With a diverse coastline boasting both weather-beaten Atlantic shores and enticing Mediterranean climes, France is home to a host of idyllic and eclectic seaside resorts. We review some of the best, from the picturesque Bretagne town of Dinard to the Côte d’Azur’s luxury Cap Estel hotel.
Nestled on a rocky peninsula between Monaco and Nice on France’s beautiful Côte d’Azur, the Cap Estel hotel is an idyllic getaway boasting five-star luxury and magnificent Mediterranean views. Located in a beautifully modernized mansion dating back to 1899, the four-floor hotel features two penthouses complete with their own private terraces, an onsite spa, beautiful terraced gardens and its own private beach. Take a dip in Cap Estel’s saltwater infinity pool, a previous runner-up for the title of Best Hotel Pool in the Smith Hotel Awards, before retiring to the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, La Table de Patrick Raingeard, for gourmet Mediterranean cuisine.
Cap Estel, 1312 Avenue Raymond-Poincaré, Éze-Bord-de-Mer, France, +33 4 93 76 29 29
The colorful seaside town of Le Touquet in Nord-Pas-de-Calais on France’s north-eastern coast is a curiously charming mix of French and English influences. The resort rose to prominence in the early 20th century when two English entrepreneurs invested in the burgeoning town with the vision of promoting it as a playground for wealthy Parisians and Brits. During its interwar heyday, Le Touquet welcomed guests including Noël Coward and P.G. Wodehouse. Today, art deco-style houses and hotels pay homage to the town’s past, and a colorful row of beach huts flank Le Touquet’s long, sandy beach.
Ti al Lannec
A Belle Époque hilltop manor turned hotel, Ti al Lannec resides on Brittany’s beautiful Pink Granite Coast in the town of Trébeurden and offers guests a cozy retreat with scenic sea views. Surrounded by luscious terraced gardens, Ti al Lannec boasts 26 beautifully decorated rooms and seven luxury suites, an inviting pool with panoramic ocean views and a restaurant specializing in gourmet, locally-caught seafood. A winding path leads down from Ti al Lannec to Trébeurden’s main beach Plage de Tresmeur while local attractions like stunning Île Milliau are a short distance away.
Ti al Lannec, 14 Allée de Mezo Guen, Trébeurden, France, +33 2 96 15 01 01
Conceived by acclaimed French architect François Spoerry, the picture-perfect seaside town of Port Grimaud was born in the 1960s out of reclaimed marshlands at the mouth of River Giscle in southern France’s stunning Bay of Saint-Tropez. With its meandering network of canals crossed by quaint stone bridges, Port Grimaud has earned itself the nickname ‘Little Venice’, though its pretty, pastel-colored townhouses are typically Côte d’Azur. Traffic-free, the main mode of transport in Port Grimaud is by boat. Chic waterside restaurants and cafes alongside a weekly market held at the town square attract foodies to this unique coastal community.
Hôtel Les Tourelles
A quirky, eco-friendly hotel overlooking the vast expanse of Normandy’s Baie de Somme, Hôtel Les Tourelles is instantly recognizable by its bright redbrick exterior and fairytale-like turrets. Opened in 1994 by a group of friends with the aim of creating a homey haven for guests, Hôtel Les Tourelles features 35 stylishly furnished rooms, some with enviable sea views, while the hotel’s restaurant specializes in exquisite, locally-inspired dishes cooked up by chef Guillaume Roches and served either in Hôtel Les Tourelles’ cozy dining room or the sea-facing terrace in warmer months.
Hôtel Les Tourelles, 2-4 Rue Pierre Guerlain, Le Crotoy, France, +33 3 22 27 16 33
Way down in France’s southwestern-most corner just north of Biarritz is the surfing haven of Hossegor a bustling town nestled around a gorgeous stretch of sandy beach and a scenic saltwater lake. Hailed as one of the best surfing destinations in Europe, water sports enthusiasts flock to the town in hope of catching one of its world-famous waves. Alternatively, a more sedate pace can be enjoyed with a game of golf on Hossegor’s 18-hole course or on a leisurely bike ride along the coast. While it’s a sleepy town during winter months, Hossegor comes alive in summer with bustling bars and restaurants that entertain residents and visitors alike.
Hôtel Les Mouettes
Located on the outskirts of Ajaccio, the luxury four-star Hôtel Les Mouettes is a peaceful respite from Corsica’s bustling capital. Built in 1880 as a summer holiday home, the gorgeous property was converted into a hotel in the mid 1950s and was the preferred haunt of big names, which include writer Marcel Pagnol and opera singer Maria Callas. Today, Hôtel Les Mouettes retains its old-fashioned charm but boasts all the modern conveniences a guest could wish for such as spacious suites, a private sandy beach and a palm-lined terrace with panoramic views of Ajaccio Bay.
Hôtel Les Mouettes, 9 Cours Lucien Bonaparte, Ajaccio, Corsica, France, +33 4 95 50 40 40
Nestled around the mouth of the River Rance, Dinard is a picture-perfect Bretagne coastal town that grew from a tiny fishing village into one of the region’s most popular resorts when wealthy British families flocked there during the 19th century. Grand Belle Époque mansions dating back to the town’s heyday overlook Dinard’s main beach Plage de l’Ecluse, while its promenades are an excellent starting point for exploring the pretty town. Dinard also enjoys a lively cultural scene with an annual film festival and plenty of chic restaurants dotting its narrow, cobbled streets.
Hôtel du Palais
Built in 1855 to serve as the summer residence of Napoléon III, the beautiful Hôtel du Palais is one of Biarritz’s most recognizable landmarks. Many of the palatial hotel’s 153 rooms are adorned with original furniture beautifully restored by its in-house team of talented craftsmen, while an onsite spa equipped with an indoor pool, sauna and Turkish baths offer guests a luxurious stay. Three restaurants overseen by acclaimed chef Jean-Marie Gautier serve locally-caught seafood and Bretagne-inspired cuisine. Biarritz’s busy Grand Plage is just a short walk away.
Hôtel du Palais, 1 Avenue de I’mpératrice, Biarritz, France, +33 5 59 41 64 00
Perched on a hill overlooking two beautiful blue lagoons on the Languedoc-Roussillon coast, the town of Gruissan is one of southern France’s best kept secrets. Its historic town center dates back as far as the late 11th century. Visiting history buffs can get a true sense of the town’s medieval past with a visit to the ruins of Chateau de Gruissan, whose 13th-century watchtower offers stunning views over the Mediterranean sea. Gruissan’s white, sandy beach (the setting for 1986 cult French film Betty Blue) is populated by charming stilted chalets, while the town’s lagoons are a sanctuary for ducks and flamingos.