17 Best Things to Do in Annecy, France (with Map)

You may well think you have entered a fairytale on arrival in Annecy.

A gorgeous alpine town in the picturesque French region of Haute-Savoie, it will instantly captivate you with its enchanting canals, cobblestone streets, and breathtaking Alpine backdrop.

The town has been labelled the ‘Venice of the Alps’, thanks mainly to its stunning namesake lake – renowned as one of the cleanest in Europe.

It is not far from the Swiss border and possesses a unique ambience that marries the charm and magic of France with the beauty and mystique of Switzerland.

Visitors can spend their time exploring the medieval architecture of the historic Old Town, enjoying water activities on the lake or indulging in the region’s renowned gastronomy. However, set aside a good few days for these things to do in Annecy, as there is plenty to see!

Where to Stay

You’ll need accommodation if you plan to stay for a few nights in Annecy. The best area to base yourself, especially if you are a first-time visitor or are short on time, is the Old Town. Doing so will provide easy access to the lake, markets and many of the main tourist attractions in Annecy.

A terrific option is the Hotel Le Pélican. It is a four-star property about 1 km from the mainland Annecy train station. What is great about this place is that it has an excellent restaurant and bakery on-site. It also has a fantastic outdoor pool and bar, while your room features a whirlpool tub and sensational lake views.

Alternatively, the Hotel Les Terrasses is a good choice if you’re traveling on a budget. It is just a 5-minute stroll to the Gare d’Annecy train station and a 12-minute walk to the medieval old town. It also presents comfortable rooms with cozy wood paneling and a delicious buffet breakfast for guests.

How to get there

Annecy Train Station

Annecy is a very accessible location to get to. As it is close to the Swiss border, international visitors fly to Geneva airport and then catch a 40-minute train or bus journey to it.
Alternatively, if you are already in a major city like Paris or Lyon, you can travel directly to Annecy by high-speed train.

The alpine town is also well-connected by highways, taking approximately 4 hours to drive from Paris. Traveling this way is the best option for those wanting to see the region’s incredible scenery or visit other destinations en route.

Map of Things to Do in Annecy, France

17. Le Paquier

Le Paquier

Situated along the shores of Lake Annecy, Le Paquier is a beautiful park that features lush grassy areas, towering trees, and stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It provides a perfect place for picnics, leisurely walks, or enjoying a moment of serenity.

The park is a popular for families with young children, as it has a playground, a carousel and plenty of space to run around and play ball sports.

Le Paquier also hosts various outdoor activities like volleyball, rollerblading, and cycling. While visitors can rent bicycles or rollerblades to explore the scenic paths that wind through the park and the lakefront.

In addition, the park is also home to several cultural events and festivities throughout the year, including the Fête du Lac, a spectacular fireworks display over the lake.

16. Basilique de la Visitation

Basilique de la Visitation

One of the best views of Lake Annecy is from the Basilique de la Visitation.

Set on a hill that provides breathtaking panoramic views as you look out to the water, it is an excellent spot for a photo opportunity. But while you are there, make a point of visiting the Basilique too.

A magnificent religious site dedicated to the Visitation of Mary, it showcases an impressive blend of architectural styles, with influences ranging from Romanesque to Gothic Revival.

Its intricate stone carvings, stunning stained glass windows, and ornate interior decorations make it a fascinating place to explore. Whilst doing this, be sure to visit the crypt, where the tomb of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of Annecy, is located.

15. Walk the Promenade du Thiou

Promenade du Thiou

The Promenade du Thiou is a delightful pathway that winds along the banks of the Thiou River. It is a charming promenade that offers a picturesque stroll through the heart of the city, allowing visitors to take in the beauty of the town’s waterfront.

Walking along the Promenade, you’ll see colorful buildings lining its banks. There are pathways on both sides of the river, lined with vibrant flowers, lampposts and benches where you can watch boats pass.

The further you walk along the path, the more secluded and wooded it becomes. You will also find some bridges and playgrounds along the way.

Walking from near the center of town is one of the most relaxing things to do in Annoy and a beautiful way to spend a couple of hours enjoying the beauty of nature.

14. Église Saint-François

Église Saint-François

If you are into significant religious sites, another one worth visiting in Annecy is the Église Saint-François.

Situated in Saint Francis Square, this historic church dates back to 1614. It is notable for once housing the bodies of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jeanne de Chantal.

Comprising a stunning combination of Gothic Baroque and Lombard architectural styles, it has an elegant façade adorned with intricate carvings and statues.

Once inside, visitors can marvel at the impressive vaulted ceilings, ornate altars, and exquisite stained-glass windows that bathe the church in a kaleidoscope of colors.

The church resides on the banks of the Thiou River. It is affectionately known as the ‘Church of the Italians’ because it is popular with the local Italian community.

13. Cascade d’Angon

Cascade d'Angon

Annecy has plenty of natural beauty. But nowhere is this more apparent than at Cascade d’Angon.

Nestled within the lush greenery of the Angon Valley, this stunning waterfall is a breathtaking natural wonder that mesmerizes visitors with its cascading waterfall and pristine surroundings.

To reach it, you must embark on a scenic 45-minute hike through forested rocky trails that lead to the waterfall. However, once you get there, you’ll see the 35-meter cascade plunging into the pool below as a hypnotic spectacle. At the same time, the surrounding cliffs and rock formations add to the dramatic beauty of the landscape.

If you feel adventurous after seeing the waterfall, you can also engage in canyoning or abseiling in addition to further hikes.

12. Visit Le Semnoz

Le Semnoz

Lying within the Bauges range, The Semnoz mountain dominates Lake Annecy’s western shoreline.

Contained within the Massif des Bauges Regional Nature Park, the majestic peak provides one of the most accessible hiking opportunities in the area.

If you drive up the mountain, you’ll find a car park near the top with plenty of spaces for parking. From that vantage point, you can enjoy superb views of the French Alps and Lake Annecy.

During the summer, you can explore several trails and paths on foot, while in the winter, you can ski, sledge or snowshoe. If you are a thrill seeker, you may also want to try downhill mountain biking or paragliding.

Should that sound too hair-raising, the mountain boasts several picnic areas and restaurants that showcase the captivating scenery.

11. Château de Menthon Saint-Bernard

Château de Menthon Saint-Bernard

Sitting majestically on a hill that looks out to Menthon-Saint-Bernard, the Roc de Chère National Nature Reserve, and Lake Annecy, Château de Menthon Saint-Bernard is a stunning medieval castle.

Despite being privately owned for more than a century, it is open to visitors on the weekend between April and October.

It is worth going there just for the sensational views. However, if you speak French, you should also do an hour-long tour of the castle.

If you do, you will be able to see several of the castle’s well-preserved rooms, including the grand halls, the chapel, and the intimate living quarters. You will also see intricate tapestries, antique furniture, and captivating artwork that date back centuries, while outside, beautiful peacocks roam the ground.

10. Jardins de l’Europe

Jardins de l'Europe

The Jardins de l’Europe is another charming green space in Annecy.

Running along the shores of the lake, they provide a beautiful setting for relaxation and recreation.
The park features well-manicured lawns, vibrant flower beds, and towering trees that provide shade and serenity. They include pines, giant sequoia and tulip trees.

It is also home to a beautiful English-style garden, which Henri Porreaux designed in 1863, and several unique sculptures and monuments. The latter adds a fantastic artistic flair to the surroundings.

One of the main drawcards in the park is walking, with several paths allowing you to do this comfortably.
During summer, it also becomes a hive of activity, hosting several cultural events, concerts, and festivals that draw in crowds.

9. Notre-Dame de Liesse

Notre-Dame de Liesse

The Notre-Dame de Liesse is another captivating church in Annecy with significant religious and historical importance.

Initially built in the 14th century on the site of a medieval square, hospital and old chapel, much of the current church dates back to 1851.

Taking the form of a classical Latin cross, its facade features the Sardinian neoclassical style. It stands resplendent on the side of a square called ‘Place Notre Dame’, flanked by cafes and shops and is a fabulous place for people-watching.

The church features an impressive bell tower and gothic windows that have been restored meticulously. Its interior is notable for its central dome, while its aisles and nave have full vaults. It also has a brace of altars dedicated to Saint Francois de Sales and Our Lady of the Rosary.

8. Gorges du Fier

Gorges du Fier

Situated about 10 km from Annecy, the Gorges du Fier is a remarkable natural attraction. Carved by the Fier River over millions of years, the resulting narrow and dramatic gorges are a breathtaking sight.

Visitors can explore the Gorges du Fier through a suspended walkway that clings to the rock walls, providing an up-close view of the rushing river below.

The walkway offers a fantastic opportunity to appreciate the geological wonders of the gorge. Once inside it, you’ll encounter stunning rock formations, towering cliffs, and the mesmerizing turquoise waters of the Fier River.

Along the way, informative signs provide geological and historical insights, adding to the educational aspect of the visit. There are also plenty of photo opportunities to take advantage of as well.

7. Boat trip on Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy Boat Trip

A boat trip on Lake Annecy in France is a delightful experience that immerses you in the gorgeous beauty of one of Europe’s most picturesque lakes.

Several companies will rent you a yacht, sailboat or motorboat, with or without a skipper. Once you procure one, you will sail across crystal-clear waters, surrounded by the stunning panorama of the French Alps.

Gliding along, you’ll pass charming lakeside villages, verdant hillsides, and the iconic Château de Duingt. A relaxing boat trip also offers a unique perspective of the lake’s shoreline, revealing hidden coves and secluded, otherwise inaccessible beaches.

If you go on a guided boat trip, informative commentary will enhance your experience. It should include fascinating facts about the lake’s history, geography, and local landmarks from your knowledgeable guide.

6. Chateau d’Annecy

Chateau d'Annecy

Perched on a hill overlooking the charming Old Town, the Château d’Annecy is a magnificent medieval fortress-turned-museum that offers a captivating journey through the past.

Easily reached on foot from the old town, the Counts of Geneva had the structure built for themselves in the 13th century as their home.

Inside the Château d’Annecy, you’ll find a variety of exhibitions that showcase the region’s art, history, and architecture. You can also explore the castle’s well-preserved rooms, including the Great Hall, the Tower, and the Chapel, which provide insights into the lives of past residents.

Outside, the museum also offers panoramic views of Annecy, Lake Annecy, and the surrounding mountains from its ramparts, providing a breathtaking backdrop to the visit.

5. La Tournette

La Tournette

La Tournette is a majestic mountain that stands as the highest peak in the Bornes Massif.

Presenting superb panoramic views of the surrounding landscape from an elevation of 2,351 meters, it offers an opportunity for hikers to embark on a challenging yet rewarding hike.

The well-marked trails lead through stunning alpine meadows, dense forests, and rocky terrain, eventually reaching the summit.

At the top, you’ll be greeted with a breathtaking vista of Lake Annecy, the city of Annecy, and the surrounding French Alps. On clear days, the view extends as far as Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe.

The hike up La Tournette takes about 6 hours and requires good physical fitness and proper preparation. However, the sense of accomplishment and the awe-inspiring scenery make it a truly memorable experience.

4. Pont des Amours

Pont des Amours

If you visit Annecy with your special person, you’ll want to head to The Pont des Amours.

A picturesque bridge that enables you to cross from the Pâquier to the Jardin de l’Europe, it has become a symbol of love and romance. Spanning across the Canal du Vassé, this elegant footbridge provides a chance to stroll hand in hand with a loved one. At the same time, you can admire the stunning views of the canal and the surrounding Old Town.

The bridge is full of padlocks left by couples as a symbol of their everlasting love, adding to its romantic allure. Be sure to bring one with you should you want to do the same.

From it, you can gaze at the crystal-clear waters of the canal, watch the swans gracefully glide by, and capture beautiful selfies.

3. Palais de l’Ile

Palais de l'Ile

Talking of photographs, the Palais de l’Ile is one of the most photographed spots in Annecy.

Situated on an island in the Thiou River, this medieval fortress-turned-museum is a testament to the town’s architectural and cultural heritage.

The unique structure, with its distinctive triangular shape and towers, is captivating. You will be mesmerized by it at any time of the day. But to wholly appreciate the picturesque views of the surrounding river and the charming canals, it is best to visit before the crowds arrive, early in the morning.

The museum offers insights into the castle’s former roles as a residence, courthouse, and prison. It has a well-preserved interior, showcasing exhibitions of the region’s history, art, and architecture. It also has prison cells, a dungeon, a chapel and an old courtroom you can visit.

2. Cycle Around Lake Annecy

Cycle Around Lake Annecy

Annecy is a very cycling-friendly town with several paths and trails that will take you around.

One of the most popular courses is the 42-kilometer cycling route that encircles the lake’s crystal-clear waters. You can hire a bike in town in several places to enable you to do this.

You’ll pass quaint lakeside villages and verdant alpine landscapes as you pedal along the well-maintained cycle path. The route provides a mix of flat sections and gentle inclines, making it accessible to cyclists of varying abilities.

The journey offers plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the scenery, picnic by the lakeside, or dip your toes in the refreshing waters. You can also explore hidden coves and visit historical sites like the Château de Duingt.

1. Explore La Vieille Ville

La Vieille Ville

As we already mentioned, exploring La Vieille Ville, or the Old Town, in Annecy, is like stepping into a fairytale.

This beautiful part of the city is characterized by its narrow cobblestone streets, charming canals, and colorful medieval buildings.

The best way to explore it is on foot, and in doing so, you’ll see plenty of gorgeous boutiques, delightful cafés, and local artisans showcasing their crafts.

The town’s lively market, held in the central square, is a treat for the senses, featuring fresh produce, regional delicacies, and handmade goods. At the same time, the canals, lined with picturesque terraces, offer a perfect spot to relax and watch the world go by.

Exploring La Vieille Ville is something you should take your time doing, as it will allow you to soak up all its medieval charm.

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