Lake Geneva (Lac Léman)

Max. Length 72.8 km
Max. Width 13.8 km
Surface Area 582.4 sq km
Average Depth 154.4m
Max. Depth 310 m
Surface Elevation 372 m

Lake Geneva – known in France as Lac Léman – is the biggest lake in Western Europe. Lake Geneva's north, west and east banks are bordered with Switzerland and its south by the French Haute-Savoie department. Two famous towns of the latter are Thonon les Bains and Evian les Bains.

The lake was formed about 150,000 years ago thanks to the Rhône glacier melting. Lake Geneva creates a micro-climate creating milder winters and refreshing summers locally. Since the 1970's the water quality has improved. Surrounded by the Alps, this crescent shaped lake is located in a touristic area and has lots on offer. It boasts so many assets and because of its size it is nicknamed "the pocket ocean".

Tourism and Culture

There are numerous places of interest to discover in the Lake Geneva area, here are some of them:

  • Yvoire: this fortified and flowered village is clearly worth a visit. On the French shore of Lake Geneva, it has played a strategic role during the 14th century and its colourful past has left its stamp on the town. It has several lovely monuments, such as the Yvoire castle or the Saint Pancrace church but above all the "5 Senses Gardens", allowing the visitors into a dream-like world.
  • Chillon castle: famous for being the setting of "The new Heloise" of J.J Rousseau and "The Prisoner of Chillon" of Lord Byron, it is the most visited historic monument in Switzerland. Marked with a romantic atmosphere, strolling within its winding stairs and medieval halls alone will allow you to jump back in time.
  • Evian-les-Bains: life in this haute-savoyarde town is based on water. Its thermal baths are internationally renowned and its water is famous worldwide. Besides this the town has a rich cultural heritage; the Palais Lumière is a 600sq m cultural centre welcoming many exhibitions and various events all year round. The town is also known for its beautiful Masters Golf Club.
  • Léman museum: located in Nyon (Switzerland), this museum is dedicated to the Lake. It tells the history of the lake through different permanent and temporary exhibitions. It also aims at making people aware of the actual challenges in terms of nature preservation.
  • Thonon-les-Bains: on the edge of the Lake Geneva, this spa town is appreciated for its rich cultural heritage and its very pleasant environment. Whether for its outstanding sacred art monuments, its museums dedicated to local traditions or its hilltop gardens looking out on the lake, Thonon boasts a lifestyle worth discovering.

Lake Geneva Activities

Around 20,000 boats are moored on the Lake Geneva. The lake is commonly used for transportation, but also for fishing and boating. The lake welcomes the Bol d´Or competition, where the winner is the quickest to round trip between Geneva and Le Bouveret. Two regattas are organized on the lake: the Translémanique en Solitaire in September and the "5 days of the lian", the longest endurance race on a lake in Europe.

The Lake offers a wide range of water activities: monoski, water skiing, wakeboard, snorkelling, lake sailing and many more. However, please note that jet skiing is forbidden for safety reasons. Swimmers have at their disposal more than 100 beaches where the water quality is regularly checked. The most famous beaches on the French side are Plage de Beauregard, Plage d´Excenevex and Plage du Port de Plaisance. Some of the beaches boast amazing facilities enabling several activities. Fishing, parachuting or paragliding above the lake are also must-dos.

Numerous cruises are organized on the lake for you to enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Several options are on offer: on board a Belle Epoque boat, discovering the Alps or on the trail of the local wines... Gourmet cruises are also available, with, for instance, fondues festivals. You can also rent a private boat to give your celebrations a special touch.

Lake Geneva is the scene of several festive events especially in summer for the Geneva celebration. Its quays welcome a brilliant funfair and local gastronomy has pride of place with among others a giant fondue. An aerial show upon the lake is also to be enjoyed but the most outstanding event is the pyromélodiques firework display. They follow a different theme each year and are accompanied with enchanting music. The Swiss capital is very close from the Haute-Savoie border, taking less than an hour when leaving from the French shore.