The new Hilton 4-star resort hotel in the sleepy spa town of Evian-les-Bains, source of Evian mineral water, is an idyllic lakeside getaway at the foot of the French Alps for a time-out vacation or a secluded business conference. Arriving at the Hilton Evian-les-Bains hotel, you walk into the lobby and know you have entered a world apart, both beautiful and elegant.
The first thing you see is the marvelous reception area. And I do mean marvelous, as in something to marvel over. The simple dark wood reception desk is lit by a hanging sculpture composed of thousands of fiber-optic-lit crystals that shimmer in the air. It is a snowfall suspended, a series of hills in winter-white, a curtain of flowering vines made of light. For a moment, you feel as if you have stepped into a fairy tale. The light hanging is a marriage of the latest technology with ethereal beauty and is a work of art.
The rest of the lobby, while not as surprising and captivating, is equal in style and beauty. There is a pleasing tension between masculine and feminine design elements that contrast gracefully. Gleaming high-tech fixtures light velvet couches. The intricate light display is backed by walls of long, mahogany trellis screens. Ceiling-to-floor translucent curtains hang in draping silken lines behind the curves of enormous weighty ceramic ceremonial vases in gleaming China-red. And everywhere the mirrors I associate with Hilton hotels reflect the abundant light and space.
The Hilton Evian-les-Bains has a fabulous location overlooking Lake Geneva. It was built on one of the last plots of lakefront property in town. The land around the lake is steep and so the hotel is set back on the rear away from the lake so that the higher vantage point results in panoramic views from rooms and balconies. The design was conceived with two perpendicular horizontal wings that maximize the number of rooms able to enjoy the view.
The hotel grounds include a pool on the lake side, and terraces cascading down to the street level Riva Restaurant. Across the street, Lake Geneva sits placid and inviting, ringed by a footpath park. Across the lake is Switzerland, its shores rising from the water in dark green hillsides dotted by white Leggo-blocks of homes and hotels, the wind blowing fresh and clean.
The Hilton Evian-les-Bains has 173 guest rooms and suites done in the same decorative style of smooth and soothing elegance. The blend of warm neutral tones with accents in rich purples and reds speak of both simplicity and opulence. One entire wall of the lakeside rooms are glass, with sliding doors that open onto a balcony. The bed is a perfect blend of firm and plush, with down comforters and pillows.
The room has the technology required by modern travelers with a large flat screen television and high-speed internet connection. One simple thing I have come to count on in a Hilton is the hot pot for making a cup of tea or coffee whenever I want one. Not all or even most European hotels offer this, but my enjoyment of a stay is always greater when I can fix myself a hot beverage whenever I want one instead of having to call room service or go to the bar. Perhaps this is a difference between men and women travelers, as women often feel the need to do more to make themselves ready to go out in public.
The baths are lovely, with sparkling glass tiles around a sink that sit on top of the counter, blond wood and pale green glass doors, a heating rack for towels and, just for fun, a little rubber duck to play with in the tub. The bath also has a pullout laundry line over the tub for drying bathing suits or clothing that needs a quick rinse.
You’ll want to bring a bathing suit no matter what time of year you go because the Hilton Evian-les-Bains not only has an outdoor pool, it also has a delicious indoor pool as part of the Buddha-bar Spa in the hotel. The Buddha-bar Spa is the first in the world to be designed around the same principles as the Buddha-bar restaurants and it is a vacation and a journey unto itself.
The spa integrates a number of Eastern well-being techniques, pulling from Korean, Thai and Tibetan traditions. But it is more than a melange of styles; it is a metamorphosis that incorporates all those styles into something new and amazing. The sensual serenity that the space emanates, the quiet competence of the staff and the beauty of every detail of design all aim to draw you deeper into yourself. It is not a place of preening surfaces but of shining presence.
Hotel guests can take an interior elevator down to the spa and have the use of the pool, hot tubs and sauna. The pool area is perfection, with ceilings high enough to keep the room from having that swimming pool echo. Greenery brings nature indoors even in winter and helps create the ambiance of timelessness. The hot tubs are wood and sitting in them, you are very aware of the texture of the wood as you soak. The feel of the wood brings nature close and the effect is restorative.
The Hilton Evian-les-Bains has an Executive Lounge that serves breakfast and snacks through the day There is a coffee machine where you can make your own espresso or tea any time you wish. There is a large, broad terrace that is only for the Executive Lounge guests that makes a wonderful place to sit and have a drink during the summer.
While I was there, there was a regular supply of macarons, and I must confess I couldn’t stop eating them. Macarons are colorful egg white and almond powder cookies sandwiched together with fillings. They are usually rather expensive as they are difficult to make. When I go to Paris, I try to treat myself at least once to some French tea and macarons. Wikipedia will tell you there are very few places in the world where top quality macarons can be found. Here in Evian, the cookies were as good as any I’ve ever had, with a thin crust, chewy centers and flavorful fillings. In the Executive Lounge, I could indulge every day, sometimes twice, and I did.
The area has something for everyone staying at the Hilton Evian-les-Bains. The mountains offer year-round recreation activities from skiing in winter to picnicking in the summer. Regular ferry service crosses the lake to take passengers back and forth to Lausanne, Switzerland for a day’s shopping. The Evian baths (hence the full name “les Bains”) mineral water spa is right next door to the hotel for those wanting a more traditional European spa experience. And for those wanting a bit of worldly excitement, the town has a casino built in 1911 that presides over the lakefront in neo-classic splendor a few blocks from the hotel.
All in all, the beautiful Hilton Evian-les-Bains is the perfect spot for a idyllic retreat from the bustling world.
Quai Paul Leger
Evian les Bains