Dreamlike sandy beaches in Aquitaine, noble villas in Poitou-Charentes, & sacral history in Brittany: On the Atlantic coast of France, vacationers have the choice between culture, elegance, and a classic beach holiday. Wine lovers should high tail it to the famous Bordeaux, where you can sample the finest wines in your hotel and local wine shops. The hotels on the Atlantic Coast in France are as diverse as the leisure options for a relaxed, romantic, or an active trip.
Where to stay at a hotel on the French Atlantic Coast? Top regions and locations at a glance:
Aquitaine: Sandy beaches, surfing, & family
France’s Basque Country is home to the silver waters of the Côte d’Argent and the beautiful landscapes surrounding the protected Arcachon Bay. The hinterland is occupied by the imposing Pyrenees Mountains, which are speckled with charming villages and meet pristine beaches on the coast. Biarritz is a popular beach resort with a focus on surfing and seaside luxury, boasting a refined dining scene and a suite of boutique shops. Spa hotels line this coast, making it a great option for those looking for a rejuvenating stay amidst sweeping views and beach-town fun. Arachon is another seaside resort that offers impressive views of the Dune of Pilat, the highest sand dune in Europe. The spacious beaches brim with opportunity for water sports and fun with the whole family. Biscarrosse Plage and Moliets-et-Maa have plenty of opportunity for those looking for an active vacation, or at least an active portion of their relaxing getaway, with a wide variety of hiking trails through the exceptional natural landscape, golfing, and more water sports. One of the more romantic locals on the coast, a romantic hotel or even a honeymoon hotel promises to set you up for an extra special escape with the one you love.
Bordeaux: Wine, shopping, & nightlife
A port city located within the Garonne hinterland, Bordeaux is one of the most popular destinations on the French Atlantic Coast perhaps due to its culinary and wine-related feats. This hub of the famous French wine-growing region contains the world’s urban largest UNESCO World Heritage Site, consisting of half of the city, and is quite the sight to behold. With architecture ranging from the royal symmetry of the place de la Bourse palaces with stone mascarons facades, to the imposing 35-meter city gate, Porte Cailhau. Within the city and the environs, there are hundreds of wine castles, vineyards, and chance for tasting top regional products. The city is also primed for shopping, sightseeing, and art-museum hopping. Modern and historical hotels with first-rate in-house restaurants line the prettiest 18th-century streets. Check out a design or boutique hotel in one of the happening nightlife areas to get a taste of the lively student and youth scene that makes Bordeaux that much more special.
Poitou-Charentes: Biking trails, island vacations, & jet-setters
The hinterland of the French Atlantic Coast is rural and is best explored on bike or via beautiful hiking paths, like the pilgrimage route to Santiago di Compostela, which is lined with abbeys and sacred buildings. Chic marinas and post restaurants are found here, where oysters are served as a regional speciality. La Rochelle is filled with imposing towers on the old port, which once served as a guard post and looks out directly to the sophisticated island of Île de Re. On this posh island, find salty marshes and the old town of San Martin, where Paris’ elite spends its summer holidays in chic villas and luxury hotels. Île d’Oléron is another must-visit island off the coast of Poitou-Charentes for lovers of luxuriating in perfect climates. The hotels here sit stately on immaculate beaches; some with a view of the Napoleon-Era sea fortress, Fort Boyard, which lies between the Île-d'Aix and the Île d’Oléron. For a trip with the kids, plan a stop at the Zoo de la Palmyre, Poitiers's Futuroscope, and the La Rochelle Aquarium before spending a sweet night in at a family hotel in the region.
Brittany: Sacred buildings, old towns, & art
Rugged rocky coasts, idyllic bays, and a plenty of culture can be found in Brittany. Stay in a castle-like hotel with a romantic ambiance on the Atlantic Coast or with a view of the Saint-Malo Cathedral. On the other side of cliffs and sandy beaches lie wild, uninhabited islands, the inlands of which are criss-crossed with sacred stone churches and places of pilgrimage. On the Pink Granite Coast, you’ll find yourself stumbling upon impressive pink-granite formations in Perros-Guire. From Saint Malo, you can reach the impressive abbeys of the Mont-Saint-Michel. This Corsair City has a beautiful old town with historic hotels tucked between medieval fortresses and wide, sandy beaches. Idyllic port cities in Brittany include Port-en-Bessin and Honfleur and come equipped with some of the prettiest harbors and freshest seafood. Honfluer is the city for art-lovers, as it is considered to be a cradle of impressionism.
Good to know
Getting there: The easiest way to reach the French Atlantic Coast is via direct flight to Bordeaux from major UK airports, like Gatwick, Luton, or Bristol. From the airport, there are buses, trams, and cabs-for-hire that’ll get you where you need to be on the coast. Renting a car is always a good option, especially for some of the locations that are further from Bordeaux, but it’s not necessarily recommended to rent a car just for a stay in the city of Bordeaux, as one can easily rely on public transport.
Climate: The climate on the French Atlantic coast is pleasantly mild in summer. The further south you go, the hotter it gets. The temperature around the popular seaside resorts of Aquitaine rises up to 35° C.