Spend a minute in Annecy and you’ll think you’ve entered into a fairy tale. This idyllic town in the south of France is home to charming architecture, beautiful natural landscapes, medieval castles, and delicious food. Yet, Annecy is best known for its stunning lake nestled in between the surrounding mountain ranges.
This picturesque setting is what earns Annecy the nickname “the Venice of the Alps”. The city’s old town has become a popular destination in its own right too, with its pastel-coloured houses, cobblestone alleyways, and enchanting canals.
This Annecy France guide will let you in on some of the town’s best treasures and, hopefully, inspire you to visit Annecy during your next overseas adventure.
This ultimate travel guide to Annecy will show you all the most beautiful places in Annecy, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Annecy and things to do in Annecy which will help you in planning a trip to Annecy.
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How to get to Annecy
Getting to Annecy will likely involve a few methods of public transport. There are two nearby airports: Chambéry Savoie Airport (CMF), and Geneva International Airport (GVA) in neighbouring Switzerland. Both airports are about 40 kilometres from Annecy, and there are numerous train and bus options from either.
Catching a FlixBus is one of the most hassle-free and affordable ways to travel from Geneva or Chambéry. There are also regularly departing trains and buses from Lyon, west of Annecy, which take between two and three hours. Flixbus also has an app which is super easy to use!
What to expect in Annecy
Since Annecy is such a beloved tourist destination, most people you come in contact with will be able to communicate with you in English. Since Francophones are notoriously proud of their language, you might like to learn some greetings in French, if you don’t yet know any. As a visitor, a simple bonjour and merci will show respect to the locals.
France makes it easy for travellers by using the euro. Debit and credit cards are accepted everywhere too, and there are plenty of ATMs in town. Tipping your taxi driver or bartender isn’t expected, and service charges are added to final bills at restaurants, so you don’t need to leave a tip unless you’ve received exemplary service.
How to get around Annecy
The centre of Annecy is small enough that you can easily get around on foot. Walking around the old town is the ideal way to soak up as much of the charming atmosphere as possible.
If you wish to travel a little further, there are a ton of bike shops in town offering hourly and daily rentals. The Voie Verte is a luscious green cycling path you can follow during your bike ride to visit surrounding lakeside villages.
While the village doesn’t rely too much on public transportation, there are shuttle buses available to get you to the mountains and back. If you’re staying outside of the old city, renting a car will give you the freedom to explore anywhere and everywhere you’d like.
The best time to visit Annecy
Annecy is absolutely gorgeous no matter the season. That said, the large lake makes it an ideal spot for summer vacationers. June and August are two of the busiest months to visit Annecy, and not just because they’re during summer. The annual Annecy International Animated Film Festival takes place in June, while the Annecy Lake Festival is on in August. The latter is known for its hour-long fireworks display that draws over 200,000 spectators, so you might like to visit while this festival is on to make your trip extra memorable.
During autumn and spring, Annecy remains lively and vibrant, only with cooler temperatures. In winter, you’ll be able to look out at the snow-topped mountains of the Alps, and take some day trips out for skiing and snowboarding.
Things to do in Annecy
No matter the season, there’s always plenty of things to do in Annecy. Here’s a rundown of some of the top attractions to see during your Annecy sightseeing adventures, as well as some of the most enjoyable activities to take part in.
Visit Annecy Castle
Easily one of the most iconic places to visit in Annecy is Annecy Castle. Château d’Annecy, as it’s known in French, is a restored castle turned museum. Permanent collections showcase Alps-related artwork, medieval sculptures and regional furnishings.
While the Queen’s Tower dates back to the 12th century, there were several additions to the historic monument up until the 16th century. Once home to the Counts of Geneva, the castle was abandoned during the 17th century and not restored until 1947. The walls of the castle are 4 metres thick and 38 metres tall, allowing it to also serve as a barracks.
Walk across Lover’s Bridge
The Pont des Amours is a wonderful spot to visit with your special someone. While you won’t find any locks on the bridge like the Parisian Pont des Arts, an old legend states that those who kiss in the middle of the bridge will stay together forever. T
he short and scenic footbridge crosses the Thiou River north of the Jardin l’Europe. While the original wooden bridge was built in 1845, the current iron bridge has stood since 1907. Regardless of your relationship status or who you’re travelling with, you should definitely pay the bridge a visit to admire the view and snap some stunning photos.
Try out a new water sport
The most notable landmark in the region is Lake Annecy (or Lac d’Annecy in French). As the third largest lake in France, there are a ton of activities to try out.
As you would expect, summer is the best time for water sports. Sailing, water skiing, wakeboarding, snorkelling, kayaking and paddleboarding only scratch the surface of the amount of memorable outdoor activities available. For scuba diving beginners, there are numerous instructors offering introductions and refresher courses throughout the summer. If you’re an experienced diver, you can explore the 1971 La France shipwreck off the shore of Annecy-le-Vieux.
Rent a pedal boat known as a pedalo and explore the lake at your own pace. Pedalos come in two or four seats with deckchairs, so you can pedal out and relax on the water for a while. For something speedier, motorboats for up to six people can be borrowed without a license.
Head to the beach
I’ll bet you weren’t expecting a beach in the French Alps, but Plage des Marquisats will leave you pleasantly surprised! The lakeside Marquisats Beach is the place to be during summer in Annecy. The sand and grass areas by Annecy Lake are free to access, and the shallow, crystal-clear waters are perfect for cooling down on a hot and sunny day.
Plage des Marquisats is just one of 11 beautiful beaches around Lake Annecy, all of which are supervised with lifeguards throughout July and August. If it happens to be overcrowded while you’re there, try Plage de Menthon-Saint-Bernard or Plage de Talloires, both of which are on the east side of the lake.
Wander the old town
One of the main areas of Annecy, and not to mention the most charming, is Vieille Ville (aka the old town). It’s a joy to take your time and stroll aimlessly through the narrow streets. You’ll uncover some of the most gorgeous views along the way, particularly once you reach Perrière Bridge. Sip a café au lait at any of the whimsical cafes alongside the Thiou River and soak up the beauty and charm.
Every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, you can peruse the Old Town Market free of charge. While Tuesdays are reserved for local produce, Fridays and Sundays have many more stalls offering a wider variety of goods. Pop by Rue Sainte-Claire on any of these days between seven in the morning and one in the afternoon.
You might also like to stop by Palais de I’lle, a triangular-shaped palace that sits on a tiny island in the middle of the river. Since the 12th century, the building has historically been used as a jail, a care home for the elderly, an administrative centre and a private residence. Saved from demolishment, the palace became a museum in 1952. It currently showcases temporary art shows and permanent exhibitions detailing the history of the area.
What to eat in Annecy
Similar to the rest of France, cheese is everywhere in Annecy. Some of the famous cheeses in the Haute-Savoie area include abondance, reblochon, beaufort and chevrotin. If you’re interested in trying some, visit the renowned Pierre Gay cheese shop (aka “fromagerie”) on Rue Carnot or Crèmerie du Lac on Rue du Lac. For some classic fondue, you can’t go past Le Freti or L’Alpin, both on Rue Sainte-Claire.
When dining out, you’ll have a number of great local dishes to try as well. Here are some of our recommendations for what to look for on the menu:
Tartiflette: Originating from Savoy in the Alps, this baked dish is made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, onions and cream. While warming and comforting on its own, bacon is often added too.
Soupe aux cailloux: Based on a French folk tale, stone soup is prepared using a large round stone to blend the ingredients together. Green cabbage, potatoes, leek, carrots and turnips are the most commonly used vegetables, with added bacon or chicken.
Brioche de Saint-Genix: This local take on brioche includes red pralines and a little extra sweetness. Pick one of up from a local boulangerie (bakery) or enjoy at a cafe with your afternoon tea or coffee.
Gâteau de Savoie: Another favourite dessert from the region, this simple cake made from flour, corn, sugar and eggs is served with apple jam.
Mussels: For a break away from the cheese, order some all-you-can-eat mussels from Captain Pub on Rue du Pont Morens or Brasserie de l’Abbaye on Rue du Paquier.
Where to stay in Annecy
Hotel des Alpes is one of the top accommodation choices while in Annecy. Only a 10-minute walk from the lake, 100 metres from the train station and 600 metres from Centre Ville, it’s in the ultimate location to explore everything Annecy has to offer. The rooms are homey yet elegantly designed, and there’s a cosy shared dining room to enjoy a complimentary breakfast.
Privilodges Le Royal is perfect if you and your travel companions require a little extra space. The “apparthotel” in the old town offers studios and one-bedroom apartments of differing sizes, many of which overlook the beautiful stretch of the Jardin de l’Evêché botanic gardens. With a fully equipped kitchenette, the apartments are ideal for longer stays or anyone preferring to make their own meals.
Tours to do in Annecy
For the best experience possible, book the Annecy VIP private tour. From antique markets to Alpine resorts, your driver will make you sure you don’t miss a thing in this beautiful area. Visit Palais de I’lle, Château d’Annecy, Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard, Pont des Amours, and even more.
Feeling adventurous? Make your way to Canyon d’Angon for a few hours of canyoning. With all equipment provided, your guide will show you through the canyon and the beautiful forest surrounding Lake Annecy. Descend 40-metre-high waterfalls and end the day with a well-earned beer with your group.
Another unique way to see Annecy is a one to two-hour segway tour. It’s a good option if you’re pressed for time, since you’ll be able to cover more ground than you would on a walking tour. Travelling along the waterfront promenades, you’ll stop to admire the Jardin de l’Europe, Charles Bosson and Pâquier gardens, as well as the Imperial Palace.
Day trips from Annecy
Since the French-Swiss border is only 32 kilometres north of Annecy, it’s more than possible to hop over to Switzerland for the day. Check out our Geneva guide for all the best sights to see and places to eat in the city!
If you’d rather stay in France, head to Lyon for the day. The drive takes under two hours, and the FlixBus is only half an hour longer on average. Leave early in the morning and you’ll have the entire day to explore the capital city of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
Once you’re there, take a three-hour historical tour of Lyon and taste-test at the Paul Bocuse food market. Alternatively, you can take a less-scheduled approach and jump on a hop-on, hop-off bus around the city.
Recommend budget tours in Annecy
- Annecy Segway Tour – 2h
- Winter Ski Tour: Annecy City and Wine Degustation
- Annecy Vip private tour
- Private Market Tour and Modern French Cooking Demo and Meal with a Local
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