“The Ardennes, France is in a central spot, next to Belgium. It’s also close to the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Paris is two hours away, and so is Brussels. Amsterdam’s a four-hour hop.” The Ardennes France is a quiet, unspoilt region where families can canoe down meandering rivers, fly over wild forests on a zip line, or visit the biggest puppetry festival in the world. You can read more about all the fantastic things to do in the Ardennes France in my feature. The Ardennes is also a good place to sleep in France if you want to carry on further south, or head east to Belgium, Holland or Luxembourg. Don’t leave before you’ve experienced the fantastic cafés and restaurants in Ardennes, though. It’s a real foodie region, where you can find everything from satisfyingly hearty rustic meals to Michelin-rated cuisine.
Ardennes Tourism hosted me on a press trip with BritMums. We visited all the hotels and restaurants mentioned in this feature. Read on to find out more about some excellent places to eat and sleep in France.
Places to sleep in France: Ardennes hotels
Le Dormeur du Val: a literary place to sleep in France
Charleville-Mézières is the regional capital of the Ardennes, and the birthplace of poet Arthur Rimbaud. The town’s inhabitants are proud of their local wordsmith, and visitors will find a Rimbaud theme everywhere, from restaurant menus to haircuts in the local hairdressers. Four-star boutique hotel Le Dormeur du Val is no exception. Named after one of Rimbaud’s sonnets, the 17-room hotel is housed in a former printing press, with Rimbaud’s writing scrawled across the glass fronted building, and an etching of his portrait on the welcome desk.
Chambres at Le Dormeur du Val
Le Dormeur du Val’s decor is heavily industrial, with creamy coloured concrete, sheet steel walls, and clanging metal stairs to take you up to the first floor. But it lacks nothing in comfort. Inside the double bedrooms, vibrant pops of lime or satsuma and chintzy maroon wallpaper soften the industrial decor. On either side of the bed, a sliding wooden doors conceals the ensuite toilet, and the shower/bath, which has funky neon lighting. A snazzy control panel operates the room’s different lighting points, so you can choose to sit in a warm glow of sidelamps, or huddle with your book of poems under a solitary reading lamp. The room comes with a well-stocked coffeemaker, robe and slippers, LED TV, hairdryer and desk. Families can request adjoining rooms.
WiFi is free at Le Dormeur du Val. For relaxation there’s a sauna and small library. The bar is open until 23.00, and we found the breakfast room to be well-stocked, with a juicer and heap of oranges, coffee machine, fresh pastries and breads, local cheeses and meat, and the Ardennais speciality, tarte au sucre (sugar pie). Le Dormeur du Val is on a quiet street a five-minute walk from the centre of Charleville-Mézières, close to La Table d’Arthur and Restaurant Sel et Poivre, both of which are excellent dining options.
Address: 32 Bis, Rue de la Gravière, 08000 Charleville-Mézières
Hôtel le Château Fort: a romantic place to sleep in France
Sedan lies 12 miles to the east of Charleville-Mézières. A highlight of the medieval town is le Château Fort de Sedan, an enormous seven-storey fortification with walls 20m thick in places. It’s the biggest castle in Europe, and you can read more about it here. If your children like playing knights and princesses, they’ll love the idea of staying at Hôtel le Château Fort. My two were green with envy when I told them I’d be spending one night in a castle. Surely a castle must be one of the most romantic places to sleep in France?
Le Château Fort de Sedan is well-maintained, and it’s a spectacular scene when you arrive. The castle’s lit up at night, but even during the day, you drive in through a thick stone arch, and all of a sudden, you’re in a grand courtyard. The foyer to the hotel is fittingly regal, with polished marble flooring and high walls of sand-coloured stone. A small bustling café sats just inside the entrance.
Inside my double room, I had a view of the courtyard, and a pair of musical maidens on a canvas hung over my bed, to guard me from ghosts. As well as a TV, the room came equipped with a safe, ensuite toilet and a separate bathroom, hairdryer and kettle, tea and instant coffee. WiFi was free.
Hôtel le Château Fort is a decent sized hotel, with 54 rooms, including 14 suites suitable for families. We didn’t see inside a suite, but another guest told us they were very spacious, with balconies that opened out onto a panoramic terrace.
Eating at Hôtel le Château Fort
Breakfast was plentiful, with freshly made crèpes (including gluten-free alternatives for a member of our group), cheeses and meats, fresh eggs for boiling, juice, coffee and light, crisp pastries. For lunch and dinner, Sedan has plenty of dining options, including l’Echiquier, just across the road from the Château, and Restaurant la Tour d’Auvergne, the hotel’s in-house restaurant.
Address: Porte des Princes, 08200 Sedan
Cafés and restaurants in Charleville Mézières, Sedan and Tournavaux
The Ardennes is a lush, fertile region. Some of its gastronomic specialities have IGP status, which means food and drink can only be produced in a specific place. These include the star-shaped cheese of Rocroi, and a type of Ardennais white sausage (boudin blanc). We ate in several restaurants on our trip, and the standard of cuisine was consistently excellent.
This Michelin restaurant is located in an atmospheric cellar lined with stacks of fine wines. The glow of the restaurant’s subterranean lighting was matched by the cheery warmth of the staff, who welcome families to try a gourmet lunchtime menu at the exceptionally reasonable price of 15 Euros. This good value earned La Table d’Arthur the coveted ‘Bib Gourmand’ accolade in the Michelin Guide – and parents of picky eaters need not fear, as burgers appear on the lunchtime menu. Dining in the evening is a little more pricey, though still good value. I ate mellow smoked trout with a delicate chervil mousse, followed by bacon-wrapped pork that was both melt-in-the-mouth, and sturdy of flavour. If you only eat at one place in the French Ardennes, La Table d’Arthur should be your choice.
Address: 9, Rue Pierre Bérégovoy, 08000 Charleville Mézières
Restaurant Sel et Poivre
Homely and charming, Sel et Poivre (‘Salt and Pepper’) is a good place to sample hearty local dishes, like salade au lard. A meal of vinegar-sprinkled potato and greens topped with a poached egg, the quality of the fresh local ingredients elevated this winningly straightforward dish. Sel et Poivre served its food with a cosy flourish, and we sat next to the busy serving hatch, overlooked by shelves of decorative salt and pepper mills.
Sel et Poivre had a beguiling range of drinks on offer, from the house speciality Vin de Citron, a secret recipe from the chef’s grandmother, Memère Yvette, to an exhaustive list of herbal teas. There must have been at least twenty complex blends to choose from, including a mixture of rooibos, praline, strawberries and chocolate pieces; and the ‘after-dinner special’, which I tried and which included lemon, strawberry, carrot, sunflower seeds and magnesium powder. Even a basic mint tea came adorned with toasted pine nuts.
Address: 12, Avenue Forest, 08000 Charleville Mézières
Restaurant Le Point de Chute
Tournavaux is close to both the Trans-Ardennes cycle path and Canoe-Semoy, so it makes a good stop on a day of canoeing or cycling. Le Point de Chute is a guest house as well as a restuarant, set along a quiet Tournavaux road where sheep graze in bucolic riverside orchards. A selection of set menus give diners the chance to sample local fare at Le Point de Chute. My shredded duck topped with flavoursome potato puree was a great way to re-fuel for an afternoon of cycling, and the millefeuille dessert was a creamy classic.
Address: 12 Grand Rue, 08800 Tournavaux
In the shadow of the Château Fort de Sedan, l’Echiquier is a light, bright eaterie, run by the Frerot family. It was bustling with lunchtime diners when we ate from the prix fixe lunchtime menu. A child’s three-course version is available for 9 Euros. I ate delicate tuna carpaccio with coriander, followed by roasted cod with ratatouille, then ‘oeuf à la neige’, a fluffy egg concoction sat in a sweet, light custard and dusted with icing sugar.
Address: 7, Promenoir des Prêtres, 08200 Sedan
Ardwen is an award-winning craft microbrewery in the Ardennais countryside, on the outskirts of the village Launois-Sur-Vence. It’s worth a trip to sample the delicious beers, which pair well with the flavoursome meals cooked using local produce in Ardwen brasserie. When we visited, at Sunday lunchtime, it was buzzing with local families, eating hearty meals of pork filet mignon, cod, or juicy burgers topped with Camembert. Parents and grandparents sipped Ardwen Blanche and Ardwen Blonde, Ardwen’s two most fêted brands, from elegant long-stemmed beer glasses. At the bar, young men and women tucked into IPA beer, or the stronger Hops Cure. There was a lively, friendly vibe. The scent of hops hung in the air and mingled with the cooking aromas. You can read more about Ardwen craft brewery and restaurant here.
Address: 20, Avenue Roger Ponsart, 08430 Launois-sur-Vence
Maison Billard is an elegant café in Charleville-Mézières. The clean, bright coffee house sells baguettes stuffed with salad, cured meat and cheeses, and crôques monsieurs. But its main draw is a colourful array of cakes and pastries, from swirly millefeuilles to vibrant macarons. Don’t leave without picking up a packet or two of praline-filled chocolate wild boars (the boar is the regional symbol), or Ardoise, crunchy pieces of butterscotch covered in slate-coloured chocolate. Slate has been extracted in the Ardennes for eight centuries, so it’s a source of local pride.
Address: 6 rue de la République, 08000 Charleville-Mézières
Restaurant la Tour d’Auvergne
Restaurant la Tour d’Auvergne is in le Château Fort de Sedan, so it’s a convenient spot to eat if you’re staying in the hotel. The restaurant’s open to the public as well as hotel guests, and when we ate there, it was busy with groups of family and friends, sitting around circular tables dressed with white linen.
The new chef at la Tour d’Auverne has put together a menu of traditional French dishes that come with extra flourish. I ate delicious buttery escargots (snails) drenched in parsley and garlic, with polenta pucks, coconut milk and black curry. This was followed by lamb noisettes with gingerbread butter. Our waiter seemed unhappy about one of our party quite reasonably asking for her steak to be cooked for a little longer. But aside from the service, the food itself was exquisite.
Address: Hotel le Château Fort, Porte des Princes, 08200 Sedan
For more information on places to eat and sleep in France: the Ardennes, see the Tourisme Ardennes website.
Don’t forget to check out my other features on the Ardennes:
Do you have any recommendations on good places to eat or sleep in France? Let me know in the comments below.
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