Yvoire is a picturesque little French village known for its medieval buildings, exquisite flower-hewn streets and an old chateau overlooking Lac Leman with a 700 year old history to be proud of. To sum it up, Yvoire is a place of history and beauty.
I took a trip to this beautiful village with Geneva as my starting point. Took the passenger ferry going and car on the way back. So let me start my trip to Yvoire in France from Geneva in Switzerland.
Switzerland and France face each other across the lake, although Yvoire is located at the south end.
Board a ferry at Geneva in the morning. It was a slightly overcast day and slightly cold too and the lake looked calm and grey!
The ferry ride is very interesting, although I heard a few people complain that it was slow! Well. Sometimes, slow is good!
We called at three stops before finally arriving at Yvoire.
The first sight that greeted me was the castle towering over the lake. Even from the distance it looked brooding and mystical – but that is what made it charming!
Once you disembark, its a short, sharp uphill walk into the town. At once, you are welcomed into a world of flowers and medieval houses and loose yourself to the fragrance of flowers and delicious foods cooking behind the old wooden doors!
Yvoire’s strategic position was of great importance in history, during the war between Dauphine and Savoy. The village Yvoire had a very important military rôle, which earned certain freedoms for its inhabitants in 1324. Later, when the whole region was occupied by the Bernese, allies of the French and Genevese from 1536 to 1591, the village lost its ramparts and military rôle ; the castle was burnt and remained roofless for 350 years.
For a long period, Yvoire remained anonymous, turning into a farming-fishing village. Although much of its castles, fortified gateways and ramparts were preserved.
Why you MUST visit Yvoire
Stretching on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman because you now stand in France) this village is often called the MOST BEAUTIFUL village of France. The streets are decorated with flowers in summer making the walk through this uphill village a pleasure.
If that is your first reason to go, hold on, there are many others!
The chateau (castle) today is a private mansion but the most striking feature of this village and can be seen from far away. It appears as though it springs out of the lake in a calm corner, surrounded by lush green trees. Entry is restricted, but public can visit the Jardin des Cinq Sens or The Garden of Five Senses, a spectacular place, that pleases all senses. Hundreds of fragrant flowers, fruits and other plants, the labyrinths and beautiful architecture provides with a unique experience.
Little wonder that it is known as the Perle du lac Léman or ‘Pearl of Lake Geneva.’ Once a fishing-farming village, you can still the old pier at the edge of the lake.
The narrow street is full of old alpine- style buildings with stone walls, sloping roofs, wooden balconies and shutters. A few houses have doubled up as “souvenir” stores and you can find a lot of stuff to buy – although you are now in France, you can easily find “Swiss” stuff and one third the price!!!
The most striking appearance of Yvoire is the abundance of beautiful bright flowers everywhere in the village. Not to be ignored are the very imaginative decorations – such as colourfully painted chairs or umbrellas mounted on the walls or playful sculptures of women (especially the fat pink lady outside the crystal store which is the first thing you see when you come up from the pier).
Take some time off to visit the church of Saint Pancras with its “onion” dome that can be seen from everywhere in the village. This church dates back from the 11th century and has undergone many renovations, but it still the landmark of the village and is a classified historical monument.
Best time to visit
Go there in summer (April-Aug/Sep), when the streets are filled with flowers. The little village remains shut during the winter months.
During summer, four daily direct services are possible from Geneva to Yvoire – the sailing time is around two hours. The ferry calls at Nyon, a small lake-side town well connected to the rail-route.