Annecy, in the North of the French Alps, is the Venice of Savoie — a well deserved title. The medieval town centre built around a 14th century Chateau is dissected by small canals and streams running out of Lac Annecy, which is clean, fresh and a wonderful azure colour. Annecy is also the prefecture of the département of Haute-Savoie.
Ten TER Rhône-Alpes trains operated by SNCF leave daily for Annecy from the Gare de Part-Dieu in Lyon, leaving around every two hours from 7:00 to 21:00. A round-trip ticket is €54.40 (€27.20 one-way) and the trip is around two hours each way.
There are also trains leaving for Annecy from Chambéry, which run more frequently. Eighteen TER trains and one Intercités de Nuit train, as well as one SNCF bus service, run between the two towns, taking around an hour each way. A round-trip ticket is €21.20 (€10.60 one-way).
Annecy is a popular day trip from nearby Geneva, Switzerland (bring your passport for the border crossing - although checks are not frequent). Buses operated by Lihsa leave from Geneva's intercity bus station about 5 times/day on Sundays, more frequently on weekdays. A round-trip ticket costs 32 CHF and the trip takes about an hour/direction.
Geneva is the nearest major international airport and is well served from across Europe and beyond. With the new motorway, it is now just over 35 min away. A little further away is Lyon, a full international airport, and Grenoble, which is focused on low cost and winter flights. Both are about a one-hour drive by car or bus. The airport at Annecy only has flights to Paris.
- Palais de l'Isle. A former palace-turned-prison. As the name says, it is situated on an island between the canals. Entrance €5 or discounted when purchased with the Annecy Castle.
- Churches. include Saint-Maurice from the 15th century, Notre-Dame-de-Liesse from the 19th century, Saint-François-de-Sales originally built in the 18th century, and Saint Peter's Cathedral constructed at the beginning of the 16th century.
- Annecy Castle. Situated on a hill overlooking the city and the surroundings. Entrance €5 or discounted when purchased with the Palais d'Isle.
- Swim, row or sail on the lake. The city provides free public beaches for swimming in addition to some pay beaches.
- Hike on the mountains around the city. The tourist information office provides maps and information for local trails.
- Bike around the lake, or up in the mountains if you are in good shape.
- Hanglide above the lake from the Col de la Forclaz (~20 km)
- Shop the many boutiques lining the narrow stone-paved streets. A large, modern mall can also be found in the newer part of the city.
- Films a theatre near the large mall showing multiple films for your enjoyment.
- Boat Trips (Along Quai Jules Philippe), ☎ +33 4 50 51 08 40, fax: +33 04 50 51 80 94. They offer discovery cruises of lake, a water taxi service to the towns around the lake and dinner cruises. Prices starting at €13.40 for the one hour cruise.
- April: A cozy village festival is held, a great place to bring the family. Rides and vendors are abundant, along with the great French cuisine. The festival lines Lac Annecy and is very peaceful and beautiful.
- June : One of the biggest animation festivals is held in Annecy (6 days)
- July : Noctibules festival during the nights (4 days)
- The first week-end of August is the Lake Festival (Fête du Lac) with attractions around the lake and a great fireworks. This event brings more than 100 000 spectators.
- October : "Descente des Alpages" or "Return from Alpine Pastures". Occurs once a year on the second Saturday of October. This is a traditional farmers' festival with local music, food and entertainment.
Annecy has a number of local artisan shops as well as many European chain boutiques.
There is a market (marché) each Sunday morning in the pedestrian streets of the medieval city. Le marché is an open air market with the freshest fruits and vegetables.
- Courier (Walking distance from Old Annecy and Jardin de l'europe). A large shopping centre in the middle of town with a wide variety of stores.
For between meals try the ice cream shops, favored by the locals, located on the numerous pedestrian-only by-ways that weave the city and river together.
- Glacier des Alpes, 16 rue Perrière, ☎ +33 4 50 51 08 86. The best hand made ice creams in the city, with more than 40 different tastes.
Another suggestion is the brioche (sweet roll) and other goodies to be found at the boulangeries (bakeries) in town.
And of course, Haute-Savoie is famous for its cheese recipes :
- Le Fréti, 12 rue Sainte Claire, ☎ +33 4 50 51 29 52. THE restaurant in Annecy for cheese specialities : Fondue, Raclette, ...
Bed & breakfast, youth hostel exist. Surrounding mountains and lake activities are draining a large number of tourist during the summer and more and more during the winter season. Several winter sport resorts are within a 30 minute drive.
- PV-Holidays Adagio Annecy Centre (next to train station in business district, short walk from the Old Town and lake), ☎ +33 1 58 21 55 84. An aparthotel offering studio style apartments for up to 4 people. A fitness room, sauna and private parking are also available. ~€80.
- Annecy Hostel, 32 Avenue de Loverchy, ☎ +33 9 53 12 02 90, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A clean hostel located about a 15 minute walk from the train/bus station and a 5 minute walk to the historic area of town. They also have a large patio and a full kitchen. From €22/person/night for a dorm bed and from €55/room/night for a 1-2 person private room.
The town itself gets ridiculously busy in July but September brings less folk - visit then when the air is clearer and the views to the mountains are better.
If you want to get away from the crowds, try the far side of the lake. The best way to get around is by bike.
- Discover small towns nearby in the Alps such as Thônes, La Clusaz, Le Grand-Bornand, Menthon St. Bernard, Duingt, Faverges
- Use the place as a base to visit other places of the Alps such as Chamonix (~80 km), Geneva (45 km), Chambery (40 km), Yvoire (60 km), Thonon, Evian, Val d'Isère, Aosta (IT, 100 km)...
- A shuttle bus connects the Annecy train station directly to the Geneva Airport.