Known as “the Venice of France”, Annecy is a beautiful town in the French Alps, specifically in the Haute-Savoie department, with lots to do. The town holds a farmers’ market a couple of times during the week, there are plenty of cute restaurants with traditional foods and it’s relaxing to walk along the quaint cobblestone streets of the old town crossing the river on bridges decorated with colorful flowers. The town also sits right on the picturesque Lac Annecy which provides loads of water fun – from beaches to paddle boats, etc. And if you’re visiting during the winter, while you won’t see the flowers, you could end up there during Annecy’s Venetian-style carnival celebration which is a big tourist draw for the participants’ beautiful masks.
Why to go: While there’s not a ton of sights to visit here, it makes a great day (or more) trip for the fresh local farmers’ markets, peaceful walks around the old town and fun water activities in the summer months.
When to go: If you want to experience the lake activities, you’re better off visiting during the summer. Be warned, though, the old town’s narrow streets and bridges are generally overrun with tourists during those same months – so be prepared for the crowds. You can still enjoy the tranquility and beauty of Annecy during the winter months and without the throngs of tourists. However, water activities should not be included on the itinerary for that season.
What to see/do: The two main sites to visit are the Palais d’Isle (Old Prison) which sits on a little island between the canals, and the Annecy Castle, located on a hill overlooking the city. The farmer’s markets are a big draw as are the town’s plentiful and charming artisan boutiques. A stroll around the old town (and beyond) invites lots of window (and real) shopping. And, of course, depending on the season/weather, don’t miss out on the lake, itself. You can swim/sunbathe at the clean, free public beaches. There are also opportunities to sail or take a ride in a paddle boat or take a hike or bike ride in the mountains surrounding the lake.
What to eat and/or drink: Our favorite treats in Annecy are the crepes and the ice cream (or a combo of the two!). Both of which are easy to find during your walk around the old town. There are many cute restaurants offering relaxing outdoor seating (or indoor if you prefer) alongside the canals and flowered bridges.
Where to make a detour: From Annecy it’s only a short ride to some other interesting cities including Lyon, France (1 ½ hours) and Geneva, Switzerland (45 minutes). Another town that is easy to combine with a visit to Annecy is Chamonix, France (covered previously) – only about an hour away.