Evian is one of France’s most famous brands of bottled water and it comes from the French resort of Evian-les-Bains, on the shores of Lake Geneva. People came here in the 19th century to take the waters and it’s still a bustling resort. Surprisingly, the three star Hotel Les Cygnes is the only hotel situated on the Lake Geneva waterfront and was once the location of the bottling plant for Graziella, a rival water brand. The present building was constructed in what they call ‘English Cottage Style’ in 1926 and has enchanting views across the lake to Lausanne. You can swim here as it has its own beach and you can even moor your boat on their private pontoon.
There are just 36 rooms and I get one on the second floor with a lake view from its balcony. There’s no lift and I climb the stairs past old photographs chronicling the hotel’s history. It’s one of those places with knick knacks scattered everywhere and seems a mite old fashioned. Fortunately everything in my room is bang up to date, a result of recent refurbishment, but they’ve still managed to preserve that French old world charm.
Evian itself, around a kilometre’s walk away, still has its thermal baths, funicular, theatre and casino, although the passenger steamers on the lake have been replaced by fast modern ferries. It’s a lively place, built on various levels and crammed with bars and restaurants and you can visit the famous spring. The story goes that the Marquis of Lessert drank the water here in 1789 and it cured his kidney and liver problems. The landowner started selling the water and the first ‘Evian Baths’ appeared in 1824, with bottled water following a few years later.
Back at the hotel, I make use of most of the facilities although I’ve no appetite for mini-golf and the swimming pool is rather tiny. Instead I take a number of refreshing dips in the lake and sunbathe on the terrace, watching the boats go by. They also offer thalassotherapy and thermal cures but I’m content with the lake water.
There are two restaurants here, the simpler ‘bistro’ and the more refined ‘gastronomique’, which has sunset views over the lake. It’s a beautiful evening so I sit outside, and enjoy the gastronomy. Crayfish with asparagus mousse, fillets of perch fresh from the lake, and a tasty cheeseboard make for an excellent meal. I must give a special mention to the French fries which are the best chips I’ve had in a long time. Service is attentive but not fussy, and the wine list is extensive.
One feature which is worth mentioning is their copious breakfast buffet, with a wide variety of cured meat and fish and a selection of cheeses, as well as the usual bread and patisseries. And just in case you haven’t had enough of the lake view, you can sit outside and eat far too much. There’s ample parking but do be aware there’s no lift, so ask for a room on the lower floors.
Hotel Les Cygnes is part of Logis Hotels.
Hotel*** Les Cygnes
8 Avenue de Grande Rive
33 (0)4 50 75 01 01