The Savoie department is one of the eight department of the Rhone-Alpes region, located in the south-east of France. The department shares its borders with the Haute-Savoie, Ain, Hautes-Alpes and Isère departments, but also with Italy and Switzerland. With 403,500 inhabitants, called the Savoyards, but also the Savoisiens or Savoyens, Savoie has a total area of 6,247sq m, divided into 305 towns and villages. Savoie’s administrative centre is Chambéry, the sous-préfectures being Albertville and Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. The Savoie department is a beautiful natural environment where mountains, lakes and forests merge in a perfect combination. Indeed, 88.4% of the department is listed as mountainous area, and 22.8% as forest area.
Savoie is synonymous of ski and outdoor activities. The department counts 60 ski resorts (the biggest ski area in the world: 3 Vallées), with 21 million visitors in winter; 3 natural parks: national park of Vanoise, regional parks of Bauges and Chartreuse; 6 thermal bath resorts; the biggest natural lake in France (Bourget Lake). In 2007, 30 million tourists visited the department, 21 million in winter and 9 millions in summer. Hence, Savoie is most a winter destination; however it offers plenty of activities and visits in summer.
The creation of the Savoie department is relatively recent. During Middle Ages it was called Sapaudia and was composed by 6 historical provinces. In the 11th century Savoy became a County, and then in 1416 an independent Duchy. Being the home of the Savoy House, the Duchy belonged to the princely territories of Savoy Dukes, called Savoy States. In 1860, Savoy was definitely annexed to the French territory, and was divided into two departments: Savoie and Haute-Savoie. In order not to confuse the area and the namesake department, media often use Pays de Savoie, or Les Savoies for the area.
As regards economy, Savoie is a dynamic department where unemployment rate is lower than the French average, and the third lower in the region (5.6% vs. 8% for the national average in 2008). Economic activities are mainly based on tourism, as it represents 20% of salaried job; hence, the tertiary sector is the biggest one with 75% of total jobs. In 2008, all sectors experienced a slowdown, but the construction sector has there increased by 3,6% in terms of employees.
The assets of the department make it attractive all year long. Its main one is obviously its 60 ski resorts; however Savoie also boasts a rich historical and cultural heritage. Its history began during the Gallo-Roman period, when the area was prized for its spring water and thermal baths. Thanks to them, the department has developed a lot as it was the holiday destination for princely and wealthy families during the Belle Epoque, as Aix-les-Bains for instance. There are also plenty of museums, beautiful buildings with amazing architecture, huge parks where you can go hiking, etc.
In 2008 in the Savoie department there were 271,259 dwellings, 75% of which were main homes, and 18% were second home. Moreover, 6% of housing in the department is available. You will mainly find detached-houses (49%), and apartments (47%).
In 2008, the real estate market has experienced a slowdown, as a consequence of the global crisis. Furthermore, as the department average for house prices (€2,995/sq m) is lower than the French average (€3,197/sq m), the department can be an excellent alternative if you want to buy an affordable property near to renowned ski resorts.
To get updated info about property prices in Savoie, please browse our French Property Market Reports published in the News Section every month.
Click here to have an overview of Rhone Alpes Property Prices.
Ski and outdoor activities: the Savoie department boasts 60 ski resorts, among which some are worldwide renowned. The 3 Vallées is the biggest ski area in the world, with 1,400 sq km of equipped slopes; the Espace Killy, one of the biggest ski area in Europe, is also the unique ski area in Europe where you can ski all year long, etc. In summer, ski areas give way to beautiful landscapes where you can go hiking. You can also do all kind of water sports thanks to the lakes and to the rivers that come from the mountains after the snow thaw.
Culture, art and historical heritage: Savoie has a one-thousand-year-old heritage, that can be seen through its museums and monuments. The Castle of the Dukes of Savoy in Chambery cannot be missed. Built during the 11th century, it has gone through many works and transformations which make it today so unique. In 1881 it was listed as a Historical Monument, and houses the department prefecture. In Aix-les-Bains area you can visit the Gallo-Roman museum and the archaeological museum, both deal with the Roman period. You will be amazed by the beauty of the thermal baths.
Tranquillity and scenery: between mountains, lakes and forests, Savoie is the place to go if you are looking for natural environment! In winter you will love the snow-covered mountains reflecting into the lakes. In summer, you will enjoy walking in the parks, or strolling by the lakeside. Moreover, as 57% of the department is a protected area, you will appreciate the purity and the cleanliness of the countryside. If you want to relax, nothing better that a hot bath at one of the 6 thermal baths: Aix-les-Bains, Aix Marlioz, Challes-les-eaux, Brides-les-Bains, La Léchère and Salins les thermes.
Climate and weather: climate in Savoie does not have a special type, it has its own characteristics. During winter it is a continental climate, while in summer it is more like the Mediterranean one. During winter, temperatures vary between -3 and 6°C, while in summer they vary between 15 (morning) and 31°C. Savoie gets hotter than in Haute–Savoie because of the Mediterranean wind coming from Italy.
Location: as tourism is very important for the department, efforts have been made concerning transports. It has one international airport, which mainly offers flights to England; it has 24 railways stations, some of which are directly linked to other cities in France (3 hours from Paris), and others to the department and region’s cities. Thanks to its location, you can also easily escape to Italy or Switzerland.
Pisé / rammed earth houses: the vernacular architecture reflects the concern of building houses with the available materials. As in this area (particularly around Entremont), there is no enough wood and stones, hence earth was the only alternative. Its technical and thermal properties have made it very attractive, and nowadays we can add the ecological property as well.
Farmhouses: in some valleys, this kind of house are well preserved. In this area, usually the different buildings are separated. The housing, the typical cartusienne house (from Chartreuse) is traditionaly rectangular, with a four-side sharply-sloping roof, has usually two storeys more an attic. Separated by a courtyard, you will find the cowshed.
Apartments: in many towns they are the main housing. They are usually quite big, and come with a modern kitchen, a living-room, 2 or 3 bedrooms, a private parking and a balcony. As usually in France, toilets are separated from the bathroom. They can be an excellent investment for a buy-to-let, as touristic demand in the department is very high.
Click here for more info about the Architecture in Rhone Alpes.
|Take a closer look at the Savoie property market:|
|Aix-les-Bains Property Information||Albertville Property Information|
|Chambéry Property Information||Moutiers Property Information|
|Tignes Property Information|