Annecy, France. The Venice of the Alps. There’s so much beauty from its name. It sounds picturesque and romantic because of Venice; scenic because of the Alps.
For couples and nature lovers, it seems that Annecy is one of the best places to visit in France, right? Well, actually, Annecy is for everybody! From adventurers, wanderers, food travelers, and so on.
In this blog post, you will learn all the beautiful things about Annecy – the reasons why you will not skip Annecy in your journey in Europe. This list of reasons could also be your list of things to do in Annecy, so don’t forget to bookmark/pin/share this if you find this helpful 🙂
Facts and information (i.e., opening hours, etc.) are based on the official site of Annecy unless stated.
So, aside from fancy talk in the introduction, what is Annecy really?
Annecy is one of the cities in the French Alps, the largest in the Haute-Savoie department within the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. It sits by the northern shores of Lake Annecy, located in the north of Bauges Massif Regional Natural Park.
It has a history that dates to the 4th century BC, the time when the Gallic tribes still occupy the land. Before the first century, Romans conquered the land and established the Annecy. As centuries passed, several groups occupied the town, Burgundians, Franks, later by the counts of Geneva, and then the counts of Savoy.
All are history now, but these people left traces we now wonder and fantasize about in Annecy: the castles, romantic bridges, beautiful churches, monumental buildings, and so on. These, together with the natural beauty of the Alps, define what experiences await you in Annecy, the things that make Annecy worth a visit.
Well, of course, we all have our type. It will always depend on how we enjoy things or look meaningfully at the places we visit. But, to further explain, here are the 12 reasons why you will visit Annecy:
Reason #1: The Old Town of Annecy
With hundreds of years of history, Annecy indeed has an old town, and it is not just an old town, though. But a quaint, romantic, picturesque old town. It is the reason why Annecy is dubbed as the Venice of the Alps, also the reason why you should visit Annecy!
When you visit the old town of Annecy, have your cameras prepared because you’ll find medieval pastel-colored townhouses absolutely wanderlust satisfying to see. Most of them still have louver windows, which tells so much how old Annecy is already. Oh, not to mention the homes made of stone and Lauze roof.
The heart of the old town Annecy is definitely colorful. Aside from the tarps and cafe umbrella making the sceneries burst with hues, the flower-bedecked railings and bridges will sure magnetize your eyes and the lens of your cameras.
There are also narrow cobbled streets filled with arcaded houses for a leisurely time-transported stroll. During some seasons, you can even find ivy-covered homes that complete the charming go-around-the-town experience.
If you get tired, do not forget to taste Annecy’s food specialties from the restaurants in the town. They offer cheese food delights like Raclette, freshwater fish meals, and local wines like Chignin, Roussette. Have them ticking your tastebuds while your eyes glitter with the quaintness of the old town.
During your visit, do not forget to see the following buildings/parts of the old town. When you visit Annecy, you click the links to get locations in Google Maps.
- The remaining parts of the medieval walls of Annecy: Porte Perrière Gate, Porte Sainte-Claire, Porte du Sepulcre, Porte Notre-Dame.
- The old lane of Rue du Pâquier.
- Hôtel de Ville d’Annecy. Sometimes there is a light show on its facade. Try to visit at night.
Reason #2: The Romantic Bridge of Annecy
You can find several bridges across the Thiou River and small canals in Annecy, all of which are truly lovely becked with colorful flowers. However, among them, Pont des Amours is the one that you probably would not like to miss, especially if you are traveling with your partner.
Why? Because Pont des Amours means “Love Bridge,” and the views in the bridge are just perfect for a memorable time with your love companion. Legend has it that a kiss exchanged on this bridge would unite lovers for eternity.
Just go here very early in the morning so you can just feel the moment! At midday, it is swarmed with tourists, and its essence fades. But still, you get a beautiful view from Pont des Amours even if there are many tourists. The sights from the bridge are a reason why you should visit Annecy.
Pont des Amours is the bridge at the meeting point of Canal du Vassé and Lake Annecy. Go in the middle of the bridge, face east, you’ll see Lake Annecy and the majestic mountains from afar. Turn around, and there is the picturesque Canal du Vassé.
You’ll just love Canal du Vassé; it is really Instagrammable! Both of its banks are planted with trees, and there are boats parked along its length. You will find leading lines and symmetry in Canal du Vassé – elements of photography that will compel you to press the shutter!
Reason #3: Fascinating Events in Annecy
Another reason why you will visit Annecy is because of the city’s glamorous events (there is an event for every season). One of which happens in Lake Annecy and Pont des Amours, the bridge we talked about a while ago, is the best spot to watch the event.
Visit Annecy during summer: The Fête du Lac
This event is called The Fête du Lac, and it occurs on the first Saturday of August at Lake Annecy’s bay of Albigny. It is said that this spectacular event originated when Napoleon III arrived in Annecy.
You will see a sensational pyrotechnic show over the lake, with music, lights, and water displays under the glittering fireworks during the event. It lasts for 70 minutes, and over 100,000 spectators join the event. Indeed, it is one of the largest fireworks shows in Europe.
Visit Annecy during autumn: Retour des Alpages
During Autumn, on the second Saturday of October, a festival called The Retour des Alpages occurs in Annecy. During this event, we witness the coming of the locals with their local products in the city’s old quarters in the traditional way.
It will seem like you’re being transported back into the past with all the traditional instruments, folk groups, craftsmen, and old trades everywhere in your sight. The best part of Retour des Alpages? The parade of hundreds of animals from alpine pastures and folks in their ceremonial dress – all to introduce to you the crafts and traditions of the Savoy region.
Visit Annecy during winter: The Venetian Festival
On the second weekend after Mardi Gras, Annecy lives up to its title, the Venice of the Alps, just before the winter ends. This event is called the Venetian Carnival – the time when Annecy turns really colorful because of the people coming outside masked and dressed in vibrant and lavish clothing.
Visit Annecy during spring: International Animation Film Festival
Aside from being the Venice of the Alps, Annecy is also recognized as the World Capital of Animated Films. And during the last days of Spring, people come to Annecy to celebrate this kind of art at the International Animation Film Festival. You can check the following festival schedule from the official website of the film festival.
The festival will be your chance to get free open-air animated film shows or meet animated-film enthusiasts! Also, based on the Annecy Film Festival’s Youtube channel, the festival (organization) promote a wide range of animated shows, from Anime like Dragon Ball to weird children’s cartoons. As long as you love this kind of stuff, you’ll perhaps enjoy it.
Reason #4: Annecy’s Historic Landmark
With or without festivals, Annecy remains a beautiful destination, mainly because of its historical and picturesque attractions. Annecy has several of them, but the most notable and the one that most likely will be your reason you will visit is Palais de l’Île. (How do we even pronounce this? LOL.)
Palais de l’Île is the icon of Annecy (of course, including the river Le Thiou and the surrounding pastel-colored houses around it), the best place in Annecy to take photo souvenirs.
Why should you visit Annecy for Palais de l’Île? Well, simply, it’s a unique historical structure found nowhere else. There is a similar building you can find in Bamberg, Germany, though. But absolutely, they tell different stories. Besides, Palais de l’Île is historically fascinating, and to see it means traveling 8 centuries back in the past.
Palais de l’Île was built in the 12th century, and it’s Annecy’s one of the oldest structures having its original form. In pictures, especially those taken in Pont Perrière (bridge), it seems not so easy to identify that Palais de l’Île sits on an island. But, go around, and you’ll see that it is only connected by two bridges on its sides.
Certainly, Palais de l’Île is one of Annecy’s most historical buildings. You know, it’s unbelievable that this tiny building built on a small island in a river functioned for many purposes in the past. Palais de l’Île serves as a museum today… But in the past, it became the town’s stronghold, prison, home of the elderly, a school for carpenters, and a gymnasium.
All of which did not happen simultaneously, but still.
You can enter the Palais de l’Île to see the exhibition inside. There is an entry fee, however. For adults, it is 3.80 EUR and 2 EUR for kids.
When you enter the Palais de l’Île and go to its small courtyard, it’s when you’ll feel that it was actually a prison before. Just by the looks of the grilled windows and high walls surrounding it, you will surely get the vibe.
Reason #5: Annecy’s Churches
Aside from Palais de l’Ile, the Basilica of the Visitation is another landmark that makes visiting Annecy worth a visit. It is one of 5 Bell Towers of 5 Eras of Annecy, the church that will inspire you with its architectural elegance.
For me, the Basilica of the Visitation is a church that’s like a temple straight out of a fantasy role-playing game. The basilica’s gothic-revival-single-spire structure just separates it from the usual churches in Europe, which are usually constructed in baroque, romanesque, and renaissance.
If you love architecture, you’ll speculate much longer at the arch under its spire. The bricks, the design carved into the walls, and the grid above the portal and on the ceiling – they seem to tell you’re entering heaven. (entering heaven alive! LOL)
Because the Basilica of the Visitation is constructed in an elevated, a little secluded part of Annecy, you will somehow feel that you’re really in a special place. Holy and serene. People coming to Basilica of the Visitation says it’s really an excellent place for meditation and prayer.
Inside the basilica, two of the things you’ll probably notice first are columns made of blue marble along the nave and the large artwork of Jesus at the center of the choir. The light from the stained glass windows and the tiny holes at the top of the altar complete the awe you’ll get from your visit.
We must not forget that the view is outside the Basilica of the Visitation is lovely too! Around the church, you must be able to see the entire Annecy and the lake beside it.
Lastly, if you will be looking for a peaceful place for the night, the Basilica of the Visitation is the one to be. Not only it is quiet because it is slightly away from town, but here you’ll see the Annecy glitter with its city lights. I wonder if this can also be a beautiful place to watch the Fête du Lac.
Reason #6: The Castle in Annecy
From Palais de l’Île at the heart of old town, you only need to spend 8 minutes walking just to reach the Basilica of the Visitation. However, another must-see attraction is situated between them, and you would not like to miss it. It is called Musée-Château, your 6th reason to visit Annecy.
Musée-Château or the Castle Museum of Annecy is the place to be if you want to discover so many things in one place. Because it is called ‘Castle’ Museum, it does not mean that we only find history-related stuff inside.
Aside from items from medieval times like sculptures, here in the Castle Museum, we find exhibits about Annecy’s regional heritage like 15th-century vernacular furniture, models of Alpine chalets, and so on. There are also landscape paintings and contemporary art inside the castle.
What’s surprising is you’ll find animation films and many sorts of underwater archeology too! Often it hosts temporary exhibitions that add to the variety of things you’ll see inside.
The structure of the castle will not make you unimpressed or feeling-thrown-back-in-the-past, at least. The 30-meter high and 3.3 meters thick stone walls shall implicitly retell the story of how it used to be the defensive military might of Annecy.
By the way, Annecy’s Castle Museum is a 12th-century castle that was continuously improved until the 16th-century. The entry fee is 5.5 EUR for adults and 3 EUR for kids.
You can climb the tower near the gate entrance of the Castle Museum to get a picturesque view of the castle’s east tower against the lake and the mountains. Just beside the east tower, you’ll find trees and in their shades is the spot where you get a fantastic view of the old town.
Reason #7: Fun in Lake Annecy
Suppose you are already in Annecy. Don’t just admire the Lake Annecy from the Love Bridge, Castle Museum, or the Basilica of the Visitation. The lake is another thing that makes visiting Annecy worth it. Splash around and have fun – it’s more than just an ordinary lake, you know!
Firstly, Lake Annecy has one of the purest water in Europe. Coming from the glaciers and with the 50 years of effort to improve the lake’s water quality, you can expect that you’ll not get rashes after a dip! A study even said that it is so clean that the water transparency in Lake Annecy could range up to 10 meters.
Anyhow, what will be more important in your trip to Annecy is the experience you’ll have from the lake. The thing is, there are too many that a week seems not enough to do them all!
Here’s a quick list of water sports that you can do in Lake Annecy:
- Stand-up paddling
- Canoeing and Kayaking
- Water skiing
If you’re the kind of traveler who just wants to relax and sightsee, here are the fun things you can do in Lake Annecy:
- Go cruising
- Rent a pedal boat or a motorboat
- Join a tour on wooden boats
What’s really interesting about Lake Annecy? Snorkeling, freediving, and scuba diving are a thing to do here as well. You will be surprised that there’s even a shipwreck in the lake! At the same time, prehistoric villages and ancient lake cities could be found too – all these are listed as a UNESCO Heritage Site now.
It’s mind-blowing that an alpine lake has these hidden wonders, right? 🙂
Reason #8: The Beaches in Lake Annecy
For vacationers, Annecy is just the perfect place. It has everything for you, from the mountains to the historical sites, water activities, romantic cruises in canals, and castles – what more can you ask for? Beaches? Oh yeah, Annecy has beaches too! Of course, it is another reason that makes Annecy worth visiting.
With the beaches in Lake Annecy, you don’t have to go to the far east just to sunbathe and enjoy the sun or splash around with your kid/companion. What’s even better? While you swim on the beach, you get a view of the spectacular mountains just on the other side of the lake. That’s just the best vacation I could ever imagine.
There are many beaches in Lake Annecy. But here are the top 5 beaches nearest to the town of Annecy:
- Plage d’Albigny (score: 4.2 out of 5)
- Plage des Marquisats (score: 4.2 out of 5)
- Plage Municipale, Sevrier (score: 4.4 out of 5)
- Plage de la Brune (score: 4.3 out of 5)
- Plage Saint-Jorioz (score: 4.4 out of 5)
You can click on their names to see where they are in Google Maps.
Among the beaches in Lake Annecy, the quickest you can reach from the town center is Plage d’Albigny. It is located east of Casino Imperial Annecy, a 20-minute walk from the Lover’s Bridge.
However, do not expect to see powder-fine sand! All is just perfect for relaxing. But with the mountains, it could be picture-perfect too.
In my opinion, Plage Municipale is the most picturesque beach in Lake Annecy. Not only you do find Gatorade blue water from it, but you also get to have a direct view of the limestone-peak mountains at the east of Lake Annecy.
Reason #9: Scenic Views in Annecy
Though Annecy is already worth a visit because of Lake Annecy, you can go further and explore to discover even more breathtaking spots in the region. If you’re the wanderer-hiker type traveler, you will find Plateau des Glières a really compelling reason why visit Annecy. Actually, even those who love skiing too!
So what’s Plateau des Glières all about? It is a limestone plateau 30 kilometers from Annecy, a place situated 1440 masl that blesses the visitors’ eyes with the idyllic views of the French countryside. It is also a significant site for the French Resistance back in the second world war. Now, Plateau des Glières is used mainly for tourism.
It features 36 km of groomed pistes attracting thousands of cross country skiers during winter and blissful hiking trails that lure countless earth trotters in summer. Because of the punctuated panels telling the stories of the French Resistance who stayed in the area, it is inviting for history lovers too.
For me, Plateau des Glières is something not to be missed, especially during summer or early spring when the rusticity of the place are at its best! It’s the time when you’ll see the heaven-goodness scene composed of the flowering meadows and snowcapped mountains. Not to mention the cattle grazing over the fields, dotted with quaint-looking chalets.
There are hiking trails you can follow from Annecy to Plateau des Glières. Based on Komoot/Alltrails, a one-way hike to Plateau des Glières from Annecy requires 6 hours of trek. It is recommended that you rent a car or hire a driver if you are just visiting Annecy for a day or two.
Reason #10: Scenic Castle Near Annecy
You will visit Annecy because of Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard. It is a castle which is both scenic and magical, a place you would not resist visiting. Perhaps, Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard is the castle that puts the Disney and Universal Studios castles to shame, totally an unmissable destination.
Well, technically, it is not in Annecy, but it is located near the city. But, common! You get the point. LOL. It’s only a 20-minute drive from Annecy, and besides, it is in Annecy you’ll book your accommodation, I believe.
Anyway, Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard is a castle built on a 200-meter-high rocky hill overlooking Lake Annecy, located 11 kilometers southeast of Annecy. Though its first construction happened before the second millennium (10th-century), most of the parts we can see today were only added in the 13th and 19th centuries.
Rumors say that Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard inspired Walt Disney for his Disneyland castles. However, some believe it is Germany’s Neuschwanstein.
But regardless of what people say and when it was built, Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard is the castle to make your fantasies a reality. Especially that those you watch from medieval movies and TV series. Actually, it kinda reminds me of Merlin, an Arthurian Legend 2008-2012 TV series I watched on Netflix.
Thanks to its elevated location, the sceneries from the castle is pretty incredible. You can clearly see the vistas, limestone-peak mountains, and Lake Annecy from Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard’s gardens.
Exceeding the Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard’s architecture and views, what will really impress you are the libraries inside. It contains more than 12,000 books, all made before the year 1800.
The books are ancient, and they seem to keep magic spells used by the witches and sorcerers. The painted illuminations stored inside the castle, created by the monks during the medieval ages, will give you goosebumps.
The castle has 105 rooms, and each has old furniture dated between 16th and 19th centuries. The timber-framed interiors, paintings, and room decoration are admirable too. They should make you feel like you’re a royal for at least a day.
The castle is open only during:
- April to June, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Friday to Sunday
- July to August, 12 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday to Sunday
- September to November 14, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Friday to Sunday
The entry fee is 11 EUR for adults and 5 EUR for Children 5 to 15 years old.
Reason #11: The Gorge Near Annecy
Similar to what was mentioned earlier, you can find anything you could think of in a vacation on a trip to Annecy… From the dramatic mountains to the beautiful lake, and now to the spaces between the rocks – a gorge!
The gorge you can visit from Annecy is called Gorges du Fier. With the spectacular sights await you there, it is honestly another reason why you would visit Annecy. However, I read comments that it’s not suitable for people with vertigo.
Still, if you are healthy and do not freak out with heights, I think there’s no need to hesitate! LOL. Because, if there is one nature’s work of art that most people believe is not really impressive at all, but in reality is full of wonders, that would be the gorges.
Believe me, I was one of that people, and I was in complete disbelief at what I saw when I tried for the first time.
In Gorges du Fier, the rock formation spectacles are observed through the wooden walkways attached to the side of the giant rocks. You will walk along with it, and in every turn, you will see different rock spectacles unfold.
The colors inside Gorges du Fier are playful at times, especially when it is a bright sunny day. The rocks are turned golden, and the small grass and mosses glow magically.
You’ll love even more the sceneries down in between the rocks when there is thin fog, and intense sunlight is entering the gorge. You will see the mist illuminated by sunlight during that moment, creating some kind of Instagram-filter-like effect to the scene inside the ravine. Enchanting indeed.
It gets even more magical with the interesting signboards telling the visitors the legends that echoed from the gorge.
One of the most notable parts of Gorges du Fier is called Mer des Rochers, a vast labyrinth of fissured rock through which the River Fier gently flows. Basically, they are rocks whose softer parts were have been eroded by flowing water containing special chemical properties. They are unique because of the playful shape they currently have now.
You can finish exploring the Gorges du Fier in an hour. It is open every day, but here are the times you can only access it:
- From 15 March to 14 June: 09:30 a.m. – 06:15 p.m. (last entry at 5:15 p.m.)
- From 15 June to 31 august: 09:30 a.m. – 07:15 p.m. (last entry at 06:15 p.m.)
- From 1 September to 15 October: 09:30 a.m. – 06:15 p.m. (last entry at 5:15 p.m.)
The entry fee is 5.80 EUR for adults and 3 EUR for kids (7 to 15 y.o.).
Reason #12: Annecy’s Location
The last reason you should visit Annecy is simple: it is near the most beautiful places to visit in France. The French Alps. It is only one hour away from Chamonix, where Mont Blanc is. If you’re on a longer trip, definitely this is a place to include in your itinerary.
Also, Annecy is very easy to visit! If you are coming from abroad, just fly to Geneva in Switzerland, rent a car, and drive only for an hour to Annecy. There are also direct trains and buses linking Geneva and Annecy. Visiting Annecy is definitely not a hassle.
So that all! Those are the 12 reasons why visit Annecy! What do you think? Will you come to Annecy? Comment your thoughts below. 🙂
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