the Madeleine, with Chanel's flagship boutique around the corner. Indeed, this establishment is a bona fide baby grand that's able to give even such grande dames as the Ritz and the Hôtel de Crillon a run for their money. Though the front desk staff are wiltingly prim, you'll love the quiet contemporary chic of this place the moment you enter one of the dove-gray or cream rooms with crown moldings, chocolate brown wall-to-wall carpeting, good modern art on the walls, and ivory, oyster, black, and charcoal accents. Chrome-plated campaign desks and night tables, beds piled high with feather pillows, sleek Art Deco-style glass table and floor lamps, thick damask curtains, and spacious bathrooms floored in limestone make these exceptionally comfortable, urbane nests. There's also a small spa with a beautiful swimming pool, hammam, and sauna; a terrific bar with stylized Art Deco decor; and a seriously good contemporary French restaurant with, appropriately, a great list of Burgundies.
Haut de Cagnes
Tel: 33 4 93 20 73 21
The cliff-side Le Cagnard is in the preserved walled medieval city of Haut-de-Cagnes (about halfway between Antibes and Nice), with a ruined castle and impossible-to-navigate narrow streets (rent a Mini). The hotel is small but charming, with a tiny reception alcove and a mazelike arrangement of 20 rooms spread across multiple floors with entrances from many of the town's tiny streets. Decor is old-fashioned Proveçal for the most part, with medieval accents and a range of sizes and configurations. All rooms are considered "sea view," though you may have to crane your neck to catch a glimpse. The best views, however, are from the terrace of the Michelin-starred restaurant, capturing the mountains and the water in one panorama.
Tel: 33 4 92 74 77 77
Savvy Provence lovers are heading east of Apt, where the lavender fields aren't hemmed in by tour buses. Discover this unspoiled place in the sun from this hillside seventeenth-century convent. Eschewing the Provençal clichés of print fabrics and painted furniture, the 46 rooms have an appealingly restrained decor of oak parquet floors and taupe curtains and upholstery. Weather permitting, Le Cloître restaurant serves outdoors in the courtyard of the old cloister, but the main dining room, with views of the surrounding countryside, is also a superb setting in which to sample the excellent Provençale cuisine. The pool is built into a raised terrace, and the spa is run by L'Occitane, which was founded in nearby Manesque. All told, Le Couvent des Minimes is the kind of place that will make you want to spend a year in Provence.
36 Route du Crêt d'Arbois
Tel: 33 450 21 30 39
This 50-year-old hotel, bought by the designer Jocelyne Sibuet and her family (who also own Hôtel Mont-Blanc and Les Fermes de Marie) a few years ago is a wonderfully romantic hideaway with ancient Savoyard decor, including wood-paneled ceilings and walls covered with checkered and floral fabrics. The 56 generously sized rooms, with sloping beamed ceilings, have antique furniture and faux-fur bedspreads. The candlelit restaurant serves local game and cheese dishes, and there's a new spa with a swimming pool, sauna, steam room, and five treatment rooms. The service? Aloof but unerringly accurate.
343 Rue Crêt du Midi
Tel: 33 450 21 00 70
This little family-run inn of 21 bedrooms, tucked into a chalet between the village center and the ski slopes, is one of the best bargains in town. The decor is simple, with pine-paneled walls, minimal furnishings, and colorful quilts and curtains to brighten things up. Most of the bedrooms have a balcony and views over the Jaillet or Rochebrune mountains. Stays are for a minimum of four days, and in high season (December 15–January 6 and February 9–March 9) you must take a half-board deal. This includes a buffet or continental breakfast and a three-course dinner.
15 Rue Grimaldi
Tel: 33 4 93 16 00 24
The Belle Époque Le Grimaldi is the epitome of a boutique hotel. The lobby is small and simple and the 46 rooms are done in a restrained, luxurious range of colors and textures. Set on a quiet street in Nice's commercial center, the Grimaldi is just two blocks from shopping and five minutes' walk from the beach. The rooms are all unique and range from Provençal prints paired with massive wrought-iron beds to beige-and-black high-contrast setups. Though the prices are low, mattresses are firm, bathrooms are expansive, and the friendly concierge is quick to respond. Rooms on high floors have views over Nice's red-tiled rooftops, and an upgrade to the deluxe room is worth it for the extra space and a sitting area.
100 Rue d'Arly
Tel: 33 450 93 05 03
In contrast to the chalets that are the mainstay of Megève, the Lodge Park owes more to Wyoming than Savoie. It's in a quiet spot surrounded by trees but is only a couple of minutes' walk from the casino, Central Square, and the lifts. The lodge is decorated in log-cabin style with some eccentric touches—armchairs and bar stools made from antlers, and bark-lined walls hung with hunting and shooting trophies. The 49 rooms and suites have similar decor, and many have their own fireplaces. The North American theme continues in the restaurant, with dishes such as shoulder of bison with sweet potatoes. If you need to relax after a day on the slopes, there's a spa with four treatment rooms.
Île de Port Cros
Tel: 33 4 94 05 90 52
When you arrive at this handsome white bastide with a tile roof and twin turrets flanking its facade, it'll take a day or two before the regulars decide if you're one of the crowd. Even then, you'll get a cautious welcome and a stiff warning: Nice to meet you, but don't tell anyone else about this place. Le Manoir is an old-fashioned seaside hotel out of a Colette novel, a well-run, unpretentious place surrounded by centuries-old palms and odiferous oleanders. Less is more here, with cool tile floors, whitewashed walls, and the kind of bric-a-brac furniture you find in French country houses that have been in the same family for several generations. In any case, the object of a stay on Port Cros is to spend the day artfully doing nothing. Our suggestion? Wander off to the beach with a book, sunbathe by the pool, take a long nap after lunch. Repeat.
34 Quai Charles Guinot
Tel: 33 2 47 30 40 40
If you're looking to combine secluded luxury and a taste of French small-town life, this elegant 18th-century manor house near the royal château of Amboise is a good option. Beautifully refurbished about a decade ago with parquet floors, antique furniture, and toile de Jouy fabrics, the salons and 15 spacious, well-equipped bedrooms have the aura of a private home. Drinks are served on the terrace in the big, walled garden. There's no restaurant, but there are plenty of places to eat in town.
Boulevard Clément Rebuffel
Tel: 33 4 92 28 43 43
If you were Picasso, you too might choose to live in the exquisite hilltop, predominantly 15th-century cobbled-street Mougins for 15 years, but since you're not, a stay at this gorgeous 18th-century Provençal farmhouse will have to suffice. Not by any stretch of the imagination a secret, the Mas with its adjunct Bastide—newly built in the vernacular—nevertheless feels secluded, set in spacious, gated grounds planted with cypress and olive trees, mimosas, and lavender. Accommodations are quite spectacularly varied decor-wise, and while it's true the 20 rooms in the original Mas have more character, the 20 Bastide rooms have better balconies and more space. Some of that decor is a little too varied: While many rooms are in shades of beige with wainscoting and subtly striped or discreetly patterned walls, others are exercises in the use of extreme wallpaper, or floral fantasias blooming with cabbage roses and Louis XIV-ish furniture. You can always escape into the spa, Europe's only Shiseido-branded one, with aromatherapy treatments, or dip into the mountain-view infinity-edged pool, or watch DVDs on your Bang & Olufsen—or eat. Chef Serge Gouloumès at the main restaurant, Candille, is very highly regarded—and won his first Michelin Star in 2005. In the summer, you can also eat at the more relaxed poolside La Pergola.
Route des Serres
Tel: 39 4 93 59 00 10
Fax: 39 4 93 59 00 59
The Riviera benefits from a charming hotel like Le Mas de Pierre, just outside terrifyingly popular St-Paul-de-Vence. Views of the distant countryside are visible from the pool. The 50 rooms, divided between seven newly built stone mas (traditional farmhouses), have Provençal furniture and color schemes of cantaloupe, canary yellow, and lavender, with flat-screen TVs and marble baths piled with fluffy towels. The real luxury, however, is the peace and quiet—the only sound you'll hear on a summer night is the crickets—and the fact that every room has a terrace or balcony. The one missed beat is a pricey restaurant with fancy food, when what you'd really rather have in this setting are fresh salads, pasta, and Provençale classics. The fitness area includes a hammam.
Île de Porquerolles
Tel: 33 4 94 58 30 09
Located on the quiet, happy island of PorquerollesFrance's answer to Nantucketthis is the kind of hotel to which a devoted coterie of Parisian publishers, politicians, and aristocrats return year after year with wives (rather than mistresses) in tow. A landmark since it opened in 1936, its big news this season is a large swimming poola somewhat unnecessary addition, since the nearby beach is a delicious spot for a swim. Anyway, Langoustier will never be a luxury hotel in the classic sense of the term. Guileless simplicity is its trademark, with comfortable and pleasantly plain roomsa Gallic version of a traditional New England seaside hotel. One does see the occasional big spender helicoptering in for lunch: The restaurant is one of the best in the region, serving up catch of the daylobster, sea bass, John Dorywith innovative preparations that highlight rather than hide the natural flavors. But most guests arrive by ferry from Hyères, take the hotel jitney, and spend a hefty sum remembering what made the South of France so irresistible in the first place.
228 Rue de Rivoli
Tel: 33 1 44 58 10 10
Gone are the days when surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, a frequent guest, would open his window and dangle a lobster from the end of a fishing pole into the stream of passersby on the Rue de Rivoli, but Le Meurice still has a vaguely decadent and artistic tone that sets it apart from other high-priced Parisian gilt trips. Every floor at this sumptuous pile across the street from the Tuileries Gardens has a different decor, ranging from the traditional French parquet and silk damask of the Tuileries suites to the Marco Polo suite, an edgy, sexy space built under the eaves. There's also a great bar with big leather tub chairs and stunning Belle Époque murals, and the culinary genius of young chef Yannick Alléno makes a meal at Le Meurice, the hotel's lavish restaurant, a bona fide Gallic thrill.
12 Rue des Saussaies
Tel: 33 1 49 24 26 26
Occupying a powerful little corner of Paris (near the French Ministry of the Interior and the Élysées Palace), this 26-room sister hotel to the delightful Pavillon de la Reine conjures a chic take on la vie bohème. In this version, though, Rodolfo and Mimi are coughing into Hermès scarves, since the rue du Faubourg St-Honoré beckons too. Rooms, named after famous writers, are more cozy than grand, but they come with a lot of style. Individual color schemes were conceived by interior designer Didier Benderli: pigeon-gray walls, say, with thick chocolate-brown carpeting and deep-purple velvet settees and side chairs. The fluffy beds have glove leathercovered headboards, as well as great reading lamps. An iPad waits in every room, and junior suites upgrade standard baths or showers to whirlpool baths and rain showers. The hotel has neither a restaurant nor a bar nor a gym, but it hits a bull's-eye for its well-defined demographicthe worldly and the well-heeled.
Anse de Maldormé
Tel: 33 4 91 59 25 92
This exquisite pair of Greek villas, set in lush gardens on a rocky promontory overlooking the Mediterranean, has been run by the Passédat family since 1917. A member of the Relais & Chateaux group, it is undoubtedly Marseille's most exclusive hotel, with corresponding prices. In addition, almost everything costs extra, including breakfast on the terrace instead of in the restaurant. (That said, you must try the delicious homemade jams that arrive with your croissants.) Luxe touches abound—there's a heated sea-water pool, AC, private safes, and, for ease of mind, phone numbers of airlines and consulates programmed into the telephones. Each of the 16 rooms and suites (named after characters in the stories of local hero Marcel Pagnol) is unique, with decor ranging from classical to postmodern—and all are sumptuous. The hotel has a renowned, two Michelin-star, ferociously expensive, French haute restaurant with an even pricier wine list.
6 Rue Saint-Placide
Tel: 33 1 42 84 34 60
Metro: Vaneau or SèrvesBabylone
Le Placide was opened by two affable sisters in October 2006, in what's long been a hotel desert at Sèvres-Babylone, near the Bon Marché department store. Small but beautiful, this property consists of ten rooms packed into a pint-size 19th-century building, plus a split-level back annex. Designer Bruno Borrione—a Philippe Starck collaborator—dressed it in elegant, 1960s-inspired decor and used mirrors and creative lighting to make the most of the subcompact lobby and public areas. Luckily, it's as if all the space were sucked upstairs: The ample rooms run from the street to the patio in back, and bathrooms comfortably fit full-size tubs. Borrione custom-designed almost everything, from chrome door handles and ceramic wastepaper baskets to birdbath-style sinks, bedsteads upholstered in Moroccan leather, and mirrored white armoires (the winter forest–scene wallpaper comes from London's Cole & Son). Book one of two rooms on the fifth floor for a balcony big enough for two. There's air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi (everywhere), minibars and flat-screen TVs with DVD players, room service (until 11 pm), and a quality à la carte breakfast (for $30). The quiet hipness of this place attracts literary and design types and the occasional executive, so hardcore scenesters should chill elsewhere—perhaps at Murano Urban Resort.
7 place du Chapitre
Tel: 33 4 90 15 90 15
Fax: 33 4 90 25 45 39
It may be a bit far from the action located across the Rhône from Avignon proper, near the A9 highwaybut that just means this Relais & Châteaux property, converted from a 14th-century priory, is removed from the hurly-burly of the city. The 33 guest rooms are divided between smaller but atmospheric accommodations in the old priory itself and larger rooms in a modern wing with balconies overlooking the pool. The grounds have been heavily landscaped into that sumptuous Southern French ideal of a garden: a profusion of trees and flowers, pergolas dripping with roses, and ivy climbing over everything.
37 Avenue Hoche
Tel: 33 1 42 99 88 00
Tel: 33 1 42 99 88 77
Who knew that Le Royal Monceau, always an also-ran in the Paris luxury-hotel race, was in fact a sleeping beauty? With designer Philippe Starck as Prince Charming, this gut-renovated 149-room hotel near the Arc de Triomphe upended the conventions of what a Paris luxury hotel should be with wit and bold design. Red-glass lanterns on the facade hint at happy hanky-panky, and the warm welcome at reception is the first clue that this hotel has ditched the hauteur. Though snug, standard doubles are so well conceived that they overcome their diminutive dimensions. A bed with an ivory leather headboard sits in the middle of the room on a pretty area rug with a ribbon motif, facing a huge mirror that conceals the TV, and a pair of butternut leather chairs and night tables riff on the Art Deco grandeur of the original 1928 hotel. Large bathrooms feel even bigger due to mirrored walls and have showers with two settings (rain forest and handheld). The spaces brim with contemporary artphotos, paintings, collagesand there's a terrific bar, several beautifully decorated (if very expensive) restaurants, including the French-specialty La Cuisine, a smart boutique shilling art books and design objects, and a Clarins spa. Though the surrounding neighborhood is more suits than stockings, the Royal Monceau is a terrific choice whose only real flaw is that the noise-proofing could be betterto wit, you can hear the spike heels of your neighbor on the parquet. But then no one who stays here would be wearing sneakers.
36 Boulevard Victor Hugo
Tel: 33 4 90 92 51 50
This 32-room contemporary stands out from the pack—by being contemporary in the first place (thanks to architect Roland Paillat) and by having photography as its theme, meaning black-and-white and color art prints in the rooms and exhibitions in the downstairs gallery. Bright white rooms have leaf-green-stained beams, satellite TV, room service, and a/c, but only some rooms have Wi-fi. Get a room in the new wing opened in 2002; some of them have private hammams. The two restaurants are a traditional Provençal eatery and a sushi bar. There are also two outdoor pools set in three acres of gardens, and it's all very handy for Cézanne and Van Gogh tourism.
718 Route du Chapeau
Tel: 33 6 07 23 17 26
This collection of exquisite wood-and-stone mazots (ancient barns) has been converted into 10 chalets—the smallest can accommodate one person, the largest sleeps 20 adults and six kids. The hamlet is the life's work of a retired French film producer and is located in the tiny enclave of Le Lavancher between Chamonix and Argentière. You can ski back here off-piste down La Pendant from Les Grands Montets. The old buildings have been beautifully restored and are furnished with eclectic alpine antiques and local paintings. Flannel bed sheets add to the rural atmosphere, although Hermès toiletries in the bathrooms, a steam room, two outside hot tubs, and a home cinema soften the initial impression that you have inadvertently stumbled across the alpine hut of Heidi's grandfather. You can have meals delivered to your chalet or the resident chef will cook for parties of up to 12 in the 17th-century dining chalet.
6 Avenue Frémiet
Tel: 33 1 56 75 26 26
Designer Christophe Pillet has taken a former Best Western in the sleepy sixteenth arrondissement and turned it into a style-monger's address. Walls in all 27 rooms are faced in gorgeous rough-cut, fossil-studded slate and have ebonized parquet floorsthe perfect backdrop for the chrome-plated bed. Unlike other high-design hotels, the Sezz is quite welcoming: Staff are anxious to be helpful, and you're offered a complimentary drink as soon as you arrive. There's a sauna and a steam room in the basement relaxation area, and the convivial bar/reception area is actually used by guests. The overpriced breakfast, though good, is annoying in a location where there's no nearby alternative.
Chemin de Riante Colline
Tel: 33 450 93 03 10
This "ancient" hotel looks like it has been in place for 100 years, but it was almost entirely formed in the 1990s from the reclaimed timber of local barns. The only authentic part is the 17th-century cowshed, with a magnificent vaulted ceiling and flagstone floor in the main restaurant. The hotel has four eating options in all, including a grill room, an eatery entirely devoted to cheese dishes, and a mountain hut that is open two days a week. Most of the 71 guest rooms and suites have balconies, and some have fireplaces. All have wood-paneled walls, hand-carved furniture, and alpine accessories, such as old wooden chests. A pleasant swimming pool is tucked away in one of the barns. Be aware that Les Fermes is inconveniently situated on the outskirts of town, well away from lifts and shops, but the hotel runs a courtesy car service for its guests and diners.
86 Quai de la Loire
Tel: 33 2 47 52 88 88
Five miles east of Tours, this elegant, 18th-century, white-stone mansion sits on the banks of the Loire. It was built on the site of an ancient monasterythough we doubt the monks enjoyed an outdoor swimming pool. What gives this hotel its real appeal are its 12 troglodyte guest rooms. Hewn from the cliff face, shimmering white rock still forms the ceilings, but the rooms feel anything but cavelike with contemporary wallpaper and clean-lined furniture lending a comfy, modern feel. One room has prints of Asian characters on the walls and bedding, while another has a motif of bold red tulips. The hotel's restaurant has a tree-shaded terrace and, as you might expect, serves traditional French cuisine and local wine.
Closed late January to late March.
5 Rue Bélidor
Tel: 33 1 53 81 01 10
Not far from the Champs-Élysées, near the Porte Maillot, this stylish 33-room property takes its name from its vest-pocket garden, where brown rattan chairs attend a small fountain. The garden is just off the lobby-lounge, where sleek contemporary furniture sits amid lots of art books, and services include two computers, a station for free tea and coffee, an array of snacks including organic fruit-juice smoothies, and an honesty bar. Rooms are quiet and comfortable, with fold-down leather-lined writing desks, wardrobes covered in dark-chocolate leather, striped neutral carpeting, and plush beds with headboards with a camellia motif that winks at Chanel's emblematic flower. There's a small gym with a steam room and sauna. Instead of the usual overpriced Paris hotel breakfast of flabby croissants and weak coffee, the buffet here includes eggs, charcuterie, fruit, organic preserves, excellent breads, and bottomless coffee. The smiling young staff make life easier for a foreign clientele that's a mix of fashionistas and business go-getters.
Route de Bellocôte
Tel: 33 4 79 41 51 60
Judging by the exterior, this could be any cute Savoyard chalet in a blingy Alpine resort town, but inside, the backlit photo panels of skiers suggest serious piste pedigree. Owned by the Boix-Vives family (behind Rossignol skis for half a century) and perched high in Courchevel's ultraluxe 1850 village (named, like all of Courchevel's villages, after its altitude), the ski-in/ski-out hotel takes its name from the sleek Strato fiberglass ski. Guests can rent high-end gear from the swanky Le Ski Room, complete with a champagne bar. Twenty-five roomsall with balconies or terraceslook out on pretty chalets or jagged Alpine peaks and sport textured decor mixing baroque and rustic sensibilities with high-tech gadgetry. There are shimmering drapes, faux-fur throws, Murano chandeliers, wood-grain vases, and armchairs in vivid colors, as well as naive art, Christian icons, and Versailles-style portraiture. Meanwhile, bathroom TVs are embedded within mirrors, toilet seats are heated, and iPod docking stations are wired for surround sound. Chef Jean-André Charial's classic French restaurant is a fine-dining affair, with flawless service and perfect desserts. The 24-hour concierge arranges transportation to and from La Croisette, Courchevel's hubwhere Chanel and Hermès boutiques and a constellation of Michelin-starred restaurants prove that the pistes are not the only reason to come.
1 Boulevard d'Aumale
Tel: 33 4 94 55 81 00
With terra-cotta tile floors, white-washed walls, and wood-beamed ceilings, this 28-room hotel, built in 1722(!), almost seems humble—until you get a hold of its storied guest list. Colette once lived here, and glamour-era guests have included Orson Welles, Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn…you get the idea. Colette supposedly complained that the lovely views of town and sea distracted her from writing, but don't let that stop you from booking a room with a terrace view. There's a small swimming pool in the garden, and shuttle service is offered to the beaches, just ten minutes away.
109 Rue de Bagnolet
Tel: 33 1 43 48 48 48
Located in a funky eastern Paris neighborhood, this sassy hotel is an instant hit for its low prices and tongue-in-cheek Philippe Starck decor. A renovated parking garage that was part of a meat-and-potatoes housing project, the 172-room hotel doesn't show its cards until you step inside. Then the fun starts with a friendly welcome and a view of the good-looking crowd hanging out in the large multi-mood lounge/bar/restaurant. Guest rooms are small but as efficient as a well-designed ship's cabin, with exposed cement walls, a tiny kitchenette, and a wall-mounted iMac that also functions as a TV. Dimestore Halloween masks double as a quirky bedside lampshade, large bathrooms with ceiling-mounted showers come with Kiehl's amenities, and star chef Alain Senderens did the menu.
Chemin de l'Escarrat
Tel: 33 4 90 70 39 19
If Charles and Andrée Barail's B&B in a 17th-century stone mas surrounded by unruly flowerbeds, lawns, and gravel terraces shaded by mature trees isn't your Provençal rural fantasy come to life, then you've got the wrong picture. The farmhouse itself has breathtaking views over acres of Rhône vineyards to Mount Ventoux in the distance. Four self-contained apartments (two studios and a pair of two-bed cottages) are decorated in that French Country style of pickled pine and dressers and rag-rolled walls so frequently and desperately imitated stateside, and have kitchens, efficient showers, comfortable beds, TVs, and Wi-fi. Air conditioning was installed in the studios in 2007; the cottages get enough breeze that you won't need it. Breakfast is continental, but superior, with products such as homemade wild fig conserve. There's also a bromide-purified pool with a wave machine for serious cross-current swimming. Being some 20 minutes from Avignon, this makes a good touring base, especially for wine buffs. Given notice, Charles Barail himself will take guests on Châteauneuf-du-Pape tours, visiting his vintner friends you'd never find alone.
4 rue Beauvau
Tel: 33 4 91 54 91 00
Overlooking the Vieux Port, the Mercure is the best situated of the three-star chain properties and ranks as the oldest hotel in town (not to worry: it was renovated in 2003). The decor is modern Provençal-style in the 73 rooms and isn't bad for a cookie-cutter joint, with patterned drapes, some nice old flip-top desks and the like, along with double sinks in the baths. It has a bit more style, a far better location, and somewhat lower rates than its corporate cousins, the Sofitel/Novotel, farther out on the harbor. (Fair warning: there's no pool or restaurant.)
13 Boulevard du Temple
Tel: 33 1 42 71 20 00
Metro: Filles du Calvaire
If you're very young and very hip, the 24/7 party theme at the unabashedly self-conscious Murano can be wildly fun. Opened in 2004 on the Marais's eastern edge, this "resort" is more like a playground for recording artists, movie stars, and fashion designers. In the 52 rooms, dimmer-controlled 1960s-style lighting splashes color over translucent organdy curtains, glass-topped tables, and flat-screen Bang & Olufsen TVs. Some suites have gas fireplaces or minipools, but you're not here to hole up in your room: The bar is a kaleidoscope of lights and flashing video screens, and it thumps with a superb sound system—even the restaurant has a DJ (book a table with your room). Not everything hits the mark, though: Night-vision goggles wouldn't be a bad idea in the dark halls and elevators; digital fingerprint scanners sound cool until they malfunction and you can't get into your room; and the much-touted spa still hasn't opened (there is, however, a fitness center). Not content with one hot property, Murano's owners opened the 40-room Kube Rooms & Bars in 2005, in a converted 18th-century townhouse on the edgy edge of Montmartre near the Gare du Nord. Like Murano, it's well-equipped: There's a computer in each of the 41 hyper-designed rooms, along with thermal blankets. Breaking a sweat in the fitness facility is one way to warm up before schmoozing in the Grey Goose Vodka Bar, where the down comforters, wool caps, and gloves aren't just for show—the temperature is regulated at a frosty 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Too cold and dazed? The steel-plated Lounge Bar offers more and different potables, as well as finger food conjured by chef Nicolas Guillard at any hour of the day or night. Here the modish, mostly beautiful guests chill out between modeling sessions and broadcasts (1–5 Passage Ruelle; 1-42-05-20-00; www.kubehotel.com).
71 boulevard Charles Livon
Tel: 33 4 91 315 315
With its bold graphics and contemporary art, the 100-room New Hotel injects South Beach style into this old port city. Herb gardens that supply the hotel's Alain Ducasse–trained chef, Jérôme Polio, line the front steps and establish the hotel's studied character. The sleek reception area was created from a handsome nineteenth-century building, and in the adjacent new building, the art-filled bar and restaurant overlook a wood-decked pool. Compact white guest rooms are dominated by blown-up photos of sixties model Twiggy, wood furniture is stained battleship gray, and bathrooms are stocked with La Compagnie de Provence Marseille's toiletries based on the city's famous olive oil soap. The friendly staff, who wear black uniforms with lettering that identifies their duties—FRONT DESK; HOUSEKEEPING; FOOD AND BEVERAGE—add to the hotel's merry atmosphere. Though not in the city center, the quiet residential location at the entrance to Marseille's port is convenient—a downtown bus stop at the front door, and the Plage des Catalans is a five-minute walk away.
Tel: 33 5 59 37 91 91
Alain Ducasse's new auberge in Bidarray, with just 22 rooms divided between four new villas and the original farmhouse, is set on 90 acres deep in the Basque Country. Each room is handsomely outfitted with raw linen, tomettes (unglazed terra-cotta tiles typical of authentic French farmhouses), antiques, and contemporary pieces made from waxed oak. Great details include en suite espresso machines, flat-screen TVs, CD players, and a selection of books in English, French, and German. The heated pool is on a terrace with mesmerizing views, and meals are served in cozy oak-paneled dining rooms in the main farmhouse. Note that authentic Basque cooking can be had just down the road at the excellent Auberge Iparla, also run by Ducasse.
13-15 Promenade des Anglais
Tel: 800 888 4747 (toll-free)
Tel: 33 4 92 14 77 00
Hotel operators love to bandy around idiotic phrases, of which "A Legend Reborn" is one of the most annoying, but this ocean liner of a hotel in the dead-center of Nice really was a legend. Opened in January 2004 after an almost $150 million renovation as a Concorde hotel, the grandiose, fanciful 1920s mansion is shooting for its former status as the "Tender is the Night" era Riviera place-to-be. All the entertainers stayed or played here (the ballroom seated 1000): Josephine Baker, Maurice Chevalier, Mistinguett, Edith Piaf, Yves Montand…in fact, half the movie stars and Euro-royals of the interwar period. Now the South Beach-kitsch neoclassical-meets-art deco exterior with its distinctive double tier of pillars is home to grand public spaces: a pool with a colonnaded portico and a lobby with black and gold pillars, polished marble floors, and gigantic arched windows. After that, the 188 rooms with their wenge and sycamore furniture, and their cranberry-and-gold or ocher-and-black or butter-and-sky-blue color schemes appear sadly bland. Facilities too are somewhat thin: a sauna-hammam, a theatrical, disconcertingly all-red restaurant and bar, a bunch of meeting rooms, and a casino. So maybe the legend isn't exactly reborn, but the place couldn't be more central.
52 Rue Gambetta
Tel: 33 4 94 17 71 71
With only 12 rooms in an apricot-painted villa in the heart of town, the Pan Deï Palais feels like an intimate guesthouse that channels the gently bohemian, carefree St-Tropez of the early sixties. In a break from the decorative idioms of the south of France—Souleiado prints and painted furniture—rooms are done up in refreshing white cottons with imported Indian furniture, including four-poster beds with bright silk shawls. Stone Buddhas and Hindu carvings, and wooden screens in the lobby, lounge, and garden amplify the Subcontinental theme and suggest a sense of serenity. The scene by the pool in the banana tree–accented garden out back is similarly dreamy, which suits the clientele of stylish couples and singles—this isn't a family hotel. After breakfast, served alfresco (weather permitting), most guests spend the day reading on the poolside wicker loungers, maybe drifting out for lunch and returning later for a swim.
5 Rue de la Paix
Tel: 33 5871 1234
At this "very luxurious property with beautiful art" near the Louvre, the "elegant and extremely well-maintained" design extends to the "Zen meets Paris" rooms' neutral tones and custom fabrics. Pur' serves simple classics like braised frog's legs that can cost "a small fortune." The "professional and amiable staff know what you like." Recently added diplomatic suites overlook the courtyard.
10 Place de Mexico
Tel: 800 333 3333 (toll-free)
Tel: 33 1 56 90 40 04
Overlooking the quiet Place de Mexico in the silk-stocking sixteenth arrondissement, this handsome triangular limestone Haussmannian building is a smart, stylish 48-room property that completely belies its chain hotel roots. The main entrance leads to a low-lit, low-key lobby with an ethanol-burning fireplace, sleek black leather armchairs and sofas, caramel-stained wood, and a color scheme of black and ivory. The young reception staff are welcomingthere's not a whiff of Gallic hauteur at this propertyand things get even better upstairs, where the well-designed Classic doubles (the least expensive room category) offer a lot of comfort for a reasonable price. Sure they're snug, but the waxed teak flooring, wall-mounted plasma-screen TVs, and ebony-stained four-posters with high-quality sheets give the rooms a cozy rather than small feel. Bathrooms have spacious black-stone stall showers and shallow limestone sinks, and the lighting is soft and studied throughout. A raft of great details, including iPod docks, complimentary Wi-Fi, and Anne Sémonin toiletries, means that the Radisson Blu performs well above its weight and is a pleasant contender for anyone who doesn't mind the slightly off-the-beaten track location. The hotel also has a small indoor pool and a steam room.
2-5 Place de la Comedie
Tel: 33 5 5730 4444
Following a lavish renovation of this city center grande dame, Bordeaux finally has the luxury hotel it so sorely lacked. Opposite the magnificent eighteenth-century Grand Théatre, the 150-room Regent Grand perfectly mirrors the aristocratic elegance of this lovely city, thanks to the exquisite interiors of designer Jacques Garcia. Black-lacquer wrought-iron lamps with pleated silk shades soften the reception area, which is furnished with striped-velvet barrel chairs and potted palms, and rooms are done in pretty nineteenth-century damasks and wallpapers, with reproduction Napoleon-something furniture. The signature restaurant, Le Pressoir d'Argent, is a stunner with a rocaille decor (seashells set into elaborate plaster moldings) and a sublime seafood menu. There's also a lively wine bar, a brasserie that offers great people-watching from the sidewalk terrace, and a full-service spa scheduled to open this summer.
15 Place Vendôme
Tel: 33 1 43 16 30 30
There are two things the uninitiated always want to know about Paris's most famous hotel. First off, is it really as ritzy as the name would imply? That's a definite yes—after all, the adjective itself derives from this 161-room hotel. Second question: Is it worth it? The answer here is an unequivocal "perhaps." To breathe the rarefied and perfumed (it is) air here costs a small fortune, but the hotel is filled with superlatives. The best bar (and bartender) in Paris is the Hemingway bar, where charming Brit Colin Field holds forth. The restaurant, L'Espadon, has a brilliant chef in Michel Roth. The indoor pool, modeled on ancient Roman baths, is the most spectacular in Europe. And the extras include chauffeur service to and from the airport, an organic room service menu, and Bamford Baby products to pamper the littlest guests. If your pockets are deep enough, book the sumptuous Imperial suite, which has a huge tub and an exact replica of Marie Antoinette's canopy bed at Versailles. Or, while we're on the subject of old queens, ask for the dusty-rose-tinted Elton John suite under the eaves. The Chanel suite, done over by Karl Lagerfeld, is a shrine with furniture in the style of Louis XVI, the Directoire, and the Empire, the way Coco liked it.
3 Avenue Jean Monnet
Tel: 33 4 93 76 31 00
In 1999 the estimable Grace Leo-Andrieu took charge of this noble creature, which has been perched for over a century on the Cap Ferrat peninsula, one of the least built-up corners of the coastline. The ambience is all grace—pun intended—and calm, with cool polished white marble and black-and-white checkerboard floors, muted slate colors, polished paneled doors, and a Greek key motif borrowed from the nearby Villa Kerylos. A recent sprucing-up extended the neo-Hellenic ideas into the 78 bedrooms, most of which overlook the orange and olive trees of the landscaped—by Jean Mus, no less—gardens to the sea. But beware of the standard rooms whose "mountain views" are not necessarily so bucolic. There are 16 further options with lavender and apricot walls and balconies or terraces in the Orangerie. With well-regarded chef Bruno le Bolch at the helm at Le Panorama, plus a Sundari spa, a large pool, a private beach, and caring, multilingual staff, this is a special getaway spot—such a getaway in fact that, if you want to see any bright lights, you'll need a car.
Closed December through mid-January.
10 Avenue d'Iéna
Tel: 33 1 53 67 19 98
Near the Trocadero in the buttoned-up 16th arrondissement, the Shangri-La occupies an elegant 1896 limestone mansion. Originally built as the residence of Roland Bonaparte (a grand-nephew), its public rooms retain regal grandeursky-high ceilings, ormolu and wedding cake moldingsthat define Paris's "palace" hotels. The Shangri-La scrupulously follows all of the codes of the Grand Hotel Experience, from the liveried doormen to the firmament of crystal chandeliers. The first Asian feint in this Shangri-La is the welcome tea poured during in-room check-in, but hints at what is to come: Shang Palace, a Cantonese restaurant, set to open in July 2011, with a brigade of chefs from China. There's also L'Abeille, an haute-cuisine French table, and La Bauhinia, a formal international restaurant. Interior designer Pierre Yves Rochon played it safe by channeling the Napoleonic pedigree of the property, kitting out most of the rooms in a classical French "la vie en beige" (and pale blue and celadon). Compact standard rooms have well-considered detailsa bronze panel on the leather-topped escritoire conceals outlets and switches, the minibar station has an electric tea kettle and espresso machine. The service also hints at the slightly indeterminate identity of these lavish new lodgingsAsian staff mete out kid-glove hospitality, while the friendly young local hires seem slightly overawed by the opulence.
36 Boulevard Charles Livon
Tel: 33 4 91 15 59 00
A superbly located four-star on the harbor (though, despite the name, not really within the Vieux Port), the Sofitel exudes all the charm for which cement-block chain properties are famous. The 131 rooms are done in modern modular, but—to be fair—tastefully so, with bright contemporary upholsteries and the occasional vaguely nautical touch, such as a wood-slat wall decked out with brass fittings. The rooftop restaurant, Les Trois Forts, offers upscale Mediterranean cuisine to go with the plate-glass panoramas, and there's an outdoor (unheated) pool. Oddly, the Novotel is in the same building (Sofitel's three-star corporate sibling), with a separate entrance and staff (and slightly lower prices).
Chemin de Smith Haut-Lafitte
Tel: 33 5 57 83 83 83
Tel: 888 465 8383
Set among vineyards a 20-minute drive from Bordeaux, this luxurious spa specializes in wine-flavored treatments it calls Vinothérapie. You don't just drink the wine; you can bathe in it: merlot wraps, sauvignon massages, and cabernet body scrubs are among the treatments offered. The hotel itself has two restaurants and 49 rooms and suites installed in five buildings scattered around the grounds, including a few in the former boathouse, and a suite called L'île aux Oiseaux perched on stilts over a pond. The decor of each guest room is unique, although—no surprise—one of the buildings has a wine theme running throughout.
Closed the first two weeks of January.
Oletta , Corsica
Tel: 33 4 95 38 39 39
The fashionable nine-room U Palazzu Serenu fills a real need on the island, where most of the lodging choices are large, fusty hotels or modest B&Bs. The hotel's aesthetic is minimalist but not at all chilly thanks to the friendly, well-traveled owner, who has created a cosmopolitan place that still feels like a home (his sizable art collection features Anish Kapoor and Paul de Pignol, among others). Designed by Nathalie Battesti, a protégée of Andrée Putman and Christian Liaigre, the interiors are fresh and comfortable, with oak parquet floors, large beds with crisp linens, pale stone bathrooms with counter space galore, and large windows with sweeping views to the Gulf of St-Florent. Meanwhile, the setting above Desert des Agriates is the perfect launchpad to St-Florent, rugged Cap Corse, and the sweet interior mountain towns that make Corsica so unique.
Avenue de la Violette
Tel: 33 4 42 23 29 23
Perched in a private park on a hillside above Aix-en-Provence, Villa Gallici is a vertical paradise of hidden terraces and sweeping views, a hideaway spot that features high service and discreet luxury amid rose gardens and cypress trees. The gated complex feels somewhat cut off from downtown Aix's bustle—the only downside. But the Gallici feels like a destination on its own: an old Provençal villa flanked by rows of apartments, a terraced restaurant, and a decadent swimming pool surrounded by bougainvillea. Interiors are densely packed with textiles and antique furnishings, but a modern feeling somehow emerges from the combination of traditional elements; the overall impression is one of luxury and airiness. The duplex suites are pricey but reward guests with peerless views of the city below, as well as baronial bathrooms with double sinks, claw-foot bathtubs, and separate showers. Fresh bouquets of roses and a heavy dose of floral aromatherapy permeate the rooms. Service is flawless, instant, and without a trace of condescension or stiffness. The overall effect is that rarest of things, a hotel "experience," an almost perfectly crafted environment.
Route des Plages
Tel: 33 4 94 97 40 22
Need a place that's outside of St. Trop itself, but close enough to get a dose when you want it? Welcome to Villa Marie, a 43-room bastide tucked away in a pine grove outside the hilltop village of Ramatuelle, ten minutes from town. If you subscribe to French decorating magazines, you've seen it: This is another example of the impeccable taste of hotelier Jocelyne Sibuet (of Les Fermes de Marie in the French Alps and La Bastide de Marie in the Lubéron). The decor is an intriguing mix of Belle Epoque and vintage Riviera. There are lots of carefully culled antiques, such as curio cases and rush-bottomed chairs, which contrast nicely with the wrought-iron credenzas and gilt carved-wood lamps. The lovely setting doesn't hurt, nor does the swimming pool carved into the rock, where you can soak up the soleil while listening to the cicadas go wild in the heat of day. Heaven.
To a certain extent you get what you pay for, and in Provence you're likely to pay handsomely. Dreamy four-bedroom hilltop stone farmhouses with valley-view swimming pools certainly exist, but don't be surprised at the Hamptons-like price tags that accompany them. Conversely, beware the too-good-to-be-true bargain, such as studio apartments in small villages, which are just as likely to be small, dank, and woefully unequipped. Villas International (www.villasintl.com) serves the high end of the market. For something less expensive, try an Internet search on Provence house rental, and give yourself plenty of lead time—the most desirable places are taken months, and sometimes years, in advance. After you've actually settled in, it's often best to head to the nearest town and get to know the local tradespeople—at least the grocer and butcher, since you're likely to count on them for daily staples. And as with any house rental, make sure all appliances are clearly explained in advance—you don't want to compound potential disaster with language problems.