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Annecy, also known as ‘the Venice of the Alps’, is a picturesque town offering many things to do
Annecy, also known as ‘the Venice of the Alps’, is a picturesque town offering many things to do | © Markus Thomenius / Alamy Stock Photo
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Reasons Why You Should Visit Annecy, France

Picture of Sarah Borg
Updated: 6 June 2019

Tucked away in southeastern France, Annecy sits at the tip of the picturesque Lake Annecy and overlooks snow-capped mountains. Here are Culture Trip’s top things to do in the beautiful French city.

Spectacular views of Lake Annecy

View of Lake Annecy from Abbaye de Talloires in France

Lake Annecy offers eye-catching scenes from every angle | © Coucouhibou / Alamy Stock Photo

The pristine Lac d’Annecy, one of the largest lakes in France, sits among snow-capped mountains and is known as the cleanest lake in Europe. Painted by Paul Cézanne, Lake Annecy is partly ringed by a cycle path that travels past Saint-Jorioz, which is part of the UNESCO Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps.

Superb watersports

Annecy, Haute-Savoie department, Rhone-Alpes, France. Children sailing dinghies on Lake Annecy.

Lake Annecy has numerous adventures available for outdoor enthusiasts | © Ken Welsh / Alamy Stock Photo

For the more aquatically inclined, Lake Annecy has options like paddleboarding with the ex-captain and coach of the French wakeboarding team, scuba diving and catamaran and yacht rentals with the Annecy Sailing Regatta Society.

Lake Annecy’s beaches

pop plage at Lake Annecy

Visit Lake Annecy’s beaches for a relaxing experience | © William Edwards / Alamy Stock Photo

When visiting in summer, there are plenty of sandy or grassy beaches dotted along the picturesque lake. A swim in the refreshing, crystal-clear water serves as a perfect opportunity to relax and take in the remarkable views that Annecy has to offer.

Eat raclette

Traditional raclette french cheese detail

Raclette is a hearty meal perfect during winter | © Andrea Izzotti / Alamy Stock Photo

This delicious Swiss export, which basically consists of a round, semi-hard cow’s-milk cheese of the same name melted in front of an open fire, is traditionally enjoyed with potatoes, dried meats, gherkins and pickled onions. You can find raclette all over Annecy, and never will you feel as toasty as when you are sitting in front of a fireplace in a restaurant looking onto a canal and savouring every bite of it.

Annecy’s old town

Buildings in the old town of Annecy, Haute-Savoie, Rhone-Alpes, France. Image shot 2013. Exact date unknown.

Annecy’s old town is home to colourful houses lining cobblestone streets and canals | © Jayskyland Images / Alamy Stock Photo

Spend a day or two, or three, getting lost among the whimsical canals of Annecy. Dubbed the “Venice of the Alps”, the winding cobblestone streets of the Vieille Ville, or old town, are lined by pastel houses and bright flower boxes that will make you fall in love with this small French town. Stop for a croissant at a boulangerie, or sit and have ice cream at one of the town’s many gelaterias and spend the afternoon people-watching and admiring the architecture.

Annecy farmer’s market

Male stallholder at a vegetable and salad stall at a local outdoor food market in the old town, Annecy, France

Annecy has a variety of food markets throughout the week | © Graham Prentice / Alamy Stock Photo

Annecy, from the farmer’s market of Au Rendez-Vous du Terroir (Tuesday through Saturday) to the Old Town Market on the Rue Sainte-Claire (Tuesday, Friday and Sunday), has various markets on throughout the week selling an array of fresh foods and market wares. The Sunday Annecy market is one of the finest markets in France, with its colourful stalls lining the old town’s streets and canals.

Pont des Amours

People looking over Lac d'Annecy on Pont des Amours, Annecy, Haute-Savoie, Rhone-Alpes, France. Image shot 2013. Exact date unknown.

The Pont des Amours and its incredible views are must-sees | © Jason Knott / Alamy Stock Photo

The Pont des Amours (Lovers’ Bridge) is a beautiful iron bridge by the Lac d’Annecy, which joins the Jardins de l’Europe and Pâquier Esplanade – two open gardens on the shores of the lake. Legend has it that if two lovers kiss on the bridge, they will stay together forever – the padlocks that adorn the bridge certainly suggest that visitors believe this. Even if you have no one to kiss, this famous site, overlooking the lake and the mountains, is worth visiting.

The Gardens of Europe

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The Jardins de l’Europe make an ideal picnic spot | © Giuseppe Piazzese / Shutterstock

After crossing the Pont des Amours from the Pâquier Esplanade, the Gardens of Europe, or the Jardins de l’Europe to residents, are a perfect spot for a lunchtime picnic. Grab some French pastries, cheese, baguettes and cold meats from the market stalls, and spend a leisurely afternoon lying on the grass watching tourists wander by.

Palais de l’Île

Annecy Palais de l'Ile. Image shot 08/2009. Exact date unknown.

Today, the Palais de l’Île is a museum | © mcx images / Alamy Stock Photo

With its turreted facade looking like the prow of a ship, the Palais de l’Île splits the river Thiou into two canals. Now a local history museum, it was built in the 12th century and was at one time a prison, mint, courthouse and lord’s residence. One of France’s most photographed locations, it is also open a few days a week, though only in the warmer months, for exhibits.

The historic churches

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The Église Notre-Dame-de-Liesse is just one church in Annecy worth exploring | © Giuseppe Piazzese / Shutterstock

Annecy has many Catholic churches worth visiting, where you’ll find beautiful stained-glass windows, impressive grand organs and Medieval paintings. If history is your thing, take the time to explore the old churches dotted around Annecy’s old town.

Lily Niu contributed additional reporting to this article.