Best Things To Do In Annecy, France (A Travel Guide)
While France is full of charming places, my favorite has to be the mountain town of Annecy. From lake cruising to farmer’s markets — here are the best things to do in Annecy, France!
Annecy is a beautiful lake town in the Haute-Savoie region of France surrounded by mountains on the edge of the Swiss border. The lake, Lac d’Annecy, boasts some of the freshest water in Europe, replenished each year from the snow melt.
The town isn’t too big — or too small either. With a very walk-able and bike friendly atmosphere, you can spend many lazy afternoons exploring local shops, snacking at fresh food markets, or take a picnic in one of the many parks.
We spent 2-months living in Annecy as digital nomads with our two kids and cat, and absolutely loved it! So here are some of our best tips for activities and great things to do in Annecy, France.
My Annecy itinerary is completely free! I’ve worked hard putting it together for you. If you find it useful, please use my affiliate links when you book hotels, rental cars or activities. I’ll get paid a small commission, at no extra cost to you! Thanks.
France Travel Restrictions 2022
France is open to most travelers again, including American tourists. However you do need proof of your COVID-19 vaccination(s) or a negative test result before being allowed entry.
Many hotels, attractions, and private tours are open with new health & safety protocols in place, and you still have to follow certain guidelines.
You can find the latest updates on traveling to France here.
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Annecy France Travel Guide
1: Explore Annecy’s Old Town
One of the reasons Annecy is so picturesque is the network of canals that make their way through the old town. It’s sometimes called the “Venice of France”. Annecy’s canals are shallow, and not really used for boating, but it still gives the town a charming feel.
Combined with the colorful old buildings, cobblestone streets, and flower boxes, a walk through the Old Town neighborhood of Annecy is always a treat.
You’ll catch glimpses of the mountains and lake in the distance, while enjoying the town’s many street-side restaurants, cafes, and ice cream shops.
2: Boating On Lake Annecy
Arguably Annecy’s top highlight is Lac d’Annecy, a stunning large blue lake located right on the edge of town. Lake Annecy is France’s 3rd largest lake and regularly receives accolades for being the freshest lake in Europe (due to snow melt from the Alps).
The lake is surrounded by mountains, and while cold, is a perfect place to cool off in the summer heat. There are biking paths around it, plenty of beaches, and many opportunities to go boating!
- Rent A Pedal Boat – You’ll find all kinds of pedal boats available to rent along the lake’s edge at Jacquet Promenade. The boats cost about €15 EURO for 30 minutes, depending on size. Some even have slides or diving boards attached!
- Rent A Motor Boat – Small 4-5 person motor boats can be rented, and you don’t need a boat license either. Some have sunshades, and rentals cost about €65 EURO for an hour.
- Join A Lake Tour – There are some large tour boats that will take you around the lake while describing key points of interest. You can even book a table for dinner on the boat!
- Go Waterskiing – Waterskiing is a popular pastime on Lake Annecy, and it’s possible to book a trip with one of the local water-skiing companies.
- Take A Sailing Lesson – You can rent a small sail boat to cruise around the lake, or take a beginner sailing lesson too!
3: Walk Across Lover’s Bridge
Pont des Amours is an extra pretty and famous bridge on the edge of Lac d’Annecy that spans the Vassé canal and connects the Jardins de l’Europe with the Jacquet Promenade.
Local legend says that lovers who kiss on the bridge will stay together for life.
The bridge has two great views. One looking at the lake itself with mountains in the background, and if you turn around, you’ll enjoy a tree-lined canal with wooden boats moored on each side.
4: Picnic At Jardins de l’Europe
When the weather is nice, walking or biking down to Jardins de l’Europe is a wonderful family friendly activity. This massive park sits on the edge of the lake, with large green fields, boardwalks, and playgrounds.
There’s even an old wooden Carousel, originally built in 1871, for kids to ride.
The park is popular for late afternoon picnics — just bring down some wine, cheese, and bread from the markets and a blanket to enjoy the mountain views. A French experience you just can’t miss!
5: Explore Annecy Castle
Château d’Annecy is a castle in the heart of Annecy, located on a hill above the town. Originally built as a residence for the Counts of Geneva and the Dukes of Genevois-Nemours from the 13th to 16th centuries.
These days the Chateau houses a museum (Musée-Château d’Annecy), featuring local sculpture, art, and a nature exhibit of animals and fish that are found around the lake. The castle also has some good views of the lake and town from the edge of its walls.
Entry tickets cost about €5 EURO for adults, and are free for kids under 12.
6: Walk The Promenade du Thiou
The Promenade du Thiou is a nice easy walk through the old town of Annecy along the crystal blue Thiou River, that progressively gets more wooded and secluded as you move out of town. There are paths on both sides of the river.
The trail is bike and stroller friendly too. It’s a wonderful way to spend an hour or two, enjoying nature (and getting away from the busy tourist-filled city center). There are some playgrounds, sitting areas, and bridges spread out along the tree-shaded trail.
Promenade du Thiou starts around the Quai des Cordeliers (just past the famous Le Palais de I’Île), in the center of Old Annecy and you simply walk up river from there.
7: Visit Annecy le Vieux
Annecy le Vieux is a different part of town, a residential area raised up on a hill overlooking the rest of the lake. It features a nice park, old buildings and churches, some restaurants & bars, and is generally a more relaxed place compared to the busy old city down below.
Some highlights here include the Clocher Roman Church, Parc Gabriel Fauré, and Les Quatre Gourmets Restaurant.
8: Shop At The Farmer’s Markets
One of my favorite parts of living in Annecy was the many fresh food markets that line the streets of the old town. You’ll find a variety of produce, cheese, sausage, wine, olives, bread, flowers, crafts, and more.
The Annecy street markets happen every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday from 7am–1pm. Make sure to try some of the local reblochon cheese, used in many local dishes.
9: Chateau de Menthon-Saint Bernard
Chateau de Menthon is an impressive medieval castle just outside of Annecy. Home to the same family for over 100 years, it’s open to visitors from April to October on weekends.
The castle towers over Lake Annecy, the Roc de Chère National Nature Reserve, and Menthon-Saint-Bernard, with wonderful views of each.
Guided tours of the castle (in French only) are in the afternoons, and last about an hour. There’s also a small garden along with sheep, pigs, and peacocks.
10: Bike Around The Lake
Annecy is very bicycle friendly, with many dedicated bike paths and trails that will take you all around the town. There is wonderful bike path that encircles the lake too, and it’s a great way to kill a few hours while enjoying the mountain scenery.
This 35 km paved greenway follows the old route of a railroad that connected Annecy with Albertville, and stops in smaller villages along the way like Sévrier, Saint-Jorioz, Duingt, Lathuile and Doussard.
You can rent a bike from many shops in Annecy, and even get a trailer for kids (like we did).
11: Palais de l’Île
Palais de l’Isle is probably the most postcard-famous spot in Annecy. A unique castle-like building that sits in the middle of the Thiou River, surrounded by restaurants and shops in Annecy’s old town.
Often described as a “house in the shape of a ship” — the building has been a prison, a courthouse and an administrative center. The original structure was constructed in the 12th century.
These days it is a museum (about €4 to enter), featuring an old courtroom, dungeon, prison cells and chapel that you can visit. The most famous photos are taken from the bridge out in front.
12: Go For A Hike
Annecy is located at the base of the French Alps, and a great place to base yourself for visiting the mountains. There are many local hikes nearby, as well as day trips to excellent skiing and trekking opportunities.
From easy walks, to extreme mountaineering, there’s something for everyone. Hikes around Annecy can include waterfalls, mountain lakes, and wildlife sightings of ibex mountain goats.
Here are some popular hiking trails around Annecy:
- La Tournette – The highest peak near the lake, La Tournette is a very difficult hike. But the views are amazing. About 6-hours round-trip. Experienced hikers only.
- Mont Baron & Veyrier – A moderate 2-hour loop hike that visits two mountain peaks, with wonderful views.
- Gorges du Fier – An easy walk for the whole family, this hike takes you across suspension bridges in the middle of a gorge.
- Cascade d’Angon – Beautiful shaded waterfall hike that’s not too difficult, and gives you nice views of the lake. About 2-hours round trip.
Best Time To Visit Annecy
March – May
We visited Annecy in the Spring, primarily in April and May. The weather in this part of France can be unpredictable, and it snowed on us a couple times. In between sunny days filled with wildflowers. The mountains will still have snow on them, but the weather isn’t too hot yet in town.
June – August
This is Annecy’s high season, and while beautiful, it can get very crowded. Many tourists visit Annecy as a day trip while traveling through Switzerland, because it’s so close to the border. It’s difficult to find accommodation in the summer, unless you book months in advance.
September – November
This is probably the best time to visit Annecy. Most of the high-season tourists are gone, the weather is cool, but the snow hasn’t come yet. There’s also a great festival in October called the Return Of The Alpine Pastures Festival.
Where Is Annecy (Getting There)
Annecy, France is located 44 km West of Geneva (Switzerland) about a 40-minute drive away. Most people get to Annecy after flying into Geneva International Airport, and then driving over the border.
However it’s also possible to fly into Paris and take a train. Search for the cheapest flights to Geneva on Skyscanner.com.
Where To Stay In Annecy
Accommodation in Annecy can range from backpacker friendly to luxurious. As we were staying there long-term, we rented a wonderful holiday apartment from My Sweet Home Annecy that was close to everything.
The best areas to stay in Annecy are near the old town for easy access to the markets and the lake.
BEST ACCOMMODATION IN ANNECY
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