What to do in Annecy, France
With its medieval streets, colorful buildings and a swan-filled lake surrounded by majestic mountains, Annecy makes you feel as though you’ve stepped into a real-life fairy tale. Though a haven for relaxation, there are plenty of things to do in Annecy, France. Explore a medieval castle that also doubled as a prison, eat cheese like it is an art form (here it is), or take to the lake for a swim or kayaking. Read on for more of what to do in Annecy.
Wander Around Historic Old Town Annecy
A walk around Old Town Annecy will find you stepping through cobblestoned streets, lined with colorful buildings that have seen hundreds of years of history. With pathways criss crossing back and forth across the canal and charming alleyways, wandering without an itinerary in the Old Town is one of the best things to do in Annecy.
Stroll Along Lake Annecy
Like Old Town Annecy, Lake Annecy is the perfect place to saunter around without an agenda (unless your agenda is to take in beautiful scenery, then that’s okay). Surrounded by mountains, the lake offers panoramic views of the French Alps. The lake’s crystal clear waters sparkle an almost unreal turquoise color. There’s even points along the winding walkways to go in for a little dip if you need to cool off or if you’re like me and can’t resist getting into water.
Take in the View from Pont Des Amours
Known as Bridge of Lovers, the Pont Des Amours offers scenic views of Annecy Lake, the French Alps and the city’s canal. Today you’ll find lovers (and other visitors too) taking selfies. However, the bridge actually got its name due to the fact that it was a common meeting place for prostitutes once upon a time.
Visit Le Palais D’Ille
The Palais D’Ille’s purpose has changed many times throughout history. Originally a residence, it has also seen light as a courthouse, a mint, and a prison (including during Nazi occupation). Today it is a museum open to the public and detailing the history of Annecy and occasionally hosting local art exhibits.
Location: 3 passage de l’Île
Hours: 10:30-5pm everyday from July to September; 10am-12pm and 2-5pm Wednesday to Monday from October to June
Cost: Adult tickets are €3.80 (can be combined with entry to Palais D’Ille for €7.20))
Wander the Halls of Chateau d’Annecy
Visible from most points of Annecy, Chateau d’Annecy overlooks the town. Historically it served as a residence for the Counts of Geneva and the Dukes of Genevois-Nemours. Today it is a collection of museums that include a regional art museum dedicated to art of the Alps and an observatory that explores the evolution of the lake and its inhabitants. There’s also an outlook grove in the back of the grounds that provides a stunning unobstructed view of Annecy, the lake and Mont Baron.
Location: Place du château
Hours: 10:30am to 6pm every day from June to September; 10am-12pm and 2-5m Wednesday-Monday in October through May
Cost: Adult Tickets are €5.50 (can be combined with entry to Palais D’Ille for €7.20)
Eat a lot of Cheese
Cheese reaches an art form in the Haute Savoie region and Annecy is no different. Local restaurants serve cheese-oriented specialties including tartiflette, fondue and raclette. Check out La Fermette in the middle of Annecy (Rue du pont Morens near the Captain Pub) that serves raclette sandwiches on the go where they shave the raclette onto the sandwich right in front of you. Also be sure to pop into a local cheese shop to try some of the freshest and most delicious cheese you’ll ever have. You can never go wrong with Fromagerie Pierre Gay, who is well-renowned for his artisan cheese.
Hike the French Alps
Surrounded by mountains, it is hard to avoid that urge to hike up to take in the view from the skies. Luckily there’s many routes in and around Annecy that you can check out. The closest route to Annecy is the Mont Baron and Mont Veyrier hike that provides sweeping view of the lake, mountains and towns around the lake. You can access the entrance near Le Petit Port.
Other hikes near Annecy include:
- Mont Semnoz
- La Tournette
- Angon Waterfall
- Roc de Chére
- Pointe de Talamarche
Take a Boat Tour Around the Towns of the Lake
Though named for Annecy, Lake Annecy is actually surrounded by a number of other towns each offering their own little charm. You can catch a boat tour to get a glimpse of these from the Quai de la Tournette. There’s even brunch and dinner cruises if you want to chow down while circling the lake.
Step into a Fairy Tale at Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard
Nestled in the mountains on the other side of the lake, you’ll find Chateau de Menthon-Saint-Bernard. If you weren’t yet feeling like you’re in a fairy tale in Annecy, this castle will be sure to do the trick. Home of the Bernard family, including at one point the patron saint of skiing, you can tour the castle’s beautifully and elegantly furnished rooms. You can also choose to take a guided tour with a troupe of actors who will re-enact daily life scenes from the castle’s past.
Hours: 2pm to 6pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the months of April, May, June, September and October; 12pm to 7pm daily in July and August
Find a Peaceful Reading Spot
Annecy is one of those places that instantly puts you in a state of relaxation and I definitely encourage taking some time to decompress and enjoy the serenity of Lake Annecy. There’s plenty of peaceful coves around the lake edges, including Jardins de l’Europe and pockets around the Imperial Palace Hotel. Wander around and found your own little reading or relaxation haven.
Go for a Swim (or Kayak or Paddle Board)
If you’re visiting in the warmer months, one of the most popular things to do in Annecy is to take to the water. There are beaches around the lake where you can lay out, read and go for a swim. Some of them you have to pay for, but there’s a free public beach close to town called Plage d’Albigny. I also recommend the rock outcropping near Plage d’Albigny. While laying out and swimming around rocks may seem strange, most of the rocks are actually completely flat and do not jut out too far into the water so you have easier access to the lake. It’s often more peaceful there too.
Besides swimming, Annecy boasts a number of other water activities including paddle boarding and kayaking. There’s a number of outposts for these activities around the lake.
Looking for more historic places to visit in France? Check out these posts