Annecy On a Budget
SightsThe Palais de l'Isle is a 12th century castle on an island in the river Thiou in Annecy's administrative headquarters. It mostly served as a prison and courthouse until the French Revolution. It again was a prison during World War II. The Palais de l'Ile was classified as a Historical Monument in 1900, and today houses a local history museum.
The Chateau d'Annecy (Annecy Castle) was the home of the Counts of Geneva and the Dukes of Genevois-Nemours. The imposing Castle is majestically placed atop one of the last promontories of the Semnoz Mountain overlooking the lake with the old town of Annecy nestled at its foot. Its silhouette can be seen from various parts of the town as a beacon of the medieval past of Annecy. After being abandoned in the 17th century, the castle was then occupied by a garrison until 1947. In 1902, it was listed as a Historical Monument by the French State. Today, the castle houses the museum of regional art and the Alpine Lakes Regional Observatory.
Saint-Pierre is a lovely renaissance building, constructed in the 1500s, and if it seems a bit subtle for a cathedral that's because it wasn't made one until 1825. Saint-Pierre Cathedral is also admired for the way it interacts with the water, and is partly built over the canals.
Make the steep walk up to the Basilique de la Visitation, high to the south of Annecy. The tower of this 19th-century church can be seen for miles around and possesses one of the best local views of the city. Inside are the tombs of two saints, Francis de Sales and Jane Frances de Chantal.
See the Gorges du Fier. Minutes west of the city is a marvelous river canyon cut by the Fier River. Even in the French Alps, which are famous for their natural wonders, the gorge is a must-visit. There's a series of walkway suspended 25 meters above the river letting you marvel at the odd shapes create by many years of erosion. In places the gorge is so narrow that the cliffs almost meet overhead, and you'll be able to touch the rock face on the other side. There's also a free path delivering you to a natural pool where people come to sunbathe and swim in the summer.
Walking around Annecy old town is a real delight. With its charming canals, its flower-bedecked banks, and its beautiful houses with colorful facades, Annecy carries really well its nickname of Savoyard Venice. How pleasant it is to stroll along its canals or walk around the lovely narrow pedestrian streets 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; 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; roller bladers, cyclists, runners and walkers utilize the footpaths and bike lanes that wind around sections of the lake.
ActivitiesGet on a boat. For the best way to discover the lake and surrounding mountains, visitors can take a trip on tourist boats or hire pedalos and small motor boats. Take the tour around the lake and enjoy the magical beauty, the endless colors, and the runoff from the snow-capped mountains that surround you on every side, providing some of the cleanest waters in the world.
Another wonderful day trip is taking the bus or renting a car to go up to the top of the mountain nearby called Le Semnoz and stopping by the luge d'ete center to go for a ride. If you take a bus ride up there, one free luge pass is included. Along the mountainside there are cows roaming free and the views go for miles. Also on this mountain you can hike at the very top or you can sit down and watch hang gliders take off.
Spend time walking around the shops in Annecy and get a cultural taste for this unique region of France. Stop and take a picture on the iconic bridge that overlooks the Palais de L'Isle. Walk up the cobblestone streets to Chateau d'Annecy.
A different way to discover the area is to choose a Segway stroll, a nice activity to do on Lake Annecy shore. Even if you have never tried before, it's a great place to start as the area around the lake is a pedestrian only area.
For a more active option, do a bike ride around Lake Annecy. There is around 42km of bike path, it's really a great way to discover the surroundings. You will of course need to stop a few times to admire the view.
Discover Annecy from the sky. For those with an adventurous spirit and big thrills enthusiasts, you can book a paragliding session above Lake Annecy. The view is just crazy, no wonder why Annecy is the most famous paragliding site in Europe, and one of the best in the world!
Enjoying other nautical activities is also a good option here. From pedal boat to water-skiing and wakeboarding, everyone will for sure find a nautical activity that suits them on lake Annecy.
Food and DiningThe cuisine is a remarkable French meets Swiss infusion, and is known for the gastronomic selections from the Haute-Savoie region. It is here that French mountain cooking thrives most vigorously. The raw materials are rich and variedcheese and other dairy products; apples, pears, plums, and cherries; mountain berries, and wild mushrooms; as well as wild game and fresh fishnot just trout but perch, pike, and the sublime omble-chevalier. Fondue Savoyarde is the region's most famous dish, but hearty soups and stews (among them the famous Potee), civets of game, potato dishes, and glorious fruit tarts all appear on the Annecy table as well.
TransportationThe best prices for buses and trains in France can be found on Omio (formerly GoEuro). They let you search across all train, bus, and plane routes throughout Europe.
Geneva Airport is the nearest major international airport and is well served from across Europe and beyond. With the new motorway, it is now just over 35mins away by car. There is a bus that runs between Geneva Airport and Annecy with a journey time of 1hr 30 min. There is also a direct train from Paris or Lyon. The railway station is situated in the city center of Annecy. Annecy has regular bus service around the lake area. Getting around the city center is usually easiest by walking. Walking, biking, or boats are other good options for getting to other locations via the lake or paths around the lake.