There’s nothing quite like the art de vivre of France—and it’s almost impossible not to slip into this wonderful “way of living” no matter the length of visit. Whether a too-late espresso in a twilit plaza, a simple stroll along a sunny beach, or a bottle of bubbly popped in the hotel room, in France you take it as it comes. Live the stuff of legends in Paris, where joie de vivre takes on a whole ‘nother meaning, or book it to the French Riviera to forget your woes and level the playing field at a trendy bar with a star-studded cast. If you’re looking for a dream, Alsace and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes suggest an itinerary filled with nothing but fairytale scenery and mountainside spas.
Where to stay at a boutique hotel in France? Important locations at a glance:
Paris: Live the legend
© Hôtel Duo France’s capital City of Light is perhaps the capital of boutique hotels—there’s something about the old-world charm for which the city is so famous that lends itself to this kind of establishment, i.e. the place where traditional beauty meets class and contemporary style. Whether an extremely deluxe spot just across the River Seine from the Eiffel Tower, or a room-for-two tucked in the romantic alleys of Montmartre, pure Paris is found here, where the classical, avant-garde, and extravagant meet. One of the most-visited cities in the world, and probably the most written about—on travel sites or by the likes of Marcel Proust—Paris doesn’t have to request your attention or fanfare, it’s earned it in every moment of its exceptional life. A fast-paced city of the future meets a world so steeped in the classic, its almost blinding. Most days in Paris are spent eating and drinking, breaking only to traverse long boulevards or cobbled alleys. As Charles Baudelaire so elegantly wrote, “I love thee, infamous city!” and this sort of hysterical love is something that must be witnessed for oneself in each lifetime.
Marseille and French Riviera: Coastal glamour
© Hostellerie La Farandole The multicultural and multifaceted port city of Marseille promises something special on your trip to France: with an Ancient Greek stamp in its passport, a stint as the European Capital of Culture, and a prime location from which to sail to the nearby, oneiric islands, this once black sheep of the French Riviera has come back with a vengeance. Marseille’s Old Town is one of France’s finest, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations is the city’s top, and the Cathedral puts on a show in every skyline view. If this quasi-underdog story does not appeal to you, the boutique hotels of Saint Tropez and along the coast ensure total, uninterrupted luxury. After a successful night out rubbing elbows with the world’s elite, settle into your suite with private pool and the fun never stops. Cannes, the city made famous for its seaside glamour and international film festival, promises to provide if its celebrity-spotting, designer barhopping, and sunbathing you’re after. Within interiors that reflect the contemporary class of the cities themselves, rest up with a view of the harbor or from deep within a personal cleanse in the hotel’s spa center. The capital of its southeast-most region, Nice has been frequented by snow birds for centuries—the confluence of real-city energy and shiny opulence is what continues, and will continue in perpetuity, to draw visitors to its sundrenched promenades and bar-fringed beaches. The wine-inclined should hightail it just west and inland of Marseille for boutique, vineyards hotels in the region of Provence.
Alsace: Fairytale Strasbourg and dreamy landscapes
© Hostellerie La Cheneaudière & Spa Tucked into a seemingly dreamed-up corner of the world, where France, Germany, and Switzerland meet, Alsace appears as if at the moment when the sun clears up the morning mist and makes way for the day. A world in itself, everything from the language to the cuisine to the history and architecture is strictly “Alsatian.” In this enchanting region, the rolling hills and fairytale villages are best experienced slowly, with mind paid to the centuries of tradition, which are held extremely close to the heart for most locals. Strasbourg, among hosting international organizations of the first order and operating as a major hub for engineering and manufacturing in France, is home to a 15th-century cathedral which promises to take your breath away, in addition to a UNESCO-listed series of windy alleys and bustling plazas that constitute the Grande Île. Your boutique hotel, on top of exposed-brick walls, balconies looking out into tiny lanes, and rooftop jacuzzies, also places you within walking distance from the city’s major sites as well as the Rhine. Colmar, one of the most egregious iterations of Alsatian beauty, is the perfect place to get over the culture shock of landing in a kind of medieval theme park. Fit for a romantic escape or even a honeymoon, seldom witnessed is this degree of old-timey tranquility, which radiates sweetly through the multi-colored streets and riverscapes of Alsace.
Atlantic Coast: Classic beach holiday
© Le Manoir de Herouville The French Atlantic Coast is where beach vacations go for their beach vacations—a totally laidback and natural approach to the world of sandy-toed and sun-stained. All along the coast, from Biarritz up and around to the border of Belgium, find boutique hotels that take their craft very serious, that being sharp design, a charming atmosphere, and unrivaled beach-town/city vibes. Beginning in Bordeaux, the bougie (in the best way), wine-fueled wonderland just off the coast on the River Garonne, delve into a paradise for the architecturally-involved, bon vivants, and those interested in the immaculate relation between 12th-century history and all that is young and exciting in art, cuisine, and spirit. Riverside boutique hotels situate you within walking distance from some of Europe’s best eateries and some of France’s best architecture. Pop just an hour and a half west to scamper around the seaside neighborhood of Pyla-sur-Mer, home to Europe’s largest sand dune. Biarritz sits elegantly on the southern border of France, ready to rock your world with its glitz and glam and lively culture of surfing. In an über-chic, design-meets-boutique hotel right on the Port Vieux, you’re sure to be beaming with joie de vivre the whole holiday through. Heading north to La Rochelle, prepare for a rich and varied landscape of orange coastal light, myriad lighthouses, and a palpable history of seafaring, all looked over by the likes of gargoyles.
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes: Romance in the Alps
© Villa Maïa For an unforgettable experience, head just south of Alsace to the world-famous Mont Blanc and settle into a boutique ski hotel to witness an homage to another kind of holiday, one which exudes luxury while maintaining an atmosphere of contemplation and regeneration of the mind and body. In this southern region of France bordering Switzerland, the destination is whichever imposing mountain range or pristine mountain lake you end up gazing out on all day. That means, choosing the perfect hotel is crucial. Holiday like royalty in a boutique hotel housed in an early 20th-century castle, or a spot right on the slopes of the southern Alps. Just west in Lyon, discover the 2,000 years of history which radiate through the renaissance old district, around the Roman ruins, and to the industrial districts. One of the largest old towns in the world, Vieux Lyon is meant for wandering; there’s even a series of underground passageways beneath the neighborhood open for meandering. The boutique hotels in Lyon are romantic and cuisine-focused, some also equipped with extensive spa centers and rooftop patios primed for a sunset glass of wine with the one you love.
Our Favorite Boutique Hotels in France
The France holiday destination at a glance:
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