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The Top 6 Things to Do and See in Annecy
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The Top 6 Things to Do and See in Annecy

Picture of Nicola Simonetti
Updated: 9 February 2017
A beautiful gem nestled in the French countryside, Annecy is a picture-perfect town in the Southern Haute-Savoie region, with colorful bridges and winding canals likened to the splendour of those in Venice. Despite its small size, there is no shortage of activities to excite and amuse tourists throughout the area. Here’s our list of the top 10 things to do and see in Annecy.
Atardecer en los canales de Annecy | © Miguel Diaz/Flickr
Atardecer en los canales de Annecy | © Miguel Diaz/Flickr
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Palais de l’île

Popular for its central location as well as its extraordinary architecture and rich historical significance, the Palais de l’île is an unmissable stop when in Annecy. An emblematic building of the city found on postcards throughout the area, over time it has served as a prison, a counting house and a Palais de justice, from which derives its current title. Come here at night to fully experience the enchanting romance of Annecy; the Palais glows with fairy lights, a beacon for couples meandering along the nearby canals. The entrance to the building is cheap, and there is a unique documentary exposition held inside daily.

3 passage de l’Ile, Annecy, France

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International Animated Film Festival

The Annecy International Animation Film Festival is a celebration of all types of cartoon film, a cinematic event attracting international attention due to the major talent it exposes. Hosted in Annecy for over fifty years, film screenings are held througout the city for five days, and awards are distributed among many different categories including Best Short Film and Best Student Film. A must for all film buffs, this is a great way to experience the best in independent French animated cinema. Watch out for the open-air projections held across the city every evening, and get your dancing shoes on during the final day, as the awards ceremony is met with raucous celebrations throughout the city.

18 Avenue du Tresum, Annecy, France

© D.Bouchet/Flikr
The Annecy Film Festival closing ceremony I | © D.Bouchet/Flikr

Cruises on the lake

Take a relaxing cruise on Lac d’Annecy to enjoy the crystal clear waters and stunning scenery of the French Alps. This is the third largest lake in France, and is known as “Europe’s cleanest lake” due to its breathtaking blueness. There are many boating options on offer here, from one-hour cruises to extended lunch and dinner expeditions. A range of transport options are also available for your voyage, from catamarans, to small wooden barges, to larger liner-style boats.

Church Saint-François-de-Sales

Located in the Old Town of Annecy, Saint-François de Sales is a Catholic church which was constructed in 1614. Serving as a barracks under the French Revolutionary occupation, then as a factory, then as a block of apartments, it was only in 1923 that the church re-discovered its religious roots and became a place of worship for the local Italian community. The main baroque style entrance is eye-catching, and the majestic exterior, inspired by the Église du Gesù in Rome, has been recently restructured to preserve its charming elegance.

1 Place Saint-François de Sales, Annecy, France, +33 450450692+33 450450692

Lac d'Annecy, France. | © Manu Dreuil/Flickr
Lac d’Annecy, France. | © Manu Dreuil/Flickr

European Gardens

Opened in 1863, the European Gardens in Annecy are one of the best places in the city to sit back, relax, and watch the world go by. Surrounded by giant Californian redwood trees, the gardens display a wealth of exotic European, Asian and American plant species. Watch out for the giant sequoia trees, their impressive grandeur a contrast to the delicate beauty of the surrounding enclosure. Benches and fountains are dotted sporadically around the area adding to the relaxing ambience of the place. Plus, the view offered from the gardens encompasses the whole of the city, and is arguably one of the best in Annecy.

Place St-François-de-Sales, Annecy, France

Annecy, European Gardens | © Allan Watt/Flickr
Annecy, European Gardens | © Allan Watt/Flickr

Lovers’ Bridge

Situated at the edge of Lake Annecy, the Pont Des Amours, (the bridge of lovers), is found at the mouth of the Vasse canal, standing as a perfect symbol of the romance characteristic of the city. Designed by Charles Galletto at the beginning of the 20th century, legend goes that if two lovers kiss on the bridge their souls will be forever entwined.

Chalet La Pricaz

With an outstanding and unique panoramic view over Lake Annecy, this restaurant is the top spot in town in which to be wined and dined. Visitors flock here for the superb sunsets, and with an open-air terrace on which to relax, its the perfect place to enjoy romantic meals as well as dinner with family and friends. The walk up to the restaurant is an exciting activity within itself, offering magnificent mountain views and outlooks over the crystal water.

Chemin Rural dit de la Forclaz, Montmin, France, +33 450607261+33 450607261

St Pierre Cathedral

Known also as Annecy Cathedral, St Pierre Cathedral is a Roman Catholic construction dating back to the beginning of the 16th Century. Belonging to a Franciscan priory, it was designed by Jacques Rossel to illustrate the story of Saint François de Sales, which it does through intricate and beautiful stained glass window designs. Used for non-religious purposes during the French revolution, the building received its cathedral status in 1822, and has been a sanctuary for daily worship ever since. Watch out for the ancient organ here, exquisite in design, and built by Nicolas-Antoine Lété in 1840.

Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Annecy, Francie, +33 450650045+33 450650045

Museum Castle of Annecy

A spot highly recommended for history lovers, the ancient Castle of Annecy is a beautiful combination of medieval defensive architecture and French Renaissance elegance. Serving for years as a residence for the Counts of Geneva, the castle suffered several fires before being finally abandoned in the 17th century. In 1953 the castle was bought by the city of Annecy, and has since been transformed into an engaging and educational museum. Lake architecture, medieval sculptures, 18th century paintings and objects linked to regional heritage all feature heavily, and the Observatory of the Alpine Lakes is not to be missed, an exhibition inviting visitors to explore the complex environments of the Alpine lakes.

1 Place du Château, Annecy, France, +33 450338730+33 450338730

Market Day

If you love perusing stalls and digging for deals then you’re in luck; (almost) every day is market day in Annecy. On Tuesdays, two markets selling French food goods and various other products are held simultaneously at the place of ‘Romains’ and in the Old Town. On Thursdays more food stalls line the streets from 7am in Novel. On Fridays and Sundays its usual for markets to be held all day across the city, offering food, fashion, arts and crafts, and on Saturdays, three markets can be found at Taine Boulevard, Félix Petit Street and Nicollet Street. Look out for the Annecy Christmas market held every winter, where a selection of seasonal goods can be purchased, mulled wine can be drank, and fun can be had on the giant ice-rink erected in the heart of the city.