A petite, peaceful retreat in a stylish 17th-century villa, La Divine Comédie hotel in Avignon is just steps from the Palais des Papes. The owners have kindly put their wares on display – the house showcases an impressive collection of art and antiques, including in the five bedrooms, each of which is distinct in its grand, globe-trotting design – and the gorgeous garden is the biggest in town. And though there’s no restaurant on-site, the owners’ handily have a bar of their own, just a short stroll away.
Double rooms from $275.70 (€250), excluding tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.53 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include breakfast.
Art historians, listen up: the hotel has more than 200 paintings from the 17th to 19th centuries.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, car park. In rooms: TV, free bottled water, tea-making kit, Nespresso coffee machine, air-conditioning and Codage bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each of the five rooms has its own character, whether it’s the stylish spirit of La Serenissima in the Venice Suite or the legacy of Tutankhamun that inspired the Consul Suite. We especially loved the garden-facing Anatole Suite, the mascot of which is a globe-trotting Grand Tour sort who helpfully gathered the various trinkets and treasures on display (model boats, orientalist paintings, mirrors, screens and a canopy).
There’s a heated pool and Jacuzzi in the garden.
The Foly in the garden has a hammam, sauna and one treatment room for specialist massages (upright, Korean, Californian) and rituals using French favourite spa brand Codage. Pilates, yoga and fitness classes can be arranged.
Bring your Pocket Shakespeare if you’ve timed your visit during Avignon’s annual theatre festival (July), or horticultural handbooks for identifying the blooms in the city’s biggest private garden.
The hotel is not easily accessible for wheelchair users.
All ages are welcome, but there’s no lift in the main house, so prams and pushchairs will have to be carried up the stairs.
Breakfast while smelling the roses on the terrace.
Deck yourselves in papal purple and cardinal red.
There’s no bar or restaurant on-site but the owners also run Bar Le Complot, a short walk away (open Wednesday to Sunday) in town. Breakfast is served either in one of the villa’s salons or out on the terrace; expect Camargue classics and delicious viennoiserie, plus charcuterie and cheese selections for an additional charge.
La Divine Comédie enjoys a perfect Provençal perch, close to Avignon’s Palais des Papes.
Marseille’s international airport is the best served; the drive should take an hour and transfers cost €180 each way. There’s a smaller airport in Avignon that’s a 20-minute drive away by car; transfers are €30.
Avignon has a TGV station, meaning it’s speedily linked to other French cities – including Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Nice and Lille – as well as London, courtesy of the Eurostar, which heads further south on direct services in summer, with connections in Paris or Lille at other times of the year (www.eurostar.com). Transfers to this station are €30 each way.
The hotel’s car park is behind a black gate on the next street, so bags can be dropped off first; parking costs €20 a night. You’re within Avignon’s city walls, so most places are reachable on foot, but if you want to cruise by lavender fields and vineyards, a set of wheels will be handy.
Worth getting out of bed for
Once you’ve smelled the roses in the largest private garden in Avignon, been pampered in the spa cabin and laboured over a languorous French breakfast, it’s time to explore this mediaeval walled city and erstwhile papal centre.Stockpile cheese and tapenade at the Les Halles covered market on the aptly named Place Pie, or continue the appreciative garden gazing at the Jardin des Doms, which has elevated views of the rolling Rhône plains and Mont Ventoux. See what’s left of the Pont Saint-Bénézet, a 12th-century bridge and star of a certain schoolboy-French song. No visit to Avignon is complete without a tour of the Palais des Papes, a Gothic palace that was the seat of Christianity in the 14th century.
The owners of La Divine Comédie have extended their magic touch to Bar le Complot, their sister property in a former private mansion on Impasse Jean Pierre Gras (open Wednesday to Sunday). For all the snails, foie gras and oysters you can shake a baguette at, try Bistrot Balthazar on Place des Corps Saints. And for fine dining in a fabulous former cardinal’s home (tapestries, oak floors, silk curtains: check), don’t miss dinner at La Mirandeon Place de l’Amirande.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this boutique hotel in France and unpacked their flea-market finds, a full account of their city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside La Divine Comédie in Avignon…
Q: Who needs a holiday home when you can borrow one this chic? A: No one. This peaceful Provençal retreat is the only home from home you’ll ever need, thanks to a winning mix of art-lined walls, antique-filled rooms and the biggest private garden in Avignon. The mash of bright colours, heritage pieces and plants may seem a bit of a mad mix, but it works, thanks to the deft touch of the impossibly stylish owners and their magpie vision. The sweeping staircase in the entrance hall was hewn from local rock, and it's just about the star of the lobby show (with stiff competition from royal blue walls, flagstone floors and crystal chandeliers). Stays here are an intimate, informal delight (with plenty of chances to meet the art-loving owners and jot down decorating tips); refined breakfasts are served either in a salon or out on the terrace, and Avignon awaits for your other meals. All in all, it’s our kind of holiday.
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