It’s often much more fun, and cheaper, to rent a villa, cottage, house or even a château in France than stay in a hotel. It gives you more flexibility and the chance to shop at local markets then cook those wonderful products on a barbecue beside the pool. Properties sleep from 2 to 30 and it’s worth considering going as a group with friends, or as a couple of families. Many of the companies offer flexible stays of anything from one night to weeks. Here is a list of good companies that will rent you that hideaway in Provence, smart apartment in Paris or cottage in the Normandy countryside.
You can get all the information you need on any property through their excellent websites which provide full details and maps, and often information on the owners. Prices are inclusive of the house and amenities. There may be separate charges for bed linen, cleaners or pets. All these are clearly stated on the websites.
You will need a car. For car hire for longer periods than a week, I recommend the Renault Eurodrive Buy Back Car Leasing Scheme.
If you're driving from the UK, check out the ferry crossings guide.
All the following property rental companies have been in business for years, vet their properties and know the market.
HomeAway has 97,725 properties in 22 regions, from Brittany to Corsica, Aquitaine to the Cote d’Azur in all kinds of sizes and price ranges. You book directly with the owners.
Try: The Villa at Saumane-de-Vaucluse, Luberon, Provence
Live the life of those Provencal novels in the Luberon. This delightful stone house stands near Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, famous for its antiques and antique markets, and the pretty village of Gordes. Sleeping 10 with 5 bedrooms, the house has tiled floors, a large open-plan kitchen, wood-beamed ceilings and a room under the eaves ideal for children. It’s completely private with a heated pool in the garden.
Minimum stay is 2 to 7 nights and the price is from €129 per night depending on the time of year. Book directly with the owners, Fabrice and Isabelle Barotte, who have been with HomeAway.com since 2007 and speak French, English and Italian.
Why choose the Luberon?
The Luberon is in east Provence, near the city of Avignon and the Roman cities of Orange, Nimes and Arles. It's a wonderful part of France with attractions from abbeys to hilltop villages, local markets and great restaurants.
More about the Region and its Attractions
French Country Cottages
French Country Cottages is a big company with properties which include apartments of all sizes all over France. They have a flexible booking policy with good deals on certain times such as Easter. You book through the company website.
Try: Lou Nidou, Cantaron, Nice, Cote d'Azur
This small villa is set in the hills above Nice. The property is 8 kms (5 miles) away from the city, so you can dip in and out of Nice without the crowds. You can see Nice and the sparkling Mediterranean beyond from the outdoor pool and garden to the front and the spectacular Alpes Maritimes mountains from the back. Built on one level, there’s an open fire in the lounge and a verandah. It has two bedrooms sleeping up to 4 and is suitable for couples.
Price: The cost per week is from £799 to £1,820.
Why choose Nice?
Nice is the Queen of the Cote d’Azur, a wonderful sweeping area in the south of France that goes from St-Raphael to the Italian coast. There’s plenty to do in this part of the world. You can explore Nice while nearby Antibes is a delightful place to visit as is Juan-les-Pins with its famous summer jazz festival. You’re close to the pretty villages of the Alpes Maritimes and an hour’s drive away from the glories of the Var and villages like Moustier-Sainte-Marie in the north of Provence.
More about the Region and its Attractions
The Big Domain
As the name suggests, this company offers large properties all over France so this is the one to contact if you either have a very large family, or a whole lot of friends who want to share a property.
Try: La Germainiere, Guehebert, Manche, Normandy
The 300-year old mellow stone house is just what you’d expect a French country mansion to be. Down a half-mile private drive, the house has old wooden beams, exposed stone walls and a huge fireplace in the main room. There’s a breakfast area off the main kitchen and a dining room with a table large enough to take 12 people. There are bicycles for the day and table tennis for the evening, as well as a heated outdoor swimming pool and south-facing terrace where you can dine under a canopy of vines. Booking the property also gives you a 20% discount with Brittany Ferries crossings.
Why choose La Germaniere?
The house is in deepest rural Normandy on the west side of the Cotentin peninsula. It’s near some glorious beaches and pretty Granville, with its Christian Dior Museum and popular September shellfish festival. From here, it’s a short drive down to Avranches and on to Mont-St-Michel.
To the north east you have the Normandy D-Day landing beaches with all their major events around the 7oth anniversary of the D-Day landings. You’re also close enough to Caen and Bayeux for some excellent day trips.
Prices: Low season from £875 per week; Easter Holidays from £1,195 per week.
High Season from £2,600 per week; Christmas & New Year from £1,450 per week.
More about the Region
More about Caen and Bayeux
Quality Villas has a wide range of properties in France, particularly at the luxury end. The company is family run and was started 28 years ago.
Try: Château des Perdrix, Millencay, Loire
Those with aspirations to a royal lifestyle might care to rent the Château des Perdrix. Within a 500-acre estate, the original château dates back to the 15th century. It’s more of a hunting lodge, but hunting lodges can be pretty grand, as Louis XIV showed at Chambord. There’s a heated swimming pool and private tennis court, barbecue and a barn designed to be a games area. The house has two wings with 10 bedrooms in total sleeping up to 14 so two families could easily share without tripping over each other. Inside it’s decorated with tapestries and wood paneling, has fireplaces and antlers, billiards tables, pianos and all the accoutrements of posh castle living.
Prices: Weekly costs range from £4,420 to £6,050.
Why choose the Loire Valley?
The sweeping majestic Loire valley was the playground of the French Kings and their aristocratic friends (and enemies). Châteaus line the river like jewels with gardens to match. It’s one of France’s most popular regions and gets very crowded in summer. It’s in the Sologne region, south of Orleans and an area of forests and lakes, home to wild boar and deer. There’s great walking and cycling on the Loire à Velo route.
The château is near the village of Millancay (which has an annual festival devoted to the pumpkin at the start of autumn), and 7 miles from Romorantin-Lanthenay. Blois is 35 miles away.
More about the Region