Romantic, medieval, flower-rich Yvoire is a small French town on Lac Léman popular with day-trippers from Genève, Lausanne, Nyon (by passenger ferry), Évian, and ski resorts.
Yvoire is a small but very romantic small town (population ca. 800) on the southern, French shores of Lake Geneva. This traffic free village has managed to preserve much of its medieval look with town walls and gates, a historic castle, and narrow cobblestone streets. Yvoire is a beautiful town year round but particularly attractive during spring and summer when it is filled with flowers blooming from seemingly every balcony and windowsill. Yvoire is hugely popular with day-trippers and thus has a large number of restaurants, cafés, boutiques, art galleries, studios, and souvenir shops. With few formal sights, visiting Yvoire is relaxing and the town easy to enjoy. Yvoire is a short drive from Geneva and Evian or a fast passenger ferry crossing from Nyon in Switzerland.
Medieval Château d’Yvoire on Lac Léman, France
Yvoire’s written history goes back to 1306 and a time when Lake Geneva castles played an important role in protecting the strategic trade routes through the Alps and along the lake. However, changing trade routes pushed Yvoire into decline and relative obscurity since the sixteenth century. It is only the onslaught of mass tourism during the twentieth century that placed Yvoire back on the map as a popular day-trip destination for travelers in the Lake Geneva region.
Château d’Yvoire still dominates the small town today, as it must have done back in the Middle Ages. The castle is a typical Savoy design and reminds of many other medieval castles in the Lac Léman region. Yvoire Castle looks the part with turrets, towers, few windows, and thick walls. It has a commanding position right on the banks of Lake Geneva from where it guards the small fishing boat and large modern yacht harbors.
Flowers and Five-Senses Garden in Romantic Yvoire
Yvoire is blessed by its well-preserved medieval look but it the extra effort to plant flowers everywhere that really lifts the town above the averages in spring and summer. Yvoire has been named one of the hundred most beautiful towns in France and has been a 4-flower Village Fleuri since the 1950s.
Le Labyrinthe – Jardin des Cinq Sens (the Garden of the Five Senses) is a privately owned and meticulously maintained park in the former kitchen garden of Chateau d’Yvoire. The garden is designed to tickle all five senses. The Garden of the Five Senses in Yvoire is open from mid-May to mid-October. Admission is €10.
Other Historical Sights in Yvoire, France
After the castle, the Church of St Pancras is the most visual historic sight in Yvoire. This small church dates partly from the eleventh century but it is a mixture of different architectural styles. Its most conspicuous feature is its onion-shaped stainless steel clock tower and steeple, which gleams in the sun and can be seen from far. The stainless steel structure was erected in 1989 to replace a tin original from 1854.
The small La Maison d’Histoire (local history museum) is open weekends from 2 to 5 pm in May, June, and September, as well as daily from 2 to 5:30 pm in July and August. Admission is free.
Other sights in Yvoire can be seen and enjoyed while strolling through the narrow alleys and town gates. A few ramparts and town defenses survived and many houses are really from the Middle Ages and not copies from later periods.
Yvoire – a Fun Destination for Families & Children
Yvoire is low on formal sights making it easy to enjoy the town simply for its beauty and pleasant atmosphere. The town has many narrow alleys and steep streets that are fun to explore for children. In addition the old town is car free and safe for rambling about.
Children also enjoy exploring the yacht harbor while several green parks are on the edges of the old town or on the lakefront. It is a pleasant, safe walk to the nearby town Nernier, which is a bit like Yvoire – less pretty but without mass tourism. It is also an easy walk to de Rovorée-La Châtaignière, a wildlife area on the lake to the east of Yvoire.
Shops, Restaurants & Hotels in Yvoire, France
Yvoire lives of mass tourism but took great care to preserve much of its medieval beauty. Shops are mostly without garish signs and displays while the endless flowers also beautify the town for months at end. The old town also has many artist studios.
On colder and windy days, Yvoire is still beautiful and generally see much fewer visitors. A snow-covered Yvoire is pretty but many businesses close during winter (generally mid-November to early March).
- The best time to visit Yvoire is on spring weekdays when flower-rich town is at its most beautiful but the number of visitors fewer than on weekends and during the summer vacations.
Yvoire has a large number of restaurants, cafés, creperies, and food stands to cater to the needs of the huge number of day-trippers. Food on offer ranges from simple crepes and sandwiches to Michelin Bib Gourmand level (Le Pré de la Cure & Les Flots Bleus). Perches – a sweetish fish caught locally in Lac Léman – are popular and usually served with fries.
Staying overnight in Yvoire is a pleasant option. Hotel prices may be cheaper than in say Geneva or Evian. Overnight guests can easily enjoy Yvoire at its most romantic at night or early morning without the day-trip masses.
Transportation to Yvoire is easy. It is a simple half hour drive from Geneva or a fast 20-minute passenger ferry crossing from Nyon. CGN Lake Geneva pleasure cruise boats also frequently call in Yvoire. Yvoire bus day tours can also be arranged from most cities along Lake Geneva.
Yvoire in Haute Savoie in France is undoubtedly the most picturesque medieval small town on the shores of Lake Geneva. In Switzerland, St Prex has a little bit of a similar atmosphere but truly medieval wonders in Western Switzerland are a bit further away in places such as Romainmôtier, Gruyères, and Morat (Murten).