There some destinations which, upon telling people of your plans to go there, receive an onslaught of praise and adoration resulting in inadvisably high expectations. Too often, these expectations created by people’s fond, time-tempered memories are not met when faced with the reality of the location and we’re left feeling disappointed and slightly ripped off by those who heralded it as “the best place in the world” and other such hyperboles.
Annecy was not one such place.
My expectations, having listened to the praises of a number of close friends and family members who had been before, were sky-high and yet, when I caught my first glimpses of the French Alpine town, I immediately started plotting how I could move there.
Abutting the northernmost rim of Lake Annecy, the town bearing the same name is a wonderful mixture of its fortunate geographic placement: it has all the charm one would expect from a medieval French town, the majestic beauty of Swiss mountains and lakes, and a dash of the cuisine that has infiltrated from neighbouring Italy, which lies just a 90 minute drive away.
The town of Annecy is known for its picturesque old town, comprised of flower-lined canals, narrow alleyways packed with terraced cafes, and medieval buildings and bridges dripping with history. A little further exploration will find you in more modern parts of the city, with high street stores and boutiques, a train and bus station and, of course, more cafes and restaurants.
The gorgeous old town itself would be enough to convince anyone to visit Annecy, but the real highlight is the lake, just steps from the old town, and a veritable playground for young and old alike.
Pedal boats, available to hire by the hour, scatter the lake’s blue surface like red plastic jewels; speedboats cut across the panoramic backdrop of mountains and turquoise water; sun-seekers sprawl in parks and ‘plages’, sections of grass that serve as public beaches with showers, ice cream vendors and life savers; rollerbladers, cyclists, runners and walkers utilise the footpaths and bike lanes that wind around sections of the lake.
Small towns, lesser known than Annecy but no doubt with charms of their own, cling to the lake’s edge and spread out onto the lush mountains which serve as a cyclist’s nemesis in summer and a skier’s paradise in winter.
Within a couple of hours of Chamonix and the mountain of Mont Blanc, in the beautiful Haute-Savoie region and served by Geneva International airport, Annecy is perfectly situated for a short weekend getaway, a languid escape or a stopover as part of a much longer trip. Convinced you need to visit? Check out my Annecy guide for all you need to know!
Elle’s Annecy Guide
Getting to Annecy
Train. Annecy station is serviced by high speed (TGV) trains from a number of locations as well as regional and local services. Visit the Rail Europe website for more information.
Car. driving is a good option, especially if you hope to explore more than just the town of Annecy, but bear in mind that you won’t need a car to get around in Annecy as the town is best seen on foot.
Fly. Geneva airport is a 40 minute drive away and can be reached by coach, train (note: this route requires one change) or private transfer. I recommend booking a coach to Annecy Gare Routiere (the most central stop) via Transalis. It’s €28 for a return ticket, and you need to pre-book a specific time, but it’s direct, easy to find and hassle-free.
Getting around Annecy
The town is quite small, especially the historical centre, so getting around on foot is the best way to see as much as possible. There are taxis if you wish to go slightly further afield, but be warned; they can be a little hard to find.
The city has a bike scheme similar to London’s (called Vélonecy) although on a much smaller scale, and there are scenic bike paths around the lake perfect for leisurely cycling.
Accommodation in Annecy
Although I’ve only stayed in a few places, this Annecy guide includes all of them, because they were all fabulous options that I’d still recommend. I’ve only mentioned places I’ve actually stayed in myself, but there are plenty of other accommodation options if these don’t suit your needs.
The Airbnb Apartment. The first time I stayed in Annecy it was with 5 other adults and 4 bikes. We needed somewhere spacious, clean and well-equipped, with free wifi and lovely hosts. This apartment is a short walk away from the historic town centre, the station and grocery stores, and is a great option for groups or large families looking for value and convenience.
My second visit to Annecy was with a smaller group (and no bikes!). We rented this Airbnb apartment right in the heart of the old town, and I highly recommend it if you want somewhere super central (it’s moments from the farmer’s market) that makes you feel like a local.
Want £25 towards your first Airbnb booking? Sign up using this link and you’ll get travel credit (I’ll get some too, so it’s win-win!).
The hotel. Les Tresoms was recommended to us by our great friend Lila and it didn’t disappoint. Set on a hill above the lake, the views are breathtaking, and the amenities are pretty spectacular too…there is an on-site spa, two restaurants and an incredible pool overlooking the lake and mountains.
The view comes at a slight cost though: the hotel is isolated and without a car is a good 20 minute walk into town…a pretty walk, mind you, but you can’t just pop out for coffee. The room was priced at 189 Euros, which is beyond our usual budget, but we loved every second of it. Breakfast was a shocking 25 Euros per person (we walked into town for croissants) and the spa pricing was at the luxury end of the scale.
Where to eat in Annecy
The first time I visited, I had a virus that left me less-than-enthusiastic about eating during my trip, so until now this Annecy guide has been sorely lacking food recommendations.
In fact, the only memorable meal was at Les Tresom’s La Coupole restaurant; the atmosphere was admittedly lacking, but the view over the lake and the delicious food more than made up for the absence of ambience.
However, after my latest visit, I discovered some delicious places to eat and drink, which I’ve listed in no particular order:
- Glacier des Alpes, 16 Rue Perrière. Best ice cream in town, with incredible flavours and friendly staff (who always give you a bonus mini-scoop of another flavour on top). Prepare for long lines, but it’s worth the wait!
- La Rotisserie du Thiou, 17 Passage Evéché. Tiny restaurant in a picturesque alleyway serving French specialties. Try the garlic-drowned frogs’ legs (cuisses de grenouilles).
- Café des Arts, 4 Passage de l’Isle. Stop here for an aperitif with loads of atmosphere and, if you’re lucky, live music to get the party started.
- Liber’Tart, 41 Rue Vaugelas. A modern gluten free Pâtisserie serving pretty pastries and gluten free brunch-style meals.
- Aux Crêperies Bretonnes La Bolée, 14 Rue de l’Île. Incredible savoury and sweet crêpes in a quaint cafe (sit outside in summer for perfect people watching and dog spotting opportunities!). The gluten free buckwheat crêpes are incredible!
- Les Tables, 33 Rue Sainte-Claire. Come here for French specialties like tartiflette and steak tartare. Generous portion sizes, friendly staff and an incredible location on a pretty cobbled square.
Things To Do In Annecy
You don’t need an Annecy guide to work out what to do when you’re there.
It’s all about relaxing and enjoying the surroundings, not ticking off attractions.
Walk. Run. Cycle. Swim. Hire pedal boats. Go wakeboarding. Hike. Drive. Sunbathe. Eat. Stroll. Photograph. Get lost. Ski. Rollerblade.
Oh, and visit the farmer’s market that takes place every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday between 7 AM and 1 PM. You can’t miss it, as it sprawls throughout the old town.
The options are almost endless; you don’t need directions from me to enjoy yourself in Annecy; that much is a given!
Take a look at what I got up to on my second visit to Annecy.Want to see more posts like this?
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