Annecy in Rhône Alps is a lakeside city, beside Lake Annecy, that is framed by snow-capped mountains and known as the 'Venice of the Alps' for its beautiful canals.
The second largest lake in France, Lake Annecy is one of the cleanest in the world and is perfect for a multitude of watersports. On one side stand the mountains of Semnoz, Mont Veyrier, Tournette and Parmelan from which rivers descend into the lake. The Thiou passes through Annecy, filling its pretty canals. Just 40 mins from Geneva, Annecy was once the county capital of Geneva after the count was chased from that city after dispute with bishops. Annecy is one of the oldest settlements in the Alps and has also been known as the 'Rome of the Alps' because of the wealth of religious architecture in the city including the church of St Francis de Sales, a 17th century church that has been used as barracks and as a factory during its history, the basilica of the Visitation, built in 1930, where the coffins of the saints Jane de Chantal and Francis de Sales lie, and the 16th century cathedral of St Pierre.
A wander around the city uncover lots of interesting architecture including the Imperial Palace, a luxury hotel built just before WW1 that has seen celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin, Winston Churchill and Edith Piaf stay here, the medieval Château d'Annecy, which is now home to a museum of alpine art and objects and the striking Palais de l'Isle, a 12th century prison built on a natural island in the Thiou. Stroll across the wrought iron bridge, the Pont des Amours, and in either direction you'll discover the wonderful green spaces of the paquier and the Gardens of Europe, both bordered by the lake. A large, area of short grass crossed by several paved paths, the paquier is used by walkers and joggers but also for games and festivals such as the Annecy International Animated Film Festival when a big screen is set up here, or as a great place to watch the fireworks of the Lake Festival, one of the largest displays in Europe that happens every 3rd Saturday in August. The Gardens of Europe were planted in the 19th century and plays host to the Petit Bal Perdu each summer when a wooden dance floor is erected and accordion music, amongst othes, is played on a Sunday afternoon. Annecy plays more music at the Crescendo festival, a classical music festival with concerts taking place across the various historical monuments of the city. With such open spaces, and the lake, Annecy plays host to lots of sporting events including volleyball tournaments, a marathon and a triathlon.
Take a boat trip out onto Lake Annecy for spectacular views where you can sight the Chateau Ruphy Duignt, a glorious 11th century fortress built on a spit of land that juts into the lake and is, unfortunately, not open to visitors. If water sports are your hobby then the lake is perfect for sailing, rowing, swimming, waterskiing, and diving. There are also outdoor pools close to the lake if you prefer to take the children somewhere safer to swim in the summer. Or, why not hike up Semnoz, or go mountain biking on its specified biking track that goes down into the city? Many different winter sports are available on the mountain such as Nordic skiing, downhill skiing, sledding, snowshoeing, tobogganing, and even snowkiting / kite boarding, and there are several ski resorts in the area. Back in Annecy, there are several markets, especially in the Old Town, and many street vendors around the paquier, but the centre is the place for some serious shopping with its shopping mall. Traditional alpine food is rustic with animals and plants reared in the harsh environment of the mountains and thick soups, potato dishes and cured meats are popular. Try the local AOC certified walnuts or the more modern speciality of tartiflette, a gratin of potatoes, onion, cheese and bacon lardons.
Why visit Annecy?
- Lake Annecy
- Natural Parks
- The Old Town
- Country: France
- Region: Rhône Alps
- Department: Haute-Savoie
- Population: 53,000
- Coordinates: 45.911511,6.130955
Coordinates shown are based on the WGS84 system, please check driving directions before departing.