You'd never guess it now, but the medieval village of Yvoire on Lake Geneva's French side played an important military role in the war between the Dauphine and Savoy in the early 14th Century. Its strategic position on a point between Lake Geneva's 'small lake' and 'large lake' meant it was the ideal place for a military post but today it's one of the prettiest, most serene villages in France you are likely to visit.
Fortifications, including ramparts and a castle, were started in Yvoire in 1306 and during the 16th Century, another conflict resulted in the loss of the village's ramparts and the castle was burned and remained roofless for 350 years.
Passing the ensuing years as a sleepy fishing village, Yvoire again became known beyond the shores of Lake Geneva with a number of nationally recognised awards. In 1959 it received first prize in the national competition for best kept villages and in 2002, Yvoire represented France at European level and won the International Trophy for Landscape and Horticulture.
Wandering through the village you can certainly see the role that flowers play in the lives of those that live here. The steep cobblestone streets that lead you uphill from the picturesque jetty are a riot of colour - flower boxes spill their colourful blooms from the walls of boutiques, cafes, ice cream shops and houses.
Just when you think you've seen the best display you turn a corner and more colour bursts into view. The pride with which the village's residents care for Yvoire, along with its significant historical buildings, helped it to be selected as one of the prestigious members of the "Most Beautiful Villages in France" association.
My visit to Yvoire was very brief but it left a lasting impression. I travelled to Yvoire from Geneva by paddlesteamer and the minute I stepped onto the pretty jetty I was in love! Everywhere I looked, flowers bloomed. Waterfront cafes were busy and tempted the passerby to sit for a while, drink in hand, and admire the view over shimmering Lake Geneva.
With limited time, I instead headed uphill through the narrow car-free streets, to browse the boutiques and craft shops. The medieval stone buildings, now restored to their former glory, seemed to accentuate the red, pink and purple of the flowers for which this village has become known and I found myself stopping every few metres to take yet another photo of a magnificent vista.
Down a side street I came across the Garden of Five Senses. Combining Yvoire's medieval history with its more recent love of flowers, the botanical garden has been established in the castle's former kitchen garden. Restored in medieval style (and with a roof back on the castle), the garden provides a tranquil place to enjoy the colour, scents, sounds and textures of the plants.
Another discovery was the Church of Saint-Pancrace, recognisable by its steeple. Whilst the present steeple is not the original, it has been restored to the tradition of the local steeples of the time and is an impressive sight. The church itself is believed to date back to the 11th Century, so whilst Yvoire celebrated its 700 year anniverary in 2006, the origins of the village are most likely even older.
The 'Glaces Maison' ice cream shop was highly recommended so it warranted a visit on the hot late-Spring day that I was in town. Open from April to November, it's the place for delicious homemade ice creams and sorbets. Licking a colourful sorbet whilst wandering the colourful flower-filled streets, I almost felt like Alice climbing the rainbow - and no wonder. After all, Yvoire is a little pot of gold just waiting to be discovered.
Yvoire is on the French side of Lake Geneva, 22 kilometres from Geneva and 25 km from Evian. Yvoire can be reached by boat from Geneva and Nyon. Regular train services operate to nearby Thonon and buses service Thonon and Douvaine, from where you can catch a taxi to Yvoire.
You can also visit Yvoire as part of a 5 hour Lake Geneva cruise from Geneva. Click here for prices and info.
Where to Stay in Yvoire
I stayed at the lovely Hotel and Restaurant du Port, right next to the jetty. The 4 star hotel has a range of rooms including lake view rooms with balconies, which offer fantastic views. The restaurant was excellent. Click here to check current prices.
What to See and Do in Yvoire
- Take a guided tour of the Medieval village in the House of History museum (limited dates - enquire with the Tourist Office)
- Stroll along the Jetty and watch the passing parade of boats - fishing boats, sailing boats, yachts and even a paddlesteamer visit the busy little port of Yvoire
- Wander the streets and browse the artisan craft shops and boutiques or visit one of the art galleries
- Visit the Garden of Five Senses
- Sit in the great outdoors and admire the colour explosion all around you
Best time to visit Yvoire
May to September
Have I inspired you to visit Yvoire, the French Flower Village?
PIN FOR LATER