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 aim of your trip to Savoie, this lake 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 that history that grab your attention literally 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.
Just 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 Marlins 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 houses the regional government, but the building is nevertheless open for tours.
15 best sights in Annecy – description and photos
For a sightseeing tour through Annecy, you can visit the most interesting places of the city and get to know the beauties of the “Venice of the Alps”.
|Annecy Old Town|
|Le Palais de I’lle|
|Notre-Dame de Liesse|
|St. Peter’s Cathedral|
|Basilique de la Visitation|
|Château de Montrottier|
Annecy’s main attractions
Annecy has many places of interest that you can learn more about during your city-break, but here are the highlights of Annecy’s heritage.
Annecy Old Town
The Tioux and Vasse rivers, where the waters of the lake spring from, loop through the old town, which is called the “Venice of Savoy.” This pedestrian area with the Palais de l’Ile is painted in the bright colors of Sardinia. The two churches below the castle, St. Maurice and St. Francois de Sal, mark the transition to a 19th-century city with its Sardinian architecture and a commercial city of the first half of the 20th century with stately buildings.
Palais de I’lle.
It is this small building that has become the symbol of Annecy and the most photographed place in the city. Picturesquely located in the middle of the river, it is captured in numerous photographs and postcards of the region as the most beautiful building. Built before the 18th century and connected to the “mainland” of Annecy through a bridge, it resembles a miniature castle surrounded by water, despite the fact that it has long been used as a prison (very cold, of course) for local miscreants.
The building was built in 1132 and was the main residence of the Lord of Annecy in the early 12th century. Later it was the headquarters of the administration of the county of Geneva, whose capital of Annecy was from 1213 to 1320. Subsequently, the palace of L’Ile was used as a courthouse and prison until the French Revolution. The courtroom and cells, as well as the former chapel, can still be visited today. From medieval times until 1865, the building served as a mint. This operation was briefly resumed during World War II.
On February 16, 1900, the Palais de l’Ile was registered as a Historic Monument. It was restored after World War II and is now owned by the municipality of Annecy.
Annecy Centre for the Interpretation of Architecture and Heritage
Founded in the Palace of Architecture and Heritage, the Center for Architecture and Heritage chronicles the city’s development and expansion through thematic exhibitions. Discover the different facets of Annecy, from rural to urban. The city’s prestigious heritage is highlighted by a large-scale model based on an 18th-century plan and documents of the old province of Geneva.
- Address: 3 passage de l’Île, 74000 Annecy
- Admission: 3.80 € (under 18 years old free)
- Combination ticket with the Musée Château d’Annecy: 7.20 € adults; 3.20 € for ages 12 to 25; free for children under 11.
- Opening hours: June-September: 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; at other times: daily except Tuesdays from 10 to 12 p.m., from 2 to 5 p.m. Closed on some holidays.
The dominant historical part of Annecy, the former residence of the Counts of Geneva and Dukes of Geneva-Nemours, is represented by buildings from the 12th to the late 16th centuries: the Queen’s Tower (12th century), the Old Lodge (14th-15th centuries), the Perrier Tower (15th century), the New Lodge (16th century). Today the castle is home to the Regional Alpine Lakes Observatory, dedicated to the complex local ecosystem, and the local Folk Art Museum, enriched by a collection of contemporary art.
The castle was built between the 12th and 16th centuries. Damaged several times by fires, the castle was abandoned in the 17th century and then converted into a barracks until 1947. The City of Annecy purchased the castle in 1953, restored it with the help of the Historical Monuments Society and housed a museum there.
The castle houses a museum of regional artifacts featuring Alpine furniture, religious art, oil paintings and contemporary works. One section is devoted to the geology and marine life of the region’s deep cold lakes.
Since 1993, the Logis Perrière has housed an observatory (l’Observatoire régional des lacs alpins).
- Address: Place du Château, 74000 Annecy.
- Entrance: 5.50 € (under 12 years old free).
- Combination ticket with Palais de I’lle: 7,20 € adults; 3,20 € for ages 12 to 25; free for children under 12
- Opening hours:
- June-September: 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; other times: daily except Tuesdays from 10 to 12, 2 to 5 p.m.
- Closed January 1, Easter Sunday and Monday, May 1, November 1, December 25.
Colorful arcaded houses with stores line the main street of the historic town, as well as Rue Perrière and Rue de l’Île. House No. 18 was the 16th-century home of the bishop of Banorea, then president Antoine Favre, before becoming the residence of the Académie Florimontane.
Notre-Dame de Liesse
Church of Our Lady of Livonia. Completely rebuilt between 1794 and 1851, the church also retains remnants from an earlier 12th-century church: the bell tower and the flamboyant Gothic window on the south side. In 1388, Pope Clement VII of Avignon instituted a seven-year holy year, known as the “great pardon of Annecy”, in this sanctuary dedicated to Our Lady.
- Address: 12 place Notre-Dame, 74000 Annecy
- Open from 9 to 19h.
St. Peter’s Cathedral
This old Franciscan church, built in the 16th century, was the episcopal seat of François de Salsa and became a cathedral in 1822. Its Renaissance façade and beautiful rose window contrast with the Gothic interior. Wonderful works of art adorn the walls, including The Descent from the Cross, a copy by Caravaggio. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who took lessons with the choir, came here to sing and play the flute.
- Rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau, 74000 Annecy
The church of Saint-Maurice in Annecy is located in front of the town hall.
This church is the old chapel of the Dominican monastery and construction began on March 22, 1422. Its construction was commissioned by Cardinal de Brony. The church is thus located “on the edge of the city walls, along the small canal that connects the Tiù and Vasé rivers.
On September 14, 14453, the building was consecrated, although it was not completely finished, under the name of Saint-Dominique. However, after the destruction of the old church of Saint-Maurice, which was next to the castle, this church was renamed Saint-Maurice. Saint-Maurice (Maurice d’Agaune) was the patron saint of Savoy.
During the French Revolution, the church was looted, turned into a grain market and then a stable. The church was restored to its role on August 24, 1803, on the occasion of the Concordat, and then given the name Saint-Maurice.
The bell tower was rebuilt in 1822.
In the chancel you can see the painted, imaginary tomb of Philibert de Montoux (1458), adviser to the Dukes of Savoy and Burgundy, a local nobleman. The church armchairs with backs date from the late 18th century and the throne, held by the colossus, from 1715.
The Church of St. Maurice is central to city life in the 15th and 16th centuries. Professional guilds and influential officials built chapels. You can see the clothier’s scissors on the window frame of the second chapel to the right of the church.
Basilique de la Visitation
The Basilique de la Visitation attracts many pilgrims during the celebrations of St. François (January 24) and the Grande neuvaine (August). Richly decorated inside, the sanctuary is home to the relics of Saints François de Sales and Saint Jeanne de Chantal.
The Salesian sisters moved into the newly built convent in 1911. The chapel, which was completed in the early 1930s, was created following a nationwide call for tenders in which the design of architect Alfred-Henri Recourt (1864-1940) was ultimately chosen. He designed the church in a rather loosely neo-Romanesque style. The three-aisled hall of the church stands on a crypt with low arches designed by Henri Adé. The chapel was consecrated in 1949 by Cardinal Federico Cardinal Tedeschini. In 1951 it was elevated to the status of a basilica by Pope Pius XII.
The interior is notable for its simplicity of appearance. The columns in the nave are made of blue marble from Savoy, the mosaics in the apse are made of enamel from Venice and Briar. The windows depict the history of the founding saints. The remains of two saints lie in two gilded bronze sarcophagi along two side aisles. The two crosses of Christ on the two altars are the work of sculptor Philippe Bessnard (1949).
In 1930 the monumental bell tower was completed. Under the stone cladding, the tower is 72 meters high and has a reinforced concrete structure and is topped with a 7-meter high bronze cross. It has a carillon of 38 bells weighing eight tons. The largest bell, named Marie Françoise, weighs four tons. The carillon is classified as a historical monument. On the occasion of the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1986, two bells were cast at the Paccard foundry. The second of 160 kilograms, Carole, was integrated into the basilica carillon.
Lake Annecy, the pearl of the Savoy Alps, is rich in activities: there is something for everyone. From swimming and sailing to cycling or hiking, napping on the beaches or even flying over the water… In summer there are plenty of activities, but it is impossible to tire of the magnificent scenery, which is further enhanced by the play of light and color of the clear water that inspired many artists of the early 19th century.
Château de Montrottier
A short walk from the gorges, in the hamlet of Montrottier, is the 13th and 14th century Château de Montrottier. It is a former feudal citadel, partially protected by the rough geology around it. From the tower of the castle there is a panoramic view of Mont Blanc. The small museum features objects collected by a local activist, showing pottery, Asian and African costumes, armor, tapestries and lace antiques, as well as some 16th-century bronze bas-reliefs.
- Hours of operation:
- April – June and September Wednesday – Sat 10 a.m. to 6 p.m;
- July-August daily 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Phone 04-50-46-23-02
- Admission 8 € adults; 7 € students; 6 € children 5-15 years old; free for children under 4 years old.
The Market Bridge (pont de la Halle) dates from 1822. It was erected where the old fence wall blocked the Tioux when the new road to Albertville was built along the lake. The bridge gives direct access to the new timber market, moved closer to the mouth of the river to facilitate boat access. First built of wood, it was rebuilt in stone around 1859, then widened in 1929 and again in 1972.
The Morens Bridge (pont Morens) dates from the early thirteenth century and is the only stone bridge over which vehicles are allowed to pass. It used to be called the “stone bridge” and had a chapel at one end. At the end of the fourteenth century it was called “pont Morens”, which means “fixed”. It was restored in 1854 by the architect Auguste Desarnaud. In 1886, the chapel was demolished, threatening to destroy the building.
The Pont de la République crosses the Thiou Canal near the factory. Because the bridge overlooked Rue Buchery (Rue des Butchers), now Rue de la République, it was originally called “The Butcher’s Bridge”. Built in oak and bronze, the bridge was restored in 1846 by architect Camille Rufy, in 1872 by architect Auguste Manger of Annecy and again in 1910 when it was renamed the “Bridge of the Republic.