- Travel in France
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What to see and do
- the connoisseur's guide to France
- historic Alpine city
the mountain behind and the shore of the lake, Annecy is one of
the most picturesque cities in France.
Annecy is the former capital of the Duchy of Geneva (Duché
du Genevois), a division of the Duchy of Savoy, which
part of France in 1860. Before then, Savoy had been ruled at different
periods by the counts of Geneva, the kings of Sardinia and France...
Savoy is thus a very distinctive area of modern France, and
Annecy a distinctive city - with a heritage that is Alpine more than
French. It's historic centre has more in common with Geneva than with
As a tourist destination, Annecy is particularly
for its location on the shore of Lake Annecy at the foot of the Alps,
and for its very picturesque old city. Until the Middle Ages, the city
was located on the top of a small rise to the east of the lakeside old
city; but in 1107, a new city began to develop at the foot of the
castle, on either side of the river Thiou, the outlet of the lake. This
is the historic "old city" of today's Annecy.
Running through the middle of the old city, the
flanked by narrow quays or by buildings rising directly on the
riverbank. The old city is also crossed by the Canal du Vassé, and it
is the presence of these two waterways, and of other man-made canals,
that has earned Annecy its nickname of the "Venice of the Alps".
Originally just a convenient water-course and in
of the Canal du Vassé, a protective moat for the old city, Annecy's
waterways later became a useful source of hydraulic power for
industrial development, notably silk and small-scale textile mills.
Today, they are the hallmark of the very picturesque old city.
The quays of the Thiou, and behind them the castle.
Unlike most historic French cities,
not have any great significant historic monument. No great cathedral,
no Roman remains,no impressive fortification.
tourist attraction at Annecy is the old city itself, with its very
picturesque streets and riverside; and of course the lake too.
It's easy to spend hours wandering through the
streets of Old Annecy. Virtually the whole of the old city is a
pedestrian area. With their colourfully painted houses, arcades,
boutiques, cafés and restaurants, the streets and the riverside quays
are an enchanting area just to wander round.
There are a few particularly noteworthy buildings in the old
city, the most photogenic being the Palais
or the Island Palace, parts of which date back to the 12th century.
Over time the building has served as a family home, a prison and a
law-court. Today it houses an architectural heritage centre, and is
open to the public all year, including 7/7 during the summer months.
Just to the south of the old city is the Chateau, a
Alpine-style stronghold largely built in the Middle Ages. The chateau
houses a number of museums and galleries, covering art, archaeology and
Summer storm brewing over lake Annecy
Apart from the old city, the other great attraction of
the lake. With its backdrop of soaring Alpine peaks, the lake - like
the nearby Lac du Bourget - is very popular for sailing, boating and
pleasure cruising. Lake cruises start from the Quai Napleon III at the
edge of the old town, and take passengers to various locations round
For those who prefer to see the lake at their own pace, and
Annecy from the water, there are half a dozen boat rental locations
close to the old town, hiring out everything from pedalos, to dinghies
In the area
Walkway through the
Gorges du Fier
The greatest attraction of the Haute
department of France, of which Annecy is the capital, is its natural
environment. Annecy is surrounded by the Alpine foothills to the west,
and the Alps to the east – culminating in Europe's highest peak, le Mont Blanc
, on the
Italian border above Chamonix
As far as Alpine scenery is concerned, for both
winter visitors, the choice is vast. The area offers a wealth of
opportunities for winter sports, and for summer activities including
hiking, mountaineering, water sports, nature rambles, hang gliding and
Among specific places to visit, the Chateau de Montrottier,
12 km west of Annecy, is another classic Alpine stronghold, tastefully
restored in the 19th century. The castle, open from March to October,
is now preserved as a museum with a large collection of historic arms,
porcelaine and tapestries. It is surrounded by gardens, and overlooks
the Gorge du Fier.
one of the oldest tourist sites in the Alps, a very deep and narrow
gorge between two vertical rock faces, which can be visited on a
Further round the lake, on the eastern shore, the
de Doingt, on a tiny peninsula, is one of the high points on any round
lake cruise or drive or cycle ride. The road trip around Lake Annecy is
just about 40 km.
Click here for a ►
choice of hotels in
at best online rates, and the About-France.com hotel selection for
Annecy and its area.
Savoie has a plentiful supply of hotel
accommodation. The area has been a popular tourist destination since
the nineteenth century, so has plenty of well-established hotels as
well as more modern establishments.
The classic luxury hotel in Annecy itself is the Imperial
whose historic guest-list includes the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Edith
Piaf and Winston Churchill. First opened in 1913, the hotel went into
decline after the second world war, and closed in 1965. After being
bought by the town council, it was renovated and leased to a local
hotel management group. It reopened in 1990, and is now established as
a great lakeside hotel.
There is a good choice of
hotels close to the Old City, but most of the modern chain hotels and
budget hotels are located between the old city and the motorway which
runs to the northwest of Annecy. Visitors planning on a longer stay may
like to take a hotel up in the mountains, towards or in the nearby
ski-resorts of La
or Le Grand Bornand, or in one of the smaller
locations overlooking the lake, such as Talloires
Location and access
Lying in an Alpine valley, Annecy is not really
way to anywhere except some of the Alpine ski resorts close by - unless
you are travelling between Geneva and the South of France.
- By air
Nearest airports: Geneva, Chambéry, Lyon Saint Exupéry. see Fly to France.
- By train
Annecy can be reached from Paris by direct TGV (high speed train) in
under 4 hours. There are direct trains to Lyon and Grenoble, and a bus
service to Geneva. For timetables and online tickets,
see Trainline.com .
- By car
Annecy is beside the A41 Geneva to Grenoble motorway. For travellers
coming from the UK or Belgium, check out the route via the A26
motorway, Dijon and Bourg-en-Bresse