What to see and do in Annecy ?
The attractions of Annecy ? Its most beautiful nooks!
« Pearl of the Alps », « Venice of France », the superlatives are not lacking for Annecy, with its canals, its bridges, its flower-adorned docks and streets with arcades. Between its lake and the mountains, the town offers a seductive atmosphere and an architectural heritage. Discover this city, which was once Sardinian and is now French, but which still keeps its Italian past with some of the most vibrant yellow ochres under the sun.
Lake Annecy (Photo: Guilhem Vellut)
Lake Annecy offers splendid views of the Alps. Guests can bathe, go canoeing, or enjoy recreational boating: many shuttles offer a tour of the lake or lead you to the surrounding villages. The shores of the lake are great for walking or cycling, while the many beaches, both free and paid, are ideal places for relaxation in the midst of a truly majestic setting.
View of the Old Town of Annecy (Photo: Frédérique Voisin-Demery)
The Vasse canal and Thiou River which wind through the ancient town of Annecy earned it the nickname of “Venice of the Alps”. Did you know that in March the « Venetian Carnival of Annecy » takes place for three days? Lakeside or by the canals, you can’t miss the Venetian masks and the sumptuous costumes of Italian fashion. With the landmark of the Palais de l’isle, the charm of the old town of Annecy is brought to life by its Italian-coloured houses, fountains, bridges and blooming wharves. You may also enjoy the passages and alleys which allow you to go from one place to another: charming boutiques, tea rooms and cafés abound.
So take a walk in the town to discover the secret side of Annecy: take the three passages linking the Rue Jean-Jacques-Rousseau to the l’ Évêché quay, take the ramp of the Castle from the Rue Perrière, and join again the path of the ramparts between the Côte Saint-Maurice and the Castle Square. Many passages are also to be seen, the Gruffaz passage between the Rue Vaugelas and Rue Royale, the great passage between the Rue Vaugelas and Rue Sommeiller, and the Notre-Dame passage between Rue Notre-Dame and the square of l’Évêché. Also do not miss strolling along the Rue St. Clair lined with houses, with arcades and mansions in warm pastel shades.
The Palais de l’Isle
Palais de L’isle in Annecy (Photo: Edwin Lee)
Spindle-shaped, and situated on an island of the Thiou River, with its austere walls reflected in the waters of the river, this island is a landmark of Little Venice. Built in the 12th century, the Palais de l’Isle served as a residence of the Counts of Geneva, a jail and a courthouse. It now houses the Centre of Architecture and Heritage which stages themed exhibitions. Discover the successive faces of the town and a remarkable model produced according to a plan of the 18th century.
Parks and forests
Forests near Lake Annecy (Photo: Pratensis)
A green town, Annecy also offers walkers its many parks and gardens. Cross the famous Bridge of Love to get to the Gardens of Europe, or climb up to the forest of Crêt du Maure where there are plenty of viewing points: from the Chalet Super-Panorama, you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the lake! A little higher up, the Route du Semnoz, and the Grande Jeanne Wildlife Park can be visited for free: you’ll be on the trail of fallow deer, red deer and 20 sheep from Corsica.
Museum in Annecy Castle
Château d’Annecy (Photo: Jonathan Moisan)
Overlooking the city with its imposing silhouette, the old residence of the counts of Geneva and the Dukes of Genevois-Nemours today houses the Castle Museum of Annecy. While browsing the Tower of the Queen, the Vieux Logis, Logis Perrière and the Logis Nemours, you can follow the evolution of a princely residence from the 12th to the 16th century, and witness how it passed from being a medieval fortified castle into a pleasure palace inspired by the buildings of the île-de-France. It was Jacques de Genevois Nemours, who built the logis Neuf between 1562 and 1571. Did you know that it was he who served as the model for the character of the Duke of Nemours in « The Princess of Cleves » by Madame de Lafayette?
The moving image
Two minutes away, in the chapel at the Conservatory, discover the CITIA exhibition, an important collection of animated film. Through an interactive and stimulating presentation, this permanent exhibition will immerse you in the heart of the process of creation of the animated image. From the theatre of shadows to digital animation, from the magic lantern to the praxinoscope, you will discover the first devices originally used to create the moving image, and also original creations and the universe of the creators.
Annecy is a city that is pleasant to live in and to visit: you will find hotels at attractive prices and many restaurants which use fish from the lake or specialities of the mountains. Finally, don’t miss the farmers’ market which takes place every Sunday and, benefiting from a protected geographical indication, always has local produce including hams, and cheeses, such as, the Emmental de Savoie, Gruyère and the Tomme de Savoie!
This article was written by journalist/writer Steve Andrews for French Language Institute ifalpes.com.