Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products and services; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
From the Loire Valley to the Languedoc, rural France is full of castles or chateaux, many of which have been converted into heritage hotels. The term chateau can be misleading — though it’s the literal translation of “castle” — it can also refer to a country mansion or aristocratic home. Here, we have chosen to focus on chateaux with traditional castle elements such as towers, turrets, drawbridges and moats. Many also have a long and interesting history, having played host to French royalty. Intended to suit all tastes and budgets, our picks range from 10th-century boutiques to luxury rooms inside UNESCO World Heritage Site ramparts.
Best Overall: Chateau de la Treyne
For a castle straight from the pages of a French fairytale, look no further than the breathtaking Chateau de la Treyne. Built in 1342, the castle’s pale stone walls and turreted towers teeter on a cliff overlooking the Dordogne river. To the east is a sprawling park complete with a formal French garden and a forest of rare trees. Each of the 17 guest rooms and suites is individually decorated, with statement features ranging from period furniture and four-poster beds to exposed beams and parquet flooring.
All rooms pair old-world charm with modern comforts such as free Wi-Fi, TVs, and luxury toiletries. Spend your days relaxing by the heated infinity pool or practicing your serve on the tennis court. The Dordogne itself is a blissful spot for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. In the evening, Michelin-starred restaurant Salon Louis XIII tempts with the finest local cuisine including blue lobster caught fresh from the river. Glowing candelabras and a majestic wood-paneled ceiling add to the sense of romance.
Best Budget: Chateau de Vallagon
Set within a verdant 10-acre park, 16th-century Chateau de Vallagon is a picture-perfect castle with towers, turrets and balconies. Its location near Bourré makes it an ideal base for exploring the chateaux and vineyards of the central Loire Valley; while its affordable rates make castle living possible for those on a budget. There are 12 rooms and suites, all of them charmingly rustic. Standard Rooms are the most affordable; expect wooden floors, sloped ceilings, and crisp white linens.
You can cool off in the seasonal swimming pool in summer and kids will enjoy the playground. Breakfast is available for a minimal fee and comprises a generous buffet of fresh pastries, fruits, local cheeses and cold meats. In the afternoon, sample the chateau’s own wine out on the terrace. Unfortunately, the castle does not serve lunch or dinner and there are no restaurants within walking distance — making this option best for those with their own vehicle.
Best for Families: Domaine de la Tortinière
Would-be princes and princesses will love family-owned Domaine de la Tortinière with its graceful towers and idyllic wooded park. Located just south of Tours, the chateau was built in the mid-19th century and has hosted notable guests including past French presidents, Gérard Depardieu and Juliette Binoche. Families can make memories in the heated outdoor pool or on the tennis courts, or use the castle’s rental bikes and boats to explore the Loire Valley. Billiards and ping pong tables come to the rescue on rainy days.
There are 26 rooms and six suites, all with free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV, and air-conditioning. Family Suites sleep three to four (depending on your choice) and have a separate lounge with a sofa bed. At meal times, kids are kept happy by the restaurant’s dedicated children’s menu while mom and dad feast on regional produce including truffles, aged cheeses, and Racan pigeon. Babysitting services are available so adults can enjoy an uninterrupted massage or some time in the sauna.
Best for Romance: Chateau d’Etoges
Listed historic monument Chateau d’Etoges stands out as a romantic destination, thanks to its location in the heart of the Champagne wine region. It also has an exotic past, having served as a resting point for 17th century French kings on their travels east of Paris. When you’re not visiting the surrounding vineyards or tasting Champagne in the castle cellar, wander hand-in-hand past the pools and fountains of the 45-acre park. The spa has a special treatment room for couples in addition to a sauna, hammam and jacuzzi.
Opt for a Privilege Room and set the scene for romance with period fabrics and furnishings, high windows, and canopied beds. Mornings start with a sumptuous breakfast buffet accompanied by the chateau’s own Champagne and homemade strawberry nectar. In the evening, toast your loved one beneath the chandeliers of Orangerie restaurant with its gourmet a la carte and tasting menus.
Best for Luxury: Chateau de Bagnols
Situated on the edge of the medieval village of Bagnols and surrounded by picturesque Beaujolais vineyards, five-star Chateau de Bagnols is another designated historic monument. Work began on its imposing stone façade in 1217, after which a complete list of castle credentials was added including fortifications, a drawbridge and a moat. Today, guests can discover formal gardens, cherry orchards, and a fabulous circular Roman pool on a tour of the extensive grounds. Inside, the spa is a serene destination for a day of pampering with an indoor pool and steam room.
The nature-inspired Garden Suites and contemporary Cellar Suites are exquisite, but to experience the castle in all its original grandeur, book a Chateau Suite with antique furnishings, XII to XVIII murals, four-poster beds, and decorative fireplaces. The 1217 restaurant is a treat for gourmands, with one Michelin star and a menu featuring flawlessly prepared regional cuisine. Enjoy your meal in front of the dining room’s monumental fireplace, in the courtyard, or on the terrace against a panoramic rural backdrop.
Best Boutique: L’Abbaye-Chateau de Camon
L’Abbaye-Chateau de Camon is actually a monastery that was built in the 10th century by Benedictine monks. However, with its high defensive walls and imposing square tower, it fulfills castle fantasies while providing a fabulous base for exploring the Cathar fortifications of the Pyrenees Mountains. It is a boutique pick with just five rooms — each with unique features. One has a fanciful recessed sleeping alcove, another has an exquisitely painted ceiling, and a third has a canopied four-poster bed.
Outside, you’ll find terraced gardens and a swimming pool for cooling off in summer. Inside, there’s a table tennis room, a library, and a salon with molded ceilings, chandeliers and murals. In the evening, sit down to a five-course degustation menu prepared using the finest local ingredients. If the weather is on your side, ask to dine in the castle’s tranquil cloisters.
Best for Self-Catering: Chateau Les Carrasses
Located in the Languedoc region of southern France, Chateau Les Carrasses is a 19th century wine domaine surrounded by sun-drenched vineyards. Its luxurious self-catering suites, apartments and villas give you the freedom to cook and dine according to your own tastes and schedule, with the added benefit of the estate’s extensive facilities. All accommodations come with a full kitchen and living area, a TV, and a Bose sound dock. Many have their own garden or terrace while a select few have their own private swimming pool.
You can also grill out at the communal barbecue area or pair Languedoc wines with Mediterranean cuisine in the chateau’s relaxed dining room. Between meals, explore sprawling gardens, vineyards, and woodland walking trails either on foot or using the free rental bikes. There’s also a clay tennis court and a crystal clear infinity pool complete with massage jets and a submerged beach area. In July and August, families can sign up for Kids’ Club activities; reliable babysitters are also available year-round.
Best B&B: Chateau de Maraval
The original Chateau de Maraval was built during the 15th century but largely destroyed by fire in the early 1800s. The honey-colored, double-towered castle that stands today once housed a community of Trappist nuns and is now one of the Dordogne’s best B&Bs. The interior exudes contemporary luxury with marble floors, white-painted walls, and boldly colorful statement furniture. In the lounge, this aesthetic is in sharp contrast to a collection of 16th century frescoes depicting the life of Moses.
Choose from four rooms including the gold-accented Klimt Room and the Ethnic Room with its zebra-print motifs. Bathrooms at Chateau de Maraval are artworks in their own right; expect astonishing mosaics, deep-soaking tubs, and themed sink stands. Breakfast is served until noon and comprises a feast of homemade cakes and jams, regional cheeses, and eggs cooked to order. Spend the rest of your time lounging by the heated outdoor pool or relaxing in the luxurious spa. Nearby Capestang village has several options for dinner.
Best Location: Hotel de la Cite Carcassonne
Although “best location” is an admittedly subjective category, five-star Hotel de la Cite deserves a special mention for its position within the ramparts of the fortified medieval citadel of Carcassonne. As one of only two hotels located inside the UNESCO-recognized town, it allows you to explore the labyrinthine streets in peace after the daily crowds have left. The hotel also affords breathtaking views over the ramparts while ivy-covered walls, leaded windows, and a grand wooden staircase all contribute to the sense of having stepped back in time.
Amenities include an outdoor pool and the Cinq Mondes spa (complete with a scrub room, steam room and sensory shower.) In the evening, sample canapés and cocktails by the fireplace in The Library Bar before sitting down to Michelin-starred cuisine in La Barbacane restaurant. Some rooms and suites are decorated in classic period style while others are more modern. All include a marble bathroom, Nespresso machine and iPod dock — and some even boast rampart views from a private balcony or terrace.