I recently had the pleasure of visiting friends who live in Yvoire who shared their lovely village with me. Yvoire is a French medieval bourg located on the banks of Lake Geneva (known in France as Lac Léman), with a history dating back over 700 years. The centre of the old town is surrounded by a stone wall dating back to the 14th century. Each day in the summer, hundreds of visitors descend on this small village to get a glimpse of one of the most beautiful villages in France.
Enjoy the old town. The best time of day to explore the old town is in the early morning, before it gets crowded with tourists. Spend a leisurely morning walking around the old town centre. Roam around the quaint streets, have a look at the shops, such as Hubert’s Cristallerie, and enjoy a coffee in the old town – while it’s quiet.
Go for a boat ride on Lake Geneva. If you didn’t already arrive by boat, take the CGN ferry from the pier to the nearby Nyon, across the river in Switzerland, only 20 minutes away. (Don’t forget to bring your Swiss francs with you!) During the summer, you can plan your schedule to catch one of the Belle Epoque paddle steamboats, which dates back to the early twentieth century, at no additional charge.
Eat filets de perche. The specialty around the lake is fillets of perch, and you’ll find it served at nearly every restaurant on and around the lake. Commonly served simply à la meunière (sauteed in butter, lemon juice and parsley) with French fries (frites), this is the classy French take on the British fish and chips. Book an outside table at Bacouni for a panoramic view of the lake.
Sit by the water and watch the world go by. By now it might be wine o’clock, perfect for enjoying some local (French or Swiss) rosé. This is European lake living at its best. Relax while watching the lake, the marina, the sailboats in the distance, the ducks and the swans.
Go for a swim. If you remembered to pack your towel and bathing suit, take a dip in the lake – with the temperature hovering at a fresh 22-24 degrees Celsius, depending on the time of year. Beware of going in water that’s too shallow or rich in vegetation to avoid issues with duck fleas!
Watch the steamboats dance. Around 8pm each evening, two steamboats meet at Yvoire pier, toot their horns, then do a “dance” before before going their separate ways – one to Geneva and one to Lausanne. You’ll find the locals gather on their balconies night after night to watch this tranquil display. The boats do slow, synchronised movements, mirroring the pace of this peaceful village life.
Enjoy French nouvelle cuisine. Perhaps one of the best restaurants in Yvoire, Les Jardins du Léman is a fine dining restaurant within the medieval village with a number of accolades. The food is top-notch. If the weather’s nice, reserve a table on the terrace overlooking the castle.
Yvoire is an easy day trip from Geneva or Lausanne, accessible by frequent ferries or car (about a 45 minute drive from Geneva).