Lake Geneva is the largest lake in Western Europe. Located at an altitude of 372 m, it is situated between France and Switzerland. Many remarkable sites are worth a visit.
Geography and history of a large Alpine lake
This large crescent-shaped Alpine lake is dominated by the Alps. At its southern end is Geneva with its old cobbled town, its large luxury shops and the United Nations. On the 53 km of French shoreline, Thonon-les-Bains and Evian-les-Bains are famous spas. The Swiss Riviera stretches from Lausanne to Montreux on the northern shore, crossing the cantons of Vaud and Valais.
The name “Léman” means lake. It is therefore a pleonasm that has existed since the Romans and Julius Caesar, who called it“lacus lemanus“. Geographically, the lake is 72 km long and 14 km wide. It is fed by the Rhône River, which flows from east to west, and was formed about 16,000 years ago when the Rhône glacier retreated during the last ice age. Its maximum depth is 300 metres. The lake’s fauna consists of perch, perch, pike, trout and arctic char.
The tour of the lake by the most beautiful sites
During your holiday, you can enjoy small typical villages, beautiful beaches and big cities, while touring Lake Geneva.
This large Swiss city at the gateway to France is well worth a visit. Many museums, such as the Natural History Museum and the CERN Museum are fascinating. You can also visit the United Nations site and take a walk near the famous jet d’eau. For shopping enthusiasts, there are many brand-name shops in the city.
This large and dynamic city is located in the canton of Vaud. It is the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee. You can start with a stroll along the lakefront, then visit the Aquatys water park and head for the hilly old town. The latter is made up of medieval streets and a Gothic cathedral dating from the 12th century.
The Lavaux Terraces
This remarkable natural site is located between Nyon and Lausanne. It is made up of gentle slopes that descend to the edge of the lake. The Terrasses de Lavaux are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A panoramic bus offers a 4-hour tour of the wine region, followed by a tasting of world-renowned grands crus.
Continuing the loop, we arrive in Montreux. It is known for its casino, its jazz festival and its Christmas market. Cruises on the lake are organised from the port. A statue of Freddie Mercury, located on the lakeside, reminds us that the singer of Queen recorded an album in this town.
This oval-shaped building was built in the Middle Ages on an island. In the museum you can see period furniture, weapons and armour, paintings and archaeological objects. The keep and the treasure room are linked to the main buildings by the walkways. From the underground passages to the banqueting rooms, a journey back in time awaits you.
The town ofEvian-les-Bains is a renowned spa town which produces the mineral water of the same name. We advise you to take the funicular to visit the botanical garden of the Pré Curieux, the Palais des Lumières and to stroll along the quays. A cruise on the sailing boat “Le Savoie” is a rare moment. It is a reconstruction of a ship from 1896.
The pearl of Lake Geneva is a remarkable medieval town, entirely pedestrianised. Its superb castle gives a unique charm to this visit. The Jardin des Cinq Sens (Garden of the Five Senses) offers the opportunity to discover a magnificent flora. A passage through the port allows you to admire the paddle steamers leaving for Lausanne. We recommend tasting the perch fillets.
The 10 most beautiful hotels
We have selected the ten most beautiful hotels around Lake Geneva which offer excellent value for money and which receive very good reviews from guests. These hotels are presented to you in the geographical direction of the tour of the lake that we have followed above.
Royal Manotel in Geneva
This good quality hotel is a 5 minute walk from the Geneva-Cornavin station, the old town and Lake Geneva. The rooms are decorated with period furniture. The hotel has a sauna, a hammam and a gym. The restaurant has a Michelin star.
From € 159 per night.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel de la Paix in Geneva
This prestigious 5-star hotel is located just a 5-minute walk from the old town and the main attractions. The rooms are decorated in the style of early 20th-century palaces. Valet parking, concierge service and 24-hour room service are available.
From € 690 per night.
Agora Swiss Night by Fassbind in Lausanne
This beautiful, modern hotel is a 3-minute walk from the train station and 15 minutes from the beach. It has a spa and a gym. The dining room offers a panoramic view of the lake, the Jura and the Alps. Tip: a card is provided to take advantage of public transport in Lausanne.
From € 107 per night.
Moxy Lausanne City
A contemporary decoration, for a hotel that stands out. The location is ideal for visiting the city. You are located 1.4 km from the Palais Beaulieu. Enjoy the many shops, bars and restaurants.
From € 120 per night.
A magnificent view of the shores of Lake Geneva awaits you at this beautiful 4-star hotel. The restaurant serves fine cuisine. It is located only 300 metres from the railway station and the port of Montreux. Private indoor parking is available at an additional cost.
Prices start at € 173 per night.
Hotel du Grand Lac Excelsior de Montreux
This beautiful hotel enjoys a privileged location on the banks of Lake Geneva, quai des Fleurs. It was built in 1907 in the Belle Époque style. You can appreciate the real stained glass windows from the Art Deco period. The rooms open onto a balcony, with a view of the Alps.
From € 175 per night.
This beautiful 4-star hotel offers guests the opportunity to stay on the shores of Lake Geneva. It features an indoor swimming pool and a luxurious spa, which is included with some rooms. The rooms are equipped with beautiful marble bathrooms.
From € 142 per night.
Hôtel Royal d’Evian
A 5-star palace to enjoy French luxury. Within a 47-hectare park, you can enjoy a golf course, 2 swimming pools, the Evian Source spa with hammam, aquagym, sauna, jacuzzi and fitness room. A shuttle bus takes you everywhere in the city centre.
From € 340 per night.
Hotel Ermitage d’Evian
This 4-star hotel is a haven of peace. It features 2 swimming pools, a spa, a jacuzzi and gym facilities. You will have access to an herbal tea room, 2 restaurants and a piano bar. Children will enjoy a 4,000 m² playground. Private parking and shuttle bus.
From € 228 per night.
Hotel Le Jules Verne in Yvoire
This beautiful 4-star hotel is located in the centre of Yvoire, facing the lake. It has a large shaded terrace where you can enjoy the famous perch fillets. The rooms are very spacious. Dinner cruises are available upon prior reservation.
From € 129 per night.
The most beautiful beaches of Lake Geneva
In the summer, when the weather is hot, Lake Geneva offers beautiful beaches with shaded areas, leisure facilities and parking. There are more beaches on the French side, as in Switzerland most of the lakefronts are privately owned. An overview of the best spots:
- The beach at Tougues in Chens-sur-Léman: it has a large lawn with playgrounds for children, century-old trees for picnics in the shade and PRM access.
- The beach at Messery: a large grassy esplanade with a gentle slope and a pebbled bottom. The beach is not supervised and dogs are not allowed.
- Excenevex beach: the only real white sand beach on Lake Geneva. Supervised in July and August, it is 200m long. A wide choice of restaurants is available, as well as paddle and pedal boat hire. Access for disabled people in wheelchairs.
- La Châtaigneraie beach in Yvoire: this large 24-hectare estate has two beaches, one with sand and the other with small pebbles. Beautiful chestnut trees protect from the sun. A lake circuit allows for a beautiful walk.
- The beach of Sciez: it is accessible to PRM. Swimming is supervised in summer. You will find playgrounds, table tennis tables and petanque courts. The bottom of the water is made of pebbles.
- Séchex beach in Anthy-sur-Léman: a rather wild area with shaded areas. You can eat in the many establishments nearby.
- Plage de Rives in Anthy-sur-Léman: this beach is a combination of the Records and Corzent beaches. There are picnic tables, playgrounds and a volleyball court. The customs path offers a nice walk to the port of Séchex.
- Plage de la Pinède in Thonon-les-Bains: close to the Château de Ripaille, it is a succession of small pleasant beaches with a pebbled water bottom. A path leads to the next beach.
- Saint-Disdille beach in Thonon-les-Bains: it was awarded the Blue Flag in 2010. Swimming is supervised, picnic tables are available and there is a playground for the youngest. From the beach, you may be able to see the Dragon Ladies of Lake Geneva practising their Dragon Boat on the lake.
On the other side of the border, there are fewer beaches in Switzerland. However, we recommend the following:
- The Genève-Plage aquatic complex: offers many family activities and relaxation in a two-hectare wooded park.
- Les Bains des Pâquis: this is not a beach, but an aquatic area located in the harbour of Geneva, right in the city centre.
- The beaches of Vidy and Bellerive in Lausanne: these two beautiful spaces are convivial and equipped to enjoy the lake with the family. Pools are also installed.
- The Pierrier beach in Montreux: renowned for the quality of its facilities. It is the city’s large municipal beach.
Cultural and festive events around the lake
The Lake Geneva region is rich in events. Throughout the year, festivals, concerts, original shows and big parties are organised on both sides of the French-Swiss border. You’ll be spoilt for choice to entertain yourself according to your aspirations and tastes.
- The Montreux Jazz Festival: its growing success has made it the second biggest jazz event in the world. For a fortnight each year, it welcomes the most renowned jazz and blues artists for free and paying concerts.
- Les Rencontres Musicales d’Évian: this chamber music festival is particularly well known among amateurs. In the magnificent setting of the Grange du Lac, it offers concerts and master classes at the beginning of July.
- The Geneva International Film Festival “Tous Écran”: this annual event is organised in the autumn. It allows the general public to observe the links between television, the big screen and new forms of image projection.
- The Lake Geneva Festival: this great show takes place in the harbour of Geneva in August. The atmosphere is festive with colourful evenings, world cuisine to discover and a great fireworks display on the lake.
- The Montreux Comedy Festival: this is the big meeting place for comedians and stand-up artists. The festival takes place in December and attracts an ever-growing audience.
- The Festival de la cité de Lausanne: organised at the beginning of the summer, it brings together more than 160 performances of live shows in unlikely places in the city.
- The fabulous Flottins d’Évian village: in December, large-scale works are created from pieces of driftwood found in the lake. Theatre workshops are offered to the young public.
We have come to the end of our tour around Lake Geneva. You can now discover Lake Annecy and the Little Venice of the Alps.