Holiday Accommodation Options in France
Information about where to stay when taking a holiday, spending a long weekend or travelling in France...
There are many types of vacation accommodation available in France:
The hotels in France are classified for tourism by the local state authority, the Préfecture. The classification guidelines are similar to those found elsewhere in Europe and are as follows:
- 5 star: Rating introduced in 2009 to denote outstanding, luxury hotel
- 4 star L: This rating is being phased out in favour of the 5 star rating. Outstanding, luxury hotel
- 4 star: Highly superior hotel
- 3 star: Comfortable, tourist hotel with en-suite bathroom and Internet access
- 2 star: Good standard, tourist hotel (may have en-suite bathroom)
- 1 star: Standard, tourist hotel, room minimum nine square meters with shared bathroom facilities
Chambres d'Hôtes (B&Bs)
A chambre d'hôte is accommodation in the property owner's home or, occasionally, in a building next to it. These vary from a room in a private house to well organised, professionally run guesthouse. The room is rented by the night. A chambre d'hôte offers furnished accommodation with linen provided, and the room cleaned on a night-by night basis and breakfast included in the price.
A chambre d'hôte with table d'hôte classification means that meals may be eaten with the host family, there may be no more clients than the family can lodge and the meal served must be the same for everyone. This is not a "restaurant".
Holiday Apartments and Self-Catering Gîte
A gîte or gîte rural is a house, cottage or self-contained accommodation available to rent for a few days, a weekend, weekly or a period of several weeks. The changeover day on weekly lets is usually Saturday.
It is independent from the owner's house and has a furnished lounge and dining area, an equipped kitchen area with table and chairs, at least one furnished bedroom and bathroom and toilet facilities. Bed linen and towels may be provided, as may a cleaning service. These may also be made available to guests on request, for a supplementary fee. Guests may provide their own bed linen and towels and must clean the gîte at the end of their stay.
Gîtes de France
Originally rustic farmhouse accommodation, the Fédération Nationale des Gîtes de France has evolved over the years to include Bed and Breakfast type accommodation and self-catering facilities, outside of the big cities. High standards are maintained and one can generally be guaranteed quality facilities from a Gîtes de France member.
Accommodation can be found on the Gîtes de France website under the following headings:
- Gîtes Rural: Holiday rentals in country areas
- Gîtes Chambre d'Hôte: Bed and Breakfast in a private home, often with Table d'Hôte (modest meals provided by the owner).
- Gîtes d'Etape or Gîtes de Séjour: Group accommodation in rural locations for hikers, and nature sports enthusiasts
Panda nature gîte
Rural gîtes affiliated to the Gîtes de France network display the "Panda" label. Awarded since 1993 in association with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), it indicates rural holiday accommodation in protected and unspoiled natural surroundings where owners provide their guests with binoculars and information on the local flora and fauna.
Location Saisonnières (Furnished Holiday Rentals) and Tourist Residences
Location saisonnière or meublé de tourisme is a furnished villa, studio or apartment rented out for a day, a week, or a month. A meublé de tourisme can receive a rating from one to five stars, according to the level of comfort provided.
The "star guidelines" are like those for hotels. However, they are not governed by the same legal classification criteria. These are self-catering accommodation in apartments or villas in and around the city centres. Lists of accommodation are available from many Tourist Offices.
Camping and Caravanning
There are over 9,000 campsites in France. These fall into the following categories:
- Tourism and Leisure: A site is categorised as Tourism and Leisure if more than half of the site is reserved as short stay tourist accommodation. Most have parking spaces for caravans, tents and mobile homes and also have fixed caravans, chalets and mobile homes for rent
- Leisure campsite: If more than half the spaces are dedicated to long stay and residential accommodation in mobile homes or chalets a site is classified as a Leisure campsite. These allow for the installation of a housing units and may be connected to mains water and electricity
- Rural camping: This category includes both farm camp sites with limited parking capacity and open-air camping sites (usually seasonal) and limited to up to 25 families
Many French camping sites are graded by stars from one to four which represent the range of facilities available rather than the overall quality of a site. The website Camping in France has comprehensive information in English. See the heading Learn everything about camping in France for more.
Farm holidays (Agritourisme) are gaining popularity in France with more and more holidaymakers looking for alternative and ecological holidays. Bienvenue à la Ferme (Welcome to the Farm) is a website with information on farm accommodation, either in a gîte, B&B or on farm land where tent camping is allowed. The website also provides a list of restaurants serving local produce and regional specialities.
There are two main Youth Hostel organisations in France:
- The FUAJ, Fédération Unie des Auberges de Jeunesse (the French youth hostel federation)
- The international organisation is Hostelling International
- The Ligue Francaise for the Auberge de la Jeunesse has listed hostels for budget travel. A backpacker must registered member and hold the LFAJ card to use these facilities. Contact the head office in Paris
Tel: 01 45 48 69 84
Fax: 01 45 44 57 47
There are many other privately managed hostels, particularly in the city centres. The Tourist Offices (almost always with an English speaker) can provide a list of addresses and a map, or make calls for a reservation. It is advisable to reserve a bed in advance, especially during the summer season from May to September (however, be aware that many hostels don't take reservations).