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Yvoire: an insider’s guide

PUBLISHED: 09:12 10 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:28 10 July 2018

A view of the harbour and the château in Yvoire © Sarenac Thinkstock

A view of the harbour and the château in Yvoire © Sarenac Thinkstock

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The medieval village of Yvoire in Haute-Savoie stands on the shore of Lake Geneva and is one of France’s Plus Beaux Villages. Here’s our insider’s guide to things to do, see and visit in Yvoire

As well as being a Plus Beau Village, Yvoire is an award-winning Ville Fleurie and is also known as la Perle du Lac Léman (the Pearl of Lake Geneva). Situated at the northern tip of the presqu’île de Léman (Leman peninsula), Yvoire, situated in the Haute-Savoie department of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, separates the two main parts of Lake Geneva, the petit lac and the grand lac. This strategic position was recognised by Amadeus V, Count of Savoy in the 14th century, and Yvoire went on to play an important military role in the war between the Dauphiné and Savoy.

Fortifications including a castle and ramparts were built to protect the village, and access was controlled via the Porte de Rovorée and Porte de Nernier gateways.

Originally built in the 11th century, the St Pancrace church has a distinctive onion-shaped dome that was added to the top of the bell tower in 1854. The steeple was later covered in stainless steel and the weathervane in gold leaf, and with the sun glinting off the top it shines like a lighthouse on the lake.

Flower-bedecked buildings line the harbour where fishing boats bob gently in the water, and where the passenger ferry from Nyon and Geneva arrives. The area within the village walls is only accessible on foot, and the lack of vehicles only adds to the village’s old-world charm. Artisan craft shops, ateliers and boutiques line the lanes and the central main square, Place du Thay.

Artisan shops and boutiques line the village lanes © Patrick Nouhailler Creative CommonsArtisan shops and boutiques line the village lanes © Patrick Nouhailler Creative Commons

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What to see and do in Yvoire

The Jardin des Cinq Sens is a sensory garden © JARDIN5SENS YVOIREThe Jardin des Cinq Sens is a sensory garden © JARDIN5SENS YVOIRE

To learn more about the history of Yvoire, visit la Maison d’Histoire at the heart of the village. Educational and interactive, it opened in 2006 and includes model replicas and an exhibition of historical documents. The tourist office offers guided tours of the village which includes a visit to the museum.

Take a tour around the lake on a solar-powered boat and enjoy the full impact of the spectacular view of Yvoire and the Presqui’ile de Léman from afar, while learning more about the village’s history from the guided commentary. Open April to October. Adult ticket €9.50, children under three free.

There is a designated foot and cycle path that leads from Yvoire to the Domaine de Rovorée, a 24-hectare nature park on the shore of Lake Geneva. Situated to the east of Yvoire and a leisurely 20-minute walk from the village, this protected area is a haven for wildlife and boasts a centuries-old forest of chestnut trees.

The imposing château that stands guard over Yvoire and Lake Geneva has been privately owned since 1655 and is not open to the public, but the castle’s former kitchen garden is now home to the Jardin des Cinq Sens, which welcomes over 600,000 visitors each year (adult entrance ticket €12). This picturesque sensory garden features some 1,300 varieties of plants, all carefully chosen to appeal to the five senses, and the maze-inspired design creates themed ‘rooms’ that encourage visitors to see, smell, touch, taste and listen as they move through the grounds.

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Restaurants in Yvoire

Restaurant des Pêcheurs was the first restaurant on the French side of Lake Geneva to serve perch fillets with the now-famous lemon butter sauce – the recipe was created in 1954 by then-owner and founder Alice Duchêne. This traditional local speciality is still on the menu, alongside plenty of other fresh fish and seafood dishes.

If lunch or dinner with a view is what you’re looking for then you won’t be disappointed at Pré de la Cure, which overlooks the lake. Although dishes featuring pork, lamb and beef will keep meat eaters happy, the emphasis is very much on fish – as you might expect given the restaurant’s waterside setting. Set menus range from €20. Rooms are also available (doubles from €105).

Hotels in Yvoire

The four-star Le Jules Verne has 17 guest rooms offering spectacular views of Lake Geneva. Some of the rooms have a private terrace or balcony, and the hotel’s facilities include two restaurants, a spa and clothes shop. Double rooms from €160.

Established in 1820, Hotel**** Restaurant du Port overlooks the harbour and has seven rooms, a restaurant, a children’s play area, outdoor swimming pool and spa. It also offers a babysitting service and has a private garage. Double rooms from €220.

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