Every once in a while you stumble across a place so beautiful, you’re prompted to wonder, Can this possibly be real? Such is the case in Annecy, a picture-perfect town in the French Alps that looks as though it’s been lifted straight from a dream. Nicknamed ‘the Venice of the Alps’, Annecy is famous for its canals that wind their way through the medieval old town; its dramatic mountain scenery; and of course Lac d’Annecy, with its vibrant turquoise waves.
If you’re lucky enough to be holidaying in this Alpine paradise, here are a few activities you won’t want to miss.
Making a day trip to Annecy? Get the most out of your time with this one-day itinerary.
What to Do
If you want to start your day the way the locals do, be sure to take full advantage of the morning markets. Stroll through the Vieille Ville between 7am and 1pm and you’ll find no shortage of vendors selling local produce, breads, pastries, meats, cheeses, clothing, and souvenirs.
Palais de l’Ile
In the heart of Annecy’s company Vieille Ville (Old Town), this 12th-century stone palace sits on a tiny islet in the middle of the Canal du Thiou. Over the course of its long history, the structure has been a noble residence, a courthouse, a mint, and a prison. Today, you can visit the Palais de l’Ile (for a small fee) to view exhibits on local art, architecture, and history. Even if you choose to skip the museum, make sure you take a moment to appreciate the picture-perfect scene. The view of the Palais from the Pont Perrière is one of France’s most-photographed sights – and for good reason. So don’t forget the camera!
Built between the 12th and 16th centuries, this striking castle has long dominated Annecy’s Vieille Ville. Once the residence of the Counts of Geneva, the castle fell into disrepair after a series of fires, and was then repaired to serve as a barracks until 1947. In 1953, the town of Annecy acquired the castle, restored it, and installed a museum. For just €5.20 you can enter the castle to view Alpine art, medieval sculpture, and traditional Savoyard furniture – not to mention fantastic views of the Vieille Ville from the castle terrace.
Take a wander along the lakefront just east of the Vieille Ville and you’ll find plenty to delight you. Stroll through the lovely Jardins de l’Europe, a lush waterside oasis of exotic flowers and trees. There are plenty of benches along the winding paths on which to sit and take in the phenomenal view – lake, mountains, gardens and all.
Directly next door is the Champ de Mars, a grassy space that’s a popular spot for a picnic. Linking these two verdant refuges is the Pont des Amours (Lovers’ Bridge) – a lovely iron footbridge that arches over the canal where swans drift serenely among the rowboats.
Naturally, you’ll want to get out on the water to truly take in the beauty of Lake Annecy. Boat tours are in no short supply here – it’s just a question of what kind of cruise you’d like! From quick one-hour guided tours around the lake to leisurely sunset dinner cruises, you’ll have plenty of options from which to choose. Expect to see charming lakeside villages, stunning mountain vistas, and lovely quiet coves.
How to Get to Annecy
Annecy may seem like the stuff of dreams, but this otherworldly alpine paradise is only about 90 minutes from London by air. You’re best off flying into Geneva International Airport, as Annecy’s small airport does not have regularly scheduled commercial flights. However, there are plenty of options for nonstop flights from Swiss Air, easyJet, and British Airways. Once you’ve touched down, a simple pre-booked transfer from Geneva to Annecy can take you the rest of the way – only a forty-minute drive.
Where to Stay:
Privilodges Le Royal – These stylish and contemporary one-bedroom apartments are excellently located between the lake and the Old Town. A well-equipped kitchenette gives you the option to cook your own meals, though breakfast (served on the stunning lake-view terrace) is available at extra cost.
Impérial Palace – This grand and imposing structure is built right on the shores of Lake Annecy, providing uninterrupted views of the lake and surrounding mountains. The hotel has two restaurants, including the gastronomic La Voile and the more casual Brasserie. After a long day of sightseeing, enjoy a session in the spa or test your luck at the casino.
Les Loges Annecy Vieille Ville – These five-star catered apartments bring luxury to a whole new level. Chicly but cosily decked out in warm tones and Alpine accents, each spacious apartment includes a Turkish bath, wine cabinet, Nespresso coffee machine, fireplace, kitchen, hi-fi system, tablet computer, and welcome platter overflowing with local produce. You’ll be spoiled rotten by the end of your stay!
About Shuttle Direct:
Whether your travels take you near or far this summer, Shuttle Direct can help you get there. As the largest provider of airport transfers across Europe and North Africa, we’ve got your travel plans covered from Iceland to Armenia and Finland to Egypt. Check out our website to see what fabulous places we can take you to this summer!