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Our seven most beautiful villages in Haute-Savoie

From Haute-Savoie we know the wonders known worldwide, from Mont-Blanc to Lake Annecy and Lake Geneva, via the ski slopes. The department of the Northern Alps is also full of sublime villages. Our selection, between lakes and mountains.

We admire Haute-Savoie for its grandiose sites, Mont Blanc, Lake Annecy or the Aiguilles du Midi. People come here for its ski resorts, Chamonix, Morzine or Chatel. It is appreciated for its spa towns, Thonon, Evian or Saint-Gervais-les-Bains. For its villages, the department is a little less known. And yet: Haute-Savoie is a land of wide open spaces, but also of traditions and history. See Yvoire, Abondance or Megève, so typical, so different.

They are on the edge of a lake, at the bottom of a valley or in the hollow of the mountain. They are posh, pastoral or medieval. They are home to wooden chalets, castles or fishing ports. All are genuine. From the shores of Lake Geneva to the mountain hinterland, here is our selection.

Samoëns, the authentic resort

With its church and its old halls, Samoëns, a renowned ski resort, is a village with an almost thousand-year-old history. ISO-68

In Samoëns, there is the hollow of a valley, the silence of the evenings and the light of the stalls. There is life, Les Halles and its market, where sheets, furs and seeds are sold on Wednesday mornings. In Samoëns, there is a soul, a large lime tree, 20 meters high and 9 m in circumference. There are its inhabitants, the Septimontains, named after the seven mountains that surround the village. In Samoëns, there is also a history and a homeland, that of the Frahans, a world-renowned brotherhood of stonemasons. She built proud houses, standing forever, in the town. In Samoëns, we are well placed, between Chamonix and Geneva, we come to ski in the Grand Massif area or hike, there are the Aiguilles Rouges at the end of the alleys, the Mont Blanc massif through the windows and the Criou at the above heads. There is the evening and there is the cold, the wind blowing, the snow at the foot of the doors, the accordions in the bars. In 2021, Samoëns was elected the most beautiful village in Haute-Savoie.

How to get there ?

Allow 2h40 by train from Paris to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine (direct) then 1h30 by car via the A40. Or 4h30 by train to Cluses (one connection) then 30 min by car via the D902 and the D4.

Yvoire, the pearl of Lake Geneva

A 700-year-old medieval city on the shores of Lake Geneva, Yvoire can be discovered through its cobbled streets, its fortifications and its colorful port. Antoine Berger, Destination Léman

And she is there, on the shores of Lake Geneva, chatelaine on its banks. It appears after a long fortified gate: Yvoire, the medieval, its half-timbered stone houses, its castle above the lake, its remarkable garden. Nickname: the pearl of Lake Geneva. Date of birth: 1306. The Count of Savoy at the time, Amédée V, known as “the great”, because of his height, sought to control the route from Geneva to Italy via the upper Rhône valley. He spots this point on the lake. Amédée V built a castle and fortifications there. 700 years later, all that remains are ramparts, a square keep, a church and its bulbous bell tower, stalls and flowery alleys. Take one at random and go down, here you are at the lake, it’s blue. There are two ports and fishing boats. From the commotion. Painters. A sight. The Jura in front, the Alps behind. This is why Yvoire is ranked among the most beautiful villages in France.

How to get there ?

Count at least 4h30 by train from Paris to Thonon-les-Bains (one or two connections) then 25 min by car via the D1005 and the D25. Or 3h15 to Geneva (direct) then 40 min by car via the D1005 and the D60. From Thonon, possibility to connect Yvoire by bike by the greenway. On site, large paying car parks.

Abundance, the modest

Located 30 kilometers from Lake Geneva and near the Swiss border, Abondance is a modest ski resort where pastoralism has retained a prominent place. Country of Evian valley of Abondance

Abondance is a peaceful resort: a reasonable altitude (1000 m), century-old farms and cows lying in the mountain pastures. They make the cheese of the same name and a dish protected by the European Union since 2019, Berthoud, a sort of fondue made from Abondance and white wine, which we will gladly tell you about at the Maison du fromage, at the entrance to the town. Here, neither flash nor show, just a celebrity: the abbey, a pure jewel of medieval art, 20,000 visitors a year. You can see it from the entrance to the town, dominating its small world, with its cloister and its Gothic architecture. It overlooks the Dranse, a magnificent torrential river that flies by at full speed, without courtesy for the surrounding peaks, the Jorat and the Chauffé. At the foot of the mountains, you feel small, modest and human. Abundance is all this at once, discretion and humility.

How to get there ?

Count at least 4h30 by train from Paris to Thonon-les-Bains (one or two connections) then 40 min by car. Or 3h15 to Geneva (direct) then 1h20 by car. From Thonon, bus connections all year round.

Megève, the elegant

With its chic rustic chalets and luxury hotels, Megève is an upscale ski resort in the Mont-Blanc massif and also a village, as you can see more easily on sunny days. adobe-stock

From the Mont d’Arbois, it shows off a bit, chic and bright. It has plenty: upscale hotels, a casino and the Mont-Blanc massif as a playground. “The most beautiful ski resort in the world”, say brochures. « 21e arrondissement of Paris”, said Jean Cocteau, who went there to recharge his batteries with his wife. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Megève has attracted crowned heads: the King of the Belgians Albert 1er and Queen Elizabeth, among others, have stayed there. Its reputation comes from a woman, Noémie de Rothschild, who built a winter sports resort there at the beginning of the 20th century. Before that, Megève lived on fields and woods. There remains a certain authenticity, chalets under the fir trees, the harshness of winter, religious buildings, the oratory of Saint-Jérôme, the Calvary or the church of Saint-Jean Baptiste. Today, people come here above all for its elegance and its worldly atmosphere, its macaroons, its horse-drawn carriage rides, its shops, its snow-covered streets and its 400 kilometers of ski area, of course.

How to get there ?

Count 4h50 by train from Paris to Sallanches-Combloux-Megève (one or two connections) then 20 min by car. Megève also has an altiport.

Talloires-Montmin, between lake and mountain

Favorite village of stars on the shores of Lake Annecy, Talloires-Montmin is bordered by crystal clear waters and green massifs. Gilles Piel, Lake Annecy tourism and conferences

Riddle. What do Empress Eugénie, Winston Churchill and Paul Cézanne have in common? A village on Lake Annecy, Talloires-Montmin. Everyone came here for its bay, its cliffs, its five ports and its three beaches. Even today, artists and celebrities acclaim its shore sheltered from the wind. The great chefs too: the village has become a high place of gastronomy. In 2017, Jean Sulpice and his wife Magali opened an inn there on the edge of the waves. What a setting: clear waters lick vertical walls, anonymous alleys lead to the lake and a church overlooks the village. The village is backed by the wooded cliffs of the Roc de Chère and posted at the foot of the Col de la Forclaz, which offers one of the most beautiful viewpoints over the waters of Annecy. A little further, a mythical summit, La Tournette, 2350 meters of grandiose. From above, you can see all the blues of Talloires, as well as its handle, round and curled up.

How to get there ?

Allow about 4 hours by train to Annecy then 30 minutes by car (caution, difficult traffic) via the D909A. Bus connections from Annecy all year round.

The most beautiful beaches of Lake Annecy

Alby-sur-Chéran, the tough cookie

Nestled at the foot of the Semnoz and at the gates of the Massif des Bauges, the medieval town of Alby-sur-Chéran is a former stronghold of Savoyard shoemaking. Gilles Piel, Lake Annecy tourism and conferences

You get there without knowing it, after a long descent and the murmur of a river. Alby-sur-Chéran is a discreet village, wrapped around its square, colorful and triangular: each house has its arcade on the ground floor, these are old shoemakers’ stalls. There were up to 300, that was a long time ago, in the 19e century, when Alby-sur-Chéran was the shoemaking capital of Savoy. There were cows to produce leather, Chéran to tanner it and flax in the fields to sew shoes. The village has always been important: it is posted between Annecy and Chambéry, on the edge of a river. In the Middle Ages, it had to be protected, defended and fortified. It has kept its medieval charm, its old streets, its fortified houses and its chapel, up there, remains of an old castle. From the hill, you can see the town, the banks and the river, which, it seems, even carries gold.

How to get there ?

Allow about 4 hours by train to Annecy then 35 minutes by car via the A41 then the D3.

Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, a wild circus

Located in the Sixt-Passy nature reserve, Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval is a typical Haute-Savoie village known for its architectural heritage and its listed natural sites. yamathom

First, there is the town centre, timid, between two shores. There are its tall stone houses and its 12th century abbey, closed in the 18e after the French invasion of Savoy. There is the silence of the people and the tumult of the torrent. There are its basins and its fountains, its oratories, its granaries and its farms. Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval is a village planted in the middle of the massifs. Then there is the setting: forests, mountain pastures and one of the most spectacular places in the department: the Cirque de Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, a huge limestone amphitheater five kilometers deep. These are steep cliffs and peaks at almost 3,000 meters. Dozens of waterfalls and a torrent in the middle. At the bottom of the circus, you are plumb, in the bowels of the earth, surrounded by eroded walls and gushing water. This place has a name: the end of the world.

How to get there ?
Allow 4h30 by train to Cluses (one connection) then 30 min by car via the D902, the D4 and the D907. Or 3h15 by train to Geneva (direct) then 1h20 by car via the A40.

SEE ALSO – The Pomerol minute: Château Petit-Village, Augustin Belloy


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