The 20 best family holidays in France

France has something to keep kids of all ages entertained
France has something to keep kids of all ages entertained - Alamy

It’s France’s big year: a snap election, the Olympic Games and now poor Mbappé’s broken nose have all kept the country in the headlines. Away from tournament preparations and election campaigning, however, France is a perennial favourite for family holidays and, luckily, prices seem to have been largely unaffected by all the excitement.

This is a country with something for everyone: sleepy rivers perfect for paddling, gîtes that will fit the whole family, and 5,500km of coast divided into regions with distinct characters – from the relaxed dune-backed beaches west of Bordeaux to the glitz of the Riviera. Leave your trip until later in the year and other attractions come into their own – the snowy runs of the Alps or the country’s whimsical theme parks.

French cuisine boasts plenty of dishes sure to win over little ones
French cuisine boasts plenty of dishes sure to win over little ones - Four Seasons Hotel Megeve

If you’re looking for a more sustainable holiday, France is a good choice too. Among our selection are trips by ferry and rail for those keen to go flight-free. There’s an extra bonus if you’re taking tiny kids: bringing the car means you can pack the paraphernalia you’ve grown to depend on at home.

Below, we’ve rounded up the best French family holidays for every age group – from babies to almost adults. Prices exclude flights unless otherwise stated.

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For babies and toddlers

Best for sleepy sojourns

Fashioned from a family farmstead in the Dordogne, Hôtel de la Ferme Lamy is hidden in the snoozy countryside of the Périgord – a place filled with paddle-worthy river and lakeside beaches, including the Blue Flag one at the nearby Etang de Tamniès. The gentle pace continues back at the hotel, where you can splash in the pool or wander the sprawl of the grounds. Simple rooms have space for cots (on request).

One week’s self-catering costs from £580, for two adults and a baby, during September, booked direct (00 33 5 53 29 62 46; sarlat-dordogne-lamy.com). Bergerac is the nearest airport.

Best for an easy journey

Getting all that baby gear on a plane can be a faff – better to take the car. Pierre et Vacances’ Residence Le Green Beach is an hour and a half from Le Havre’s ferry port and four hours from Calais, near the sweeping sands of Omaha Beach in Normandy (famous for the D-Day landings). With its playground, indoor and outdoor pools and apartments, this is an easy place for a French family getaway – you can even have meals delivered to your door.

A week’s self-catering in September, for two adults and an infant, costs from £549 with Pierre et Vacances (0033 1 73 01 85 66; pierreetvacances.com). Dover-Calais crossings cost from £79 each way for a car and up to nine passengers, with Irish Ferries (irishferries.com).

Best for extended families

There’s plenty of space for the grandparents at La Ferme Bretonne, a manor house 30 minutes’ drive from the Brittany coast that’s surrounded by land where hare and deer scamper and owls hoot. Set on three floors (with stair gates, though the open-tread steps mean toddlers need watching), it’s cosily comfortable – with plumped up beds overlooking the fields and paths mown into high grass that little legs will love toddling along. For fairytale lovers, there are two castles within easy reach. Sleeps 10.

From £1,644, room only, during September, with Olivers Travels (0333 888 0205; oliverstravels.com). The house is 90km from the ferry port at St Malo.

Best to blow-the-budget

Whether you fancy skipping through flower meadows in high summer or sliding through  mid-winter snow, the Four Seasons Megève is a reliable choice for those in need of a spot of family pampering. Toddlers get their own bathrobes and cuddly toys, while adults can take it in turns for some downtime at the spa.

The Kids Club at Four Seasons is open to those aged three and up
The Kids Club at Four Seasons is open to those aged three and up

And though the Kids Club only opens to those aged three and up, there’s a mini farm where toddlers can feed chickens or pet Shetland ponies, as well as a heated outdoor pool that’s open year-round.

From £632 per night, B&B, booked direct (00 33 4 50 78 62 78; fourseasons.com).

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For the five to eight-year-olds

Best for taking to the water

Take a self-drive boat to explore Western Europe’s largest river delta on Locaboat’s six-night Cruise in Camargue trip. No experience is necessary to captain one of the company’s canal boats, which turns a voyage to spot bee-eaters, pike and flamingos into a hassle-free but magical experience. Many of the waterways are only separated from the sea by spits of sand – so you’re never far away from a beach.  Make time to see the region’s famed wild horses too.

From £1,414 per boat on a self-catering basis with Locaboat (020 3966 4318; locaboat.com). Montpellier is the nearest airport.

Best for cool kids

Time at France’s affordably hip Mama Shelter chain should please the coolest offspring – with the bonus that under-12s get their stays and breakfasts refunded in the summer holidays, thanks to its MAMA LOVES FAMILIES offer (available in every hotel except Nice, Rennes and Lille; maximum two adults and two kids in two Mama Medium double rooms).

Under-12s get their stays and breakfasts refunded in the summer holidays at Mama Shelter
Under-12s get their stays and breakfasts refunded in the summer holidays at Mama Shelter

Eschewing the usual cabaret-style kids’ entertainment, the hotels have family cinema showings and a welcome pack with temporary tattoos. Add a badge for free ice cream in the restaurant and a Wheel of Fortune that children can spin for prizes at check-in and even the sassiest kids should be sold.

From £190 per night, room only, in summer, booked direct (mamashelter.com).

Best for meeting Mickey

Though it’s more subdued than its American counterparts, Disneyland Paris is still an assault on the senses. Temper time in the park with a stay somewhere calmer: a bus ride from the action, Center Parcs’ Villages Nature is a surprisingly bucolic blend of lakeside beach, island playground, farm and comfortable cabins and apartments – though there’s a waterpark if you need extra thrills.

You can't go wrong with a trip to Disneyland Paris
You can't go wrong with a trip to Disneyland Paris - Alamy

Magic Breaks  (0330 880 5001, magicbreaks.co.uk) offers four nights room-only, in a premium apartment, at Les Villages Natures during October half-term, including Eurostar travel and two days of Disneyland Paris passes, from £3,217 for a family of four.

Best all-inclusive

France doesn’t do mega resorts in the same way as Spain or Greece – but Country Kids in the laid back Hérault region is a fantastically Gallic way to go all-inclusive. During summer, a week in one of its apartments in a cute converted dairy or old chestnut store includes everything from pre-cooked homemade meals for late arrivals to tractor rides on the mini farm and kids’ club activities, such as pizza-making (plus wine from the cellar and a spa treatment for mums and dads).

A week costs from £8,823 for a family of four, booked direct (00 33 6 77 54 56 00, country-kids.fr). Montpellier is the nearest airport.

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For tweens

Best for a frightful half-term

Halloween hits differently at the Parc Astérix just north of Paris. Between October 5 and November 11, it’s home to the Peur Sur le Parc, a seasonal extravaganza involving four tonnes of pumpkins and a colourful monster parade. Attractions are divided into the “slightly scary”, “moderately frightening” and “absolutely terrifying”, with gentler offerings including a daytime dance show and character appearances from zombies and witches – but note that even these might be too much for younger siblings.

Two nights, room only, at its La Cité Suspendue Hôtel, costs from £740, B&B, for a family of four during October half-term, including two days’ access, booked direct (0033 9 86 86 86 87; parcasterix.fr).

Best for animal lovers

Fancy making a furry holiday friend? Responsible Travel’s five-night Mercantour Family Walking Holiday involves gentle trekking through a national park around an hours’ drive east of Nice airport, with a donkey companion to carry your bags – and give braying encouragement to even the most unenthusiastic children.

Mercantour National Park is one of the best hiking locations in France
Mercantour National Park is one of the best hiking locations in France - Alamy

Along the old postman’s trail from St Martin to Val Pelens, look out for chamois, marmots and eagles, stopping to dip weary feet in soothing mountain streams. Spend each night in ecolodges and mountain inns, while your donkey gets some well-earned rest too.

A week’s full-board costs from £590pp, with Responsible Travel (01273 823700, responsibletravel.com).

Best for reluctant glampers

Injecting some Riviera chic into the cabin holiday experience, Prairies de la Mer sits by the beach at Grimaud, next to St Tropez. Styled like a South Pacific paradise with soaring palms, a beach club and Polynesia-inspired huts (the Faré côté jardin type, amid the burgeoning greenery, are the ones to go for), it’s pretty enough to be a parent pleaser. Kids, meanwhile, get a football academy, pony club, lagoon-like swimming pool and petting farm – or try a family activity such as archery or tennis.

From £2,118 for a week’s self-catering, for four, in summer, booked direct (00 33 4 94 79 09 09, riviera-villages.com).

Best for an adventure

The treehouses at Les Cabanes de Chanteclair are the real deal. Set in private woodland populated by wild boar and deer, they’re so high in the forest canopy that most come with lower age limits (all children are sensibly banned in deer ‘Love Season’ in September and October). Accessed via a daredevil rope bridge, L’aventure is the best of the lot and open to those aged eight and up. Wake to a breakfast delivery in a basket, for you  to haul up to your temporary home.

From £380 for three nights, B&B, for four people during summer (00 33 2 54 37 63 82; lescabanesdechanteclair.com).

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Teenagers

Best for mingling with French friends

Seemingly lost in endless countryside but actually just 45 minutes from Paris, Le Barn works well in combination with a city break – but it’s equally good for a standalone holiday. Well-heeled Parisians come here to play croquet, gather by the campfire and cycle round the Rambouillet Forest, while connecting rooms give plenty of privacy. Their mix of blond wood, burgeoning plants and black and white photographs should be an added bonus for social-media loving offspring too.

From £355 per night, B&B, for connecting rooms for four, booked direct (00 33 1 86 38 00 00; lebarnhotel.com).

Best for Brady Bunches

Every night’s a sleepover at Villa des Pins, on the outskirts of Lacanau on France’s Atlantic coast: one of its four bedrooms is a bunk room where kids can gossip and midnight feast to their heart’s content. This coastline is great for sporty teenagers: the 14km stretch of blustery sand at Lacanau is a surfing hotspot, while there’s a cycling trail to understatedly posh Cap Ferret. It’s a 10 minute cycle to the villages’ cafes and shops too – if you can tear yourselves away from the blissful pool. Sleeps up to 10.

From £6,548, self catering, excluding flights with SJ Villas (020 7351 6384; sjvillas.co.uk). 

Best for bonding

Trying to teach teamwork? Headwater’s eight-night Canoeing on the Dordogne trip should help. After initial instruction, families set off along one of France’s most serene rivers, paddling in two or three person canoes past honey-hued villages hidden below limestone cliffs and ancient chateaux that loom above the banks.

The Dordogne is one of France's main rivers for canoeing and kayaking
The Dordogne is one of France's main rivers for canoeing and kayaking - Alamy

Hop onto dry land to grab picnics from the local markets or explore the stalactite-filled Grottes de Lacave, spending nights in characterful hotels along the way. Suitable for the over-12s.

From £2,059pp, B&B, including flights, some meals, activities and transfers with Headwater (01606 720199; headwater.com). 

Best for secret homework

If exams are looming and, should you have the budget, Black Tomato’s ‘field trips’ will spark a love of learning in even the most reluctant students. Biologists can sail from the south of France’s Cap Ferrat to the Pelagos Sanctuary, with an expert crew, searching for stripe dolphins, sperm whales and fin whales in the protected waters between France, Italy and Sardinia. Add the day trip to Black Tomato’s Bordeaux, Provence & Cote d’Azur: A Luxury Vacation to the South of France itinerary.

From £9,900pp for nine nights, including some meals and activities, but excluding flights, with Black Tomato (020 7426 9888; blacktomato.com).

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For everyone

Best for skiers

Some Alpine resorts are known for their lively après-ski scenes, but pretty La Clusaz comes with a Famille Plus label, which means kids are particularly well catered for. Those with tots in tow can hire 4x4 pushchairs, while there are plenty of activities for non-skiers (or ski school drop-outs).

La Clusaz comes with a Famille Plus label making it great for younger skiers
La Clusaz comes with a Famille Plus label making it great for younger skiers - Pascal Lebeau

It’s the family-friendly event schedule that makes this place stand out though: go at Christmas for Le Pestacles du Père Noël, a huge street theatre festival with live music, puppets, magicians and, of course, the big man himself.

Inghams offers a week’s self-catering over Christmas at the Residence Mende Aldi apartments, from £1,109pp, including flights (01483 944 821; inghams.co.uk).

Best for avoiding tension

Keeping everyone happy on a multi-generational break can be difficult, but the Atlantic island of Île de Ré is a big box ticker. Teenagers can cycle between its villages on designated trails, toddlers have tens of sandy beaches to play on and adults should enjoy pottering the markets and antique shops. Though the luxe surf shack Villa de la Boumediene doesn’t have a pool, it’s just a quick stroll from the beach and has a gorgeous sandy garden. Sleeps eight.

Older kids can cycle between villages on Ile de Re
Older kids can cycle between villages on Ile de Re - Adam Bronkhorst / Alamy Stock Photo

From £4,240, self catering, during summer with Olivers Travels (0333 888 0205; oliverstravels.com). La Rochelle is the nearest airport.

Best for bathing

Parts of the French seaside swelter in summer so, if you want a less stifling break, it pays to think laterally. The beaches around Lake Annecy come with shady lawns, clear water and plenty to keep kids occupied, from boules and volleyball courts to playgrounds and kayak hire. The area is generally a few degrees cooler than the Riviera in the summer too. Stay at Chalet Lomatika: near the sandy beach at Doussard, it has a huge garden, complete with a petanque area and swings as well as a hot tub. Sleeps up to eight.

From £4,044, self catering, in summer with Ovo Network (ovonetwork.com). Geneva is the nearest airport.

Best for kids of different ages

Set in a lovingly-restored Languedoc vineyard estate overlooking the Bages lagoon (where flamingos punctuate the waters), Chateau Capitoul is a safe bet for those with both primary school kids and teenagers to cater for. Self-catering villas make mealtimes easier (though there are two restaurants if you don’t fancy cooking), as do the free bikes for cycling the trails into the countryside and towards the coast at Gruissan. The hotel can arrange introductions to kite-surfing (ideal for teenagers), as well as paddleboarding. Meanwhile, younger children will love searching the grounds for bee-eaters, lizards and bats – or trying their hand at viniculture via the Little Winegrower’s Club.

A week costs from £2,550, for a family of four, during October half term, booked direct (00 33 4 48 22 07 24; chateaucapitoul.com).

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