Baudon de Mauny

Montpellier, Languedoc, France Book from

Chic chateau in the city: 8 extravagant rooms hidden inside an 18th-century hôtel particulier in Montpellier's underrated centre
As the fastest growing city in France (nearly half a million, 40% of them under 30), and with a burgeoning tourism industry, you would expect Montpellier's historic centre to be brimming with boutique hotels. Not so. There are buzzing cafés and gourmet restaurants and ultra-chic clothes shops lining those honey-stoned lanes, and no shortage of leafy squares for lazy flaneurs. There's the Corum centre for concerts and a newly revamped Musée Fabre packed with exciting medieval-to-modern art. But, until 2008, there was nowhere fittingly sexy to rest your head.

Step forward Alain de Bordas, 7th generation heir of an 18th century hôtel particulier (private residence), who with his wife Nathalie has transformed the first and second floors into 8 exuberant rooms and a couple of sumptuous reception rooms. They've clearly had a ball decorating them - in a fantastically Louis-XV-meets-Philippe-Starck way. Playful Cole & Son wallpapers and Italian glass-booth power showers sit alongside restored regency chairs and 230-year-old decorative cornicing. It's what the city has been waiting for - and then some.

Highs

  • The sheer scale of the suites - 2 of them with 4-metre ceilings, 2 others with their own mini sitting rooms - in the heart of a packed city
  • With your own door codes, little signage, and candid advice in excellent English from Alain and Nathalie, this is like staying with well connected friends
  • The Musée Fabre is just down the lane, and Alain can organise private tours after hours if you want it all to yourself
  • Plenty of fine dineries and wine bars within walking distance - Alain has compiled an excellent shortlist

Lows

  • Driving to the front door is not for novices: park at the Corum centre and walk - or, better still, do it as a car-free city break using the trams to get around
  • This is not a hotel but an extremely upmarket B&B run by a couple plus maids; so don't expect full time reception (there are school runs to be done, shopping to be bought) nor any meals beyond breakfast (though 2 rooms share a kitchen if you want to whip up a snack)
  • Although it's only 7km from the coast, we found the nearest beaches rather drab

Best time to go

The city is busy all year round, apart from July and August when the university students leave and some restaurants close down (it does get very hot). We visited in late May, which was a lovely time to go.

Annual events include a classical music festival in July (nearly 100 concerts, some of them free), 'Attitude' - a summer celebration of hip-hop and skateboarding, a guitar festival (September-October), a film festival (October) and contemporary dance performances (October-November).

Our top tips

Spend an afternoon at the Musée Fabre, it has an impressive collection of art - ancient and (very) modern; there's a whole floor devoted to the textured monochromes of local Pierre Soulages, as well as some Delacroix and Courbets (but no mega names).

Or go in the evening, Alain can book an out of hours tour for you (not as expensive as you might think).

Great for...

City Style
Family
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique B&B
  • 8
  • Breakfast only
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room: Large Deluxe

Rooms

There are 8 individually decorated rooms spread across the building, some of which can be booked in pairs to create the Apartment. Reached via a sweeping central stairwell, there are keypads on the entry doors

Most impressive are the 2 Large Deluxe rooms. One is a palatial affair with 2 floor-to-ceiling windows flooding light over pale cream walls; a trail of circular ruglets lead from the double bed, over smooth flag stone floors, to the bathroom (huge bathtub) and the separate dressing room. The other - and our favourite - shares the same 4-metre ceilings and plasterwork, but is decked out in subdued beiges offset by splashes of warm red in the carefully chosen Cole & Son wallpaper. The shower is housed in a gleaming glass booth behind the bedhead wall, with a transparent wardrobe alongside; it feels wonderfully futuristic in such an ancient room.

If you want more seclusion, or if you come with child in tow, ask for one of the Suites. The first has butterfly themed wallpaper and groovy white-molded bucket chairs, while the second has a blood red and black colour scheme (perfect for a romantic escape as there are no immediate neighbours). Both of these rooms have a small sitting room, a shower room and storage shelves cleverly squeezed into the rear, and there are plenty of cool touches (white flatscreen TV, designer easy chair, Voss mineral water) but don't expect the grandeur and scale of the Large Deluxe rooms: these are cosy and intimate.

The 2 Suites can be combined, along with an all-white kitchen down the corridor, to create the Apartment. It has cooking facilities (hob, oven), equipment for simple meals (pans, kettle, toaster, cafetiere), a dishwasher and a washing machine making it well suited to a long stay.

The Superior and Deluxe rooms suffer by comparison, but they’re still comfortable and we particularly liked the Superior room with the pretty pink and silver flamingo wallpaper.

In terms of equipment, this is more B&B than hotel, so no minibar and no room service. But there is free WiFi, in-room phones and iPod docks have been installed since our visit.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

In the magnificent reception room, alongside 2 sumptuous crescent red-silk sofas and huge panels of swirling gold fabric, individual breakfast tables are laid with a glorified continental spread, which includes delicious custard-filled pastries, fresh cut fruit salad, fromage frais and a clutch of upmarket mini-jams. A heavy silver teapot weighs down a copy of The Times, and teas are presented with typically Gallic flair in a classy casket. It's a suitably genteel start to the day (but not before 8am); the only question is whether it's worth the (not insignificant) extra cost - you might prefer to nip out to a café, especially in summer when many of the squares are lined with tables and parasols.

Alain can now arrange private dinners with a chef (given advance notice) as well as table d'hotes meals at weekends (for a minimum of 6). But most of us will head out for lunch and dinner. Which is no hardship: besides the Michelin-starred and consistently superb Jardin des Sens, there are several excellent eateries within a short walk. We enjoyed the light, trendy fare at Insensé, attached to the Musée de Fabre, and a very reasonably priced dinner on the leafy Place de la Chapelle Neuve, at Le Grillardin. Boris on rue de l'Aiguillerie also comes recommended, as does Régis Brasserie for seafood and Welcomedia on Place Comédie for people-watching; if that's not enough, Alain has compiled an up-to-the-minute shortlist of recommendations based on his own and guests' feedback.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • You're in the heart of Montpellier's historic city centre so slip out through the huge carriage gate and explore! You'll find winding pedestrianised lanes lined with 300-year-old residences, shiny boutiques (antiques, fashion) and outdoor cafés. Each quartier has its speciality - one of the most sonorous is that of the luthiers (violin makers), whose workshops you can visit

  • Follow any of the larger drags downhill and you'll emerge on the vast, jostling Place de la Comédie (also known as "l'Oeuf"), dominated by the Opera theatre and bisected by silent, sleek trams - the best way to get around the city

  • From here, the leafy Esplanade leads past stalls housing seasonal exhibitions and food markets to the huge Corum concert hall and conference centre, where you can enjoy some of France's best classical and jazz events, especially during the vibrant July festival

  • Just outside the triumphal entrance arch west of town are the Botanical Gardens, France's oldest and still impressive, if a little jaded. Beyond, the terraced promenade de Peyrou offers views from the Med to the mountains of the Cevennes

  • Head the other way for the huge and charmless Polygone shopping mall and, beyond that, the monumental, postmodern architecture of the Antigone quarter: impressive glassed-in arches, office blocks and neo-neo-classical theatres abound

  • On a Sunday morning, take the blue tram to the end of the line at La Mosson for the huge flea market, where top-brand clothing, antique furniture and pirate DVDs change hands with alacrity and good-humoured haggling

  • If you plan a city-and-coast break, be aware that the beaches nearest Montpellier (Palavas, Carnon, La Grande Motte) are rather underwhelming, but popular with kite- and windsurfers. Espiguette is the exception with miles of secluded sandy dunes

  • If you want to escape the city, we recommend heading inland to the wooded hills, lush valleys and limestone caves of the Cevennes, or the under-rated vineyards of Pic St Loup

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

Children are welcome. To keep young ones amused in Montpellier, try the Amazonian Hothouse (tropical ferns, palms and wildlife - including anteaters, giant spiders and a bat cave); or the Mare Nostrum aquarium, showcasing 300 species of fish and marine life. Both are a short tram, bus or taxi ride away.

Family friendly accommodation:

The Suites and the Deluxe rooms have space for extra beds, and the Suites also have access to a shared kitchen with a microwave and hob for heating baby food etc. Larger families should book the Apartment which has a private kitchen and space for 6 people plus a baby.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
8/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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