France is not only about the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elyséee but a country with different historic cities with Annecy as one of its finest medieval town seated on the shore of Europe’s top visited lake that is bordered on all sides by remarkable snow-capped mountains, canals crisscrossing the town and historic streets that offers you countless amount of activities to do and places to see without taking the subway.
Where is Annecy?
Annecy is a town located in Haute-Savoie department of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in the northern French Alps. Often referred to as the “Venice of the Alps’’, Annecy is only 40 km away from south of Geneva (Switzerland) and 100 km from Lyon. See Google Map location of Annecy.
How to get there
There are direct trains that leave from Paris and Lyon to Annecy. It takes about 3 hours 40 minutes by train if you are travelling from Paris Gare de Lyon train station to Annecy and about 5 hours by car if you are driving from Paris to Annecy using the A6, A41 motorway.
There is an international airport located in the city of Lyon so if you are visiting Annecy from outside of France, you can either fly to Lyon or Geneva as both cities are very close to Annecy.
Where to Stay
There are several comfortable and affordable hotels to choose from in Annecy and other smaller towns around. The most popular hotel in the city centre is the Hotel du Palais de l’Isle with an amazing view of the old town. Airbnb is another good option in Annecy. If you are visiting during the summer holidays, you can find a lot of beautiful well-equipped camping sites to rent a place.
Best Time to Visit
I have visited Annecy all seasons of the year and each season has a different look and activities too. However, to enjoy the beach life and the promenade around the lake, the month of July is your best time as the city is also less jam-packed with tourist on the streets so you get to do all the selfies without photobombers.
If you are visiting in the autumn, it will be a good opportunity to see interiors of historic sights as well as enjoy famous local cuisines like fondue and raclette. If you like to ski, this is the place to be in winter holidays!
What to do while in Annecy
Discover the Lake
I have visited this town uncountables times but I don’t seem to get over stopping first at the Lake Annecy because of the sense of peace I feel staring in awe of the mountains surrounding this town and the different looks it has in a different season of the year.
Whether you are driving, biking or walking around the lake, you get that feeling of you being in a breathtaking dreamland that you don’t want to get out of in a hurry.
When visiting during summer chances are that you will see every tourist with some baguettes, wine, and cheese having a picnic at the beautiful landscape neighbouring the Annecy town hall called the Gardens of Europe (Jardins de l’Europe) or people heading towards the beach around Lake Annecy. My top 3 beautiful beaches to see are Plage d’Albigny in Annecy le Vieux, Plage d’Angon and plage Municipal in Saint-Jorioz. These are crystal clear water beaches, with children playground, restaurants and lifeguard patrol are there all through summer.
Tour the “La Vieille Ville’’ (Old Annecy Town)
Taking a day or two to explore La Vieille Ville (Old Annecy town) with winding cobblestone streets, canals, the cathedral built around the 14th-century, and bright flowers hanging on houses will make you fall in love with the Venice of the Alps. Although the old Annecy town is filled with more shops, restaurants, and tourists, the streets are still as charming as ever and a stop for coffee and croissant won’t be a bad idea as you get to admire the best view of the Palais de l’Ile also called the “old prison” which is a symbol of this town that was built on an island in the river in the 12th century.
Annecy has various open markets on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays where local farmers bring in their produces from fresh foods to market wares. It’s absolutely a must-see while in Annecy.
Make a Wish on Pont des Amours
The Pont des Amours (Lover’s Bridge) is facing the beautiful mountains and seating right on the lake. According to the natives of Annecy, It is a must-visit spot especially if you are visiting with your partner and if you both make a wish on the bridge, chances are that you will stay together forever. Well, it’s a lovely bridge you don’t want to miss out!
Hiking for me is one of the best ways to wander into nature, take a breath of the freshest of air, explore Annecy and villages surrounding it. Whether you are a beginner or a regular hiker, you must have the right equipment regarding the route and weather conditions when you are hiking.
One of the best and closest hiking you can do in Annecy is Mont Veyrier, Mont Baron, Mont Semnoz and La Croix de Chuguet. This route will take about two hours forty-five minutes round trip (1h 30 climbing and 1h 15 descending) giving you the best panoramic view of the Lake Annecy, Annecy town and its environs. The starting point for this hike is from “Sur le Bois” (this location close to Annecy le Vieux) or “Veyrier du Lac” depending on your location but the two starting points direct you towards Mont Veyrier. The altitude at the starting of the trail is around 900 m, and the highest point of the trail is 1291 m.
Like Mont Veyrier and Mont-Baron, the imposing cliffs of Parmelan are part of the Annecy landscape. They are both visible from almost everywhere. The Parmelan is another mountain that offers breathtaking panoramas with an unusual plateau that makes it a must-see hiking spot in Haute Savoie!
Another interesting mountain to hike is The Tournette but it is advisable for experienced hikers.
Enjoy Homemade Ice Creams
It’s almost impossible for anyone to visit Annecy and not stop at the famous homemade Glacier des Alpes Ice Cream. They offer too many flavours to choose from sorbets and ice creams made by a master craftsman ice cream maker. Don’t worry about the daily long queues you may find because you will not regret tasting these ice creams at the end.
Cruise on Lake Annecy
To better discover the charming, history and the architectures of the small towns along the lake Annecy the cruise boat offers a one-two and half hours cruise with some short stopovers in all the villages bordering the lake. The prices range from 15 euros for a one-hour nonstop cruise to a 30 euro cruise of 2 and half hours with seven stopovers including lunch or dinner served on board. La Compagnie du Lac is a cruise boat agency located right at the entrance of the old Annecy town. You can book this cruise boats online or book fifteen minutes before every departure.
If you adventurous and sportive you can sail at your own pace and discover the lake Annecy using a pedalo boat (paddleboat) or a motorboat. The pedalos come in two or four seats with a deckchair and a sun lounger to enjoy memorable moments with family and friends.
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