Situated on the French shores of Lake Geneva, Yvoire is one of France’s most beautiful villages, locally nicknamed the “Pearl of Lake Geneva” (la Perle du Lac Léman). The preserved walled village is well known for its floral display and has been awarded by the International Trophy for Landscape and Horticulture. Its pedestrianised narrow streets are an invitation for a historic stroll, leading to the calm and tranquil waterfront with splendid views of Lake Geneva and the Jura Mountains.
The village of Yvoire is located in the département of Haute-Savoie, in a region known as the French Chablais which is situated at the northern limit of the French Alps.
It lies at the northern tip of the Leman peninsula (presqu’île de Léman) which separates the ‘petit lac’ (small lake) to the ‘grand lac’ (large lake).
A bit of history
Yvoire was originally a fishing little harbour overlooked by the square keep of its castle. In the 14th century, Amadeus V, Count of Savoy, understood the strategic location of Yvoire in the region of Geneva and had the village fortified during the war between Savoy and the French province of Dauphiné.
Yvoire played an important military role and its inhabitants were give tax privileges in 1324.
From 1536 to 1591, the village and its surroundings were occupied by the Bernese, allies of the French and Geneva. Yvoire was pillaged and its fortifications dismantled. The castle was also severely damaged and stayed roofless for 350 years.
Until the 1950s the village was inhabited by farmers and fishermen and was not an important tourist destination.
Yvoire is famous for its medieval stone houses with wooden balconies wonderfully decorated with flowers in summer. Although wars during the 16th century destroyed much of the village, there are still today many relics of the medieval past of Yvoire: the castle, the fortifications, the fortified gateways of Porte de Genève and Porte de Thônon, the ditches and old houses.
The narrow cobbled streets are decked with geraniums and wisteria in the summer months and can be chocked with hordes of tourists in the sunny days. They lead to the castle, a private estate set on the edge of the lake. The massive fortress has a large steep roof and little turrets at each corner.
The St. Pancrace Church was originally built in the 11th century and has been rebuilt, enlarged and maintained several times since. The onion-shaped bell tower dates from 1854 and is characteristic of Savoyard and Piemontese religious architecture from the 19th century.
The village is flanked by two harbours: a little fishing port on one side and the marina on the other bordered with a promenade.
Yvoire is well-known for its floral display and has benefited from a ‘Four Flowers’ rank for the last few decades.
The Garden of Five Senses
In the heart of the village off Rue du Lac, the formal Garden of Five Senses (Jardin des Cinq Sens) used to be the castle’s vegetable garden. This plant kingdom takes its inspiration from the medieval times with fruit trees, rose bushes, medicinal and aromatic herbs, aviaries and fountains.
The garden features a maze and other green spaces with a collection of 1,300 varieties of plants designed to appeal to each of the five senses: the garden of flavours, garden of fragrance, garden of textures, garden of sight and garden of hearing.
The Five Senses garden in Yvoire has been listed as a Remarkable Garden (Jardin Remarquable).
How to get to Yvoire
Yvoire is situated at 30 minutes drive from Geneva and some 25 kms from the west of Évian-les-Bains.
A ferry boat link crosses Lake Geneva in 20 minutes to the town of Nyon, Switzerland.
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs
- Alps = Alpes (f,p)
- Amadeus V = Amédée V
- Bernese = Bernois (m,p)
- castle = château (m)
- church = église (f)
- fishing harbour = port de pêche (m)
- fortification = fortification (f)
- garden = jardin (m)
- gateway = porte (f)
- Geneva = Genève
- harbour = port (m)
- lake = lac (m)
- Lake Geneva = Lac Léman (m)
- Middle-Ages = moyen-âge (m)
- Pearl of Lake Geneva = Perle du Lac Léman (f)
- Piemontese = Piémontais (m)
- port = port (m)
- Savoy = Savoie (f)
- Switzerland = Suisse (f)
- village = village (m)