A spa resort between lake and mountains

Aix-les-Bains, Casino © T.Joly
Once a favourite of the European aristocracy, Aix-les-Bains is a charming thermal town offering cures for people suffering from rheumatisms and respiratory illnesses as well as well being programs. In addition, the surroundings are a marvellous playground for many outdoor activities.

[ Practical ]

Getting there
- By road
575 km from Paris on autoroutes A6, A46, A43 and A41 till Aix-les-Bains.
- By train
TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Aix-les-Bains. The journey takes about 3 hours.
- Hotel
Les Suites du Lac
Orient Hotel
Palais des Fleurs
Le Manoir
Auberge Saint Simond
Mercure Acquaviva
Le 59
Le Manoir
Délices d’Adelphia
La Bonne Fourchette
Les Platanes
Tire Bouchon
Thermes Nationaux
Tel : 0810443332
Thermes de Marlioz
Tel : 0825825528
- Savoie – Mont Blanc
Tel : 0820007374
- Aix-les-Bains Tourist Office
Tel : 0479886800
When one searches for Aix-les-Bains on a map, the first thing that one notices is its location on the edge of the Bourget Lake. However, it’s only during the 19th century that the town started to expand along the waterfront. Before that, for millenniums, it only developed on the first slopes on the Revard Mount, around thermal springs that made it famous and prosperous.

Aix-les-Bains, Arc de Campanus © T.Joly
 France’s third largest thermal resort
The oldest ones, where shoots out a 46°C water renowned for its anti rheumatism properties, are known since the 4th century BC. They were discovered by Celts, soon followed by Romans who built a splendid bath complex, enlarged and embellished the town. Besides, a cold water healing respiratory illnesses and flowing from a spring at Marlioz locality is also used since the mid 19th century.
Cures being reimbursed by the Securite Sociale (French welfare system) since 1950, Aix-les-Bains hosts 30 000 patients per year and is France’s third largest thermal resort. In the 80’s it was even the first one as the attendance rose to more than 50 000 people per year. But its real heyday was between 1850 and the 30s. At that time, its fame extended well beyond the borders and crowned heads as well as rich and wealthy from all over the world came there to take the waters.

Thermes Nationaux © T.Joly
 Visits by Queen Victoria
The town began to be fashionable in the early 19th century after visits by Napoleon’s sisters and romantic writers such as Lamartine. Later, it welcomed Queen Victoria on no less than three occasions and a whole British colony followed in her wake.
Treatments against rheumatisms and osteoarthritis are given in the Thermes Nationaux also named Thermes Chevalley since they are installed in the gardens of the villa Chevalley. Inaugurated in 2000, this modern and luminous building houses state-of-the-art equipments and offers 5 to 18 days cures healing non only rheumatisms and osteoarthritis but also low back pains, tendonitis and traumatic sequelae. They consist of analgesic, muscle relaxant, anti inflammatory, relaxing and bloodstream tonic cares that can also be taken “A la carte”. Combining a general massage under a spray at constant temperature and a terminal shower jet, the massage shower or “Aix shower” is one the characteristic treatments along with the pedidaix and the bertholais.

Thermes Nationaux © T.Joly
 Cures and wellbeing
Combining a warm air bath and a stray of water on various portions of the body, the two latter make leg tiredness disappear as if by magic after long hikes or bike rides. The Thermes Nationaux also has a relaxation area comprising steam baths, saunas, a solarium, a fitness room, a 27°C outdoor fresh water pool and a 33°C indoor thermal water pool equipped with under-water jet beds and seats, swirls, counter-currents and multi-jets.
As to the cures for respiratory illnesses, buccal mucous membranes diseases and ORL disorders, they take place at Marlioz, a 10 ha wooded estate located on the outskirts of town that comprises a thermal bath, a spa centre and two hotels. In addition to the treatments provided with medical care, it also offers 2-3 days and week stays devoted to well being such as fitness recovery, slimming, stop smoking and anti stress programs…. Aesthetic cares are also available.

Aix-les-Bains, Castle © T.Joly
 Lavish casino
And that’s not all. In the town centre or by the lake, a dozen of hotels have spa facilities like the Radisson that offers chocolate beauty cares !!!
But Aix-les-Bains is more than a spa resort. The town boasts numerous sites of historical interest and while strolling along the streets you can discover a medieval castle, roman monuments and above all many buildings from the Belle Epoque. Don’t miss the Casino Grand Cercle and its lavish interior, the art deco façade of the former Thermes Nationaux, known as the Pellegrini Thermes and the classic, neo baroque and art deco luxury hotels built between 1853 and 1913. One, the Astoria, is still in activity and others have been turned into residential buildings that you can only visit during guided tours organized by the tourism office.

Aix-les-Bains, © T.Joly
 Works by Rodin
You also have got to see the splendid villas built for wealthy persons having hydrotherapy, particularly the Villa Les Chimères that now houses the Musée Faure. A must-see for art lovers because it contains the second most important collection of works by Rodin as well as many canvasses by Impressionist painters such as Cézanne, Sisley, Pissaro, Degas, Corot, Foujita,…
Besides, the town has a racecourse, a golf course and there are many things to do in and around the Lac du Bourget, France’s largest natural lake and home to dozens of fish and bird species as well as to beavers. A shadowed park with hundred years old plane trees invites you to stroll along its shores. A sandy beach allows to swim safely and according to the locals the average water temperature lies around 26°C in summer.

Lac du Bourget © T.Joly
 Cruises around the lake
From the Grand Port, day and night cruises take you around the lake to discover its fauna, the Savière canal leading to the Rhône river and places that inspired Lamartine some of his most beautiful poems. Boats also serve the Hautecombe abbey, a beautiful 12th century building and the resting place of several princes of the Piemonte Savoy kingdom. As to the Petit Port, it’s France’s largest freshwater marina with a capacity of more than 2 600 berths and from there you can go sailing, rowing, fishing, scuba diving,….
Lastly, only 30 km away from Aix-les-Bains, the Mount Revard is a haven for hikers and mountain bikers. It’s also one of France’s oldest alpine ski resorts and a large cross-country ski area. So, from December to April, patients of the thermal baths and tourists can easily combine treatments or well-being programs with winter sports.

December 21, 2010
Thierry Joly