Annecy Pictures Guide, France

Annecy's Old Prison, France

Annecy’s Old Prison, also known as Palais de l’Ile, in the Rhône Alps, east France.

Visiting Annecy

Annecy is a large town in the north French Alps less than an hour’s drive from Switzerland’s Geneva.  Much of it is not at all attractive or interesting but is saved by a small but dramatic medieval core (confusingly NOT the area called Annecy-le-Vieux! ) and a spectacular lake (Lac d’Annecy) overlooked by mountains including Mont Blanc.

Annecy is a popular non-winter tourist destination and provides a wide selection of activities to suit all comers. The elderly – for whom a stagger around the old quarter, a decent meal and a boat trip around the lake would constitute a fine day.  Or families with young children who will enjoy pedalos, splashing in the lake and perhaps biking. And lets not forget the adrenalin junkies who would use Annecy as a base for paragliding/hangliding, rock climbing, hiking and biking on well organised routes.

Museum and Chateau d'Annecy, France

Musée-Chateau d’Annecy, the Castle Museum, on the River Thiou.

A little Annecy history

Traces of a neolithic lake settlement from about 4, 000 BC can be found near Annecy, as well as remains of the 50 BC Roman town of Boutae, but the town really began to settle when a castle/chateau was built beside the River Thiou in the 13th century.

The River Thiou, Annecy, France

The River Thiou, with many delightful little restaurants and bars lining it as it winds through the old quarter.

Annecy recently set a new record for winning national ‘Towns in Bloom’ prizes with 31 times, in addition to taking the ‘Flowered Towns Grand Prix’ 6 times in 18 years.

Canal du Vassé antique speed boats, Annecy, France

The high life starts in Canal du Vassé; antique speed boats run tours of the lake if the big cruise boats are not to the liking of the more affluent tourist.

Champ de Mars, the lake and Mont Blanc, France

Champ de Mars, a small part of the large green recreation areas bordering Lac d’Annecy. On the right in the distance is Mont Blanc.

Lac d’Annecy

Lake Annecy, with Mont Blanc mountain in the background, France

Lac d’Annecy, France.

Annecy’s lake is 14 km long and 3. 5 km wide at its largest point, the second largest lake in France after Lac du Bourget. The lake is reputed to be the cleanest in Europe due to strict regulations introduced in the 60’s.

There are beaches, both pay and free, scattered around the circumference, though the ‘sand’ is more like grainy, grey, gravel, but walkable just the same. Water temperature in summertime ranges from 21 – 24C, in other words cool, but warmer than the Atlantic Ocean.

A free beach near to the old town of Annecy, France

The free ‘beach’ nearest to the old town of Annecy.

Natural Attractions around the lake

• a Nature Reserve at Doussard at the south end of the lake and another, Roc de Chere, at Talloires on the lake’s centre/east shore.

• Les Gorges du Fier offer bizarre rock formations that are visible from a dangling walkway 25m above the river, just a couple of kms west of Annecy.

• a remarkable suspension bridge built in 1887 swings a few kilometres north of the town.

• the cave and waterfall of Seythenex is just south of Lac d’Annecy.

Cycling

cycling beside Lake Annecy, France

Biking the west shore of Annecy Lake.

The bugcrew visited Annecy after a trip around Switzerland looking for good cycling routes. We were amazed to find that the Lake Annecy west side path was a lot more cycle-user-friendly than any we came across in Switzerland and tho’ it doesn’t run along the east side of the lake it does continue in the south towards Mont Blanc.

Pedestrians walk on the light grey strips; inline skaters are permitted but neither cars nor motorcycles. Bikes and skates are rentable near the lake.

And here’s a winner. . . every day in July/August (as well as Saturday/Sundays in June) you and your bike (or just you if you prefer) can get a bus from Annecy Railway Station 18kms to the top of Semnoz mountain nature reserve! Footpaths and cycle tracks all the way down are are marked, views are sensational and interesting diversions line the route. Downhill all the way, that’s my idea of a great bike ride.

Annecy Lake water skiing and boathouse, France

Water-skiing on the lake in August.

Annecy Activities

Annecy Map, France

Don’t be fooled, Annecy’s delightful medieval centre is where the map says Annecy, not Annecy-le-Vieux!

The red line is the cycle track, blue indicates water sports, green indicates land activities and orange/red is sights. The autoroutes to Geneva and Chamonix run north out of Annecy.

Apart from hiking, cycling, swimming, boating, wind-surfing and pedalos, other possible activities include horse riding, summer sledging/downhill karting on Mt Semnoz, natural climbing, golf, para/hangliding and adventure parks with rope trails, zip-wires etc.

Annecy is not a winter resort, that’s an hour away at Chamonix or Grenoble or at the smaller, nearer ski scenes of La Clusaz, Megeve and Le Grand Bornand.

Outside Annecy is La Route des Ducs de Savoie, a road linking 12 castles, abbeys and other historic sights and museums, including Château de Montrottier and Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard.

Getting to Annecy

Flights: there is a small airport at Annecy but it only takes flights from Paris. The nearest international airport is at Geneva and the drive won’t take more than an hour on the excellent A41 autoroute. Lyon in France is another flight option, though the traffic jams there can be unbelievable and the route from there is dull.

Trains: A pleasant alternative is to get to Annecy by TGV (super-fast train) via Chambery. e. g. from Paris in 3. 5 hours.