15 Annecy sights worth visiting
One of the most beautiful medieval cities in France is located on the shore of the cleanest lake in Europe. And isn’t that a reason to come here? Annecy is beautiful, permeated by canals and covered by a network of historic streets running in all directions.
The lake of the same name, fringed by mountains on all sides, is also magnificent: its crystal clear water literally beckons, especially on hot summer days. And this is not all that may be of interest for visitors. There is a long list of things to see and do in Annecy.
It is safe to say that Lake Annecy is an attraction of all of France: the country can be justly proud of this natural body of water with the clearest water. Whatever the purpose of your trip to Savoie, this lake which is famous all over Europe will be in your plans.
Lake Annecy remains calm at all times, despite all the activity on its shores. If you come to Annecy in the summer, you’ll be hard pressed to blame if you want to lounge by the clear water for days on end at one of the city’s several beaches.
Two beaches, Brune Beach in Vergier du Lac and Municipal Beach in Saint-Georges, have received the Blue Flag for their undeniable water quality and amenities such as restaurants, playgrounds and lifeguard patrol. Be prepared for the haze that covers the lake and its surroundings half the time.
The address is Lac d’Annecy, France.
Annecy can be safely called the French “city of arts”, because only within its compact old town you can find as many as 21 historical monuments.
The medieval core of the city on the Tioux River is particularly beautiful. Its canals, pedestrian streets and fascinating covered galleries will have you reaching for your camera every few steps.
For a better understanding of the city’s history and the “traces” of this history, which literally catch your attention at every turn, we recommend that you walk in the company of an experienced guide. On Tuesdays there is a food market in the historic center of town, which adds a special flavor and energy to the old streets.
Address: Annecy Old Town, Quai de l’Évêché, 74000 Annecy, France.
Gardens of Europe
Gardens of Europe.
It’s hard to imagine a city park with better panoramas than the so-called Gardens of Europe, opposite the City Hall in Annecy. Once this place was just a marshy island. In the nineteenth century they built an embankment along the Vasse Canal and laid out an English garden, planting more than 600 deciduous trees around a monument to the pioneering chemist Claude-Louis Bertholle. Whatever the weather, don’t miss the opportunity to walk down to the water, sit on a bench and admire the mountain peaks over the southeast shore of the lake.
Address: Jardins de l’Europe, Quai Napoléon III, Annecy, France.
The Bridge of lovers
The Lovers’ Bridge.
Annecy has many picturesque bridges, but none can compare to the Lakeside Lovers’ Bridge. This bridge, spanning the Vasse Canal, connects the Gardens of Europe with the Jacquet promenade. And it is famous above all for its magnificent views of the lake and the mountains.
The mountain scenery makes this bridge a very romantic place. Don’t forget to look back at the town along the canal, which is surrounded by trees and has charming piers where boats and small boats are moored. Legend has it that lovers who kiss on this bridge will be together for life.
Address: Pont des Amours, Annecy, France.
The Castle of Ile (“Island Palace”).
Château d’Ile (“Island Palace”).
You won’t be the first person to come to Perrier Bridge to photograph this fortified palace located on an island in the middle of the Tioux Canal, but you should do it anyway. This castle dates back to the 1100s, and it has been rebuilt more than once in its long history.
For hundreds of years it was the residence of the noble families of the County of Geneva. In the seventeenth century, the palace was turned into a prison, and then, after the revolution, it had many different functions – it was a veterans’ home, a warehouse, a barracks. Today the castle of Ile serves as a kind of museum. Here you can see an exhibition about the architecture and historical heritage of Annecy, as well as take a look at the old courtroom, the dungeon, the prison cells and the palace chapel.
The address is Le Palais de I’lle, Passage de l’Île, Annecy, France.
Saint-Pierre Cathedral and the Basilica of the Visitacion
Basilica de la Visitación (Basilica of the Visitation).
St. Peter’s Cathedral, like Château d’Ile, is in close proximity to the water, next to the canals. This beautiful Renaissance building, built in the 1500s, you’ll see as you stroll through the historic part of the city.
The Visitation Basilica, on the other hand, is a little farther from the center, on the mountainside to the south of Annecy. The tower of this 19th-century church can be seen from miles away, and offers one of the best views of the city. Inside the basilica are the tombs of two saints, Francis de Sales and Jane Francis de Chantal.
Address: Basilique de la Visitation, Avenue de la Visitation, Annecy, France.
There are several good reasons to walk up the steep hill to Château d’Annecy, the residence of the Counts of Geneva, dating back to the 12th to 16th centuries. Here you can explore the old towers and halls of the castle, and in the museum you can look at beds, tables, chests and other medieval furniture, giving an idea of the way of life of the wandering rulers of Savoy. The museum also has more valuable exhibits – manuscripts. Many tourists prefer not to go inside the castle, and instead enjoy the views of the city from the terrace.
Address: Château d’Annecy, Place du Château, Annecy, France.
The Gorge of the Fières River
The Gorge of the River Fières.
To the west of Annecy, a short drive from the city, is an amazing river canyon cut by the River Fières.
This natural wonder is quite accessible to tourists: at a height of 25 meters above the river there are several walkways that allow you to admire the strange shapes created by many years of erosion.
In places, the gorge is so narrow that the cliffs almost converge overhead, and you can simultaneously touch the stone walls rising on either side. A little-noticed trail leads you from the gorge to a natural pool where people come to sunbathe and swim in the summer.
Address: Gorges du Fier, Chavano, France.
Chateau de Montrotier
Chateau de Montrotier | Photo: Uli & Liz Baecker / Flickr.
Combine your trip through the Fier Gorge with a visit to Château Montrotier, which looks down on the river from above. The architecture of this castle, which dates back to the 13th century, is impressive. Its tall round tower dominates the surrounding landscape.
During the summer months, the Château de Montrotier is open to the public. And it is certainly worth going inside, because the collection of Leon Mares, an explorer, traveler and passionate collector of the 19th century, awaits you there.
When Mares donated his collection from all over the world to the city, he specified that he wanted the collection to be displayed exactly as he left it.
During a 90-minute tour of this museum, you will see many historic tapestries, antique weapons, armor, antique furniture, ceramics, glassware and many other items that Mares acquired while traveling through Asia and Africa.
Address: Château de Montrottier, Allée du Château, Lovigny, France.
Le Grand-Bornand Resort.
Annecy is quite close to resorts such as Manigod, La Clouse, Le Grand-Bornand and Saint-Jean-de-Sixt, and therefore attracts skiing enthusiasts. If after a day on the slopes you want to rest not in a typical village, but in a civilized place, Annecy will be an excellent choice, especially since it is no more than 45 minutes from any of the local ski resorts.
All of the resorts are on the lower slopes, and are very suitable for beginners. La Clouse is the best, with the most difficult slopes of all the resorts around Annecy.
Address: Le Grand-Bornand, France.
When the warm July sun hits, Lake Annecy offers almost any water sport you can imagine. Like to go fast? Try your hand at water skiing or wakeboarding. Want something more relaxed and measured? Then try paddleboarding or open water swimming.
The address is Lac d’Annecy, France.
Hiking and biking
Around the lake shore, you’ll find many viewpoints that offer breathtaking views of the lake and mountains. Among them are Le Teylefer, Plateau Semnoz, Laudon, the chapel at Entreverne, and La Frasse Pass. All are easy to reach, even for families with children.
All you need is a pair of good boots. The very climb to these viewpoints is a great pleasure, as you’ll be traveling through mountain pastures, forests, and orchards.
The area around Lake Annecy is also an ideal green area for cycling. From the town you can go down the east shore of the lake and end your ride at Marlense in the Foverges Valley, 35 km from Annecy.
The address is Semnoz, V’uy-la-Ch’iez, France.
Fromagerie du Cruet store.
Annecy is a true cheese paradise, as there are four major cheese producers near the town – Gruyere, Emmental de Savoie, Emmental-Francais-est-Savoie, and Tomme de Savoie.
If you really like cheese, you should pay a visit to the village stores of Ferme de l’Angelie and Fromagerie du Cruet, which are situated on farms and sell their own cheese as well as homemade jams and sausages.
The area is also famous for its fish. Many fishermen live near the lake and make their living here. The Arctic char, perch and trout they catch can end up on your plate the same day in one of Annecy’s fine restaurants.
The address is Fromagerie du Cruet, St. Eustache, France.
Grand Cercle Casino.
This resort town on Lake Bourget, founded by the Romans, is southwest of Annecy and easy to reach by car. In the 19th century, Aix-les-Bains was very popular with the rich people of Europe, who came here for the healing water.
In the century and a half to two centuries since, the town has been improved with large hotels in the so-called Belle Epoque style, splendid townhouses and a casino.
If you want to gamble or just admire the Art Nouveau interiors, go to the Grand Cercle Casino. If you want to rest and relax after your excursions on Lake Annecy, Aix-les-Bains is again at your service, as it is still a first-class spa resort with pools and saunas. Here you will find all the restorative treatments you could wish for.
Address: Aix-les-Bains, France.
City of Chambery
The elephant fountain.
Drive a little further from Aix-les-Bains to the delightful Alpine town of Chambery. You won’t be able to resist the temptation to explore its historic center.
The medieval buildings, narrow streets and Renaissance arcades have stood the test of time, but the great thing is that they are not museum pieces, but part of a living city.
Chambéry’s main attraction is the Elephant Fountain, dedicated to Benoît de Boigny, the Napoleonic warlord who helped train the Maratha people in India and led the Maratha movement against the British. Another local landmark is Chambéry Castle, once owned by the Counts of Savoy. Today it is home to the regional government, but the building is still open for tours.
Annecy: 10 great vacation ideas
Annecy is a small resort town in the Alps, full of French provincial charm. We’ve prepared 10 ideas for you to enjoy your holiday and make it memorable for years to come.
Swim in the lake
The main attraction of the city is the lake with the same name on its shores. This brings the resort closer to neighboring Geneva, but in favor of the choice of French settlement says a lot: Lake Annecy is not inferior to Geneva in the beauty of the surrounding scenery, the prices here are much lower and the water is cleaner – you can see as much as 5 meters deep.
The bathing season in Annecy is short, but in July and August the water in the lake gets up to +24 ° C. The beaches in the city are several, with different surfaces. You can go to the grassy Albigny and Marquesa beach, which are free to enter. Lovers of lying on the sand also will not be deprived – beach Imperial, which is near the hotel of the same name (you can book a room here), is available to tourists for 5-7 euros.
Take a walk along rue Saint-Claire
The history of the settlement of Annecy has 900 years, and this solid age is reflected in the building. As any ancient city, it has its own old town, the heart of which is the Rue Saint-Claire. As befits a pedestrian zone of the resort, it is lined with stores, stalls and small cafes. But the main feature of the street are the houses decorated with arcades – rows of equal-sized arches. This architectural solution in the past helped fight the floods, but gradually became the main “chip” St. Clair. Now the traditional shops and coffee houses are located in these wide arches.
If you want something new, we recommend getting to know the city with a segway tour, which will give you a new experience and save your energy. However, please note that this tour requires knowledge of the English language. Read more here.
“Read the article – Annecy – an Alpine fairy tale
Take a photo against the backdrop of the Island Palace
The most photographed place in Annecy is the Château de l’Île (Le Palais de I’Île), located in the middle of the Tioux River in the heart of the city. It was built in the 12th century and since then has not changed its original appearance. The castle has a rather austere appearance and served as a prison until World War II. The grimness of the fortress is set off by toy houses on the waterfront, and the waters of the river itself. On the whole, the picture is so picturesque that it has become the hallmark of Annecy.
If you need more than just a visual impression of the castle, you can visit the city museum, located within its walls. Also much more interesting and informative will pass acquaintance with the history of an ancient settlement on author’s excursion with the Russian-speaking guide (book an excursion here). After all, only a local will tell you with love and admiration about the little charming Annecy.
Kiss on the Bridge of Lovers
Annecy is called the Venice of Savoy because of the abundance of canals and bridges. So it is no coincidence that another landmark of the city is the Lovers’ Bridge (Pont des Amours), spanning the waters of the Canal du Vasse (Canal du Vasse). The banks, planted with plane trees, create a very romantic atmosphere indeed.
The bridge has a legend of its own, telling the story of two unhappy lovers whose fate was unfortunate. They inherited a belief that if you kiss on this spot, you will forever remain with your loved one. Therefore, to strengthen the relationship be sure to perform this simple and pleasant ritual. And to start every day of your vacation romantically, we advise you to use this link to book a room with a view of the Lovers’ Bridge.
Stroll through the Garden of Europe
A stone’s throw from the bridge is the Jardins de l’Europe, an English style landscape park. This is a favorite vacation spot for citizens and tourists. The park is on the shore of the lake, so here you can get away from the bustle of the city in the high season and enjoy the picturesque coast. The jewel of the garden is the artificial Swan Island, whose inhabitants are these proud and beautiful birds.
Visit the Lake Festival
The resort hosts quite a few events, from classical music festivals to massive triathlon competitions. It even has its own Venice Carnival, held in late winter. But the highlight is the Lake Festival in August, at the height of the holiday season. During the festival there is the most grandiose pyrotechnical show in all of Europe, which is watched by 200 thousand spectators at the same time. At the culmination of the festival the entire sky above the lake is colored by numerous fireworks and salutes.
Annecy is a veritable Mecca of paragliding. Fans of free flying come here from all over the world. The start is given from one of the surrounding mountains, but in order to sign up for a flight, you must first come to the landing site. Here tourists sign up for a certain time and are brought to the start at a designated hour. For novice paragliders the flight is possible only in tandem with an instructor. The pleasure will cost 100 Euro, the flight lasts 30-40 minutes and the view of the surroundings is simply fascinating.
Taste the local cuisine
Savoyard cuisine incorporates the culinary achievements of other Alpine countries and regions, especially Switzerland and Italy. It should therefore come as no surprise that fondue and gratin made from crozet, a local type of pasta, are most popular here. As for the authentic dishes, you should definitely try the matafan. It is a peculiar casserole with bacon sprinkled with gruyere cheese on top.
However, the residents are especially proud of their desserts. The famous Savoyard pie with blueberries or citrus peel is the most famous. Competing with it can only be refined Italian ice cream, which can be served in any cafe in the city. Of alcoholic drinks you should try the wine from local vineyards, and better still Genepi, a traditional Alpine liqueur infused with wormwood herbs. It is customary to end a meal with it, as it aids in good digestion.
Visit the fountain of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
The city played a major role in the life of the eminent French philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau after he fled to Savoie. For a time he lived in Annecy in the house of his patroness and lover, Madame de Varence. Rousseau often mentions the town and its inhabitants in his autobiographical novel, The Confessions.
In honor of the writer, the people of Annecy erected a small fountain near the city’s conservatory. A bust and an inscription on the balustrade of the fountain adorn it: “One blooming Easter morning, Rousseau met Madame de Varence here.
Take a trip to the viewpoint of the Aiguille du Midi
Since Annecy is located in the French Alps, it’s only right to go to one of the peaks of this mountain system. Very close to the city is the viewpoint on top of the Aiguille du Midi. It is called the “Step into the Void” and lives up to its name. The views are breathtaking at 3,800 meters but the main attraction is the observation deck. The glass walls and floor create a full effect of floating in the air. However, if you have a fear of heights, remember that quite a few people are simply stiff with terror on a visit to this extreme attraction.
We hope that you have taken for yourself interesting entertainment ideas in this cozy alpine resort!