Why you should drop everything and go to Annecy, France

Why you should drop everything and go to Annecy, France

There’s Venice…and then there’s the so-called “Venice of the Alps.” Subtract the gondoliers and add some glorious mountain scenery, and you end up with Annecy, France which is the type of place you’ll become enchanted with the second you arrive in its old town.

Annecy, France

Cobblestone streets wind past charming patisseries and cafes, a 12th century castle perches high on a hill overlooking easter-egg coloured buildings, and tiny bridges navigate over canals leading to the town’s crown jewel, the Palais de l’Ile.

While there is plenty to see, the town is  surprisingly walkable and one could spend an entire day simply wandering around, never tiring of the view.

Here’s why you need to drop everything and go to Annecy right now.

Annecy, France

The Sights

The Palais de l’Ile is deservedly the top sight in Annecy, and it’s safe to say it’s prettiest prison ever built. Dating back to the 12th century, the stone monument has served as a jail, courthouse, administrative centre and now a museum.

Annecy, France
Those who visit in warmer months will be treated to the sight of clear green water, bright foliage and vibrant flowers framing the structure. However, visiting in the winter means less crowds, and you’ll be free to enjoy the view of the Palais de l’Ile from the bridge without having to battle anyone for elbow room.

Annecy, France
A steep pathway with vine-covered walls leads up from the old town to the Château d’Annecy, a beautifully preserved medieval castle. It was built to be the residence of the counts of Geneva, but after the town bought it in the 1950s it was restored and turned into a museum.

Visitors can wander through the castle and enjoy exhibits, and the surrounding streets are worth exploring, if only for the view of the town spread out below.

Annecy, FranceAnnecy, France
One of the largest lakes in France, Lake Annecy is a serene, picturesque spot known as Europe’s purest lake due to strict environmental regulations. It’s popular for swimming and sailing, and there many boat cruises available where one can not only view Annecy from the water, but also the surrounding villages.

Annecy, France Annecy, France
Framed by the Tournette Mountain, a pathway winds around the edges of Lake Annecy which are frequented by cyclists, runners, or those simply out for a stroll to enjoy the view.

Annecy, France
Annecy, France

The Food

Really, is there anything better than French food? Annecy has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to cuisine, and dining is taken quite seriously here. Museums don’t accept visitors over the lunch hour, and dinner can be the event. Don’t even think about sitting down until 7 pm, and then expect to spend hours enjoying a multi-course meal (hopefully with good company).

While the number one rule of travelling is normally to avoiding eating anywhere within a two block radius of a major tourist attraction, that’s not necessarily the case in Annecy. For example, Café des Ducs has an enviable location right beside the Palais de l’Ile, where you can tuck into a delicious nutella and banana covered waffle while people watching.

Annecy, France
Top tip: Don’t leave Annecy without having dinner at Le 7367. Located in the old town, it serves up incredible dishes such as rabbit confit, foie gras, scallop carpaccio and Kobe beef which are so artfully presented you’ll feel bad digging in. Even those who don’t consider themselves foodies will appreciate the experience—especially those who order the Mystère d’une sphère dessert which melts before your eyes!

Annecy, France
Dinner at Le 7367

Annecy, France
The Shopping

It’s no Paris, but Annecy has some great shopping. Most of the stores and boutiques are scattered around pedestrian-only areas in the old town, offering everything from trendy clothes and shoes to home decor and beauty products.

There are also lots of cute spots to pick up fresh flowers or a bottle of wine, and North Americans will feel at home in the Courier shopping centre which has a few dozen stores including well-known ones like Zara, H&M and Sephora.

Annecy, France

Annecy, France
Just across from the shopping centre is one of Annecy’s Christmas Markets, so if you time your visit for December you can explore the stalls, let the kiddos ride around on a miniature horse or go skating.

It’s even better after dark, when the bar (complete with disco ball) opens, serving up drinks including vin chaud as the younger crowd conglomerates around the food stalls while a DJ spins beats in the background.

READ MORE: 5 tips for visiting the markets during Christmas in Europe

Annecy, France

Enjoying poutine!
Enjoying poutine!

If you’re more interested in picking up decorations or gifts, head back to the Palais de l’Ile where another Christmas Market winds around the main plaza and cathedral, serving up sweets like gingerbread, candy apples and real roasted chestnuts. This is also where to find beautiful handcrafted gifts like candles, shawls and scarves, or treats like chocolates, macaroons and even caviar pate.

Annecy, France
European Christmas market
Be sure to wander over to the nearby city hall, where a light show is displayed on the side of the building, including some drawings done by local children.

WATCH: The Christmas light show in Annecy, France



Currency: The euro. Credit cards are commonly accepted.

How to get there: Annecy is located in eastern France, just 40 minutes away from Geneva, Switzerland. It’s about an 1 1/2 hour drive to Lyon, and just an hour to the ski resort in Chamonix.

Where to stay: Hôtel Alexandra offers clean, quiet, modern rooms in an amazing location in the old town. It’s found in the shopping district, just a few blocks from the Palais de l’Ile. Parking is available for an extra charge, and hotel staff are very friendly and helpful.

Book a guided tour of Annecy, France




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31 thoughts on “Why you should drop everything and go to Annecy, France”

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  6. Annecy is truly a gem in the Alps. Such a beautiful town. We visited it last August and were fascinated by the town, the lake and the surrounding landscape! Thank you for this post with many tips…makes us want to return soon 😉

  7. Holy cuteness! There are so many gorgeous towns in Europe it is often hard to pick the next one to go to. My favorites are usually ones like this with beautifully colored houses and canals! I’d never heard of Annecy, I’ll have to put it in my radar.

  8. How gorgeous – I had heard of Amsterdam being called Venice of the North (Europe), though Annecy looks even more so … I think I could stay entertained all day just walking and getting lost throughout the charming streets 🙂

  9. Oh wow! I do want to drop everything and visit Annecy! I wonder if back in the day, people committed crimes to purposely get sent that prison! I would for the views! Only kidding! Looks like a charming little town I must add to my list now!

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  11. We are spending a week there next November 2017 what kind of weather should we expect. (Concerned about packing) will be going following three weeks cruise in the Med. Lyn Tickle . Australia.

    1. Hi Lyn- lucky you, sounds like an amazing trip! I was there in December, and was perfectly fine walking around with a dressy overcoat (read: not a parka!) and gloves. I didn’t even wear a hat, so I don’t think you’ll need to worry about bringing too much winter gear. Worst case scenario you can just warm up with some mulled wine 🙂

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  13. These pictures don’t do it justice at all. You have to see it in person and I think it’s worth a few crowds to go in the warmer months.

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