Good small hotels
- a selection of Independent hotels with character
The Small hotel experience: discover the diversity of France.France is a large country; and while hotels belonging to the main chains are liable to be virtually identical from Calais to Carcassonne and from Strasbourg to Brest – with perhaps a few token gestures to regional traditions – small independent hotels, specially rural hotels, are much more likely to be places that reflect local styles, local traditions and local cuisine. Small hotels in Brittany are Breton, and often run by Bretons; small hotels in Alsace are very different, more similar to those in Germany on the other side of the Rhine, than to those on the other side of France, or even to the kind of small independent hotels you find in the Loire Valley or the mountains of central France. As for the south of France, small hotels in Provence and Languedoc generally have all the flavour of their Mediterranean areas. In brief, the independent hotel experience is something that is anchored in "le terroir", the essential lifestyle and traditions of the French regions.
Guide to the regions of France
A totally independent selection of good small hotels throughout France
Trying to find and book the right hotel for your stay or an overnight stop in France can be a daunting task.
The total number of hotels in France in 2014 was 18,300 – and in addition to that, there are thousands of Bed and Breakfasts, gites or other forms of tourist accommodation.
In fact, the large majority of hotels in France are small independent hotels, however surprising this may seem. The trouble is that the big hotel chains have a vastly superior presence when it comes to advertising, and they also tend to site their properties in strategic and visible locations. Conversely, most independent small hotels are in less eye-catching locations, few have the budget to do massive advertising, so finding them and realising how many of them there actually are, can be a hard task.
This hotel selection is quite independent : unlike many other directories, hotels cannot just pay to be listed or featured with Independent-hotels.info. iHi France lists only small hotels that meet a range of quality and price criteria, good quality good value hotels for independent and discerning travellers.
The iHi criteria:
To be listed on iHi France, a hotel must rank well on at least three of the four above criteria.
To book rooms, you will be directed either to a booking portal offering the best rates avaialble, or in some cases directly to the hotel's own website. While most hotels now use booking portals, some do not - but this is not a reason to be excluded from the iHi directory if criteria are met.
French hotel classification - The official hotel star rating:
Hotels range from five-star to one-star; there are also unclassified hotels and upscale B&Bs. In the French hotel ranking system, stars used to be awarded essentially in function of the amenities and services provided, not the state or nature of those amenities, so were not always the best reflection of a hotel's quality . The current system introduced in 2009 has gone some way towards correcting this, but even so the system still leaves a fair number of hotels over-classed, and others underrated, specially in the two-star to three-star categories. And since hotels pay certain taxes and charges in function of the number of stars they have, it is not unusual to find hotels , specially small independent hotels, whose star ranking clearly underestimates quality of service provided. .
Types of small hotel and guest accommodation in France.
As in other countries, guest accommodation in France comes in different forms. While hotels provide the lion's share of the market, other guest accommodation is avaialble in the form of gites (holiday cottages), Bed and Breakfast, and other forms of collective accommodation such as Villages de vacances. The word "pension", meaning lodging house or guest house, has more or less fallen out of usage.
To be classified as a hotel and eligible for a star ranking, a hotel in France must have at least seven rooms. Smaller establishments, most of them independent, can be defined as "hotels non classés" or as "chambres d'hôtes" (B&Bs); voluntary schemes for classification of these exist, but many owners do not bother as the schemes are costly and the advantages unproven.
For similar reasons, some hotels prefer not to apply for the maximum number of stars to which they are entitled, judging that the costs incurred by the additional star are not likely to be offset by greater occupancy and more income – which in a way makes a nonsense of the whole idea of classification. However, this is a phenomenon specific to independent hotels, and notably to small independent hotels, not to the French hotel industry in general.
Boutique hotels and more:While the term "boutique hotels" is usually applied to rather chic small city hotels with character, normally with at least three stars, the iHi directory includes plenty of two-star hotels offering similar qualities in a simpler and less expensive form – boutique hotels at more affordable rates.