Hôtel Château le Cagnard, Haute de Cagnes, Côte d’Azur: Inland from Nice, in a medieval cliff-side village beloved of Renoir, the Ivarsson family’s four-star hotel occupies a 13th-century building by the ramparts.
Step inside to discover worn stone floors, open fireplace, 1920s frescoes of elephants, fine antiques. The pièce de résistance, the dining-room ceiling of 200 painted panels, slides back to reveal the sky.
Dine indoors or on the terrace with a distant view of the Mediterranean. The cuisine is modern, infused with flavours of the south. Rooms, each named after an artist, have period furnishings; bath and shower rooms have a stone sink and underfloor heating.
Renoir Museum and Château Musée Grimaldi are a short walk away. Doubles $177–$600 (€150–€510). À la carte $94 (€80). 0033 4 93 20 73 22, lecagnard.com
L’Hôtel, Paris: Quelle transformation! The dingy old Hôtel d’Alsace, where Oscar Wilde died in poverty, lives again as a hip destination.
Built in the early 1800s, the city’s smallest five-star hotel has been made over by designer Jacques Garcia for the British Curious Hotel Group.
It has a hammam pool in the vaults, Michelin-starred cooking in Le Restaurant, which opens on to a courtyard where a fountain plays.
Wilde famously said of the wallpaper, "either it goes or I do." He’d have loved the velvet drapes of today, the marbled pillars, swags, silks and artworks – not to mention the suite named after him, with its own private terrace. B&B $360–$850 (€305–€720), menus $65–$224 (€55-€190). 0033 1 44 41 99 00, l-hotel.com
Le Pavillon de la Reine, Paris: Situated on the Place des Vosges, one of the world’s most beautiful public squares, this creeper-swathed 17th-century mansion, with private courtyard garden, is today a family-run spa hotel. The name honours Queen Anne of Austria, who once stayed here.
Designer interiors mix antique furnishings with contemporary styling.
Some bedrooms are petite, others spacious with, perhaps, a modern four-poster. The best suite has double-aspect windows, original Versailles parquet flooring, an antique fireplace, a bespoke chandelier – and an open shower in the bedroom if you feel like splashing out.
Breakfast is served in the basement, and a snacks menu is available from 12:30 p.m. Doubles from around $418 (€356). 0033 1 40 29 19 19, pavillon-de-la-reine.com
Le Vieux Castillon, Castillon-Du-Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon: Between Avignon and Nímes, close to the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct, this hotel occupies a cluster of stone houses in a medieval hilltop village. Like Mas de la Fouque it is part of the small H8 Collection hotel group, with the same values of luxury and charm.
Bedrooms are well-equipped, with minibar, Bose speakers, espresso machine.
The restaurant has been made over for a lighter, more modern feel, with white-painted beams. From the "bistronomic" menu choose such dishes as oxtail, duck foie gras and celeriac ravioli, seabass meunière with shellfish.
Outside there are flowery terraces, olive and fig trees, views over vineyards. In summer, movies are projected onto the wall of a ruined 10th-century château by the swimming pool. Rooms from $161 (€137), á la carte $82 (€70). 0033 4 66 37 61 61, vieuxcastillon.com
Manoir les Minimes, Amboise, Loire Valley: Beside the royal château where Leonardo da Vinci is believed to be buried, on the banks of the Loire, this 18th-century manor house was built on the foundations of a medieval monastery.
It is especially pretty in springtime when it sports a frill of wisteria, but it’s lovely in all seasons, with its fine furnishings, designer fabrics and classy décor.
Most of the air-conditioned bedrooms have a château view.
There is a spacious salon and delightful breakfast room. Ask advice on dining out.
Leonardo arrived by donkey, bringing the "Mona Lisa" with him over the Alps. You can arrive in more comfort and visit the house where he spent his final years. Doubles $163–$461 (€139–€392). 0033 2 47 30 40 40, manoirlesminimes.com
Château de St Paterne, St Paterne, Normandy: Scene of a tryst between the Bourbon king Henri IV and his mistress, this Renaissance château is a place of wonder and enchantment.
Set in its own park on the edge of Alençon, with swimming pool and tennis court, it is filled with family possessions, antiques and paintings.
A curved staircase leads to bedrooms of great variety, one with a set of engravings presented by Napoleon, another with the crest of "good King Henry." The Chambre des Mystères, in a tower, is approached by 52 steps.
In L’Orangerie, a wall is hung with a 19th-century theater backdrop.
Children are welcomed by the English-speaking owners, Sélongène and Charles-Henry Valbray. M Valbray cooks a four-course dinner with vegetables from the potager. Rooms $170–$310 (€145–€265), dinner $57.50 (€49). 0033 2 33 27 54 71, chateau-saintpaterne.com
Hôtel Caron de Beaumarchais, Paris: Music to your eyes, this lovely, romantic small hotel in the arty Marais district is decorated in 18th-century style with a Mozart theme (Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais lived next door where he wrote "Le Mariage de Figaro" in 1778).
Behind the striking blue frontage discover tapestries, ancient opera programmes, an Erard piano from 1792, an antique card table with hand-made cards, a harp.
Most bedrooms (some bijou) have a beamed ceiling, a crystal chandelier, gilt-framed paintings – and modern conveniences. A fire burns in the salon on cold days.
A continental breakfast is served in the delightful breakfast room – or delivered by room service. B&B €130–€250. 0033 1 42 72 34 12, carondebeaumarchais.com
Château de Lalande, Annesse-et-Beaulie. Dordogne: There is a lovely lived-in feel to this pale stone château in parkland a short drive from Périgeux. It was rescued from ruin by its owners, and is filled with antiques, old-world charm and modern comforts.
The bedrooms, some with fireplace, some "palatial," have upholstered walls patterned with flowers, birds and pastoral motifs. One suite has a private entrance and terrace.
Our readers rate the modern cooking in the restaurant very highly. In summer meals are served on a lawn in the shade of a tree.
The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, prices are very reasonable and small children are made welcome. Doubles €119–€169, suites from €196, breakfast €17, children 10 and under €10, menus €42–€57, children’s menu from €15. 0033 5 53 54 52 30, chateau-lalande-perigord.com
Château d’Etoges, Etoges, Champagne: French royalty used to stop over at this moated 17th-century château in parkland on journeys from Paris. It is run as a much-admired hotel by Anne Filliette Neuville, whose family has a local Champagne estate.
Outside you will find fountains and free-ranging chickens and cockerels; within, a marble staircase, marble fireplaces, tapestry, statuary, paintings and panelling. It looks grand but feels lived-in.
Bedrooms vary in size from small to beauteous and grand with park views and perhaps a half-tester bed. Air-conditioned rooms in the Orangery have lift access.
A well-regarded fine-dining restaurant offers imaginative options for vegetarian and carnivore alike. Doubles around $130–$235 (€110–€200), menus $56–$94 (€48– €80), à la carte $84 (€72). 033 3 26 59 30 08, etoges.com
Château de Courcelles, Courcelles-sur-Vesles, Picardy: Built in the last years of the 17th century in pure Louis XIV style, amid garden and parkland, this château has entertained many notable guests.
Here Napoleon met Marie-Louise of Austria – already marked out to be his second wife. Jean Cocteau designed a staircase banister. Christian Dior threw lavish parties. The public rooms are filled with antiques and infused with old-fashioned charm.
Bedrooms tend to the spacious, while the best are luxurious. In a beamed dining room hung with chandeliers, in the winter garden or on the terrace, chef Lucas Vannier’s modern, seasonal cooking wins praise.
The Champagne region is minutes away – Paris an hour. Rooms $240–$808 (€205–€690). Set menu $70 (€60), tasting menu $117 (€100). 0033 3 23 74 13 53, chateau-de-courcelles.fr
Cour des Loges, Lyon: Four Renaissance mansions combine in one remarkable luxury hotel on a narrow backstreet in the city’s trendy St-Jean quartier of Vieux Lyon.
It’s a wonderful mix of historic and contemporary styling, with a soaring atrium, spiral staircases, narrow passageways, loggias, cloisters, modern art and antiques. Each bedroom is unique and special.
Chef Anthony Bonnet holds a Michelin star for his cooking in the gourmet restaurant. Or eat more simply in the café delicatessen with leafy terrace and gardens.
Guests can dine at the chef’s table, taste wines in the cellar, relax in the spa with hammam and mosaic-tiled swimming pool. Rooms from $318 (€270), breakfast $27 (€23), dinner $94 (€80). 0033 4 72 77 44 44, courdesloges.com
Grand Hôtel des Bains, Locquirec, Brittany: Light floods the interior of this flower-decked, family-run spa hotel at a resort and fishing port between the Côte de Granite Rose and the Côte Sauvage on the North Brittany coast.
The 1900s building is done out in New England style, with paneled walls, wood and wicker. Most bedrooms have a balcony or private terrace.
An avenue of lime trees leads to a private beach, setting for the 1970s French comedy "L’Hôtel de la Plage." There are sea views from the indoor salt-water swimming pool and the dining room, where seafood figures large on the menu – or you can eat at the hotel’s brasserie by the sandy beach. Rooms from $268 (€229). A la carte £$8 (€50). 0033 2 98 67 41 02, grand-hotel-des-bains.com
Hotel Crillon Le Brave, Crillon-Le-Brave, Provence: English owners Peter Chittick and Craig Miller launched this very special hotel (Relais & Château) in one historic house, at the heart of a hilltop village, in 1989,; since then it has subsumed seven more. Past residents are recalled with affection in house names, adding to a sense of living history. Maison Decor, beside the church, the most recent acquisition, is home to three suites and a spa.
Some bedrooms have a balcony and a view of Mont Ventoux. All have style and personality. One reader reports a bathroom with two free-standing baths – and a Champagne-cooler between them. There is excellent gourmet cooking in Restaurant Jérôme Blanchet, more relaxed dining in Bistrot 40K.
Or you can eat on a panoramic terrace. B&B rooms from $375 (€320). Restaurant menus from $81 (€69), bistro $49 (€42). 0033 4 90 65 61 61, crillonlebrave.com
Hôtel d’Aubusson, Paris: In the Latin Quarter, a stroll from the Louvre and Notre Dame, this 17th-century mansion mixes contemporary and traditional styling, opulence and comfort. In public rooms you will find Versailles parquet flooring, antiques, ceiling beams, chandeliers and Aubusson tapestries. On a summer evening you can take drinks on the terrace, an oasis at the heart of the city.
All bedrooms have been recently renovated and have an espresso machine and minibar. Duplex loft apartments are ideal for a family of three or four, with lounge/office, and beds on a mezzanine. There is jazz in the evening from Wednesday to Saturday in Café Laurent, which hosts writers, philosophers, poets. Rooms from around $470 (€400). 0033 1 43 29 43 43, hoteldaubusson.com.
L’Abbaye Château de Camon, Camon, Midi-Pyrenees: A former Benedictine monastery, dating from the 10th century and set in a castle in a fortified village in the foothills of the Pyrenees, has been restored by friendly owners Peter and Katie Lawton. They have preserved the ancient character while creating a lovely chambres d’hôtes.
There are stone staircases, frescoes, flagstone floors, chandeliers. You can sleep in a former monk’s cell with views of the foothills and lovely grounds (count on crisp cotton, not sackcloth). Dine in the cloisters in summer, or in the dining room with tapestry-like murals.
British chef Tom Sleigh delights in working with local, seasonal ingredients. Medieval Mirepoix is a short drive away. Doubles from $164 (€140). Five-course menu $56 (€48). 0033 5 61 60 31 23, chateaudecamon.com
Le Mas de la Fouque, Saintes-maries-de-la-Mer, Provence: In the shimmering wetlands of Camargue Natural Park, this luxury hotel and spa is drenched with light through floor-to-ceiling windows.
Look up and you might see flamingos in flight; look about and you might see the wild white horses of the region.
Rooms are cool, chic, individually styled, with perhaps a driftwood four-poster, an Eames rocking chair.
Each has a private terrace overlooking the swimming pool and tamarisk trees or a lagoon where swans, black and white, drift. For novelty, book a trailer.
In the restaurant the ambience is more bohemian, with colorful chairs, old wooden lockers, ships’ lanterns. The cooking is regional with a modern twist – perhaps beef with red Camargue rice, roast chicken with Camargue potatoes, beet condiment, beef jus. B&B doubles from $266 (€226), menus (three courses) $53 (€45). 0033 4 90 97 81 02, masdelafouque.com
Le Mas de Langoustier, Îsles d’Hyères, Côte d’Azur: On Porquerolles, largest of the three Îles d’Hyères, this luxury hideaway hotel is sequestered amid pine and eucalyptus trees in a large private park. The older rooms are furnished in Provençal style. The best, say our readers, are in the annex and have a balcony and views.
Residents are served en pension in the Pinède terrace restaurant, or can pay a supplement to eat in the glass-paneled Olivier, with an olive tree at the center. Chef Julien le Goff holds a Michelin star for his inventive cooking.
As well as a swimming pool and tennis courts, guests may use a strip of sandy beach (for a small charge). The hotel is closed now, reopening in April; book ahead for spring sunshine. D,B&B per person (Pinède) $194–$265 (€165–€225) plus taxes; single-occupancy rates apply. Olivier menus $115– $171 (€98–€145). 0033 4 94 58 30 09, langoustier.com
Le Pigonnet, Aix-en-Provence, Provence: The gardens are the supreme attraction at this 90-year-old mansion at the heart of the city. Come at lilac time, or when the roses are in bloom. Cézanne loved it here and painted Mont Ste-Victoire from the grounds.
You can wander among ornamental ponds, bowers, pergolas, topiary, statuary, fountains and pines; take a dip in the heated swimming pool; play pétanque.
Bedrooms, some with balcony, are contemporary and stylish, with air conditioning and espresso machine. Junior suites have a private terrace and views of century-old chestnut trees.
Eat Mediterranean-style cooking alfresco or in the dining room, tapas with cocktails and music in the lounge bar; relax in the spa. Singles $141–$346 (€120–€295), doubles $211–$546 (€180–€465), junior suite $528–$1,161 (€450–€990), à la carte ($79 €67). 0033 4 42 59 02 90, hotelpigonnet.com
Les Rosees, Mougins, Côte d’Azur: Twenty minutes from Cannes, close to the village where Picasso spent his last years, this small hotel is run with great attention to detail.
There are three beautiful suites in the 400-year-old mas, another in the garden, a fifth (with private patio) in a restored Romany caravan. St Honorat has 18th-century wood paneling, lounge and marble bathroom; Surguez, an open fireplace and, above the bathtub, a skylight.
The styling is a tasteful mix of traditional and contemporary with a touch of shabby chic.
You can take breakfast on the terrace by a fountain, swim in the pool, lunch and dine on classy food with a Mediterranean flavour. Suites $259–$423 (€220–€360). Menus $80 (€68). 0033 4 92 92 29 64, lesrosees.com
Manoir de la Hazaie, Planguenoual, Brittany: Close to the Atlantic-lapped Emerald Coast, this stone manor house was very primitive when owners Jean-Yves and Christin Marivin bought it 30 years ago and set about transforming it. It stands in grounds that include a medieval garden, fountains, heated outdoor swimming pool with "aqua-musique."
Bedrooms have a canopy bed, an air or whirlpool bath, antique furniture, perhaps an open fireplace, views of park and garden. A suite in the converted watermill by the lake and pool sleeps four.
Breakfast wins high praise. Reserve a night ahead for the set-menu dinner in the main hall, or venture out for seafood at the smart resort of Pléneuf-Val-André. B&B (€162–€272). 0033 2 96 32 73 71, manoir-hazaie.co.uk