Travel Advice

The 8 essential things to do in Annecy

Last update : 25/02/2024 11:23

Welcome to Annecy, the "Venice of the Alps," a picturesque gem nestled in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in southeastern France. This idyllic destination seamlessly blends medieval charm, breathtaking natural landscapes, and the elegance of a shimmering lake. Here's a description of Annecy with a travel theme in English:

Discover Annecy, a jewel in the French Alps that transports visitors to a world of dreams and wonder. Nestled along the shores of Lake Annecy, the city unfolds like a living canvas, where cobbled streets tell centuries-old tales of history, and the crystal-clear waters of the lake whisper soothing narratives.

The Old Town, with its colorful facades and winding canals, exudes an enchanting medieval atmosphere. Elegant arcades host artisan shops, cozy cafes, and art galleries, creating a lively tableau where art and culture blend seamlessly.

The heart of the city beats to the rhythm of bustling markets, where stalls overflow with local produce, gastronomic delights, and traditional crafts. The delicious flavors of Savoyard specialties beckon for a culinary exploration, while passionate vendors share the stories behind each product with curious visitors.

Medieval alleyways lead to architectural treasures like the Palais de l'Isle, a former prison with mysterious charm, and the Saint-Pierre Cathedral, whose spires proudly reach towards the sky. Every street corner reveals a new facet of Annecy's cultural and architectural richness.

Yet, it is Lake Annecy that truly steals the spotlight. Surrounded by the majestic Alps, the lake sparkles in the sunlight, inviting travelers to an unforgettable nautical escapade. The serene waters offer breathtaking panoramas, while the beaches encourage relaxation by the water's edge.

Whether exploring the charming Old Town, strolling along the romantic lakefront, or venturing into the surrounding mountain trails, Annecy presents itself as an invitation to travel—a haven of beauty where history, nature, and culture intertwine to create an unforgettable experience.

1 - The old town of Annecy

The old town of Annecy

The Old Town of Annecy is a picturesque gem nestled in the heart of the French Alps, offering travelers an enchanted experience infused with history, medieval charm, and a vibrant atmosphere. As you wander through the cobbled streets of the Old Town, each step transports you to a world where time seems to stand still, revealing the timeless elegance of this destination.

The colorful facades of the buildings, painted in pastel hues, create a living canvas, with each window and balcony telling an ancient story. The Palais de l'Isle, with its imposing medieval presence, sits in the middle of the Thiou canal, adding an air of mystery to the surroundings. This building, once a prison, is now a museum that echoes with the whispers of the past.

The local shops lining the narrow streets contribute to the friendly atmosphere. Craft stores, art galleries, and cozy cafes invite you to stroll and explore. The local markets, where fresh produce and Savoyard specialties abound, create a captivating olfactory and gustatory symphony.

Lake Annecy, with its crystal-clear waters, adds a dimension of tranquility to this lively old town. The lake's shores provide a peaceful retreat for walking, relaxing, and admiring the Alpine peaks reflected in the shimmering waters.

Every corner of the Old Town reveals fascinating architectural details, from delicate sculptures to Gothic arches, capturing the essence of the region's rich history. The nighttime ambiance, when lights twinkle along the canals and squares, creates a romantic and magical atmosphere, perfect for a travel getaway.

The Old Town of Annecy is more than just a collection of ancient streets. It's a journey through time, an immersion into Savoyard culture, and a sensory experience that leaves a lasting imprint in the hearts of travelers.

2 - Take a bike ride around Lake Annecy

Take a bike ride around Lake Annecy

Cycling around Lake Annecy is an unforgettable experience, offering breathtaking views of the lake, the surrounding mountains, and charming villages. Here's a suggested itinerary for a bike ride around the lake:

Start: Annecy

Begin your bike ride in Annecy, ideally from the Old Town. Head northeast along the lake's shores, following the dedicated bike path.

First Stop: Sévrier

Cycle along the lakeside bike path to Sévrier, a charming village by the water. Take a break, enjoy the views, and perhaps indulge in some ice cream.

Second Stop: Talloires

Continue your ride towards Talloires, one of the most picturesque spots on the lake. Take a moment to explore the village, visit the Abbey of Talloires, or simply relax on the lakeside beaches.

Third Stop: Menthon-Saint-Bernard

Keep going towards Menthon-Saint-Bernard. You can visit the Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard, which offers stunning views of the lake.

Fourth Stop: Duingt

Continue along the eastern shore of the lake and make a stop in Duingt. The Château de Duingt, situated on a small peninsula, is another interesting attraction.

Fifth Stop: Angon Beach

Pause at Angon Beach for some relaxation. It's a pleasant spot for swimming, resting, and enjoying the scenery.

Return to Annecy

Resume your journey towards Annecy. On the way back, you'll have the opportunity to admire the spectacular views of the lake and the mountains one last time.

This bike ride around Lake Annecy provides a picturesque and relaxing experience, perfect for enjoying the natural beauty of the region.

3 - Go for a boat trip on Lake Annecy.

Go for a boat trip on Lake Annecy.

Embarking on a boat ride on Lake Annecy offers an enchanting experience in the heart of the French Alps. Setting sail on the serene waters of the lake, surrounded by majestic peaks, reveals a landscape of captivating beauty. Onboard the boat, the gentle lapping of the water accompanies each movement, creating a peaceful ambiance conducive to relaxation.

The lake's shores unfold with a succession of breathtaking panoramas, punctuated by picturesque villages and verdant hills. The crystal-clear waters occasionally reflect striking images of the surrounding mountains and ever-changing skies.

Navigating Lake Annecy also provides the opportunity to admire iconic points of interest, such as the Palais de l'Isle in Annecy, which stands gracefully at the water's edge, or the medieval castles that silently watch over the shores.

The boat journey allows a departure from terrestrial hustle and bustle to immerse oneself in a serene atmosphere. Whether on a leisurely sunset cruise or a daytime adventure, each boat ride on Lake Annecy is a tranquil exploration, inviting contemplation of the remarkable natural landscapes that characterize this exceptional region.

4 - Go on a hike through the heights of Annecy.

Go on a hike through the heights of Annecy.

Embarking on a hike through the heights of Annecy is an immersive adventure into the heart of the mountainous landscapes offered by the French Alps. This experience goes beyond a simple stroll; it takes you to discover spectacular panoramas, winding trails, and the preserved nature of the region.

The journey through the heights of Annecy often begins with a gradual ascent, allowing hikers to progressively appreciate breathtaking views of the glistening lake below. Trails wind through dense forests, unveiling a rich diversity of alpine flora.

As the ascent continues, the horizon opens up to the surrounding peaks, creating a breathtaking spectacle. The snow-capped summits, lush valleys, and rugged ridges contribute to a majestic tableau that evolves at every turn of the trail.

The heights of Annecy also offer stunning viewpoints of the city itself, with its characteristic rooftops, the expansive lake, and the mountains in the background, creating a unique visual harmony.

At the summit of the hike, hikers are often rewarded with a 360-degree panorama, providing the sensation of touching the sky. It's a perfect moment for a well-deserved break, to contemplate the stunning landscapes and savor the sense of accomplishment.

The descent, equally important, offers a different perspective, revealing new angles and allowing an appreciation of the landscape in a different light. Every step, whether uphill or downhill, provides a unique connection with nature, an immersive experience in the natural splendors of the heights of Annecy.

5 - The beaches of Annecy

The beaches of Annecy

Annecy, while renowned for its beautiful lake surrounded by mountains, does not have traditional beaches. However, the shores of the lake offer landscaped areas and zones conducive to relaxation by the water. Here are some of these places where you can enjoy Lake Annecy:

  1. Le Pâquier: This is a large lawn along the lake, near the city center of Annecy. People gather here for picnics, outdoor games, or simply to relax with breathtaking views of the lake and mountains.

  2. Les Jardins de l'Europe: These well-maintained gardens are located along the lake and offer peaceful walks as well as shaded areas ideal for rest.

  3. Albigny Beach: While the term "beach" might be a bit misleading, this location offers an organized area by the lake where you can relax and enjoy the scenery.

  4. Sevrier Beach: Sevrier has a small public beach where you can sunbathe, swim, and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere.

  5. Angon Beach: This beach is located on the eastern shore of the lake, near the village of Angon. It provides a natural setting with a small sandy beach and clear water.

  6. Talloires Beach: The village of Talloires has a small tranquil beach where you can relax and enjoy panoramic views.

Although these spaces are not traditional beaches, they offer opportunities to enjoy Lake Annecy in a relaxed and picturesque manner. Whether sunbathing, swimming, or simply contemplating the landscape, these places allow you to fully experience the lakeside charm of Annecy.

6 - The Thiou Canal

The Thiou Canal

The Thiou Canal is an iconic feature of Annecy, contributing to the picturesque charm of the old town. Here are some key points to know about the Thiou Canal in Annecy:

  1. Historical Origin: The Thiou Canal is one of the oldest artificial canals in France. It was dug in the Middle Ages for defensive purposes and to power the city's mills.

  2. Heart of the Old Town: The canal winds through the historical center of Annecy, creating a romantic ambiance with its quays lined with colorful half-timbered houses.

  3. Picturesque Bridges: Several bridges span the Thiou Canal, including the famous "Pont des Amours" (or Lover's Bridge), a romantic spot popular with couples.

  4. Lively Quays: The quays along the Thiou Canal are bustling with cafes, shops, and restaurants. It's an ideal place for strolling, shopping, or simply enjoying the atmosphere.

  5. Old Annecy Market: Along the canal, you'll also find the Old Annecy market, where local producers offer fresh products, flowers, and regional specialties.

  6. Boat Tours: Boat excursions are offered on the Thiou Canal, providing a unique perspective of the city from the water.

  7. Palace de l'Isle Island: The canal surrounds the Palace de l'Isle Island, a historic building located in the middle of the Thiou, which has served as a prison, lord's residence, and courthouse over the centuries.

  8. Annecy International Animated Film Festival: The Thiou Canal is the backdrop for some cultural events, including the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

The presence of the Thiou Canal adds a special touch to the romantic and historical atmosphere of Annecy's old town, making it a beloved destination for both locals and visitors.

7 - The Palace of the Isle

The Palace of the Isle

The Palais de l'Isle is an iconic monument in Annecy, situated in the middle of the Thiou Canal. Here are some key details about the Palais de l'Isle:

  1. Historical Origins: The Palais de l'Isle, also known as the "Old Prison," has origins dating back to the 12th century. It was initially constructed as a fortress, later serving as a lord's residence and a mint.

  2. Unique Architecture: The structure of the Palais de l'Isle is remarkable with its inverted boat shape. It features turrets and battlements, adding to its architectural charm.

  3. Function as a Prison: Over the centuries, the Palais de l'Isle served as a prison, often for local criminals. The layout of narrow cells and the presence of graffiti left by prisoners add a historical dimension to the visit.

  4. Local History Museum: Today, the Palais de l'Isle is a local history museum, offering visitors the opportunity to explore the history of Annecy through different periods.

  5. Temporary Exhibitions: In addition to its permanent exhibitions, the museum regularly hosts temporary exhibitions that explore various aspects of local history, from architecture to daily life.

  6. Panoramic View: Visiting the Palais de l'Isle provides a panoramic view of the Thiou Canal and the surroundings of Annecy. It's an ideal spot for capturing memorable photos.

  7. Accessibility: The Palais de l'Isle is easily accessible on foot from the center of Annecy. It is located in the heart of the old town, surrounded by the waters of the Thiou Canal.

Exploring the Palais de l'Isle is a fascinating dive into the history of Annecy, offering both a cultural and architectural experience. Whether you're exploring its exhibitions, admiring its medieval architecture, or enjoying the view from its ramparts, the Palais de l'Isle is a must-visit during your time in Annecy.

8 - The Venetian carnival

The Venetian carnival

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy is a colorful and festive event that brings a touch of Venetian atmosphere to the city. Here are some key points about this carnival:

  1. Origins: The Annecy Venetian Carnival is inspired by the famous Carnival of Venice in Italy, known for its elaborate masks and sumptuous costumes. The event in Annecy aims to recreate this unique ambiance.

  2. Costumes and Masks: One of the most iconic aspects of the carnival is the magnificent collection of costumes and masks worn by participants. These outfits recall traditional Venetian style with intricate details.

  3. Parades in the Old Town: The festivities include parades through the old town of Annecy, providing visitors with the opportunity to get up close to the magnificent costumes and artistic masks. The cobblestone streets create a picturesque backdrop for this celebration.

  4. Photography: The Venetian Carnival offers excellent photography opportunities. The colorful masks and extravagant costumes create visually stunning scenes.

  5. Events and Entertainment: In addition to parades, the carnival may include various events and entertainment such as concerts, street performances, and costume contests. There is often a festive atmosphere throughout the city.

  6. Public Participation: Some Venetian carnivals encourage public participation, allowing people to don their own masks and costumes to join in the celebration.

  7. Dates: The dates of the Annecy Venetian Carnival can vary from year to year, so it is recommended to check the local event calendar for the most up-to-date information.

  8. Tradition and Heritage: The Venetian Carnival celebrates the tradition and cultural heritage of Venice. It offers a unique experience that transports participants into the enchanting atmosphere of the Italian city.

Attending the Annecy Venetian Carnival is an extraordinary way to experience art, creativity, and history while participating in a joyful and lively celebration.

Annecy - Where to Stay?

In Annecy, you have several options for accommodation based on your preferences and budget. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Old Town: Staying in the Old Town will immerse you in Annecy's medieval charm. You'll find picturesque hotels, guesthouses, and vacation rentals close to the main attractions.

  2. Lake Area: For a view of the lake and proximity to water activities, look for accommodations along Lake Annecy. This may include luxury hotels, lakeside apartments, or guesthouses.

  3. Courier District: If you prefer a more central location, the Courier district offers easy access to shopping streets, restaurants, and major attractions. You'll find a range of accommodation options, from chain hotels to independent establishments.

  4. Pringy or Seynod District: If you prefer a quieter and less touristy environment, the Pringy or Seynod districts, slightly away from the city center, often offer more affordable rates.

  5. Mountain Accommodation: If you're a nature and hiking enthusiast, consider staying in the surroundings of Annecy, closer to the mountains, for a more peaceful experience.

  6. Vacation Rentals: Annecy offers many vacation rentals, from apartments to holiday homes, which can be an ideal option if you're traveling in a group or prefer independent accommodation.

Make sure to book in advance, especially during the tourist season, as Annecy can be quite busy. Check online reviews and compare prices to find the option that best suits your needs and preferences.

Annecy - How to get around?

Annecy provides various transportation options for getting around the city and its surroundings. Here are several means of transportation available in Annecy:

  1. On Foot: Annecy's city center is quite compact and is well-suited for walking. You can easily explore the Old Town, markets, shops, and restaurants on foot.

  2. Bicycle: Annecy is a bike-friendly city with numerous cycling paths. You can rent a bike to explore the city and the surrounding areas, including the famous cycling path along Lake Annecy.

  3. Shuttle Service: Annecy offers a free shuttle service called "Vélonecy," which circulates within the city center and its surroundings. It's a convenient way to move quickly from one point to another.

  4. Bus: The bus network serves Annecy and its environs. It's a cost-effective way to get around the city and reach neighboring localities. Check schedules and routes on the Annecy public transportation website.

  5. Boat: During the summer season, boats shuttle across Lake Annecy. It's a picturesque and enjoyable way to explore the region from the water.

  6. Car: If you prefer the flexibility of driving, renting a car is also an option. However, note that parking may be limited in the city center, and traffic can be heavy during the peak tourist season.

  7. Taxi and Ride-Sharing Services (VTC): You can also find taxi and ride-sharing (VTC) services for more private and comfortable transportation.

Before choosing your mode of transportation, it's helpful to consider the distance you plan to cover and the time of year. Generally, Annecy is a pedestrian and cyclist-friendly city, providing a pleasant experience for those wishing to explore its picturesque charm.

Annecy - Best period

The best time to visit Annecy depends on your preferences for weather and activities. Here's an overview of the seasons in Annecy:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring is a pleasant time to visit Annecy. Temperatures start to warm up, gardens bloom, and the lake provides a peaceful setting. It's also an ideal season for outdoor activities and local festivals.

  2. Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Annecy. Days are warm, and the lake attracts water sports enthusiasts. However, expect larger crowds, especially during the summer holidays.

  3. Autumn (September to November): Autumn offers beautiful landscapes around Lake Annecy with changing foliage. Temperatures generally remain mild, and outdoor activities are still possible. It's a less crowded period compared to summer.

  4. Winter (December to February): Winter in Annecy brings a charming atmosphere with Christmas markets and festive decorations. Temperatures can be cool, and it's a season conducive to winter sports in the surrounding mountains.

In summary, spring and autumn are generally considered ideal times to visit Annecy due to pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds compared to summer. However, if you enjoy summer activities or the winter ambiance, those seasons can also offer unique experiences.

Last update : 25/02/2024 11:23

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