576km (357 miles) SW of Paris; 42km (26 miles) NE of Geneva
On the château-dotted southern shore of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), Évian-les-Bains is one of the leading spa resorts in France. Its lakeside promenade, lined with trees and lawns, has been fashionable since the 19th century. Évian’s waters became famous in the 18th century, and the first spa buildings were built in 1839. Bottled Evian is considered useful in everything from spa products to salt-free diets and is seen as a treatment for gout and arthritis.
In the days when Marcel Proust came to enjoy the Belle Epoque grandeur, Évian was the haunt of the very rich. Proust modeled his “Balbec baths” on Évian’s. Today the spa, with its promenade and elegant casino, attracts a broader range of guests—it’s no longer just for the rich.
Évian, thanks to its imposing Ville des Congrès (Convention Hall) and numerous meetings facilities at its hotels, has earned the resort the title of “City of Conventions.” From late April to September, the lakeside Nautical Center (www.lacitedeleau.com; tel. 04-50-75-02-69) is a popular attraction; it has a 115m (377-ft.) pool with a diving stage and water slide, solarium, restaurant, bar, and children’s paddling pool.
Crescent-shaped Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) is the largest lake in central Europe. Covering about 362 sq. km (141 sq. miles), the lake is formed by the Rhône River and is noted for its exceptional blue color. As such, the major excursion from Évian is a boat trip on the lake offered by the Compagnie Générale de Navigation (CGN; www.cgn.ch), a Swiss outfit whose agent is in Évian. Call the port office directly at tel. 04-50-70-73-20. A round-trip ticket from Évian to Lausanne in Switzerland costs 34€, 17€ for children 6 to 16. Contact the company or head for the Office de Tourisme for other prices and hours. If you want to see it all, you can tour both Haut-Lac and Grand-Lac. The most popular trip is the crossing from Évian to Lausanne-Ouchy, Switzerland (the port for Lausanne), on the north side.