It’s not exactly as if there’s a shortage of beautiful places to stay when visiting France. On the contrary (or au contraire, rather), choosing just one interesting hotel in the country to base your stay can be quite overwhelming. Yet, while there may be a never-ending list of accommodations you’re interested in, it’s a little more difficult to find the cool hotels in France that are actually French-people approved — i.e. the under-the-radar, effortlessly (but achingly) chic spots that are mostly only known to true insiders. So, TZR set out to find them.
It should be noted that the recommendations of the country’s natives, of course, aren’t the only locations worth staying. But if you’re the type of person who likes to find places that are, say, less crowded, off the beaten path, or simply not well-known Instagram fodder, then the hotel recommendations from French people that TZR has rounded up are for you.
Sure, you may have already heard of a few of their suggestions; the assignment was for these sources to provide “cool” hotels where they really stay when in their home country, so the accommodations on this list aren’t totally unknown. That said, you can rest assured that each and every one has that certain je ne sais quoi that everyone’s looking for when in France. Discover them all, ahead.
"My family lives in the countryside but I always try to make time for a visit to Paris whenever I'm home. By far, my favorite hotel to stay at is Brach Paris,” Yoann Le Calonnec, a quantitative researcher, tells TZR. Not only is it a “really fun and beautiful hotel,” he continues, but he also thinks it has one of the most delicious brunch menus in the city (a bold claim we’d love to test out).
Anouk and Louis Solanet, the founders of new Paris-based hospitality brand Orso Hotels, recommend Le Moulin, a vacation home rental a few hours west of Paris. “Le Moulin, which translates to the Windmill, is exactly that and has been rehabilitated and completely renovated by architect Lucas Madani — from Hauvette & Madani, the design duo behind our own hotel Le Wallace in Paris’ 15th — and his partner Marine Gabily,” they say of the countryside getaway. “They imagined it and brought it to life as a gathering place for their friends and family, but also wanted to allow for others to come and enjoy it.”
Antoine Ricardou, one of the founders of ateliers Saint-Lazare (a Paris- and New York-based multidisciplinary narrative design studio behind cool French spots like Le Pigalle in Paris, Les Sources de Cheverny in the Loire Valley, and more), names Le Barn as one of his top picks in the country. “Le Barn, just like its name indicates, is designed to look like a barn and is a go-to weekend escape for Parisians seeking out the countryside, as it’s just 45 minutes outside the city,” he says. “I often bike there with a group of friends to go have dinner; its family-style food is great.”
For photographer Roland Egloff, the chateau-hotel Saint James Paris is the go-to for stays in the city. His favorite part about the property, he says, is its vibe and spirit: It’s “like living a chateau life but with a very cozy atmosphere, and each time I visit I feel I am staying with friends.” Egloff explains that he first chose the hotel because of the area in which it’s located (it’s in the heart of Paris’ 16th arrondissement on the right bank) and because of its privacy.
But those aren’t the only aspects he’s a fan of. The photographer also likes the “freshness and delicacy of the menu at the restaurant, Bellefeuille,” and the garden’s gazebo. He continues by noting that The Library Bar is one of the most iconic in the city, and is a spot he frequently entertains friends. “Try the ‘High Fly,’ a tequila-based cocktail with ginger beer and honey from the hives in the garden.”
His list continues, as well. “The gym is really large and I love the fact that the new indoor swimming pool has skylights,” shares Egloff. “The spa is by Guerlain; apart from the well-known products, they are also very experienced in stimulating muscles. I usually go for the Skin Saver Facial which manages to make me not only feel, but look younger.”
“La Colombe d’Or is an iconic property in the beautiful village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence in the South of France,” says the Solanet duo of the historic hotel and restaurant. “It’s the type of place that inspires us in what we do at Orso. Authentic, charming, and a true representation of French art de vivre.” The two also share that there is an “exceptional” modern art collection throughout the hotel, such as mobiles by Alexander Calder by the pool, and that the restaurant feels like a museum itself. “True to tradition and its roots, the place welcomes people as if they were part of a great big family,” they continue.
“Maison Fragonard is a hidden gem in the heart of Arles, which we also designed,” says Ricardou of the guest house on the upper floor of the Fragonard boutique on the Rue du Palais. “[It’s] a townhouse with only six rooms, each with its own identity and all are in perfect harmony with both the historic town and the perfumery’s very Provençal roots.”
“Nestled at the foothills of the Sacré Cœur, the vintage lobby [of Hotel Rochechouart] merges into an art deco dining room and as you make your way up the six-story building, the decor is punctuated by varying shades of brown,” says Nicolas Cloutier, the CEO and founder of Nose, a beauty concept store and curator of perfumes and beauty products in Paris. “If Wes Anderson had to pick a hotel in Paris with 1930s vibes for his next short film, Hotel Rochechouart would probably be it for its atmosphere à la Chateau Marmont!” (And he would know: Cloutier actually helped create the perfume “L’air de Panache” for Wes Anderson’s film, Grand Budapest Hotel.)
Z.d.G. founder Zoë de Givenchy (who is Australian-born but currently resides between France, Los Angeles, and the Bahamas) names Epi Plage, an exclusive club and hotel on the Pampelonne Beach in Saint Tropez, as one of of her favorite stays in France. “In the heart of St Tropez’s beaches,” she tells TZR, “it’s a sanctuary of home that feels very far from the Cote d’Azur parties nearby. Run like a family hotel, it manages to fuse immaculate attention to detail with the effortless elegance of the old St Tropez.” But the best parts, in her opinion? “The ‘50s style, clay tennis courts and beach-side swimming pool are beautiful and the Japanese restaurant is exquisite. J’adore!"