You could be walking the lakeside promenade of Annecy in less than an hour after leaving Geneva airport on your transfer. Annecy is vibrant, cosmopolitain, steeped in history and beautiful. Nothing beats a wander around the edge of the lake on a sunny day, followed by a meander around the Old Town and a spot of leisurely lunch.
As well as being a gorgeous tourist destination, it’s a busy working town, with many Haute Savoie businesses having their head offices in Annecy. Then there’s the attraction of all things nautical on the lake and great shopping too. All this means the town is saturated when it comes to finding an (expensive) car parking space, so take our word for it, you’re better off getting a transfer than hiring a car or driving to Annecy from the airport.Guide section
Lakes and mountains all around in Annecy
Annecy, the town on the edge of Lake Annecy and capital of Haute Savoie region, is simply stunning. What really makes your eyes widen is the panorama. Standing on the Paquier (the large grassy area in front of the lake), it’s glistening azure blue water as far as you can see, with the rugged mountain peaks surrounding the lake reflected in the water.
Don’t forget your camera when in Annecy – it’s one of the most photographed and photographic towns in France. And you can’t help but feel romantic in the place also known as the Venice of the Alps, especially when you stop for a picture opportunity on the wrought iron ‘Pont des Amours’ – the lovers’ bridge.
Watersports and swimming in super clear waters of the lake
As well as taking in the fresh air and the views, there is loads to do and see in Annecy. The water is super clear and clean, making it ideal for swimming and watersports and there are even little sandy and grass beach areas for a sunbathing session, You can also pay to go into the lakeside Lido by the Imperial Palace hotel, or head to the freshwater outdoor pool on the edge of the lake just beside the port where the big pleasure boats leave from.
Visit the historic old town of Annecy
In the historic Old Town, you’ll soon discover it’s compact enough to explore on foot and there’s plenty to see. We recommend the Palais de L’Ile which was a prison in the 12th Century and this most iconic of Annecy buildings, now houses a museum.
The Chateau d’Annecy was home to various Counts and Dukes and is every bit as impressive as you’d imagine. It’s now home to an arts and history museum. For superb views of the lake and the town, it’s also worth the hike up to the Basilique de la Visitation.
Take a lake cruise – an Annecy ‘must-do’!
Back towards the lake, you’ll see the tributary of the river is where the Annecy boat company operates from. This is a must do for any Annecy visitor, as it means you can see the wonderful towns and villages from the viewpoint of the water. There are loads of options, from a one hour tour to a full day pass, where you can hop on and off at different ports around the lake, such as Talloires, Sevrier and Doussard right at the opposite end of Lake Annecy.
Sport, culture, gourmet – Annecy has it all
Annecy is a lovely place to visit at any time of year and is a bit of a hidden gem. There are lots of activities to do, many of which revolve around the crystal-blue waters of Lake Annecy. Here’s our pick of activities and things to do around this wonderful lakeside location.content-activities.php
We can highly recommend splashing out on a dinner cruise. The Libellule is a huge catamaran cruiser boat offering lunch and dinner cruises on the lake from 50€. On both lunch and dinner departures you get to tour pretty much all the lake (and it’s big!) and enjoy a gourmet meal. Best value is at lunchtime, but at night you get to enjoy the sun setting on the lake and the meal is followed by dancing.
Eating ‘en terrace’ in the sunshine is what Annecy is all about. Even if you’re only here for a few hours, there’s always time to take in morning coffee, lunch or an aperitif. There are loads of good eateries in Annecy. One of our faves is L’Estaminet in the Old Town. If you’re lucky you may get a table on the little balcony overlooking the canal. It’s small, bustling and friendly brasserie, with not too over-inflated prices for dishes such as mussels and frites.
A visit to Annecy’s market is a must, even if you don’t buy anything! The Old Town has a food market every Tuesday and Friday and on a Sunday morning it’s food and other goodies. Great for a wander and you if you do want to buy something typically Savoyard, you can pick up tasty treats such as local cheeses and cured meats.
Make sure you explore the Rue Sainte Claire, which is the main cobbled street in the Old Town. The arcades and higgledy-piggledy multicolour buildings are packed full of touristy boutiques, shops, bars and restaurants galore. For the usual High Street shops, take a mooch around Rue Royale and Rue Carnot towards the Courier shopping centre.
Pedalos can be hired for around 13€ for an hour at locations all around the lake. So get a picnic sorted (or pick up some takeaway goodies from Chez Barnabe just next to the Banlieu Centre) and head out onto the lake for a lazy lunch. You can even hire pedalos with little slides on the back so you can splash straight into those crystal clear Annecy waters!
A paraglider flight over Annecy is a must do activity for daredevils. You take off from the Col de la Forclaz, which is a 1250m peak overlooking Lake Annecy. Don’t forget your camera because the views are absolutely spectacular as you soar over the lake.
Have a go at wakeboarding or waterskiing on Lake Annecy. It’s best to go early in the morning, or late in the afternoon when the water is less choppy. There are loads of schools along the lake, but we always head to see the places on the Annecy le Vieux side, which is on the lakeside past the Imperial Palace hotel. No experience required and they have all the kit for you too.
Cycling around Lake Annecy is quite a challenge, but really good fun. The full circuit all the way round is 42km long and most of it is on a specific cycle way that used to be railway line. It’s certainly not flat and the easier route is clockwise, as it gets steep in Talloires. Bikes can be hired from shops like ‘Ca Roule Ma Poule’ near the port where the pleasure boats go from. And we advise making an early start, before the traffic gets heavy and the sun starts beating down!
There are so many events, fetes and festivals in Annecy to get involved in. We’ve collated the major event highlights that take place every year to give you an idea of what Annecy is all about.
Annecy Christmas Market – December
As the publicity for this renowned event says: ‘The magic of Christmas is everywhere!’ in Annecy. From the end of November to the end of December, all around the old town, along by the lake, over towards the Courier commercial centre and in the churches, it is CHRISTMAS in Annecy! Stalls, events and activities for all ages, this is by far the biggest and longest Xmas market of the region.
Venetian Carnival – March
Annecy is known as ‘Venice of the Alps’, so it’s the perfect backdrop for this ever so slightly eccentric festival. Doll-like folk parade around the canals and lakeside to see and be seen. It’s fascinating stuff to witness and attracts a lot of photographers. Usually takes place in mid-March each year.
Annecy Marathon – April
Celebrate spring with a little lakeside jog! Around the end of April each year, the marathon and half marathon events take place in Annecy. It will come as no surprise to hear that it’s been voted one of the top 10 marathons in France. It’s been running since 1980 and is hugely popular, so apply quickly if you want to take part.
Annecy International Animated Film Festival – June
Every June, Annecy celebrates the world of animation. Gathering together producers, graphic artists, directors, students and film fans alike, you can watch premieres of films on the Paquier (the big grassy lakeside area in front of the Banlieu Centre) for free, whilst the jury decides on the animation of the year.
Fete Nationale in Annecy – July
Where better to spend the biggest party of the year in France than in Annecy? Celebrate Fete National on the 14th July each year from midday with an almighty kids party by the lake, live music, percussion bands, dancing and more. The highlight is the huge firework display at 22:15, followed by a ball, as in music and dancing! Of course, there’ll be loads of spectators, but it’s got to be done at least once and it’s all free.
Fete du Lac Annecy – August
The first Saturday of August is one very special day in Annecy. This is Fete du Lac, where an incredible firework display out on the lake is accompanied by live music. It’s really quite stunning. And although tickets for the chairs and grandstands in the prime spots are expensive, (around 38€) you get the best view ever.
Whether you’re hopping on a Geneva transfer to Annecy for a quick weekend break, or spending time touring the Alps, Annecy is our recommended lake stop off for you in our region. You will be wowed by the waters, the historic old town and the plethora of relaxed eateries and cafes, with events and activities all year round too.