On the southern shores of Lake Geneva in France lies a small and quiet town called Thonon-Les-Bains, often simply called just Thonon. Once it was the capital of the historical district of Chablais and now, thanks to its great lakeside location and close proximity to the Alps, it’s a popular town and holiday destination both in summer and winter. Thonon became an official spa town in the 19th century, by adding “Les-Bains” to its name. Thonon Les Bains is also one of the municipalities belonging to the Chablais UNESCO Global Geopark, a remarkable natural area, between Lake Geneva and Mont Blanc. Stay with us and discover all the best things to do in Thonon-Les-Bains, France.
Thonon-les-Bains is located in France, on the southern shore of Lake Geneva (fr. Lac Léman), in the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. The town lies at an altitude of 426m a.s.l.
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10+ Things To Do In Thonon-Les-Bains, France
Thonon-Les-Bains Old Town
Thonon Les Bains Old Town is located on a small hill on the south shore of Lake Geneva. Take a lovely walk among charming colourful streets, admire the typical of this region’s French buildings, and of course spectacular views of the lake, Thonon port and Switzerland just across the lake. In the old town, you’ll find places like the Church of Saint-Hippolyte, Basilica Saint-François-de-Sales, Parc du Belvédère, and Sonnaz Castle with Chablais Museum and Tourist Office.
Church of Saint-Hippolyte & Basilica Saint-François-de-Sale
The Church of Saint-Hippolyte and Basilica Saint-François-de-Sale are two adjoining buildings.
Baroque-style Saint-Hippolyte church (fr. Église Saint-Hippolyte) is Thonon’s oldest church dating back to the 12th century, which over the years was rebuilt and restored several times.
Basilica Saint-Francois-de-Sale (fr. Saint François de Sales Basilica) is a neo-Gothic church which was supposed to replace the Saint-Hippolyte church, which was about to be demolished. Construction began in 1889 but in 1894, due to financial issues, it was postponed. Work restarted in 1920, and finally, the church was completed in 1930. The church was given the basilica title in 1993.
Belvedere Park (fr. Parc du Belvédère) is a terraced park above Lake Geneva that offers spectacular panoramic views over the lake, Thonon port, Switzerland coast, and Jura Mountains. Just sit on one of the many benches, and enjoy the views. The Belvedere Park is open all year round and there’s no entrance fee.
Since 1888 Thonon les Bains Funicular (fr. Funiculaire de Thonon-les-Bains) connects the shores of Lake Geneva with the upper part of town and it was the second funicular built in France. It helped to overcome the difficulties of communication between the city centre and the port. In 1989 funicular was automated.
Thonon-les-Bains Funicular runs from the Port de Thonon les Bains, up to the Belvedere Park. Ticket costs €1.1 for a one-way trip, and €2 for both ways (May 2023).
If you prefer to walk, there is also a footpath available but it’s quite steep so get ready for some exercise.
Sonnaz Castle with Chablais Museum & Tourist Office
Right next to Belvedere Park you’ll find Sonnaz Castle (fr. Château de Sonnaz) which was built in the 17th century, on the ruins of the mediaeval castle. Now the castle is home to Chablais Museum (fr. Musée du Chablais) and Tourist Office. In the museum, you’ll find permanent exhibitions about the region, and temporary exhibitions which change once a year.
Entrance to Chablais Museum cost: full price – €2.7, reduced price – €2.3. Also, museum is free every Sunday (May 2023). Current opening hours and prices are available on the thononlesbains.com website.
In the lower part of town, on the shores of Lake Geneva, you’ll find the port area with a promenade, many restaurants, bars and shops lining the waterfront. The place can also offer glorious views so stop for a moment and soak it up.
In port, you’ll also find open-air Fishing and Lake Ecomuseum (fr. Écomusée de la Pêche et du Lac) which is set up in three traditional fishing huts. The museum tracks the evolution of fishing techniques and displays various fishing equipment like boats, nets, and traps. In four aquariums you’ll also be able to observe the fish like trout and perches that live in the lake nearby. There’s also a display with stuffed, lake-dwelling birds. Entrance to Fishing and Lake Ecomuseum cost: full price – €2.7, reduced price – €2.3, children under 18 years old enter for free (May 2023). Current opening hours and prices are available on thononlesbains.com website.
Castle of Ripaille
A bit outside the city centre, 25 by foot or about 5-10 minutes by car, you’ll find a fine estate – Castle of Ripaille (fr. Château de Ripaille). Originally it was built in the middle of the 15th century and was the home of the Dukes of Savoy. In the 17-18th century, it was a Carthusian monastery, and then a ruin until the end of the 19th century. In 1892 a local textile factory owner, Frédéric Engel-Gros, bought the property and restored it. Since then Castle of Ripaille is in hands of the Necker-Engel family, descendants of Mr Frédéric.
Around the castle there are also 22 hectares of vineyard with Chasselas grapes, the oldest known grape originally coming from Egypt.
Ripaille Castle is open for visitors. Entrance cost: full price – €10, reduced price – €8, children under 7 years old enter for free (May 2023). Current opening hours and prices are available on the ripaille.fr website.
Activities around Lake Geneva in Thonon-Les-Bains
Do you need more things to do in Thonon Les Bains? No problem! Just tell us what you prefer: active or passive rest? Ok, it doesn’t really matter, because near Lake Geneva everyone will find something for themselves.
Sports enthusiasts can choose from activities like paddleboarding, kayaking, kayak-rafting, windsurfing, sailing, canoeing, water skiing, or just swimming. Also, there’s a possibility to rent a small boat, with or without a licence.
If you are not into watersports you can head to the lakeshore to relax, sunbathe, and take a nice refreshing dip in the lake. You can choose free beaches along the shore, or head to a paid municipal swimming pool/beach which can offer you various facilities like swimming pools, slides, and restaurants (Adult: €4.60, child: €3.60).
In our opinion, the best free beaches are right next to Ripaille Castle – it’s pebbly but quiet and it’s easy to find many shady places. It’s even possible to make a few new animal friends!
Cycling & MTB biking in Thonon-Les-Bains
In no other place we’ve visited we’ve seen so many cyclists and MTB lovers. We can’t say much in this matter but there are many cycling routes to choose from in, or near, Thonon Les Bains. Check out websites like outdooractive.com and komoot.com to discover more.
How to get to Thonon-Les-Bains, France?
Thonon-Les-Bains is located about 10km from Evian-Les-Bains, 35km from Geneva in Switzerland, 100km from Chamonix, and 75km from Annecy. The most convenient way to get to Thonon-Les-Bains is by car or by train.
Where to park in Thonon-Les-Bains?
There are a few parking lots in Thonon-Les-Bains. We left our car in this free parking lot, located only 1km, 10min by foot, from Thonon town centre.
Airports near Thonon-Les-Bains, France
The closest airports to Thonon-Les-Bains are in Geneva, Switzerland (40km away) and Lyon (190km away). Both airports have train and bus connections with Thonon. From Geneva Airport, the trip by train will take about 1.5h (€18-38), and by bus about 2.5h. From Lyon Airport, the trip by train will take about 4.5h (€40-95), and by bus about 4h (€16-22).
To Thonon-Les-Bains by train
France is very well connected by trains. For example, the journey from Paris to Thonon-Les-Bains lasts about 4.5 hours and costs €85-110. From Geneva, Switzerland it’s 40min for €18-35; from Evian-Les-Bains it’s 10min for €3-24, and from Lyon it’s 3.5h for €26-75. To learn more about train connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Thonon-Les-Bains by bus
You can also get to Thonon-Les-Bains by bus. For example, the journey from Evian-Les-Bains will take about 15min and will cost €6-9. From Geneva, the journey takes about 1h and only 20min from Yvoire for €6. To learn more about bus connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Thonon-Les-Bains by ferry
You can also get to Thonon-Les-Bains by ferry from Lausanne, Switzerland. The journey will take about 50min and will cost €20-28.
Camping in Thonon-Les-Bains, France
If you’re travelling by camper you’ll probably be glad to know that there are a few camping sites near Thonon Les Bains. Here are some of them (all cost a bit):
Thonon-Les-Bains, France Summary
Now you know what all the best things to do in Thonon Les Bains in France are. Hope you’ll have there as amazing time as we had. Because you know, we lived there for 1.5 months, fell in love with this place, and until today we miss all the stunning views and sunsets. Anyway… See for yourself 🙂
Restaurants, accommodations, and map
Check out various recommended places below.
Where to eat in Thonon-Les-Bains?
Here are your best, high-rated options in Thonon-Les-Bains:
Where to sleep in Thonon-Les-Bains?
Résidence Les Baladines
Résidence Les Baladines offers comfortable and affordable apartment-style accommodations with fully equipped kitchens and a garden terrace for guests to enjoy. Its location in the heart of Thonon-Les-Bains also makes it a convenient base for exploring the town and nearby Lake Geneva.
Appart’City offers modern and well-equipped apartments with a kitchenette and a fitness center for guests to use. Its location close to the train station and Thonon center makes it a convenient choice for both leisure and business travelers visiting Thonon-Les-Bains.
Le Comte Rouge
Le Comte Rouge is a charming and cozy hotel with comfortable rooms and a lovely terrace offering views of Lake Geneva. Its central location in Thonon-Les-Bains also provides easy access to the town's attractions, including the thermal baths and the marina.
Hotel Les Marronniers
Hotel Les Marronniers is a charming and cozy hotel in Thonon-Les-Bains, offering comfortable rooms and a peaceful garden terrace perfect for relaxing after a day of exploring the town and Lake Geneva. Its location in the heart of the town also makes it a convenient base for discovering the surrounding mountains and nearby ski resorts.
ibis Styles Thonon-Les-Bains offers stylish and comfortable accommodations with modern amenities such as a fitness center and a bar. Its central location in the town also provides easy access to Lake Geneva and the surrounding area for outdoor activities and sightseeing.
Accommodations photos source: booking.com