A magnificent and still wild lake, ancient palaces, very special hotels, culture and good restaurants: immersed in the history and art of living of the Savoyard spa resort.
Another way to see Aix-les-Bains? Graffiti artist Julien Accerani (Kamo) has been decorating walls for years. Today he invites urban art artists to cover the spa town’s market – and he is authorized. From January 8 to 12, 2024, come to Place Clemenceau to see SuperStop in action and discover its creation, which will cover graffiti by former artist Pyrate on display in this ephemeral open-air gallery. This will be the 11th fresco to be displayed on the Wall of Aix-Les-Bains; the 40th French Wall (49), also the largest (50 × 19 m). Monumental. Each artist is discovered thanks to cartels spread across the market. Each remains on display for three months in this popular and now cultural location.
“Curious”, some will say because it is located in the heart of a city known for the classic elegance of its ancient palaces. The contrast is surprising but obvious. The Wall is being erected in line with the municipality’s cultural project. This city of art and history historically contains other treasures, in place of its Faure Museum, of which you can see the temporary exhibition “Alfred Boucher’s donation to the city of Aix-les-Bains (1945)” until January 7th.
Sculptures and paintings are gathered around the latest acquisition: At the finish line, one of Alfred Boucher’s famous works, which won him a medal at the Universal Exhibition of 1889. “Aix-les-Bains is exposed”, this is the other exhibition to see from January 19th. Where we understand how, from 1880 onwards, the city asserted its identity in the face of competition from European holiday spots, commissioning works from renowned painters or illustrators, and praising its beauty.
What to visit and what to do in Aix-les-Bains?
BELLE EPOQUE PALACES AND GREAT HOTELS
If Aix-les-Bains reveals the elegance of its façade, you need to be accompanied to enter its intimacy and discover its hidden side. Here is the well-kept splendor of its palaces, today private condominiums: the emblematic Splendide (1882), Excelsior (1906), Royal (1914). These so-called “coteaux” palaces, with their unique eclectic, baroque, rococo and neoclassical styles, were connected by a corridor on the ground floor. In the Royal’s dining room, with its dome and floral stained glass windows, or on the Splendide’s terrace, we dream of leisure. As if, at any moment, the wealthy Belle Époque spa guests could still wander around. A sweet scent of the art of living well perfumes Aix-les-Bains. Other witnesses: its thermal baths and its casino. If the first cannot be visited, it is worth entering the second even without planning to make a fortune. We gained a sense of admiration upon discovering this classified monument, like in a museum. Look up to admire the beauty of its dome and its Italian mosaic vaults, the glass roof by Jac Galland, an ode to Art Nouveau with its irises and chestnut leaves. The Casino Grand Cercle (1847) houses a red and gold Italian theater; a jewel worthy of this place of worldliness.
The Maharaja of Baroda, Emperor Don Pedro II, Empress Elizabeth of Austria and, of course, Queen Victoria are among the royalty who have visited the spa town. A visit to “Lesbulles d’Aix” is also dedicated to the latter. Another path for the senses, starting from Place Mollard: awaken your palate at chocolatier Sébastien Fautrelle with his creation with flavors from the lake, and at Café des Bains, an institution (1881) known for smoked salmon, homemade pies and the joy of live music by Valérie and Bruno to whom the descendant of the founder (J.-M. Gaime) entrusted the keys. Still guided by Amélie Pilon-Spena, discover the secret of the Grand Hôtel, built in 1853 by the architect Pellegrini. JP Morgan is said to have learned of the sinking of his ship, the Titanic, in his family’s suite. The tour continues as for spa guests of all times, in the floral park of the thermal baths, following in the footsteps of Lamartine, also a lover of Aix-les-Bains.
Visits: “The bubbles of Aix” (1 hour) and Les Balades (6 circuits of 1 hour and 30 minutes). Aix-les-Bains Riviera des Alpes tourist office: Tel.: 04 79 88 68 00. aixlesbains-rivieradesalpes.com
RODIN, PISSARRO, CÉZANNE, DEGAS… AT THE FAURE MUSEUM
A ten-minute walk from the center, on the slopes, stands the Villa des Chimères (1906); a treasure for its Italian architecture and for what it preserves: a collection of first-rate works of art bequeathed to the city in 1949 by pharmacist Jean Faure and signed by Pissarro, Degas, Cézanne, Rodin. The contents of the Faure Museum can be explored independently or on a guided tour. Here is the largest Auguste Rodin collection after the Rodin museums in Paris and Meudon: 34 original bronzes, marbles, stones and plaster, as well as 13 watercolor drawings. The city aims to be a showcase for his works: in 2026, La Villa Collection d’art will be born after a rehabilitation and expansion of the building (orangery). An architecture competition is launched.
WORKSHOP: IN THE XAVIER JACQUELINE DOMAIN
Justine, Mathilde and Xavier are the three winegrowers and they have that precious thing: putting their heart into the nectar they make in their urban winery in Aix-les-Bains. And share the fruit of their passion and their land, which they cultivate organically 365 days a year, with their family, their daughters and their father. To be found in the cellar, or at the foot of its vineyards that flourish between the Chambotte viewpoint and Lake Bourget. They organize tastings of their eight AOP wines, combined with local cheeses and sometimes lively, accompanied by theater or yoga. A piece of advice: stay overnight at the property in one of the two cozy rooms.
Sales at the property from Monday to Saturday, from 5pm to 7pm. 7, Saint-Simond path. Such. 06 76 94 30 60. xavierjacqueline.com
CHARLÈNE JOANNARD, CERAMIST
Its single-edged citrus juicer is one of its central pieces, created by a ceramist who chose to build her studio on the heights of Aix-les-Bains (Pugny-Chatenod), in perfect coherence with the meditative side of her art. . She creates timeless stoneware pieces with clean lines. A know-how shared during the internships, and sought in particular by the Léo-Paul restaurant, which will soon receive its monumental handcrafted chandelier (400 petals). This December, you can also meet the artist at pop-up craft shops she started with her “creative class.”
People come there for its monumental and architectural beauty, isolated on the shores of Lake Bourget, and for its history, nine hundred years of prayer, community life and art. It was around 1139 that the Cistercian abbot Amédée de Clermont had it built with the help of the counts of Savoy, whose necropolis it is. A notable place also for artists, including Lamartine, who set his autobiographical novel Raphaël (1849) there. Its treasures (paintings, statues, frescoes) can be discovered throughout the year. Unusual: arrive by boat from the Grand Port of Aix-les-Bains (June to September).
In Saint-Pierre-de-Curtille. Visits from Wednesday to Sunday, from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm hautecombe.chemin-neuf.fr
EXCURSIONS: FROM GREEN TO GLASS IN CHAUTAGNE
Just head north up the lake and head west to reach Chautagne. From the blue of the lake we move to green, dyed according to the seasons. Two favorite stops: Chanaz, a small town of character on the banks of the Savière canal that connects the lake to the Rhône, and Jongieux, land of vineyards.
In Chanaz we dive into alleys animated by generous artisans. Roaster, chocolatier, brewer, potters, painters meet during the tour that takes you to the heritage of “Little Savoyard Venice”: the Gallo-Roman Museum and its potters of Portout, the Boigne house, the walnut and hazelnut mill. In Jongieux (250 ha of vineyard), we tasted the nectar of this village classified in the Prieuré winery (five generations), which produces marestel, a white wine from the plot. And we enjoyed the table of chef Michaël Arnoult (Les Morainières, 2 stars).
caveau-chautagne. with ; les-morainieres.com
Where to sleep in Aix-les-Bains?
HOTEL BELLE EPOQUE
Opened this year, this 4-star hotel is historic (former post office hotel, 1896). A two-minute walk from Place Mollard and Parc des Thermes, the location is ideal for enjoying the experience and style of the Belle Époque. You have to ring the doorbell to be welcomed as a guest. Eight bedrooms occupy the three floors: each has its own style.
Preferred for attic rooms, Boudoir with its carpet of butterflies, and Riva, an ode to Lake Bourget; on the second floor, the Charleston suite bathes us in Art Deco. Velvet, parquet flooring and silk coexist with designer furniture: a jewel. Just like the large and unique terrace in the heart of Aix-les-Bains.
Superior double room: from €180; Luxury (220€); suites (€250). Davat Street, 7. hotel-belle-epoque.com
Expect to experience much more than just a night in a hotel. And plan to stay longer there to learn about its history and objects presented by Jean-Michel Belin, owner and collector, who pays tribute to the illustrious people who stayed at the Dr.’s residence. Everyone came to take the waters of Aix-les-Bains (Queen Victoria, George I, Elizabeth III, etc.). They can be discovered in the small living room, and have a bedroom suite to their name (fifteen in total). Each guest can immerse themselves in their destination thanks to books written by the owner of the house. The decor is luxurious with velvet, wood and marble. And the taps? gold ? Worthy of a 4-star superior, with its beautiful and good restaurant, its 5 hectare park, its spa, its wine cellar (5,000 references), its library (4,000 books) and its cigar smoking room: a art of Living.
Room from €200, exclusive Queen Victoria suite: €480. 48, impasse des Couduriers, 73100 Grésy-sur-Aix. chateaubrachet. with
Where to sit?
Only 40 seats and an intimate, traditional and refined simplicity service. Veal sweetbreads and Grand Marnier soufflé are the specialties of chef Gilles Bionay (starred for eighteen years); “A chef in the kitchen”, as Laurie Chotard, daughter of Catherine Aitis, the founder, who fulfilled her dream by taking over the Grand Hôtel du Parc and creating the Léo-Paul restaurant and the M. Charles lounge bar (her grandchildren) says. . A welcoming atmosphere and colorful notes on the plate accompanied by a glass of Perle du lac (Domaine Xavier Jacqueline) for a sparkling meal. A prescribed table, lunch and dinner.
Card from €22. Menus from €57 to €92. 30, Rue de Chambéry. Such. : 04 79 61 80 00. maison-lina.com
A sure bet: its panoramic location, the view of the lake and the mountains that surround it, its historic building with its Art Deco architecture and its dishes, essential for a brasserie. On the menu, the deviled egg appears right away. And at the top of the market menu, truffled pasta is at the forefront of the specialties, just as the selection of local cheeses serves the emblematic ones (tome des Bauges, tamié and beaufort AOP). The Brasserie is located in the heart of the old aquarium of Lake Bourget, with Aqualis as its neighbor, the interpretation center of Lake Bourget, to be discovered before or after a gourmet dive.
Mercado Menu €29, Aquarium Menu €44. Le Petit Port, 1250, avenue Robert-Barrier. Such. 04 79 53 26 22. brasserielaquarium.com