Hello, source of mysterious origin, sacred,
transparent, green, deep, singing, clear, shaded!
Hello, town engineer, healing beverage,
Divona in Celtic, source of divine order!”
(Ausome, 4th century poet, after whom one of the many sources was named).
In Divonne, at the turn of the 20th century, the thermal equipment inherited from the previous century meant that urban developments and decisive political decisions needs to be carried out by contemporary decision makers. After the war, the new municipality that Marcel Anthonioz led until his death in 1976 set out a policy to relaunch the thermal resort. This represented a radical change in terms of how thermal treatment seekers were welcomed as well as for the resort’s touristic policy. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
The opening of casinos has been restricted to thermal and seaside resorts since 1907. After the war, the newly elected mayor (Marcel Anthonioz) wanted to revive the thermal resort and this resulted in the reopening of a casino that quickly became one of the largest casinos in France. Initially established in the hallway of the Hôtel du Golf, the casino was later moved to the Grand Hôtel (which had been expanded for this purpose) in 1955. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
André Dussolier theatre
At the end of the 19th century, this thermal and “fun” city started specialising buildings according to their functions: entertainment, shows and games, which used to be provided in hotel halls, were moved to theatres and casinos. This building, which was built in 1904 in a Rococo style with stucco decor, is still a cultural location, owned by the company Domaine de Divonne-les-Bains. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
At the origin of the city’s thermalism and economic rise, thirty sources are scattered around the Divonne. These sources can be divided into five categories: Vaucluse sources, tufa sources, mineral sources and Divonne sources, which can be seen here in three separate upsurges:
- The Vidart source, in tribute to Paul Vidart, the founder of the Thermal resort built in 1849.
- The Emma source, named after the founder’s wife.
- The Ausone source, which springs under the casino.
Used for their hydrotherapy properties, they contributed towards the city’s fame and have inspired many legends, including the legend of Sylvia.
Old thermal baths (Town hall)
Functional, modern and medicalised, the new thermal establishment was built in 1962 with funds from the Company operating the Casino and was managed by the municipality. The establishment’s construction marked a turn in how the city’s thermal activity was managed, and more generally in the new policy to revive the resort. The building was remodelled to house the town hall in the 1980s. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
Hôtel du Golf
In the period between the two wars, the establishment of the League of Nations in Geneva and the city’s classification as a “hydromineral and climate resort” revive the resort, which starts welcoming a customer base comprised of diplomats and foreign figures. The golf course and the modern hotel (use of reinforced concrete) were constructed in 1930. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
Former Hôtel Chicago
The Grand Hôtel is one of the largest hotels in the former private domain of the Anonymous Society of les Bains de Divonne. Now called the Hôtel Chicago after its American clientele, it was built between 1906 and 1908. At the time, it offered a wide range of “modern” services and suites with several rooms. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
As true promoters of thermal cities, organisers of treatment protocols and directors of thermal establishments, doctors were the initiators of water cities (along with their financial backers). The villa belonging to Dr. Roland - a doctor in Divonne up until 1925 - is located in the middle of a park designed to “enchant those undergoing treatment” and is now home to the thermal club. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
Old diamond workshop
The many forebays, gates and dams - some of which still exist - in the centre of Divonne served to power local craftmanship, sawmills, papermills and diamond- and fine gemstone-cutting workshops. Diamond working - which was closely tied to the clockmaking industry - appeared during the 18th century and first developed in the High-Jura before settling in the city in the early 20th century. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
During the 17th century, the Gex protestants were urged to convert to Catholicism. The Divonne temple - like the other 21 temples in the Pays de Gex - was destroyed in 1662 on the orders of King Louis XIV. In Divonne, one temple was rebuilt in 1870 to satisfy the widespread religion of the new treatment clientele. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
Villa Beaulieu (Maison Grevaz)
This villa built in the 18th century in neo-classical style is listed on the Complementary Inventory of Historical Monuments (1994). With economy being redirected towards thermalism during the 19th century, several crafts activities using hydropower developed in sync with trends, needs and areas of craft influence. Thus, the paper industry, imported from Savoie, was a flourishing activity in Divonne and in Switzerland, all along the Versoix. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
Debates on the revival of places of worship and sacred arts led to renovations or redevelopments of their interior during the second half of the 20th century. The church’s new clocktower was built in 1954 based on the design of architect Maurice Novarina. The bronze statue of the Virgin Mary (Notre-Dame de la Paix), designed by artist Jacques Martin, was made by the Susse foundry, a leading French art foundry. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
The 1960s were marked by the general promotion of sports activities. In Divonne, the economic consequences of the casino allowed Marcel Anthonioz’s municipality to consider developing new leisure facilities within the city. The architect Maurice Novarina from Savoie was charged with drawing up the plans for the nautical centre with an Olympic pool, a diving board, a paved terrace, a park and a restaurant. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
As part of a project developed by the company studying the artificial lake of Divonne, and driven by Jean Debaud - a Divonne painter and landscaper -, the lake was created on the top of former marshlands and filled with water in 1964; this lake, with its port, beach and nautical club, completes the city’s leisure facilities and changes its landscape. The materials extracted from the lake were used in part to fill in the land in the hippodrome, which was constructed one year after the lake was filled with water. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
View over the Château de Divonne
The first remnants of this fortified structure, whose walls are still standing, date back to the 11th century. Taken apart, rebuilt and redeveloped many time by many owners, the Château de Divonne has looked the way it does today since the 19th century after works by its then-owner the Count Louis de la Forest, but fell victim to a fire that completely destroyed its roof on 18 January 2017.
The architecture found in thermal cities is often qualified as eclectic as it borrows from several architectural traditions, combining a variety of historic sources (antique, gothic, baroque, etc.), references to oriental architecture and local or picturesque influences (Anglo-Norman style). This taste for the “picturesque” led to a rediscovery of wood in construction. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
Micro hydropower plant
At the end of the 19th century, Divonne-les-Bains was a pioneer in the production of electricity. This hydropower plant was built in a former mill (Moulin David) in 1887. Alongside another plant that no longer exists, it provided electricity for public and domestic lighting, but also for the large hotels, the golf course, the theatre and the city’s thermal baths. It continued operating until 1960 before being restructured and brought up to standards by an association of volunteers, Divonnelectro. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
Along the Divonne
The Divonne river - known as the Versoix river on the other side of the Swiss border - provided a continuous source of energy from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, powering hemp beater mills, grain mills and forge hammers for mainly local production. Along the river, industrial forebays were also developed and used for the large paper manufacturing industry. (PNRHJ - Un tour en ville, “A tour of the town”)
From the Tourist Office, take Chemin des Cerisiers towards the casino.
Make a round trip on the little trail to your right, which enters a park and leads to Hôtel du Golf and Hôtel Chicago.
On returning to Chemin des Cerisiers, go under the bridge and reach the old thermal baths, before taking Avenue des Thermes.
Following the road, you will see Villa Roland to your left.
At the end of the avenue, take rue du Temple to your right. On arriving at the temple, which is after the cemetery, continue on rue du Prieuré, crossing the Divonne.
Continue straight across place de l’Église, place Perdtemps () and avenue de la Plage to reach Divonne lake.
Head along the lake to the right, and then return to the road via rue du Port. When you reach Avenue des Alpes, cross the road and take the trail opposite you.
At the end of this trail, turn left and take avenue Marcel Anthonioz.
At place des trois Fontaines, go around the park via avenue de la Gare and rue Voltaire.
You will then come to Place des 4 vents, where the hydroelectric plant is located. Between the plant and the Tourist Office, do not miss the glass construction which allows you to view one of the plant’s active installations.
From here, follow Grande Rue to Place du Bief, via allée de la Mélie to your left.
Cross the Divonne and return to the Tourist Office using the trail equipped with walkways and bridges over the river.
This discovery trail unfolds in an urban environment and carries hikers along pavements and pedestrian crossings.
Most parking spaces in the town centre may be in the blue zone, you will therefore need to obtain a parking disc.
Do not hesitate to head to the town’s Tourist Office, rue des Bains.
Tourist information centre - Divonne-les-Bains
4 rue des Bains, F-01220 Divonne-les-Bains
+33 (0)4 50 20 01 22
To visit and get about in the High-Jura, visit www.reshaut-jura.fr, the eco-mobility portal listing all means of transport within the Park.
Access and parking
20 km north of Geneva, Divonne-les-Bains is easily accessible via the A1 motorway, exiting on Route de Divonne.
Report a problem or an error
If you have found an error on this page or if you have noticed any problems during your hike, please report them to us here:
The tourist office is located in the centre of the town, a stone’s throw away from the high street and opposite the Divonne casino.
Our team is happy to welcome you to Divonne-les-Bains.
Toute notre équipe est heureuse de vous accueillir à Divonne-les-Bains.