Château de La Treyne, Lacave Château de La Treyne, Lacave

Fairytale France: the best château hotels

Olive groves, manicured gardens, top wines and Michelin-starred restaurants: these are our top 6 places to stay for that unique Gallic old-world charm

by

Paris Editor

France teems with an eclectic range of spectacular centuries-old buildings that risked falling into disrepair before being given a second lease of life as spectacular hotels. Providing guests with luxurious, rich experiences brimming with quintessential French soul, these landmark buildings can never be rivalled by new-builds. Here are some of our insider favourites for reliving that sought-after French savoir-faire in true historical royal fashion.

Château de la Messardière, St. Tropez

Chateau-de-la-Messardiere-AerialAeriel view of Château de la Messardière

Surrounded by an elegant 25-acre garden of cypresses, the five-star Château de la Messardière sits in a prime Saint Tropez spot right by the azure waters of the glittering Mediterranean. Built in the nineteenth century as a private residence complete with four turrets, its signature feature, it was a wedding gift to the French cavalry officer Henry Brisson de la Messardière and his wife Louise Dupuy-d’Angeac. In the 20s, when he died, Louise rented out the rooms and the chateau became the go-to place for hedonist parties. However, the family was forced to leave when the chateau threatened to fall into ruin before being rescued in 1989 and reopening as a luxury hotel. Today it boasts 117 rooms and a pool and restaurant that come with unrivalled views of the Pampelonne Bay. www.messardiere.com

Domaine de la Baume, Tourtour

 Domaine-de-la-BaumeDomaine de la Baume

About two hours’ drive from Nice on the outskirts of the Verdon Forest is the more understated eighteenth-century Domaine de la Baume. Opened in July 2013 as a bewitching 15-room hideaway (Sibuet hotel collection), it was the home of Expressionist painter Bernard Buffet for the last 20 years of his life. An ode to quintessential Provençal charm, the hotel has plenty of soul harboured in its previous lives as a sheepfold, then as the home of several noble families. Still standing, the main apricot hued bastide (a typical local stone house) with its blue shutters and sprawling vines, nestles in achingly beautiful 99-acres of olive groves and meticulously manicured French gardens punctuated by a pocket-sized chapel. www.domaine-delabaume.com

Related: 5 of the most artistic villages in Provence

Fontevraud-l'Abbaye, near Nantes

Abbaye-de-FontevraudFontevraud Abbey

Northwards in the romantic Loire region with its thousand castles, the hit design duo Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku completely overhauled the drab hotel of twelfth-century cultural heritage site Fontevraud Abbey, also the burial site of Richard the Lionheart King of England and Duke of Normandy. The hotel is housed in the very grand former stone cloister, which served as a hospice for lepers before becoming a prison hospital in the abbey’s penitentiary days during the French Revolution. The hotel might have undergone a strikingly contemporary revamp but the spotlight remains on the building’s original features and monastic soul. For instance, the old chapel was converted into a lofty bar backed by petrol blue screens and the adjoining medieval banquet hall complete with vaulted ceilings and enormous open fireplace. www.fontevraud.fr

Château de la Treyne, Dordogne

Chateau-de-la-TreyneChâteau de la Treyne

For an off-the-beaten-track French castle experience complete with turrets and moats, grand canopy beds and gardens à la française, the Château de la Treyne is the place to stay. The fourteenth-century castle housed kings and knights as well as famous French writer André Chamson, who was in charge of the Louvre’s Egyptian Antiquities art collection, which in part was temporarily stored at the chateau. Located in the luxuriant and idyllic Dordogne Valley of south-western France, it nestles right on the banks of the river. Surrounded by a cedar tree garden that merges into a 120-acre forest, the Relais & Chateaux hotel of 17 rooms comes with a Michelin star restaurant that opens onto a magnificent terrace that looks like it hangs right above the water. www.chateaudelatreyne.com

Related: 5 weekend escapes in France

La Grande Maison, Bordeaux

La-Grande-Maison-10-Rue-Labottiere-La Grande Maison

Located in Bordeaux wine country harbouring thousands of vineyards, Bernard Magrez and Michelin star chef Joël Robuchon’s eighteenth-century La Grande Maison offers a princely experience with the added bonus of a prestigious vineyard that produces four of the country’s Grands Crus Classés. Above the grand steps to the stately residence are two initials: those of the prominent lawyer Léon Duguit who built the manor where he would host parties attended by intellectuals from across the globe. Today, the exclusive six-bedroom house is a dream come true for wine amateurs where guests can expect lavish interiors, top wines, as well as Michelin star dining – not forgetting Rolls Royce and helicopter tours. www.lagrandemaison-bordeaux.com

Les Crayères, Reims

Les-CrayeresLes Crayères

Related: Best restaurants on the French Riviera

For visitors who prefer champagne, there’s no better place to stay than Relais & Châteaux hotel Les Crayères in Reims, the Champagne capital. Although the actual champagne vineyards extend right out into the countryside, it is here that all the top champagne houses have their cellars, open for visits and tastings. The lavish manor Les Crayères was originally built in 1904 by Louise Pommery, the founder of the eponymous champagne house and was the residence of her descendants and was the meeting place for the local bourgeoisie for almost a century. In 1983, it opened as a five-star hotel. The opulent estate comes with 20 rooms, cosy reception rooms with open fireplaces, and a Michelin star restaurant with a summer terrace extending into the romantic secluded park. www.lescrayeres.com

1 Château de la Messardière
2 Domaine de la Baume
3 Fontevraud, l’Hôtel - Abbaye de Fontevraud
4 Château de la Treyne
5 La Grande Maison
6 Les Crayères