When it comes to beautiful villages, France has more than its fair share. Despite visiting so many of them over the years, I’m still frequently blown away by the charm and beauty that these French villages possess. One such village is Yvoire in the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region.
Is Yvoire France’s most beautiful village?
A member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (Most beautiful villages of France) organization, Yvoire has all the attributes that make it a must-visit in my book.
Beautiful architecture – tick
A picturesque setting – tick
Tidy streets – tick
A castle or medieval ruins – tick
A picture-perfect setting
Set on the shores of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva), the best way to arrive at Yvoire is by boat. Paddle steamers and ferries operate regular services to and from Geneva. As you approach the village, you’ll catch sight of the 14th century Castle with its steep, turreted roof, which keeps watch over the lake.
If you’re lucky enough to be arriving in the warmer months, the picturesque jetty will greet you with flower boxes brimming with red geraniums.
Once ashore, the village winds its way up from the pretty lakefront, where you’ll find numerous hotels and eateries and a small marina filled with boats of all shapes and sizes. From here, cobbled streets lined with well-kept stone houses and shops await you.
Although its inclusion in Les Plus Beaux Villages de France association means Yvoire is a tourist magnet, it’s still possible to wander the streets and browse the shops without feeling overwhelmed, even in high season. I would recommend you try to avoid visiting on a weekend during the summer months, though.
There are a few shops that sell that usual tourist tat but most retailers offer artisan products such as ceramics, paintings and glassware. A purchase from one of these ateliers makes the perfect souvenir of Yvoire.
The French Flower Village
Flowers are very important to the villagers of Yvoire and the town is commonly referred to as the ‘French flower village’. Wandering the narrow streets (particularly from Spring through to Autumn), you’ll see a riot of colourful blooms spilling from window ledges and balconies.
In 1959 the village won first prize in a national competition for best kept villages and in 2002 it was awarded the International Trophy for Landscape and Horticulture.
The flower theme has recently been taken one step further with the opening of the Five Senses Garden. This botanical garden, housed in the former kitchen garden of the Yvoire castle, is a real delight to visit.
Different areas of the garden encourage you to use your different senses to experience the plants growing within. There are plants grown for their smell, their texture, their medicinal purposes, and those that attract insects that you can hear buzzing away.
It’s a restful place to sit and reflect.
Whilst it’s not possible to visit the castle that greeted you on arrival, there are numerous good vantage points nearby for taking photos. A smaller harbour, Port des Pecheurs, close to the castle, is a great spot to photograph this impressive building with the benefit of having the lake in the picture, too!
Towards the top of the village you’ll see the onion-shaped steeple of the Church of Saint-Pancrace. The church, on Place du Thay, is believed to date back to the 11th century, and whilst the steeple is not the original, it has been restored to reflect the steeples of the day.
Also at the top of the village are the remains of the original town gates and fortifications. Yvoire is a car-free village so visitors arriving by car must park just outside the village and enter on foot through one of the two gates.
After a few hours ambling around the narrow, pedestrian-only streets and admiring the stunning floral displays, you’ll be left in no doubt as to why Yvoire is regarded as one of the most beautiful villages in France.
Carolyn Schonafinger blogs at Holidays to Europe about her annual travels to Europe. She loves sharing her travel tips and destination ideas with her readers.