Blessed with such beauty it’s described as the “Venice of the Savoie“, the lovely lakeside city of Annecy (capital of the Haute-Savoie region) is one of the most delightful surprises in the Alps. For those lucky enough to visit this magnificent place, it really is like stepping out of your life and into a picture postcard for a few days.
The city’s charming cobbled streets and idyllic setting on the tranquil shores of Lake Annecy provide a veritable smorgasbord of views – each seemingly more picturesque than the last. But while simply strolling around the Old Town, past the canals or along the edge of the lake can reveal a world of beauty, there are some other wonderful ways to see a very different side of the city.
Insider tip: The city’s magnificent views can often overshadow its extensive historic and cultural worth. Check out this blog post to get a taste of what’s on offer.
From the Air
There’s nothing quite like taking to the skies to see a place from a true birds-eye vantage. While there are several ways to do this in Annecy (including paragliding and joy flights in a light plane), for those who want to leave adrenaline hit for someone else, the joy and exhilaration of a hot air balloon flight will take your breath away for all the right reasons.
Hot air balloon trips are available year-round and you’ll get to see not just an aerial view of the city, the lake and the Aravis Mountains, but also the surrounding lakes and, on a clear day, perhaps even the famous Mont Blanc – which is quite something from an elevated vantage. The trained pilots can take you on a range of airbound adventures, from an hour-long trip to half-day excursions. You can even book a private flight (normally the flights cater for 3-8 people), or a wine-tasting experience complete with wine expert and tastings up in the sky!
Les Compagnie des Ballons (ph: +33 450633810) offers hot air balloon flights over Annecy. No skills are required and it’s suitable for all ages and levels of fitness.
From the Cycle Path
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be up to Tour de France standards to navigate the local routes on two wheels. We’re not talking downhill (or uphill) alpine racing here; simply a lazy cycle around relatively flat, car-free routes with plenty of opportunities to stop, rest and take in the jaw-dropping scenery.
Cycling is a very popular activity here and it’s not reserved for the young or experienced. The promenade and pathway that runs virtually around the circumference of Lake Annecy offers approximately 40km of safe and easy cycling – although, of course, there’s no need to complete the entire circuit. You can hire a bike and set off at your own pace, stopping off for a breather or photographic opportunity whenever the urge takes you. Which, with those views, will probably be quite often! There are also plenty of places to enjoy a drink or bite to eat and a host of lovely beaches and parks along the way.
Far from being exhausting, because there’s no traffic and it’s almost flat, this is actually the ideal place for those who may not have been on a bike for a while to get their hand (and feet) back in.
Rent a bike by the hour from Le Conty Bike Hire (141 Route de Monnetier). They’ll provide you with a free helmet.
From the Water
The lake is undeniably the stunning centrepiece of the city and there are so many ways you can get out on to the water to make the most of it. It’s a wonderful opportunity to gaze inwards, as it were, to get a view of the city itself, which often tends to get overlooked in the rush to enjoy the vista of the lake.
If you’re up to some physical exertion (although admittedly not too much), pedalos and kayaks are a wonderful way to paddle around at leisure, and there are small catamarans for hire for those with a little experience. However, the most relaxed way of getting out on the water is most definitely on a boat trip – where all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the magical views as they slip by.
There’s a host of options when it comes to boat trips, including half-day and full-day excursions that stop at villages along the lake so you can disembark and explore. There are also numerous sailing cruises with commentary, classic traditional timber boat cruises, motorboats and even restaurant boats, on which you can enjoy a cruise followed by a dinner and dancing.
Insider tip: If you’ve got the time, in July and August you can book on to a cruise that includes lunch and calls into multiple ports around the lake. Because it takes the better part of the day it sets a very relaxed pace.
Bateaux Dupraz (+33 687732240) and Compagnie des Bateaux (+33 450510840) offer a range of cruises around the lake, from 30 minutes to several hours.
How to Get to Annecy
The beauty of Annecy is that even though it may seem a million miles away from the cares of the world, it’s just so accessible. The easiest way to arrive in the city is to fly into busy Geneva International Airport (GVA), which only takes around 90 minutes from the UK. A number of high-profile carriers including British Airways, Swiss Air and easyJet offer regular direct flights, with a range of convenient times.
Once you land at the airport, the best way of getting directly to your accommodation in the city is on a pre-booked door-to-door transfer from Geneva to Annecy, which will take around 40 minutes, along a very picturesque route.
Where to Stay:
Impérial Palace: Perfect for the discerning traveller, the Impérial Palace is just a couple of minutes’ walk from the lake on the northern shore, with wonderful views and a level of hospitality beyond its 4 star rating. The rooms offer private balconies overlooking the lake, the onsite spa is superb and there’s even a casino if you fancy a flutter. The two restaurants offer a choice of refined or casual dining, so there’s really no reason you’ll ever have to leave…
Maison Jerosaal: Situated on the western shore with views to die for, Maison Jerosaal offers villa accommodation of the highest quality. A true home-from-home with all the luxury touches you’d expect, this wonderfully ambient villa comes complete with terrace, lovely gardens and its own barbeque area. Perfect for those looking to get away from it all with a touch of privacy.
Le Palace De Menthon: Befitting its spectacular location, Le Palace De Menthon wraps you in luxury and places you front and centre to one of the most beautiful views in Europe. Situated on the eastern shore, you’ll step out the door and virtually on to the beach. With free Wi-Fi, classic décor and a wonderful air of refinement, this magnificent hotel offers the ultimate escape where, true to its name, you’ll be treated like royalty.
About Shuttle Direct:
Shuttle Direct is the most trusted name in airport transfers throughout Europe and North Africa. Book one of our highly convenient shared or private transfers and you’ll get from the airport of your choice direct to the door of your accommodation. Make an easy online booking before you leave home to organise your hassle-free transport solution and start your break in beautiful Lake Annecy off on the right foot.