Walking through the pedestrian-only streets or along the canals of Annecy, you get the feeling that you stepped back to medieval times. And as you follow some of the canals, you end up at a picturesque lake surrounded by mountains.
The city of Annecy started as a Roman settlement and later became home to the Counts of Geneva in the 10th century. In 1400 it became home to the counts of Savoy, and in 1860 it became the capital of Haute-Savoie in France. Read more here.
Through the ages, the city’s inhabitants left their mark with huge castles and cathedrals, beautiful canals and bridges, and quaint medieval buildings.
Things to see and do around town
Old Town (La Vieille Ville)
The Thiou River is the shortest river in Europe connecting Lake Annecy to the Fier River with beautiful cobblestone walkways and stone bridges.
All along the banks of this river and through side streets into town you will find restaurants, sidewalk cafes, and colorful buildings.
If you happen to be in town on Sunday, stop by the market in the morning where you can find great souvenirs and food.
Palais de l'Isle (Island Palace)
A castle in the middle of the river. The building was used as a prison, asylum and courthouse. It was demolished and rebuilt several times, but in 1900, the palace was classified as a historical monument, protecting it from further deterioration.
Now the castle serves as an art and history museum with many engaging exhibits that tell the story of this building and the whole area.
Château d'Annecy (Castle Annecy)
Another historic monument from the 12th century that serves as a museum now. After exploring the exhibits and towers, head to the courtyard (also called the terrace) for a great view of the old town and the mountains.
This huge lake was formed 12,000 years ago when the Alp glaciers started to melt. It is considered the 3rd largest in France and is well-known for its clean and clear waters.
At any time, you can rent a boat or a paddleboat and enjoy the calm waters.
Across the lake, you can enjoy the view of green hills and mountains. If you drive around the lake you can visit several National Nature Reserves and Cascade d’Angon (waterfall).
Pont des Amours (Lovers Bridge)
Many lovers (and friends) cross this bridge nowadays a pose for amazing photos of the lake and the mountains in the background. But in older times, this bridge was used for love of a different kind.
Gardens of Europe
Also at the edge of the Thiou Canal as it merges into the lake, this tree-filled park is a popular destination for locals and visitors. You can enjoy a picnic, hike, bike, or rent a boat.
As you walk through this peaceful park you will notice many statues commemorating historical figures like Napoleon III and some oddities like a sundial.
Outside of town
About 30 minutes away from Annecy you can find this nice hike through the wood towards the d’Angon waterfall.
Along the way, you will come across an amazing view of Lake Annecy from atop a hill. Way down you can gaze at the calm expanse of water and find a castle on a small island.
The hike is easy to moderate with some rough spots. As you walk to the fall you will cross several streams over wooden bridges.
Once you get to the waterfall, you can walk behind it through a protected path.
Roc de Chère National Nature Reserve
The trails are mostly shaded with many viewpoints along the trails and an excellent view of the lake at the summit.