Haute Savoie / France
Annecy is one of France’s most beautiful cities. Set on the shores of Lake Annecy — reported to be the cleanest lake in Europe — Annecy is known as the ‘Venice of the Alps’. Annecy boasts a truly beautiful old town, located in a pedestianised area, where you’ll find cobblestone streets and ancient buildings lining the canals and the Thiou river. With excellent restaurants and shopping, plenty of historic sites, numerous beaches, a wide choice of watersports and just 30 minutes from world-class ski resorts, this city is definitely one to discover.
Annecy-le-Vieux sits next to the historic city and dates back to Roman times when it was an important settlement. From the 12th century, Annecy itself was the court of the counts of Geneva, before it passed to the counts of Savoy in 1401 and soon became the capital of the Savoy region. It was also a major centre of the Counter Reformation in the 16th Century. Economically, the city grew with silk manufacturing in the 19th century, and since then has become an important tourist destination, attracting many thousands of visitors each year.
With a rich and varied history, Annecy offers a wealth of cultural and historical sites to explore and enjoy, all nestled between the lake and the mountains.
Wander through the heart of the old town of Annecy (called 'la vieille ville' in French) and you’ll be lost in history, with exquisite buildings and charming waterways everywhere you look. From the 12th century, the Palais de l’Isle palace was the residence of the lords of Annecy. Set on an island in the old town, the palace became a prison, and today, it is a museum and houses the Centre for Interpretation of Architecture and Heritage.
The Chateau d’Annecy, overlooking the old town from a hill, was constructed over four centuries (from the 12th to 16th centuries) and the counts of Geneva resided her from the 13th century. Also worth a visit is the Visitation Basilica, founded by Francois de Sales and Jeanne de Chantal in 1610, and the Old Town Hall with its 18th century facade and exquisite wrought-iron work. With much of the old town now pedestrianised, Annecy is a delight to explore on foot, with the city centre a minute's walk from lake and the old town too.
Theatre, cinema, art and film festivals — Annecy is alive with plenty to inspire and entertain you.
The Bonlieu theatre is the largest theatre in Annecy and throughout the year hosts a wide range of performances, from concerts and plays to one-man shows and foreign films.
The main cinema in Annecy is the Gaumont Pathe, by the Courier shopping centre, and here you can view all of the latest releases, and events such as opera broadcast live from New York, or ballet from Moscow. For English-language films try the smaller cinema, Le 4 Nemours, in the old town.
You’ll also find a number of art galleries to browse in the old town and beyond, and at various times through the year, you can enjoy film festivals such as the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and the Italian Cinema festival.
In summertime, Annecy is home to free family festivals, with open-air entertainment throughout the school holidays. For an unforgettable evening, buy tickets for the Fête du Lac fireworks festival at the end of August.
Set on Lake Annecy, you’ll quickly discover that this city loves sport and action. Head for a dip in the lake, try paragliding, hire a bike or go skiing in winter: there’s something for everyone.
Perhaps more than any other city in Europe, Annecy is one for getting out and doing things. Great weather, stunning scenery and an incredible choice of activities makes it easy to enjoy something you love or to give something new a try. Bike hire is readily available and you can choose to cycle around the lake or head into the mountains and try some of the world-famous climbs that surround the city.
Paragliding is hugely popular and you’ll regularly see paragliders soaring over the lake. Tandem flights are avaialble, or week-long courses can be taken in English if you'd like to learn how to fly by youself. Learn to sail with a qualified instructor, try water skiing, paddle boarding, wakesurfing or wakeboarding, or even go scuba diving in this wonderfully clean lake - all with a view of the mountains in every direction. Lake Annecy is also a popular fishing spot, with trout, pike and perch swimming the the crystal-clear water.
With plenty of lakeside beaches, you can finish your day with a swim at sunset before drying off as the heat of the day fades and dining at a lakeside restaurant.
In winter, you can head to the mountains and enjoy some skiing or snowboarding. It’s around 30 minutes to the Annecy Mountain ski resorts of La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand and Manigod, or 20 minutes to the smaller resort of Semnoz.
There’s so much to explore in Annecy, so make sure you enjoy some time out and relax in this stunning city.
Annecy is a great location to visit for a short break, a week or more, and you’ll be spoilt for choice. Set right on the shores of Lake Annecy, it’s easy to wander down to the beach and enjoy a swim or curl up with a book with a view of the lake. Alternatively, a wander around the old town is a delight, with beautiful buildings everywhere you look, the tranquillity of the waterways and wonderful restaurants, cafes and ice cream shops to try.
There is also a choice of spas if you fancy a facial or body treatment. For those who prefer nature, step into the European garden with trees from all over Europe and enjoy the cooling shade while you watch the boats pass on the lake.
In the evening, stroll along the canals of the old town on your way to the cinema or the theatre.
Annecy boasts some wonderful dining experiences and something for all budgets, from charming creperies to Michelin-starred restaurants.
Renowned for its restaurants, it can be difficult to choose where to eat in this city. Try the three-Michelin starred Le Clos des Sens in Annecy le Vieux for a special night out, or Le Freti cheese shop in the evenings, which has a restaurant upstairs with individual servings of fondue available, among many other traditional cheese dishes.
For a taste of Asia try Jasmine in Annecy old town or Feuille de Lotus, which offers delicious fresh-tasting Thai dishes. Just beyond the arched gateway on the Faubourg Ste Claire is a noodle bar called Creabistro where you can order a rice or noodle based dishes (their speciality is Pad Thai) to eat in the tiny restaurant (there is a more seating outside during the warmer months) or take away.
Annecy isn’t that far from Italy and as a result there are some fabulous Italian restaurants. Try Little Italy or Le Sapaudia, or for a tour of European gastronomy, try Brasserie des Europeens, which offers everything from Eton Mess to Tartiflette Savoyard.
If you come to Annecy for retail therapy, you’ll love exploring the shops! From modern shopping centres to boutique stores nestled around the old town, there is plenty to discover — and all from a central location.
The centre of the old town is a maze of narrow streets, all of which hide an array of wonderful boutique shops selling everything from shoes and clothes to jewellery, chocolates, toiletries, books, children’s toys, fresh produce and much more.
The main shopping street - Rue de Carnot - has the Courrier shopping centre at one end and here you’ll find a range of well-known brands. A little further out of the centre you’ll find Galleries Lafayette, where you can find a great choice of big fashion names under one roof, or head to Epagny for an out-of-town choice of shops covering everything from children’s shoes and toys to homewares.
The weather in Annecy varies from snowfall in winter to up to 39°C in summer, so pack according to what the weather forecast predicts.
Take a look at the latest Annecy weather forecast to see what weather is expected during the next week, and use it during your visit for up-to-date weather information about Annecy.
Many of the team at OVO Network live in and around Annecy, and they're still not running short of things to do! The area has regular events and entertainment all year round, with fun activities for families right through to extreme sports events. Check out our what's on guide and our guide to lake Annecy beaches.
Whether you're looking for an apartment in the old town or a lakeside villa away from the bustle of the city streets, OVO Network have an excellent choice of hand-picked self-catered accommodation that you will love.
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