Annecy: A Fascinating City Break in France Beyond the Eiffel Tower

City Break

Updated On: November 09, 2023 by   Raghda ElsabbaghRaghda Elsabbagh

From the glamorous French Riviera and the awe-inspiring medieval castle towns to the mesmerising lavender fields of Provence, France boasts various enticing city breaks that surpass the boundaries of Paris. One of these genuinely alluring city breaks is Annecy, a picturesque lake town in the Haute-Savoie region of France.

While Paris may steal the spotlight as France’s iconic metropolis, Annecy encapsulates the essence of a truly captivating city waiting to be explored. Travellers who venture to Annecy find themselves immersed in a world where time seems to slow down, away from the hustle and bustle of Paris, while still indulging in the rich cultural tapestry that defines France.


Tucked away in south-eastern France and nestled amidst the breathtaking French Alps, Annecy beckons with open arms adventurers and beauty-seekers with unparalleled charm and picturesque landscapes. Renowned as the “Venice of the Alps,” this vibrant city boasts a grand platter of history, natural beauty, and cultural delights, making it an ideal destination for an unforgettable city break in France. From its fairytale-like winding canals and medieval charm to its serene lake and awe-inspiring mountain vistas, Annecy casts a spell on visitors, offering an immersive experience that will forever be etched in your memory, leaving you longing to return to its embrace time and time again. 

So, allow us to take you on a tour of what to do when you go to this spectacular city break in France.

Lake Annecy


No visit to Annecy is complete without losing yourself to the ethereal beauty of Lake Annecy. Annecy sits at the northern tip of this pristine lake, France’s 3rd largest lake and Europe’s cleanest and freshest water body, since it is annually replenished from the Alps snow melt. With its crystal-clear turquoise waters overlooked by the majestic peaks of the French Alps, you will be awe-struck by its serenity.

Things to Do at Lake Annecy

Endless exciting activities are waiting for you to explore at Lake Annecy, so let’s dig deeper.

Contemplate the Natural Beauty

If you come to Annecy for serenity, you’ve come to the right spot. Look for a hidden place by the lake and get whisked away by its surreal beauty. Eye-catching scenes encircle you from every angle. Meditate in front of the water surface that sparkles as the sun’s rays tickle them, the snow-capped mountains that glimmer as the sun kisses them, and the lush greenery interposing the panorama. As the sun sets, the lake becomes a canvas for a breathtaking spectacle, with the mountains casting their reflection on the water, creating a captivating play of colours and shadows. Allow the tranquillity to satiate your weary soul!

Hop on a Leisurely Boat Cruise


You will enjoy the lake’s beauty to the core only when you get out onto the water. Hop on one of the boat cruises departing from Annecy’s canal-side port. As you glide on the translucent waters, the tour guide will describe some attractions, from pretty lakeside villages to enchanting island castles. You can even book a night for a romantic dinner cruise.

Self-Boat on the Lake


If you fancy a more private cruise or like to be in control, you can rent a yacht, pedal boat or motorboat. You can also rent a small sailboat and set sail on the lake where the gentle breeze caresses your face, and the vistas pamper your eyes and soul. Annecy is very touristy during summer, so remember to book beforehand.

Splash in the Azure Waters

Embrace the summer bliss in Annecy as you splash in the crystalline waters of Lake Annecy’s enchanting beaches dotted along the lake, bask in the sun’s warming embrace, and feel the gentle breeze caress your skin. From the freely accessible beaches, Marquisats Beach on the lake’s west bank and the spacious Albigny Beach, to the more luxurious and private beaches, the Imperial Beach and the Sevrier’s beaches, each beach offers a unique experience, beckoning you to indulge in the pleasures of sunbathing, refreshing dips, and the soothing ambience of this natural paradise. 

Indulge in Water Activities

If you just seek tranquillity with a view, rent a standup paddleboard and glide across the water’s calm surface. If you are an adrenaline junkie, say hello to water skiing, wakeboarding, wake surfing, and scuba diving. Some professional instructors can give you lessons there if you are a beginner.

Bike Around Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy’s allure extends beyond its pristine waters inviting sports fanatics to embrace the joy of outdoor exploration. The town’s bicycle-friendly atmosphere boasts dedicated paths and trails that wind through the charming streets around town and encircle the glistening lake, offering a mesmerising backdrop of mountain vistas. Rent a bike from one of the many shops and cycle along the 35 km paved greenway, passing through quaint villages like Sévrier, Saint-Jorioz, and Doussard. You can even get a trailer for kids.

Promenade or Segway Stroll on the Lake’s Shore


Leisurely walking along the lakefront path is the best way to fully absorb the breathtaking scenery and stumble upon all the hidden gems tucked around the city’s corners. For a unique experience, consider a Segway stroll, gliding along the pedestrian-only area surrounding the lake. From 30-minute jaunts to 2-hour explorations, these tours provide an exciting and family-friendly adventure.

Picnic At Jardins de l’Europe (Gardens of Europe)

When pleasant weather, blue skies, and a large green garden sitting on a lake unite, it is time for a family picnic! Jardins de l’Europe is a beautiful green oasis beloved by the young and the young at heart. For the complete French experience, grab a selection of local cheeses, freshly baked baguettes, and various cold meats. Spread a blanket on the grass, bask in the sunshine, and marvel at the majestic mountain views. As you leisurely indulge in French pastries and observe tourists meandering by, the Jardins de l’Europe promises an idyllic and unforgettable afternoon.

Lock your Love on the Pont des Amours (Lovers’ Bridge)

Legend says that lovers will stay together for life if they kiss on the Lovers’ Bridge. The bridge gracefully spans the Vassé Canal connecting the Jardins de l’Europe and the charming Pâquier Esplanade, two beautiful gardens on the shores of the lake. The bridge stands adorned with countless padlocks, tangible testaments to the love of those who have come before. Standing on the lover’s bridge, with the lake and mountains in the background and the century-old-trees-lined canal in the opposite direction, how can any place be more romantic? Such a perfect destination for a wedding proposal!

Even if you find yourself without a lover’s embrace, the Pont des Amours is still worth visiting. The breathtaking vistas that unfold before your eyes during daylight or dusk are to die for.

Annecy’s Vieille Ville (Old Town)

As you step foot in Annecy, the first thing that will captivate you is the sight of its meandering postcard-pretty canals adorned with colourful flower boxes and lined by charming pastel-hued buildings. No wonder it is called “the Venice of the Alps or the Venice of France“. The water of the canals is sourced from the River Thiou, which connects River Fier to Lake Annecy. The river splits and reunites around the picturesque old town forming the whimsical canals of Annecy, creating islands linked by arched bridges.

Strolling along the cobblestone streets following the canals in the old town, you can’t help but feel transported to a bygone era. The Old Town, with its well-preserved medieval architecture, exudes an air of enchantment. As you wander through its narrow alleyways, explore hidden courtyards and historical churches and stumble upon cosy cafés and quaint local shops, the city’s rich history comes alive. Every corner reveals a new surprise as if the streets themselves have countless tales to tell. 

Stop for the best ice cream in town, Le Glacier des Alpes, or for a croissant at a boulangerie with a French cup of coffee and spend the afternoon admiring the fairy-tale beauty of the old town with the scenery of the majestic mountains in the backdrop.

Palais de l’Île (Island Palace)

Palais de l’Isle is probably Annecy’s most postcard-famous and photographed spot. Right at the heart of the old town, nestled between the gentle bends of the Thiou River, the Palais de l’Île stands as a captivating symbol of Annecy’s rich history. This unique triangular building, often likened to a fairy-tale castle, rests on a tiny island, splitting the river into two canals. It has served various roles dating back to the 12th century, from a mint to a courthouse and even a prison (until World War II). Today, the Palais de l’Île houses a museum, offering a glimpse into the town’s glorious history and architecture. It features an old courtroom, prison cells, a dungeon, and a chapel.

Its exterior is equally enchanting, especially when illuminated at night and the turrets glow from within, and as lights dance upon the canals, casting a magical spark on anyone passing by. 

Château d’Annecy (Annecy Castle-museum)

Perched majestically on a hill overlooking the enchanting town of Annecy, the Château d’Annecy stands as a living testament to the city’s rich heritage. This formidable castle, with its medieval roots dating back to the 12th century, was initially built as an elegant residence for the Counts of Geneva and the Dukes of Genevois-Nemours. It was later transformed into a military stronghold. Its sturdy stone walls, fortified towers, and imposing drawbridge evoke a sense of medieval power and intrigue.

As you step inside, currently a museum, the château reveals its hidden treasures, with meticulously restored chambers and halls that transport visitors back in time. Wander through its noble rooms adorned with medieval furnishings, admire the intricate tapestries and artwork, and gaze out from its towering ramparts to marvel at the breathtaking panoramic views of Annecy and its surrounding landscapes.

Savour Annecy’s Delectable Cuisine

Annecy not only enchants the eyes but also delights the taste buds. The city boasts a mouthwatering culinary scene, where the richness of French gastronomy blends with Savoyard’s specialities. 

Indulge in cheese fondue and an entrecote. Feast on piping hot raclette, where molten cheese is scraped onto a bed of steamed potatoes, or savour a hearty tartiflette, a dish with creamy molten cheese paired with crispy potatoes and lardons. Annecy’s dishes are mouthwatering, but eating them while sitting in front of a fireplace in a restaurant overlooking the canals is something else. Leave room for another Le Glacier des Alpes gelato and try another flavour from its 60 different flavours. Trust us that will be one hard decision! 

Wander through the bustling local market with its colourful stalls lining the old town’s alleys and canals on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, where the aromas of freshly baked bread, ripe fruits, pungent-smelling cheese, cold cuts, and aromatic spices fill the air. Engage in lively conversations with local vendors as they share their passion for their products and offer a taste of their handcrafted delicacies. Stock up on goat cheese, the creamy reblochon, and Gruyere cheese used in the local dishes on your way home. Food lovers, Annecy is your gastronomic paradise that will make your palate feast!

Outdoor Adventures in Nature’s Playground

Beyond the captivating cityscape, Annecy’s surrounding mountains provide a playground for hikers, mountain bikers, and thrill-seekers alike. Lace up your hiking boots and hit the breathtaking alpine trails till you reach above the clouds, where every step rewards you with panoramic vistas of snow-capped peaks, lush meadows, mountain lakes, and cascading waterfalls. From easy walks to extreme mountaineering, there’s a hike suitable for everyone. Check out the most common hikes:

The Semnoz: It’s the most uncomplicated hike in Annecy, offering stunning views of Lake Annecy and surrounding mountains. Thrill-seekers will enjoy hiking and exhilarating downhill mountain biking in summer, sledging, skiing, and snowshoeing in winter. 

Mount Veyrier: Starting from Annecy le Vieux and Veyrier, this hike offers a few hours of walking with beautiful views of Lake Annecy. Most paths are shaded by forests, providing relief from the summer heat. 

La Tournette: This challenging mountain hike on the eastern side of the lake is ideal for experienced hikers. The ascent to La Tournette involves rugged terrain with chains, cables, ladders, and slippery rocks. But the breathtaking views of the lake and Mont Blanc at the top are rewarding.

For adrenaline junkies, canyoning in the heart of the mountains is an exhilarating adventure for brave souls that combines the thrill of exploring rivers, waterfalls, and rugged canyons. Strap on your gear, navigate through narrow gorges, plunge into crystal-clear pools, and rappel down cascading waterfalls as you immerse yourself in the heart of nature.

For the ultimate adrenaline rush, go paragliding or hand gliding for a bird’s-eye view of Annecy’s breathtaking landscapes. You can also hop on a hot-air balloon or a two-seater helicopter and soak in the beauty from above the clouds.

Day Trips from Annecy

Explore areas around Annecy, from the superb lake views of Veyrier du Lac hiking trails and the medieval castle of Chateau de Menthon overlooking Lake Annecy to the photogenic Talloires and Yvoire medieval villages and the small town of Evian-les-Bains renowned for its mineral water.

One of the best places to visit is Chamonix, a charming mountain town in the French Alps, about an hour from Annecy, serving as the gateway to Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. The awe-inspiring Mont Blanc dominates the skyline, attracting climbers worldwide who aspire to conquer its majestic summit. From hiking trails and paragliding in picturesque surroundings in summer to skiing and snowboarding on Mont Blanc’s ski slopes in winter, Chamonix is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts offering thrilling activities.

Hop on a cable car to the Aiguille du Midi, a peak in the Mont Blanc massif, to awe at the stunning views of the surrounding mountains and glaciers from its observation deck. You also would want to take advantage of a ride on the historic Montenvers Train to the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), the largest glacier in France, where you can explore the ice cave and learn about the region’s glacial history.

Events in Annecy

You would be lucky to be in Annecy at a time coinciding with one of their cultural events. Such events include the Venetian Carnival of Annecy, which occurs in March, a famous carnival adopted from Italy where people dress up in masks and costumes and parade in the street — a city masquerade! Another delightful event is the Annecy Lake Festival, one of Europe’s most prominent fireworks displays above Lake Annecy on the first Saturday in August.

Annecy’s Christmas markets embody the essence of the holiday season; the old town becomes a labyrinth of wooden chalets adorned with festive decorations, infusing the city with an undeniable charm. Annecy’s festive spirit comes alive against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and illuminated canals, offering a truly magical experience for all visitors. The markets provide abundant delights, from unique crafts to mouthwatering delicacies, all accompanied by lively entertainment. A visit to these enchanting markets is genuinely heart-warming!

In a nutshell, Annecy encapsulates the essence of a perfect city break, offering an escape that exceeds the ordinary. It harmoniously blends history, natural splendour, and cultural delights, all with a quieter rhythm of life. Annecy has everything from canals, castles and cobblestone streets to a glimmering lake caressed by snow-capped mountains. 

A city break in Annecy is an experience that will leave an indelible mark in your heart and mind and will be why you fall in love with south-eastern France. So what are you waiting for? Plan your trip already and capture some magical fairy-tale moments!

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