Today, Évian-les-Bains is probably mostly known for the world famous brand of mineral water that bears its name, but the area has its own, rich history. Not only was Évian-les-Bains a holiday resort catering to the rich and famous, including royalty from the world over, but there are also plenty of sites of historical value both within and around the town. Here we have collected a few of our favourites.
L’Eglise de Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption
L’Eglise de Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption, or the church of Our Lady of the Assumption, is a well maintained example of early Savoyard Gothic art and architecture. The exterior of the church, while interesting to architecture enthusiasts, history fanatics and church hobbyists, is far from the most beautiful exterior you’re likely to see, but its true beauty lies within.
Having been renovated throughout its existence, with some major renovations taking place during the 14th and 15th centuries, and further improvements occurring in the early 20th century, the church remains in excellent condition. The ceiling is exquisitely vaulted and the entirety of the building’s interior is decorated with intricate, colourful and attractive art.
If you visit this beautiful, historically valuable church, be sure to pay special attention to the stained glass, the magnificently carved choir stalls and the art within the Chapel of the Rosary.
Chateau de Ripaille
A medium-length walk or a few minutes’ drive westwards, just outside nearby Thonon-les-Bains, lies the Chateau de Ripaille. Built in the 15th century, the chateau stood until the 19th century, sometimes a private residence, sometimes a monastery, until the French Revolution left it in ruins. In 1892, Frederic Engel-Gros, a wealthy art enthusiast, contracted some of Europe’s finest craftspeople and had it renovated to incredibly exacting standards. What visitors can see now is a 600-year-old building, renovated a century ago into a unified work of art total.
Wine lovers will be interested to learn that Chateau de Ripaille produces a highly respected wine, and may want to pick up a bottle to enjoy back at the chalet.
A little further west, within easy driving distance of Evian, is the medieval village of Yvoire. Due to its location, it used to be an important military stronghold: Count Amedee V fortified the village in the early 14th century. It remained fortified until the 16th century, at which point the castle was abandoned, and it became a fishing village.
History lovers will love seeing the ruins of the castle and its fortifications, as well as some other carefully preserved, or even artfully updated, features. For example, the castle’s kitchen’s garden has been transformed into the unique “Garden of the Five Senses”, which comes highly recommended.
How to Get to Évian-les-Bains
Évian-les-Bains is served by Geneva Airport. After your flight lands, you can step straight into your taxi if you have pre-booked Geneva airport transfers, or, if you’re driving, you’ll want to take the D1005. You’ll have to cross the Franco-Swiss border, and the drive is just shy of an hour and a half.
It’s also possible to reach Evian-les-Bains via public transport: take the IR train towards Brig, changing at Lausanne to Lausanne Gare. Take the train 2 towards Lausanne, Ouchy, from where you can take a ferry to Evian-les-Bains. The journey on public transport takes a little under two hours.
Where to Stay
Hôtel de France – with its budget prices, Hôtel de France is a natural choice for those seeking a low cost holiday. The hotel is full of natural light, and has a lovely, well-maintained garden terrace, making it a pleasant, airy place to stay.
Zenitude Hôtel-Résidences Les Terrasses du Lac – the mid-priced Zenitude offers high quality chalet-style apartments, giving you a little more space than a hotel without the high price often associated with chalets. Every apartment has a terrace or balcony, from which you may experience some gorgeous views.
Hôtel Ermitage – for a beautifully tranquil luxury hotel, you’d be hard pressed to do better than the Ermitage. If its setting, within 19 acres of breath-taking, immaculately maintained gardens, doesn’t provide enough of an escape for you, the rooms are soundproofed, allowing you to escape into your own little world whenever you fancy. When you feel like spending some time socialising but you don’t want the bustle of a café or bar in town, enjoy a quiet fireside drink along with the tinkling of ivories in the hotel’s piano bar.