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Am I Staying in a Gite?

When looking for a holiday home in France, many of us immediately think of gites. But what is he difference between a gite, villa, cottage, chalet, holiday let, apartment or chateau?

Today 'gite' has come to be understood as holiday accommodation of many sorts in France. Villas, chalets and houses are now often thought of as gites where as they should be more accurately described as what they actually are.

Below is a quick guide to help you tell your gites from your villas, your houses and your chateaux.


Originally these were basic forms of accommodation, often in renovated farm buildings or cottages attached to a farm, in rural France. As the popularity of gites grew, the term gite became a more generic word for French holiday homes.

The majority of gites today have vastly moved on from the more traditional basic accommodation, being much better equipped and even moving into the luxury sector. Swimming pools, for example, are found in more and more gite-type properties.


Cottages are small rural houses that were originally farm workers' cottages or small family homes. Self-contained, these make ideal holiday homes for families and couples. Country cottages, together with renovated farm buildings, are the closest to original meaning of gite.

Renovated Farm Buildings

These are quite often barns but can also include Pressoir (fruit pressing building to extract juice - usually apples to make cider), Pigeonnier (the dovecote where pigeons and doves were kept) and Ecurie or stables. There are also blacksmiths' buildings, bakehouses and gatehouses to stay in - just look out for them for interesting places to stay. Like cottages, these are the original gites.


Often considered classic houses in the south of France, these also include more modern properties too. A villa is typically a detached house with garden and, these days increasingly, a swimming pool. Villas are often marketed as gites however.

Chambre d'hotes

What are Chambre d'hotes?

Quite simply, these are bed & breakfast rooms let by the night. Ideal for exploring France as you can stop for a couple fo days before moving on.

On of our most enjoyable French holidays was travelling across France stopping like this to explore parts of France we had never vised before.


Evoking images of mountains, not only are these the traditional style stone and wood buildings, but also now modern wooden houses in the country. Chalets are detached but can be nestled close together on hill or mountainside. These are not to be confused with‘chalets’ in holiday villages - wooden holiday homes in faux chalet style.


In France, the term chateau covers a wide range of properties from the grand palaces of Versailles and Chambord through to stately homes down to the principle house in the village, town or area. As such, they were built and occupied by royalty, nobility, gentry and Lords of the Manor and incorporated more extravagant design than the normal type of house to show how important they were.

As a side note, castles can also be referred to as chateau but should correctly be called Chateau-fort, to show they are a fortress or castle. Chateau can also refer to vineyards too.

Chateaux (the plural of chateau is chateaux) offered for holidays are more likely to be the Lords of the Manor / gentry-style type of property. These are perfectly suited to larger groups of guests. Many make an ideal venue to celebrate a significant event, such as a birthday or anniversary.

Some grander chateaux have been split into apartments so you can have your piece of the chateau lifestyle.


Now a universal term, this term originated in America to describe a self-contained holiday home that is part of a larger building. They often share facilities  with other apartments, such as a swimming pool or gym. Apartments offer good value accommodation in popular areas such as seaside destinations and cities.

Special Gites

Other types of gites you may be interested in include;

  • Gîte d'étape - more like a youth hostel
  • Gîte équestre - accommodation for horse riders trekking across the country.

Holiday Homes

All of the above can be considered holiday homes, holiday lets or holiday rentals – in French ‘location de vacances’. Terms are often muddled up or deliberately sprinkled through websites and literature in the hope of catching every potential guest possible. As a guest, there are many interesting holiday homes available to you, so don’t rule out a property just because of its definition.

Have fun finding your ideal location de vacances en France.

P.S. Note to property owners - define your property and stick to it. By using as many terms as possible, you weaken the proposition of your property, especially in the search engines.

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