Last Updated on 01/11/2021 by secretmoona
Annecy is a lakeshore city located between Lyon and Geneva. Annecy is a peaceful yet vibrant town with a mountain backdrop, quaint shops, and a crystal-clear lake. An ideal destination for cultural travellers and adventure lovers, Annecy and its surrounding lake offers beautiful villages to explore and activities including paragliding and hiking. No matter the season, Annecy will provide travellers with lots of exciting things to do.
Are you planning on exploring this charming town, or are visiting Haute-Savoie? Then this guide will have all the information you need to make the most of your trip to the region.
Annecy is the ideal destination for a romantic weekend: beautiful landscapes, a pretty old centre and plenty of good addresses. Read on to find out about the best things to do in Annecy.
- 1 Why visit Annecy?
- 2 Things to do in Annecy Old Town
- 3 Things to do in and around Lake Annecy
- 4 Unusual things to do in and around Lake Annecy
- 5 Day trips from Annecy
- 6 Practical information
- 7 PIN FOR LATER!
Why visit Annecy?
Annecy is without a doubt one of the most beautiful cities in France! Its picturesque canals and bridges, medieval architecture have earned the city the nickname of the “Venice of the Alps”, nestled on the shores of Lake Annecy, at the foot of the mountains, the town benefits from an exceptional natural environment. Culture, history, relaxation, and sport are some of the things you can do in Annecy.
Annecy is also an excellent city for sports lovers: paragliding, skydiving and water activities. This picturesque city deserves a spot on your Europe bucket list.
Things to do in Annecy Old Town
Take a walk in the Old Town of Annecy
The first thing to do in Annecy is to walk through the Old Town. Like many towns in France, the old town is preserved, so taking a stroll there is like taking a trip back in time. With its cobbled streets, clock towers, Italian-influenced architecture, Amsterdam-like web of canals, Annecy is an Instagram-able town! Walking along the winding alleys of the old city, you will be tempted to stop at all the boulangeries and creperies. Annecy is beautiful to discover both during the day and night.
Stroll along the Thiou canal
Annecy is nicknamed the “Venice of the Alps”, the city has a small network of canals, each more picturesque than the next. The Thiou canal, which links to the lake, is one of the most iconic. Taking a stroll there is one of the tops things to do in Annecy. The colourful building facades and the small bridges adorned with colourful flowers, the pathways make the stroll a romantic one, especially at night. Be sure to have your camera loaded as the Thiou canal is full of charm. You can take a break in one of the cute cafes.
Marvel at the Palais de l’Île
Palais de l’Île is one of the most photographed and most popular attractions in Annecy. Located on the Thiou Canal, the Palais de L’Île is an interesting monument that has served different roles throughout the centuries. Built in the 12th century, it was a residence, a courthouse and a prison. Now it’s a museum exhibiting Annecy’s heritage.
Be sure to visit the triangular-shaped monument both during the day and night because the view is spectacular with all the illuminations.
Explore Annecy’s religious buildings
If you’re wondering what else to do in Annecy during your visit, you should know that the city is home to many churches and historic religious buildings, most of which are dressed in Gothic architecture.
- Basilique de la Visitation
The Basilica of the Visitation, the neo-romanesque church, is perched on a hill overlooking the city.
- Notre-Dame de Liesse
The Church of Our Lady of Liesse, located near the Canal du Thiou, was completed in 1851. It’s where the Counts of Geneva buried their families. The building’s facade is of Sardinian neo-classical style and impressive with its clock tower and Gothic stained glass windows.
- Church St.Maurice
The former chapel of the Dominican convent is the oldest church in Annecy and was built around 1422. It is dedicated to St Maurice, patron of Annecy and Savoy.
Visit Annecy’s castle-museum
Visiting the castle of Annecy is a must. The classified historical monument houses the Museum of Alpine Folk Art. It was previously the residence of the Counts of Geneva. During your visit, you can admire contemporary art and learn the history of the lake through the exhibitions. You can have a nice view of Annecy and the lake from the terrace.
Ice cream at the Palais des Glaces
One thing you must try while in Annecy during summer is ice cream from the Palais des Glaces. Avoid the queue from the Glacier des Alpes and head directly there. They have several ice creams and sorbets to choose from as well as homemade crispy waffles. Take your ice cream and sit on one of the public benches while enjoying it.
Visit Annecy’s markets
Annecy is a town with lots of markets where you can shop for fresh produce and buy souvenirs. There are markets most days of the week, so you can go shopping while strolling through the streets of the old town. Every time I return home to France and visit a market, I am surprised that everything is cheap and of good quality. Browsing in a local market is something I love doing. There are also flea markets where you can stumble upon an excellent vintage article like an old ski or pottery. These are usually on Saturdays.
Enjoy local food
Lake Annecy attracts foodies all around France, and with so many lakeside restaurants, the town has 4 Michelin-starred chefs. It’s no wonder why.
Feeling peckish? Sit on the terrace of one of the typical restaurants located on Rue Sainte Claire in the old town to have a taste of Annecy: cheeses (Reblochon, Tomme de Savoie and Tome des Bauges), fish from the lake, Savoyard and mountain specialities (fondue, raclette, tartiflette).
Four a more refined dining atmosphere, visit one of the lakeside restaurants: feet in the water, cocktail in hand. You can taste some of the most typical regional dishes while looking at the beautiful lake in front of you.
If you are visiting during the summer months, you will be able to indulge yourself with yummy ice cream at the Glacier des Alpes, one of the best places for ice cream in the old town. The hard part will be to choose among the different flavours.
Stroll in the Jardins de l’Europe
Annecy is not only a beautiful and charming city, but it is also green with lots of trees and flowers. The Jardins de l’Europe – or Gardens of Europe – is a lovely green space between the Town Hall and the lake. Boasting over 600 trees and flowers, it’s the perfect place for a relaxing afternoon or a picnic. It’s popular with the locals and tourists alike as it offers the opportunity for a pleasant walk and a great view of the lake.
Things to do in and around Lake Annecy
Explore Lake Annecy
During your trip to Annecy, no matter the time of the year, a walk along the lake is an activity not to be missed. The water is so turquoise, and you would think it isn’t real! Several ways are available to you to discover this jewel of nature: ground, water or air. Depending on the time of the year, you can hike or cycle to see the villages surrounding the lake, paragliding to see the lake from above, swim or take a boat ride.
Kiss on the Pont des Amours
Annecy is an ideal destination for couples looking for a romantic getaway since the city offers many activities. Start with the “Pont des Amours” (bridge of love), where couples like to gather to have a nice view of the lakeshore. Legend has it that if a couple kisses on the bridge, they will never break up. Take a ride on a paddleboat on the lake in the afternoon, followed by a romantic dinner in a lakeside restaurant. To finish the day, take a walk along the canals at nightfall. The above is just a sample of all the fantastic things you can do in Annecy.
Relax by the beach
The crystal-clear water of Lake Annecy is one of the cleanest in Europe and can rise up to 25 degrees in summer. It’s not the riviera hot, but it’s pretty impressive considering the lake is surrounded by mountains. With around ten beaches around the lake to choose from, Lake Annecy is a great summer destination. Marquisats, Impérial, Veyrier-du-Lac and Talloires: these are some of the beaches surrounding the lake. Families, friends, and couples love to spend a lazy day out by the beach. You can also take a good swim or a water activity.
To facilitate access to the beaches, complimentary shuttles and boat lines operate during the high season. Complete information is available on sibra.fr and on the Lac d’Annecy Tourist Office website.
Bike ride along the lake
Hiring a bike for an afternoon or more is an excellent idea. The surrounding of the lake extends to more than a hundred kilometres. If you don’t enjoy walking or love cycling, you can hire a bike and tour the area. There are extensive cycle paths from the historic centre to the lake and to the neighbouring villages. The tour around the lake is called “la voie verte” or greenway and is about 33 kilometres.
Hike around Lake Annecy
If you are seeking things to do in Annecy that are a little more adventurous then exploring the old town and lake, then hiking might be something for you. There are a few hiking trails for you to choose from:
- Semnoz Plateau
- Mont Veyrier & Mont Baron
- Col de la Forclaz
- Arête du Taillefer
You don’t need to go up the mountains to find a beautiful and enjoyable walk. The 7km Thiou trail takes place in the heart of Annecy! The trail goes around the lake and along the Thiou (hence its name). This hike is perfect for families and friends as it doesn’t require much effort.
Boating and paddleboarding on Lake Annecy
A great way to experience the extent of Lake Annecy and its beauty is to go on a boat ride. There are lots of rental companies offering water activities. You can also opt for a paddleboat or a boat without a license. Both are great ways to explore the lake at your leisure (alone or with friends). Check Le Bounty for pricing.
There are other water sports you can enjoy: swimming, windsurfing, water skiing or snorkelling.
We enjoyed a 45 minutes ride which was invigorating. To avoid crossing the path of cruise boats, we stayed mainly in the same area. We learned afterwards that it was the deepest end of the lake!
Unusual things to do in and around Lake Annecy
For some adventure while in Annecy, consider paragliding, an activity for adrenaline lovers. To get a bird’ eye view of Annecy and its surrounding lake, why not go paragliding? Let yourself be carried away by the wind and enjoy the idea of the mountains and lake. If you want more, there are also hang gliding or skydiving. Lake Annecy is one of the best places in France for these types of unique experiences. Check out Adrénaline Parapente for info and prices.
Attend a festival
If you are planning to visit Annecy, why not book your trip to coincide with a festival? Annecy has various events scheduled throughout the year. Here are a few:
- Take part in the Annecy Venetian carnival
Annecy is not called the “Venice of the Alps” for no reason. Every year in March and for four days, people gather for the Venetian Carnival. People wear costumes inspired by Venetian traditions, masks, make-up. The event is a significant period to be in Annecy.
- Go to the Annecy International Animation Film Festival
The Annecy International Animation Film Festival takes place every June. A group occasion for anime and manga fans to meet with professionals and see their work. There are a screening of the movies every night during the event for the enjoyment of all.
- Be dazzled at the Lake Annecy festival.
On the first Saturday of August, Lake Annecy is illuminated by a grand fireworks display during the light festival. This event is not to be missed.
Day trips from Annecy
While Annecy is a lovely city with many surprises for its visitors, the surrounding towns and villages are also worth exploring. After touring Lake Annecy and its villages, take advantage of the excellent transport network to visit a city or two within the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. From ski resort towns like Megeve to big cities like Geneva, here is a list of day trips from Annecy to consider. To help plan your day trips, I have included links to the Tourist Office for each destination. Do check their websites for more information on the towns.
The city of Lyon has more than 2,00 years of history tourists would love to discover while exploring the old town and its traboules. The city has an important architectural heritage and is also known as France’s gastronomy capital. Only 1h30 by coach, it makes a great day trip option.
- La Clusaz
La Clusaz: La Clusaz is one of the smallest ski resorts in the Alps and perhaps my favourite. The village with its picturesque houses is interesting to explore. Being only 40 minutes away from Annecy, it makes a great day trip option.
The ski resort town has a charming centre and lots of pretty houses of medieval origin. There are many possibilities for skiing in Megeve, with over 450 km of slopes nearby – all with magnificent views, many of them on Mont Blanc.
Out of all the villages surrounding Lake Annecy, Talloires is one of the most beautiful. The town has local shops, a charming harbour and great views. There are several hotels and restaurants overlooking the lake.
Veyrier-du-Lac is a pretty village that sits on the edge of Lake Annecy. It is well situated with mountains on one side and the lake on the other. Since it’s located on the sunny side of the lake, it is pretty expensive.
How to get to Lake Annecy
Annecy is a great starting point for various destinations in Haute-Savoie. To get to Annecy, you can take the train, bus or plane. Each type of transport has its advantages. See the different options below.
- By air
Although Annecy has its own airport, it’s only for private flights. Therefore, the best cities to fly to are Geneva (Switzerland) and Lyon (France). Geneva International Airport is only 50 mins away while Lyon Saint-Exupery International Airport is about 1 hrs 15 mins. Both airports offer trains and bus connections to Annecy.
As flight prices vary wildly, especially during the high season and festivals, it’s wise to check them as soon as possible. Skyscanner is an excellent flight comparator guaranteed to suggest the best rate.
- By train
The train is the most reliable and most comfortable way to reach Annecy. If you are travelling from Paris, get the TGV INOUI from Paris Gare de Lyon directly to Annecy in just three and half hours. If you are travelling from anywhere else in France, the many Regional Express Trains (TER) will connect you to Annecy via Lyon, Grenoble, Chambery etc.… The train station is located right in the city centre. It’s a good string point for various destinations in the area by bus, coach or taxi. There are bike rental services also nearby(Vélonecy). Check SNCF for the timetables and best fares.
- By bus
- By road
The French autoroute network is generally excellent, so getting to Annecy by car is pretty straightforward.
How to get around Lake Annecy
The charming city is served locally by a very dense bus network that covers the entire region and, in particular, the shores of the lake. However, to have more autonomy, especially for those looking to hike, it is better to hire a car.
- By foot
Annecy is a great city to explore for those who love walking. The promenade along the lake is vast and extensive. The city centre is almost pedestrianized, which makes strolling easy. A thing I love is the fact that, unlike other French cities, here, pedestrians have priority on crossroads.
- By bike
As mentioned, promenades are vast, and cycle paths are everywhere to accommodate cyclists. You can easily hire a bike for a day and ride along the lake or explore some of the lakeside villages.
- By car
Getting around Annecy by car is super handy and offers more freedom to explore other areas not easily accessible by public transport. Having a car means that you can, for example, stay in accommodation a little further from the centre of Annecy. Plus, you don’t have to rely on public transport. Want to spend an afternoon by the lake, enjoy the sunset at Col de la Forclaz and finish with a dinner in town? Easy with a car.
- By bus
The city has regular bus services connecting Annecy with the other lakeside towns and villages. The SIBRA public transport network allows you to travel to a dozen different towns and villages. There are some lines which run only on Sundays, special events or during public holidays. Free buses are available during special occasions or during the summer period. The LIHSA networks allow people to travel to further locations like Lyon, Geneva or Chambéry.
Where to stay in Annecy
With one of the cleanest lakes in Europe, Annecy is a popular destination for couples, families and solo travellers with a variety of accommodation to stay in. As the largest town, Annecy offers bigger options; however, the villages provide a quieter atmosphere.
Luxury travellers will appreciate the five-star accommodations available both in Annecy old town and around the lake, some offering prime views over the splendid lake. Les Loges Annecy Vieille Ville, located right in the heart of Annecy’s historic district, is a moment’s away from the lake, shops, and restaurants. For a romantic stay, Black Bass, located on the edge of Lake Annecy, is what you’ve been looking for: rooms with lake views, an outdoor pool, SPA and DJ on Fridays and Saturdays. For a hidden gem, check out Boutik Hotel, as the name suggests, a boutique hotel located in the old town.
Have you been to Annecy before? What did you think of the city? Share your own experiences in the comment box below!
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