On a recent road trip (in July) my family and I got to experience the magical alpine town of Annecy located in the north of the French Alps just 35 kilometres (22 mi) south of Geneva.
To help you plan and enjoy your trip to the fullest, here are our top things to do in Annecy France with a round up of some of the best activities and attractions to explore.
Where is Annecy?
Annecy is located in the southeastern region in France, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes where Lake Annecy feeds into the Thiou River. Also known for its Vieille Ville (old town), with its cobbled streets, web of canals and pastel-colored houses.
Annecy´s medieval architecture and striking mountainous backdrop steals the hearts of everyone who visits.
Did you know Lake Annecy is one of the cleanest lakes in Europe? It´s true and is because of strict environmental regulations that were introduced in the 1960s. Just look at the sparkling clean water in the video below!
Visit Annecy´s charming canals and old town
Originally a Roman site in the 1st century AD, Annecy developed into a major centre of the Counter-Reformation, hence its nickname of “Rome of the Alps”. The city only became French in 1860 after being the possession of the Dukes of Savoy for a very long time.
Venice of France
Annecy is known for its picturesque scenery, and one of the reasons for this is its chain of canals that flow through the Vieille Ville (old town). Also the reason why Annecy is referred to as the “Venice of France.” Though the canals are shallow and not used for boating, they definitely give the town a distinct and charming ambience.
Le Palais de I´lle
At the heart of Annecy you will find the Palais de L’Isle, sitting on a little island formed by the Thiou river. A must see, old fort used as a prison, courthouse and administration office during the 19th century, that now shows off Annecy’s architecture that originiates from the 12th century when it was built.
Learn more about Palais de L’Isle and its timetable.
Château d’Annecy Museum
The Château d’Annecy is a medieval fortress once the residence of the Counts of Geneva and overlooks the city. The museum inside the château houses regional artifacts, including Alpine furniture and religious art, as well as a natural history exhibition. The panoramic views from the castle are simply breathtaking!
Get your entry tickets to the Château d’Annecy.
Pont des Amours
Translated in English to ´lovers bridge´ this romantic footbridge offers scenic city, canal & lake views.
Pont des Amours is situated between the Town Hall and the Champs de Mars, overhung by centuries old plane trees with a clear view of the Pont des Amours – a perfect picture-postcard location.
I highly recommend taking a stroll at night along Canal du Vassé towards Pont des Amours. It´s simply magical!
Food! (Arguably my favourite part of any trip ha)
The local markets in Annecy offer an abundance of fresh produce, cheeses, and other regional specialties. Don’t forget to try the regional Savoyard dishes like raclette, fondue, and tartiflette!!
Restaurants and more
We loved restaurant Chez Ingalls (photos below) so much that we went twice. Once for lunch (on the inside) and the second time for dinner (outside – terrace section). The latter was our favourite because of the ambience. Mpte, this restaurant fills up quickly and I therefore I suggest you reserve a table before going.
More food options..
- We absolutely loved having picnics around the lake! There are so many beautiful spots, and one of our favourites times was on the pier watching the Bastille day fireworks drinking wine and eating pizza from the Pulito a local takeway spot in 13 Rue Centrale.
- We also like to buy quiche or pastries from the local boulangeries. TIP: keep re-usable cutlery, plates, cups and glasses in the car on a road trip. Trust me, they will come in very handy!
- Grab an ice cream and go for a walk next to the lake. This is especially nice during sunset. We loved the ice cream/sorbet and vibe of the vintage blue ice truck of Hivernattus glacier (photo and map below).
Things to do on Lake Annecy
Lake Annecy offers various activities, including a segway tour, boating, swimming, paddleboarding, paragliding and more. You can also rent (more below) various types of boats for unique experiences on the lake.
- Rent a bike and cycle the many paths around the lake.
- Rent paddle boats. You will find several rental companies around the lake, and the cost is approx 15€ per paddle boat for around 30 minutes.
- Rent a scooter (check to see if you need a license).
- Go on a Tourist Boat trip with Compagnie des Bateaux d’Annecy (2 Pl. Aux Bois). We paid 21€/person for 1.5 hours. The scenery was well worth it!
- Rent a small electric or diesel boat (for as many hours as you want) from Ponton Finesso Location bateau/pédalo located in Quai Jules Philippe (see the map below). We paid 70€ for the boat per hour. I highly recommend getting the electricone as it is much better for the environment and is so much quieter 🙂
- Take up water ski or wakeboard lessons at several spots around the lake.
- If you´re not in to adventures sports, the scenic lakeside promenade is perfect for a relaxing stroll.
Festivals and Events
Throughout the year, Annecy hosts a variety of events and festivals that showcase its culture and traditions. The Annecy International Animated Film Festival is a world-renowned event for animation enthusiasts. The Venetian Carnival in the summer is a colorful and lively celebration that adds to the town’s unique charm.
During the summer hiking, biking, and paragliding are just a few of the activities available for those who want to explore the beauty of the natural surroundings.
If you are a winter sports enthusiast Annecy’s proximity to the Alps makes it a haven during the colder months. Nearby ski resorts for example Au Semnoz offer world-class downhill and cross-country skiing.
I hope this post has got you excited for your upcoming trip to Annecy or at least made you want to book a trip there (immediately). Get ready to snap some Insta-worthy shots, and get prepared for a lifetime of memories.