A Guide to Relais & Chateaux Luxury Hotels and Dining

Relais & Châteaux 

Chances are you know Relais & Chateaux, which has instant name recognition with luxury travelers. Relais & Chateaux, which means "Inns & Castles" in French, was founded in France in 1941 and is still French-managed. By 1954, Relais & Chateaux had eight hotels, all in France on the getaway route between Paris and the French Riviera. Today, Relais & Chateaux comprises more than 450 hotels with restaurants, as well as 90 independent restaurants.

More than 100 of those are in France, dozens are in the U.S., and some of the newest entrants are in emerging luxury travel destinations like China, Colombia, Sri Lanka, and Zambia.

Not just any luxury hotel can become a Relais & Chateaux property. It must be a five-star-quality hotel. True to its founding mission, a Relais & Chateaux hotel needs to offer a refined experience in rooms and service. And its cuisine has to be superlative. The property must be exceptionally service-oriented, beautiful to look at, and comfortable and luxurious to stay in. 

There is no one style to Relais & Chateaux hotels. They may be urban or rural, in the woods, on a beach, in the Wild West (like Triple Creek Ranch in Montana). They may be historic or modern, small, or outright tiny (like the 11-room Adirondack estate, The Point). But every Relais & Chateaux is high-end in every imaginable way, and celebrates the art of living well.

Loyalty Program and Membership Perks

Club 5C, Relais & Chateaux's loyalty program, confers certain perks on members. These include enhanced reservation services, a room upgrade upon check-in, (if available), extra guest service and concierge attention, invitations to local cultural and gastronomic establishments, and events created exclusively for Club 5C members.

Dining

Relais & Chateaux is a culinary-focused brand. Apart from its hotel association, the brand honors the most creative, accomplished restaurant chefs with the designation "Grands Chefs." More than 150 men and women from five continents are honored as Relais & Chateaux Grands Chefs. 

U.S. chefs so honored include Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin and Michael White of Marea (both in New York City), Thomas Keller of The French Laundry and Christopher Kostow of Meadowood (both in California's Napa Valley), Michael Tusk of Quince in San Francisco, Barbara Lynch of Menton in Boston, and Colin Bedford of The Fearrington House in North Carolina.

Luxury Partners

On an ongoing basis, Relais & Chateaux partners with other high-end lifestyle brands to provide its guests with an array of luxury tastes and experiences during their stay, particularly in their minibar and downstairs at the restaurant and bar.

These partners include Champagne houses Dom Pérignon, Pommery, Moet & Chandon, Taittinger, Glenmorangie Scotch whisky, Hennessy Cognac, Bouchard Burgundy, Taylor's Port, S. Pellegrino mineral water, Nespresso coffee, Orlane and Sothys cosmetics, and others.

Relais & Chateaux also partners with travel companies outside the hotel realm to provide add-on services to hotel stays.

These include Silversea cruises, Hertz rental cars, and Icon Expeditions tours. 

The Most Popular Hotels

Like most hoteliers these days, Relais & Chateaux keeps close tabs on its reviews. You can see the top 10 picks according to guests, plus more detailed reviews at this site, but here's a quick breakdown. 

Four are in England (Chewton Glen in New Milton; Cliveden House in Berkshire; Gilpin Hotel & Lake House in Windermere; Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons in Oxford), two are in France (Domaine Les Crayères in Reims and Saint James Paris), and two are in Italy (Bellevue Syrene 1820 in Sorrento and Chateau Monfort in Milan). And Switzerland and the U.S. are each a favorite, with the Beau-Rivage Hotel in Neuchatel and The Surrey in Manhattan, NYC.