A Short Guide To Menthon-Saint-Bernard
Lake Annecy, in the Haute-Savoie department of the Rhône-Alpes is big enough to hide more than a few secrets. Amidst its mountains, forests, country roads, rocky grottos and obscure legends of the lake there are dotted myriad beautiful and serene little villages. It’s difficult to say which of these is the most beautiful, prettiest and quietest, but if I had to then Menthon-Saint-Bernard would be in the top two (I have a weakness for the tiny village of Duingt on the other side of the lake). It’s easy to reach Menthon-Saint-Bernard relatively quickly from nearby Annecy, either by a 10 minute road or lake trip, or if you’re up to it, then a half an hour bike ride through the pretty Veyrier-du-Lac.
Sleeping Beauty’s Castle
The Castle of Menthon (Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard) sits as a silent protector perched on the mountainside above the little village of Menthon St Bernard. Its history spans all the way back to the 12th century, though the latest additions to the chateau were made as late as 1880, when several new towers were added creating the pretty and alluring, fairytale-like romantic façade that we see today. Speaking of fairytales, it’s the Castle of Menthon in its current state that would eventually inspire Walt Disney to go on to create Sleeping Beauty’s Castle.
How To Get To The Castle of Menthon
The Castle of Menthon is relatively easy to reach on foot: start from the old centre of the village, by the church and walk along one of the trails towards the castle. If you’re going by road – you can take the road by the side of the lake to Annecy-le-Vieux, through Veyrier-du-Lac and then follow the sign “Château de Menthon” before eventually taking the Col de Bluffy.
Walking & Cycling Trails in Menthon Saint Bernard
There are plenty of walking and cycling routes that pass through Menthon-St-Bernard. The main cycling route goes the full length of the lake and is one of France’s most popular cycle routes. The opposite side of the lake is the most pleasant as there’s a dedicated cycle path that stretches from Annecy to Albertville and includes an ancient railway tunnel for cyclists only! The walk between Veyrier-du-Lac and Menthon-St-Bernard takes around 45 minutes, while the mountain side trails that stretch beyond the castle and through the mountains and forests are anything from under an hour to a full days hike. It’s easier enough to join the trails from the village centre.
Above: the trail leading from the castle of Menthon-St-Bernard towards Talloires. And the view out to the lake and mountains from the trails above Menthon-St-Bernard. Below: a view to the castle from the route des côtes and the leafy Château path.
The Old Town Of Menthon-St-Bernard
The very centre of Menthon-St-Bernard is small but delightful with old architecture, little backstreets leading into the hills and delighful views of the lake. The big sights are the Castle (Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard), the Palace De Menthon and the jagged peak of La Tournette high above the village. It’s just a few minutes to the castle and the palace from the old town, and there are some gorgeous spots by the lake for anyone looking for somwhere to relax.
There isn’t much to do in the old town but walk, enjoy the ambience and stop of for a quick drink or bite to eat when walking or cycling around the lake. But in terms of sights there’s the pretty church, the mayor’s office and a collection of pretty houses and villas.
We accidentally stumbled through the side entrance of the church last time we were in Menthon Saint Bernard and inadvertently explored a completely deserted building. Take a few minutes to look inside if it’s of interest as it’s quite serene (and cold) inside, and also look out for the various wayside crosses that are built along the roadsides of the village. In the summer many of the towers and houses are lush with vines and add yet another layer od the idyllic to this charming mountainside village.
The walk from the centre of the village to the lake and to the castle is relatively short, and there are plenty of roads to take but in general you can simply point yourself towards your destination and you’ll arrive eventually after a few twists and turns. And plenty of viewpoints.
Where To Eat In And Around Menthon Saint Bernard
For something a little more substantial I suggest a pleasant 10 minute lakeside walk to Le Pêcheur in serene Veyrier-du-Lac. The menu isn’t incredible but they serve a good selection of salads and locally caught fish (pêchette from the lake) with outdoor seating right on the edge of the water. It’s popular with locals throughout the year and has a small collection of regulars that you’ll usually found on the outside bar during the warmer months.
The building at Le Pêcheur doesn’t look like the most inviting, but it is charming, and one of the best places to eat on the Menthon side of the lake. Service is good too though waits can get a little long in the summer when every seat is taken.
If you’d prefer to head back to Annecy for a raclette or some Diot au vin blanc, then I’d reccomend the rustic La Bastille right next to the Palais de l’isle or the slightly more upscale Le Chalet that has a great selection of fondues and a charming interior styled after a typical mountain lodge.
Le Palace De Menthon Hotel
There are two large traditional spa hotels around Lake Annecy. The beautiful Palace de Menthon and L’Imperial Palace which is a litle closer to the Annecy. My favourite is the Palace de Menthon. It’s breathtaking neo-Classic façade overlooks Lake Annecy to the front and is surrounded by forest and dramatic mountains to the back. The hotel is kept within beautifully manicured landscaped gardens and has a private port as well as a couple of restaurants. If you’re visiting over the summer then stop off at the Palace Beach on the water’s edge, which is housed under an authentic tent from Marrakesh.
Below the hotel bathhouses are a collection of what remains of the Roman Baths that once inhabited the area. The original spring is no longer in use but was reinstated in the 19th century until 1930 and was one of the first true attractions in Menthon-St-Bernard.
How To Get To Le Palace De Menthon Hotel
If you’re arriving by car then it’s as simple as taking the main route around the lake from Annecy towards Menthon Saint Bernard. Take a right once you reach the Route des Bains and the hotel is perched on the edge of the lake at the end of the road. Walkers should take the same road or follow the various lake side paths. The grand architecture of the hotel is visible from much of the lake.
There aren’t many places to stay in Menthon-Saint-Bernard but there are plenty around the lake, mostly in Annecy. It’s probably easier to include short stay rentals in your search if you want to stay closer to Menthon Saint Bernard. Take a peak here for a good selection. Personally though, I enjoyed my stay at Le Palace de Menthon, that while a little old fashioned in places is incredibly atmospheric, and has some of the prettiest views of the lake and mountains.