Annecy is located in the heart of the Alps, in the Haute-Savoie department of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and benefits from an exceptional natural setting. With its contrasting panorama between the fresh water of the lake and the steep slopes of the mountains, Annecy is a hidden gem. Its turquoise lake nestled at the foot of the marvellous Alps seduces both sportsmen and women in search of snowy slopes and tourists in search of picturesque views.
But Annecy has above all the charm of a perfectly preserved historical city, with its medieval heritage, its canals winding through the centre, its castle and its famous lake. Annecy is an ideal destination for a long weekend, an autumn or Christmas holiday, thanks to its enchanting Christmas markets.
Annecy is also called the Pearl of the Alps to indicate its impressive historical, architectural and cultural heritage. For centuries, in fact, it was a city of capital importance in the region, residence of the Counts of Geneva and the Counts of Savoy. Only in 1860 was it annexed to France, under the reign of Napoleon III.
This charming city is also nicknamed the Venice of the Alps. With its canals, cobbled streets, pastel-coloured houses and medieval architecture, Annecy’s historical centre is full of hidden treasures to discover and picturesque corners to stroll through. Its alleys lead to the superb Lake Annecy, a natural wonder with the superb mountains of the Massif des Bauges in the background.
Annecy owes its reputation as a charming town to its cobbled streets, canals and timeless charm. Strolling through its alleyways, you will take a trip back in time, admiring its opulent pastel-coloured buildings, walking along its superb canals through vaulted passages, small bridges and hidden corners.
Postcard photos of the city can be taken from the Palais de I’Île, located at the junction of the two canals in the centre. Also not to be missed is the Louis-Lachenal promenade that takes you through pretty tree-lined passages.
The historic centre of Annecy is where the bustling life of the town is concentrated: restaurants, small souvenir shops and grocery shops with the best products of the region, especially cold meats and cheeses.
The River Thiou, within the city, separates into two branches, two canals, Le Port and Le Canal du Vassé, which were redeveloped in the early 19th century to allow adjacent industries to benefit from the purity of the water and its motive power.
Le Port is the part that can be seen within the old town, closed to all water activities, while Le Canal du Vassé has been partially buried and resurfaces at Pont des Amours.
Originally, there were three canals and they all performed distinct functions: Le grand Thiou supplied the city with drinking water, Le Notre-Dame irrigated the gardens of religious buildings, and le Canal du Vassé had a defence and drainage purpose.
Today, these canals are one of the city’s most picturesque features and create picturesque corners, hence the nickname Little Venice of the Alps.
This unusual building from the medieval period is surprising for its small size and characteristic view: positioned on the Thiou, the small river that feeds Annecy’s canals, the palace is the undisputed symbol of the city . Built on a natural island, it was classified as a historical monument in 1900 and houses several exhibitions on the city’s architecture and heritage.
Over time, the structure has had multiple functions: initially conceived as a stronghold, it housed lords and counts of the time. It was then turned into a prison and court in the 16th century, before becoming an asylum. After many failed transformation projects, the Palace was used in many ways, from a drawing school to a sports hall and even private accommodation, before its final restoration.
Considered one of the most enchanting in Europe, Lake Annecy is a true jewel of nature.
Its evocative panorama and topaz-coloured waters invite you to dive into a picture-postcard setting. If in winter, Lake Annecy impresses with its meditative atmosphere, in summer its shores invite you to try out the numerous activities that can be practised.
From lakeside relaxation to diving, from water skiing to wakeboarding, not to mention fishing, canyoning, sailing or boat trips. Not to mention the many private and public beaches that welcome you around the lake: try the Annecy-le-Vieux beach, one kilometre east of the Champs de Mars, the plage de l’Impérial, on Avenue d’Albigny, the plage de Saint-Jorioz, equipped with a trampoline, jetties and services, the plage de Talloires, with a children’s pool and the plage de Menthon Saint-Bernard, with a playground, volleyball courts and boules.
This imposing historical monument was once the residence of the Counts of Geneva. Its architecture was strongly inspired by the great French castles, before being converted into military barracks after World War II. The building represents the change and evolution of architecture over time (from the 13th to the 16th century): from the strong presence of the defensive keep to a more graceful and elegant conformation worthy of the Renaissance.
Today it houses temporary exhibitions that pay tribute to the region’s heritage and architecture, as well as collections of more modern works.
With its pleasant lakeside promenade, a stone’s throw from the town, the Jardins d’Europe are, together with the Pâquier, one of the favourite places of Annecy’s inhabitants. They are a large tree-lined park with centuries-old plants, creating plays of light and shade that delight passers-by, painters and nature lovers.
Once a marshy area located outside the ramparts of the city of Annecy, a first promenade was built here in the 17th century and it was not until the mid-19th century that the area was purchased by the municipality and transformed almost into an island. In 1863, the gardens were designed with more than 600 trees, a romantic corner overlooking the lake.
The Bridge of Loves is another important symbol of the city of Annecy: this footbridge joins the Jardins de l’Europe and the Pâquier, a 7-hectare green esplanade with a splendid view of the lake and mountains.
The bridge crosses the Canal du Vassé : from here you can admire a splendid panorama, with romantic views of the lake on one side and the canal and port on the other. The best time to visit is at sunset, when the most vibrant colours are reflected in the waters of the lake.
The name of the bridge could have several origins. The first hypothesis is that the place is where the swans meet during the mating season; the second explanation stems from an ancient tradition, according to which lovers who kiss on the bridge will remain linked forever.
During the festive season, Annecy is cloaked in magic with the evocative atmosphere of its Christmas markets . Located in different and strategic places in the historic centre, they bring together hundreds of exhibitors: locals and tourists alike can stroll among the 150 chalets specially set up for the occasion and shop for Christmas presents.
The heart of the market is a reconstruction of a typical Savoy village, with many tavaillon-roofed chalets, positioned in a circle to create an authentic and traditional atmosphere. The Annecy Christmas markets are the perfect opportunity to discover the city in a unique and magical guise .
You can try your hand at the open-air skating rink, taste Savoyard specialities, sip traditional mulled wine and local beers, and immerse yourself in the magic of Christmas with the illuminations, giant fir trees, Savoy arches, sound and light shows on the façades of the buildings and the marvellous light decorations, which provide the backdrop for many themed, musical and cultural events.
Lake Annecy and the vast natural area surrounding it offer many possibilities for excursions, outdoor activities or simple walks in the most enchanting places in the area.
It is the easiest walk around Annecy. To admire the enchanting alpine landscapes surrounding the town, you can comfortably take your car and drive up to the top, where you can admire beautiful views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Semnoz is a good starting point for alpine hiking, mountain biking in summer, sledding, skiing and snowshoeing in winter.
Several marked trails start from the village of Veyrier and reach the ridges of Mont Veyrier: they allow you to enjoy the view of Annecy and its lake, framed by the Bauges peaks, the Entrevernes mountain and the long wooded ridge of Semnoz.
The hike allows you to walk for several hours without too much difficulty, well protected from the heat because most of the paths are shaded. If you don’t like hiking, you can also reach a good vantage point by car, from the col des contrebandiers: from here there is a magnificent view of the entire lake.
Occupied by the Menthon family for more than 1,000 years, the castle was built in the 13th century and remodelled several times throughout its history, giving it its atypical but romantic appearance.
It is said to have inspired Walt Disney for his Sleeping Beauty castle and houses magnificent original furnishings.
Located about ten kilometres from the centre of Annecy, the Gorges du Fier is a natural site designed to discover the gorges that the river Fier has carved into the rock.
The visit winds along the 25-metre high canyon. It is possible to walk through these gorges thanks to safe footbridges that run along the stream bed. At the end of the walk, don’t miss the Mer des Rochers, a kind of labyrinth of blocks where the Fier flows impetuously. At the end, visit an explanatory area, the Clairière des Curieux, where you can learn more about the geography of the Fier and the water cycle.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Nestled in the middle of the Alps, Haute Savoie is characterised for the most part by small, winding mountain roads and unfavourable weather conditions, especially in winter due to the abundant snow. While this is especially true for the more remote villages in the department, the city of Annecy, which is easy to reach, is a different matter.
The nearest airport to the city is Geneva, Switzerland. Geneva is about 40 km from Annecy. Once you land, you are obliged to continue by car, rented at the airport, or by bus, with a transfer taking about 2 hours. From Monday to Friday, 3 express buses connect the airport directly with the centre of Annecy. The journey costs EUR 10.50 and the timetables are available on the Transdev website.
Annecy is not a very large city and if you plan to stay only a few days, the ideal place to stay is in the historic centre, which is very authentic and characteristic and where you will find a wide choice of accommodation of all kinds. This is where the charm and romantic atmosphere of the city is concentrated, with its historical period buildings, its canals and the Thiou river, which flows peacefully down to the lake. Not to mention the Sunday morning market, quaint little restaurants and bistros, and interesting shops.
If, on the other hand, you intend to dedicate more time to the city and its surroundings, you can head for the Balmettes neighbourhood, close to the city centre: this is an excellent area to stay in Annecy, which can be reached by a short walk. In the district you will find the Animation Film Museum and the lakeside promenades, a wonderful place to relax and sunbathe in summer.
If you want to save as much money as possible, you can choose instead the neighbourhoods close to the city centre, slightly off the beaten track: the Cran-Gevrier area, where the Thiou River passes and where there are some nice restaurants, is one of the best areas to sleep in Annecy. Or the Carillon district, a residential area slightly set back from the centre. However, both neighbourhoods are quite far from the heart of the city: it is always better to use the car to get there, as it takes about 20-30 minutes of walking.
What's the weather at Annecy? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Annecy for the next few days.
Annecy is a charming Alpine town in the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.