Annecy is one of those cities that never fail to make an impression, one of those cities you feel a connection with as soon as you set foot in it, one of those cities where the atmosphere is always happy and upbeat. And Lake Annecy, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps region of France, has a lot to do with that. With its 25 square kilometres, it is the country’s second largest lake.
You can already feel these vibes as soon as you arrive in the little marina. From here you can walk or cycle along a flat, paved path all around this natural glacial lake (approximately 40 kilometres). As well as taking a cruise to admire the beautiful scenery, you can also do lots of different water sports, bathe from some of the sandy beaches, and on the first Saturday in August you can watch the biggest fireworks display in Europe.
On the quayside you will find various companies that will take you across the waters of Lake Annecy and you have the choice of various options (with or without stops, with or without dinner). We went on a cruise with Compagnie des Bateaux with no stops or dinner. It lasted an hour and we were quite happy with that.
Location: Quayside of the city of Annecy
The Venice of the Alps
Then we recommend you continue your visit by strolling through the historic centre of Annecy. It is not very big but it is charming and colourful. Medieval in style and with several waterways branching from the Thiou, the river that flows from the lake and the shortest in France, it has come to be known as "the Venice of the Alps".
From high up by the Castle, the former residence of the Counts of Geneva, there are lovely views of the centre and the surrounding countryside. Don’t miss visiting the Island Palace, a former prison and courthouse clinging to a little island, or the sixteenth century St Peter’s Cathedral, and don’t forget to try the wonderful fish from that very lake at the restaurant of L'Auberge du Lyonnais.
If you happen to visit on a Tuesday, Friday or Sunday, you will find the market in full swing in the morning, with local produce and a very lively atmosphere.
Location: Historic centre of Annecy
Outside the walls
The old centre is protected by two of the original four city gates. Outside its "imaginary" walls you will also find interesting places to visit and picturesque little streets with businesses selling jewellery, watches, fashion and design.
At Annecy Tourist Office, located in a glass building, alongside a theatre and library, they will provide you with useful information about the French city and its surrounding area (Haute-Savoie and Auvergne-Rhône-Alps). Opposite is a large expanse of lawn (Gardens of Europe and Champ de Mars) beside the lake where you can relax and enjoy beautiful sunsets.
Location: 1 Rue Jean Jaurès
A convenient stay
Annecy is also known in the region for its economic and touristic development. 73 per cent of the visitors are French and 27 per cent are from abroad (mainly Swiss, British, Italian, German and American), according to 2019 data, and there are a total of 3 million visitors per year. This French location, close to the Swiss and Italian borders, has some fifty hotels for every taste and budget. And some of them are very convenient indeed, like the Hotel Allobroges Park, located 50 metres from the Central Railway Station, five minutes on foot from the lake and in the middle of the city’s shopping aread.
Location: 11 Rue Sommeiller
A luxury stay
The natural advantages of Annecy as a holiday destination for both winter and summer and the return to the "slow life" are indicators pointing to the increasing growth of tourism in the city. The Lavorel Hotels group spotted this trend and in 2018 opened the doors of the five-star Black Bass Hotel.
The innovation and design of its facilities, rooms and restaurant are great attractions but the jewel in the crown is the location: gardens with swimming pool, unusual outdoor spaces, spectacular views and private lake access. If you’re not a guest, don’t worry, you can have a glass of good French wine on the terrace and try the delicious fusion cuisine. You won’t regret it.
Location: 921 Route d'Albertville
The Alpine mountains
In the large department of Haute Savoie there is no postcard or Instagram photo without mountains: from the highest peak, the Tournette at 2,350 metres, to the lowest at 448 metres, or even on a clear day the summit of Mont Blanc (4,810 metres high).
The most indulgent way to enjoy them is to tour the lake where the Mediterranean plants add a tropical touch to the Alpine vistas. For the braver and sportier there are dozens of options to enjoy the wilder scenery. One that stands out is paragliding: Annecy is one of the foremost destinations in France and Europe for practicing this sport. Over 150,000 people take part in it each year and they usually launch themselves from the Summit of Forclaz which is also a fantastic viewpoint.
In the area around Annecy you can visit the Gorges du Fier, a narrow canyon over the river, the Bout du Lac Nature Reserve and the Seythenex Grotto and Waterfall.
Location: Summit of Forclaz
Sustainable and responsible tourism
Another aspect of Annecy is its excellent gastronomy, continuously evolving thanks to its great chefs and to Laurent Petit, a creative chef who recently obtained his third Michelin star for dishes based on the natural resources of the local environment.
The most typical dishes of the city, which you must sample during your visit, are fondue (pots of boiling cheese accompanied by bread for dipping), tartiflettes (cooked potatoes with sausage and grated Savoyard cheese and, as we said earlier, Alpine trout. These can all be found at L'Etage Bar Restaurante located in the old colonnade in the centre.
And don’t miss those places that help promote local culture and responsible tourism. One of these is Armony des Saveurs in the Haras, a former cavalry stables which is now a pleasant open-air space where you can try organic dishes and delicious juices in good company.
Location: 19 Rue Guillaume Fichet