Things to Do in Annecy: A Guide to the Charming French Town

If you are looking for a charming destination in France, you might want to consider visiting Annecy. This picturesque town is located in the Haute-Savoie region, near the border with Switzerland and Italy. Annecy is known for its stunning lake, its medieval old town, and its proximity to the Alps. 

Here are some of the things you can do in Annecy to make your trip memorable.

  • Explore the old town

The old town of Annecy is a maze of cobblestone streets, canals, and bridges. You can admire the colorful houses, the Gothic cathedral, and the 12th-century castle that overlooks the town. The castle was once the residence of the counts of Geneva and later the dukes of Savoy. It now houses a museum that displays exhibits on regional art, history, and natural sciences. You can also visit the Palais de l'Isle, a former prison and courthouse that is now a museum. The palais is situated on a small island in the Thiou river and is one of the most photographed landmarks in Annecy. The old town is full of shops, cafes, and restaurants where you can sample the local cuisine, such as tartiflette, raclette, and fondue. These dishes are made with cheese, potatoes, and meat and are perfect for warming up after a day of sightseeing.

Discover the enchanting town of Annecy with our comprehensive guide to the best things to do and see. From exploring the picturesque canals and charming historic center to indulging in local cuisine and outdoor activities, there's something for everyone in this beautiful French destination.
Old Town, Annecy, France

  • Enjoy the lake

The lake of Annecy is one of the cleanest and most beautiful lakes in Europe. It was formed about 18,000 years ago by a glacier that melted and filled a valley. The lake has a surface area of 27.6 square kilometers and a depth of 82 meters. It is fed by several streams and rivers and drains into the Rhone river. You can rent a bike and cycle around the lake, or take a boat tour and admire the scenery. You can also swim, kayak, paddleboard, or sail on the lake. The water temperature ranges from 10°C in winter to 24°C in summer. If you are feeling adventurous, you can try paragliding or hang gliding from the nearby mountains and get a bird's eye view of the lake.

Discover the enchanting town of Annecy with our comprehensive guide to the best things to do and see. From exploring the picturesque canals and charming historic center to indulging in local cuisine and outdoor activities, there's something for everyone in this beautiful French destination.
Lake of Annecy

  • Visit the markets

Annecy has several markets where you can find fresh produce, cheese, wine, flowers, and crafts. The main market is held on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays in the old town. You can find everything from fruits and vegetables to cheese and sausages to bread and pastries. You can also check out the flea market on the last Saturday of every month, or the artisan market on the first Sunday of every month. The flea market is held along the canal and offers a variety of antiques, books, clothes, and jewelry. The artisan market is held on the Pâquier lawn and showcases local artists and craftsmen who sell their handmade products. The markets are a great way to experience the local culture and taste some of the regional specialties.

  • Hike in the Alps

Annecy is surrounded by the majestic Alps, which offer plenty of hiking opportunities for all levels of difficulty. You can choose from various trails that lead to scenic viewpoints, waterfalls, lakes, or alpine meadows. Some of the most popular hikes are the Semnoz plateau, which offers panoramic views of the lake and the Mont Blanc; the Parmelan mountain, which has a limestone plateau with caves and cliffs; and the Tournette peak, which is the highest point around the lake at 2351 meters. You can also take a cable car to La Clusaz or Le Grand Bornand, two ski resorts that have hiking trails in summer.

  • Discover the festivals

Annecy hosts several festivals throughout the year that celebrate its culture and heritage. One of the most famous ones is the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, which takes place in June and showcases animated films from around the world. The festival attracts thousands of visitors who come to watch screenings, attend workshops, meet directors, and participate in competitions. Another one is the Fête du Lac, which happens in August and features a spectacular fireworks show over the lake. The show lasts for about an hour and is synchronized with music and lights. You can also enjoy music festivals, such as Musilac or Jazz à la Harpe, which feature local and international artists performing on stages by the lake or in parks; or cultural events, such as Les Noctibules or Les Estivales, which offer street performances, concerts, exhibitions, and games for all ages.

  • Visit the Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard
This medieval castle is located on a hill overlooking Lake Annecy, about 10 kilometers from the town center. It was built in the 13th century and has been inhabited by the same family for over 800 years. The castle is open for guided tours from April to October and offers a glimpse into the life of the aristocracy in the Savoy region.
  • Explore the Gorges du Fier
These narrow gorges are located about 15 kilometers from Annecy and offer a unique natural spectacle. The river Fier has carved its way through the rocks, forming a canyon with sheer cliffs up to 25 meters high. Visitors can cross the canyon on a suspended footbridge and admire the views.
  • Go skiing or snowboarding
Annecy is not only a summer destination but also a winter one. There are several ski resorts within an hour's drive from the town, such as La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand, and Semnoz. These resorts offer a variety of slopes for all levels, as well as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and other winter activities.
  • Take a day trip to Geneva
The Swiss city of Geneva is only 45 kilometers from Annecy and can be easily reached by car or train. Geneva is known for its international organizations, such as the United Nations and the Red Cross, as well as for its beautiful lake, parks, and museums. Visitors can take a guided tour of the Old Town, visit the Jet d'Eau fountain, or explore the Palace of Nations.

These are just some of the things you can do in Annecy and its surroundings. Whether you are interested in culture, nature, sports, or relaxation, there is something for everyone in this charming town.

What to do in Annecy when it rains

If it happens to rain during your visit to Annecy, don't worry, there are still plenty of things you can do indoors. Here are some ideas:

  • Visit the Palais de l'Isle: This iconic building is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Annecy and houses a local history museum. It's a great place to learn about the town's rich past and architecture.

  • Explore the Château d'Annecy: The castle has been turned into a museum of contemporary art that showcases temporary exhibitions, permanent collections, and installations. It's a great place to spend a few hours and admire art in a historic setting.

Château on the Lac D'Annecy
  • Go shopping: Annecy has a charming old town with narrow streets filled with shops selling local products such as cheese, chocolate, and wine. There are also several covered markets where you can find fresh produce and artisanal crafts.

  • Visit the Musée-Château d'Annecy: This museum is located inside the Château d'Annecy castle, and it displays different collections related to the history of the region. This is a great place to learn more about the region's culture and traditions.

  • Relax at a spa: Annecy has several spas and wellness centers where you can pamper yourself with massages, saunas, and other treatments. Some of them even offer stunning views of the lake and the mountains.

  • Watch a movie: Annecy has a couple of cinemas screening movies in French, English, and other languages. This is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon or evening.

These are just a few suggestions for things to do in Annecy when it rains. Don't let the weather spoil your trip; there is always something to do and see in this beautiful town.

FAQs

  • What is the best time to visit Annecy? The best time to visit Annecy is during the summer months, from June to August, when the weather is mild and sunny. However, this is also the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices. Spring and autumn are also good times to visit, with fewer tourists and lower prices.

  • Is Annecy expensive? Annecy is not the cheapest destination in France, but it's not the most expensive either. Prices for accommodation, food, and activities vary depending on the season and location. However, compared to other popular destinations in Europe, Annecy is quite affordable.

  • What language do people speak in Annecy? The official language in Annecy is French, but many locals also speak English, especially in tourist areas. It's always a good idea to learn a few basic phrases in French before your trip, as it will make your interactions with the locals smoother.

  • How do I get around in Annecy? Annecy is a small town that can easily be explored on foot or by bike. There is also a local bus network that connects the different parts of the town and the surrounding areas. Taxis and car rentals are also available, but they can be pricey.

  • What is the currency used in Annecy? The currency used in Annecy is the Euro (EUR). Most businesses in Annecy accept credit cards, but it's always a good idea to carry some cash with you, especially in smaller shops and restaurants.

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