A French castle all to yourself
One of France’s most unique and opulent chateaux, La Folie Boulart, is now available for private rental, with services fit for royalty. Perched on a hill overlooking the picturesque French Basque town of Biarritz, it’s tucked away down a small road, a secret palace that even most locals aren’t aware of.
The chateau dates back to 1881 when businessman Charles Boulart commissioned award-winning architect Joseph Louis Duc (designer of Palais du Justice in Paris) to build a home on the highest point in Biarritz for his wife Marthe. From this vantage point, guests have expansive views across the town to the stunning Côte des Basques beach in Biarritz and in the other direction, the Pyrenees.
Four years of meticulous restoration by the current owners, Brigitte and Pierre Delalonde, has brought this Belle Époque gem back to its former glory. Stained glass, marble columns, mosaics, sculptures, frescos, intricate stonework and carved wooden paneling are among the many beautiful features. And unlike other French chateaus available for holiday rentals, this property is packed with exquisite antiques, art, handprinted wallpaper and opulent chandeliers. Filled with character, La Folie Boulart really feels like a grand chateau that can become your home, even if only temporarily.
For the interiors, Yves Badetz, a heritage curator from one of Paris’s top museums worked closely with the owners on every aspect of the design. To conserve the chateau’s original ambience, he drew inspiration from authentic documents of the epoch. Antique furniture is complemented by modern touches like contemporary art. Two paintings by contemporary artist Silvère Jarrosson, a former dancer at the Opéra de Paris are in the main lounge while a lovely, multi-colored mobile sculpture by Prisca Razafindrakoto hangs from the ceiling in the entrance hall.
The vast chateau has eight spacious bedrooms and can accommodate 14 guests. All the rooms have their own bathroom with marble walk-in shower, bathtub and hand basins. Each room is stylishly decorated and furnished with unique, period items acquired at auctions or from antique dealers.
Anyone who rents the chateau and their guests will enjoy luxury bedding, walls fitted with sound systems, a hideaway TV which mysteriously appears from the ceiling, a mini-bar, and a daily selection of freshly-prepared appetisers and light bites.
Every suite is unique. The Coco room is a tribute to the legendary fashion designer whose first couture shop opened in Biarritz. The violet, pink and black floor covering is haute couture at its finest. The red Rodman Wanamaker room has a stunning replica of a chest of drawers made for Queen Marie Antoinette while the bathroom has a helical shower covered in gold mosaic.
The largest suite, the Edward VII, features a lush four poster canopy bed and a long private balcony with glorious sea views. Many of the suites have separate circular sitting rooms, so charming and with lovely views from each window. Everything has been considered down to the smallest detail.
Contemporary touches blend with rare objects, like the billiard table that once belonged to the Lumière brothers, the inventors of cinema. A large reception room opens out onto ocean views, just next to the lounge bar with a golden, metallic countertop, sitting rooms and secret boudoirs. Outside, the classical antiquity-inspired sunken garden with its fountains, centuries-old trees and sun loungers is the ideal place to relax.
Jean-Marie Gautier, formerly at Napoleon III’s Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz, is consultant chef at La Folie Boulart and can design a menu suited to any guest. He cooks with local, seasonal produce and seafood. Think carpaccio of scallops with citrus fruit, algae-steamed sea bass with Aquitaine caviar or crispy leeks in langoustine broth. For anyone with a sweet tooth, a twist on the classic French dessert, the Mont Blanc has been created by his son, pastry chef Sylvain Gautier (Le Crillon, Plaza Athénée, Paris). In addition to meals on request, guests can enjoy the chateau’s wine cellar, well-stocked with carefully selected fine wines.
Wellness is unsurprisingly an important feature of La Folie Boulart with Biarritz’s many outdoor pursuits nearby: beaches are vast and coastal walks can take you all the way to the Spanish border. In the chateau, the lower floor is devoted to a lush spa including an indoor pool, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi. Treatments like massages and facials are also available. There’s a small gym and private yoga or pilates sessions can also be arranged.
If you can bear to venture outside, there’s plenty to see, do and eat near the chateau. Les Halles is a brilliant market in the town center packed with gleaming local products. Slightly further afield across the border in Spanish Basque Country is the gorgeous town of San Sebastián, famous for its annual film and jazz festivals. And in Getara, the fabulous Balenciaga museum is a brilliant tribute to the famous Spanish designer. After the museum have lunch at Kaia Kaipe, a family run restaurant at the port with a large winter and summer terrace. Menu highlights include a wide range of seafood from anchovies in oil, lobster salad, grilled fresh prawns, Basque style hake, grilled grouper, turbot or sea bream.
Where to Eat near La Folie Boulart
L’Ecaillerie des Halles is a seafood stall at the market that has long metal tables upstairs overlooking the market for eating in. Local seafood from oysters and prawns to anchovies and sea urchin are fresh and delicious.
Le Sin helmed by Biarritz chef Michel Cassou-Debat is so hip it has a skateboard park adjoining it. The creative menu is outstanding with dishes like scallops with squid ink gnocci, languostine ravioli and duck confit.
Venta Gaxuxa, opposite the square in the center of Bidart, a charming village clinging to the cliff overlooking the Bay of Biscay. Offering a range of delicious Basque food like artichokes with ham and various seafood dishes.
Where to Shop
Unique to French Basque country are a special type of macaron at Maison Adam. People travel from Paris to buy these chewy delights. They’re that good. Chocolaterie Henriet has a great range of hand made chocolates, bars and seasonal products. The cleverly named Bask In The Sun is a local apparel brand offering organic cotton T-shirts featuring specially commissioned artist’s designs. KM42 in Bidart is a lovely gift shop with local artisan products including jewelery and basque fabrics. Venitz offers a thoughtfully curated selection of fashion brands as well as hand embroidered upcycled jean jackets. Open Me Biarritz has unique gifts and homewares.
Nothing is too much trouble to organize for anyone who rents La Folie Boulart, including wine and cheese tasting, organizing surfing lessons or arranging for a sports car to be brought to the door.
A minimum duration of two nights with a maximum number of 14 people, La Folie Boulart offers the private use of the whole chateau so that guests can enjoy its exceptional situation. The Imperial plan is from 16,000 euros/night and includes: accommodation, complimentary in-room private bar (soft drinks), half board (including wines), aperitif, all day gourmet buffet, transfers, chauffeur in the city, 2 daily SPA treatments , twice-daily housekeeping service, concierge, butler, 24/7 security. The Royal plan is from 10,000 euros/night and includes: accommodation, complimentary in-room private bar (soft drinks), daily breakfast, all-day coffee and tea station with petit-fours, twice-daily housekeeping service, concierge, butler, 24/7 security.
La Folie Boulart, 12 alley of the castle 64200, Biarritz, France