Lake Geneva, or Lac Léman, as it is often called here in Switzerland, is one of Europe’s largest lakes. Located in southwestern Switzerland, Lake Geneva also borders France and is surrounded by the majestic Chablais Alps on the southern side and the Bernese Alps on its eastern end. It’s possible to ride the lake’s 112 miles in one day, but I wouldn’t recommend it. There are too many beautiful towns and parks to visit along the way.
On the Swiss side, the bicycle route, Route 1 is well marked. We took two leisurely rides using this route—once to the east and once to the west. Both bicycle rides offered terrific views and some nice, protected cycling paths. However, there are many options, which make it easy to get off the route, but never lost.
For our first ride, we headed east towards the city of Lausanne. We rode along the lake on a nice, wide and paved path that took us past parks and small boat marinas. There is good signage along the way.
Every once in awhile, the bike path goes back to the main road, so we cheated a bit and took the hiker’s route. The path gets very narrow and is probably best for pedestrians only. At those places, we always rode slowly with a foot free to stop at any time. There are several signs in French that remind us riders that the pedestrian is “king”. We took our rides on the weekdays so we wouldn’t have to compete with too many walkers along the way.
This route took us through the small town of Préverenges, which is a popular spot for swimming, kayaking and sailing. Although the weather is cooling down, there were plenty of sun worshipers on the beach. This would be a good place to stop and have a swim— or grab a beer, lunch or an ice cream.
Next, we rode past beautiful lake homes until we were taken away from the lake to get to the center of Saint Sulpice, a few blocks uphill from the lake. The town is very small, but we found a nice cafe with excellent burgers and pomme frites. From the street it looked like a dull spot, but it had a large terrace in the back, with views of the lake below. It was a popular spot for the locals and the food was great.
Afterwards, we road back down to the lake to find the 12th century Romanesque church Saint-Marie-Madeline. The doors were open and we could visit this simple, but beautiful church and its old frescos. Outside, we could walk to the public park with views of Evian Les Bains (France) and the Alps across the lake. There is another nice restaurant in this location. The outdoor area faced the public park and offered nice views of the lake.
Another day, we took a longer ride heading west towards Geneva. We had been told that we should go to Rolles for some of the lake’s famous perch (for lunch). Because we got a late start and we took some wrong routes, we only ended up as far as Perroy.
The Swiss signs show options for both hiking and riding. The blue signs with numbers indicate the best bicycle riding routes. Our route was number 1, but some other routes were also listed. Sometimes, we stayed on the hiking route so that we could enjoy the lake a bit more. We found out why this is not always a good idea. A few miles after Morges, the path got very narrow and muddy. But, once we had decided on the trail, we had no options for getting off of it for quite awhile. The path led past private homes along the lake and there seemed to be no way out. Although it was scenic, I wouldn’t recommend going this way. The marked bike path is the way to go.
We finally got off our muddy trail and found Route 1 that took us up the hills into the vineyards behind Saint Prex. We enjoyed our better views of the lake and the small neighborhoods with very little traffic. We only had to spend a short time on one busy road near the Chateau de Allaman. Most of the time we had a bike lane, but for a short time, we had to share the road with the cars. The motorists always gave us plenty of room and seemed quite courteous.
After an easy climb, we arrived in Perroy, a tiny village among the vineyards with several old wineries and a few spots to have lunch. After climbing a few hills, we were ready for a break. Also, it was already 2 p.m. and this looked like that last opportunity for a real lunch.
We chose La Passade, which was serving perch from the lake. Perches du Lac Léman is the official name of this specialty of the region. We didn’t make it to Rolle, but we enjoyed the best salad, perch and fries yet. Although it wasn’t cheap, we were glad we stopped at this cosy spot with excellent food and friendly people.
The ride back home went much faster when we used the proper route. It follows the train tracks past vineyards and farmlands, back through the town of Saint-Prex. This is another picture-perfect town that makes you feel like you’ve landed in France. We enjoyed walking through the quiet old town as we admired every quaint building. We finished our walk at the edge of the lake where we found the town pier and a small park. Although parts of Lake Geneva are closed off due to private ownership, each town seems to have a beautiful lakeside park with public access. I think Saint-Prex was one of the prettiest stops along our route.
Switzerland Mobility is a great site for getting information on cycling routes in Switzerland.