Where is it?
Annecy is a town in the Haute-Savoie department of the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region in the north of France.
Nestled at the base of Semnoz mountain, ‘the pearl of the French Alps’ is located 100 km from Lyon and 35 km south of Geneva on the northern shores of Lake Annecy.
How to get there
Direct trains run to Annecy from Paris and Lyon.
It's worth bearing in mind that the train journey from Paris is quite long – the quickest trains take 3 hours and 40 minutes and the average travel time is around 5 hours.
Luckily the seats are comfortable enough for a nap and when we went, we made the most of our time by taking the earliest train we could (leaving Gare du Lyon around 5:50 am!) and returning to Paris on the last train in the evening.
If you want to drive to Annecy it's located along the A41 motorway.
A short trip to Annecy is a breath of fresh mountain air and allows you to pack some medieval French history and stunning natural beauty into one trip.
First stop for most visitors to Annecy, myself included, was exploring the medieval town centre, an atmospheric warren of winding streets and canals built around Annecy’s 14th century cathedral. Although they are now filled with shops, restaurants and tourists these streets have retained their charm and merit a wander.
This part of town is also where you can see one of Annecy’s most famous views of the canal which divides in two around the Palais de l’Ile museum.
Photo: Pug Girl/Flickr
We liked this view so much that we stopped for a beer in one of the cafés along the canal to enjoy it at our leisure.
One thing that makes Annecy unique is that the beauty of the town centre is matched, if not bettered, by the stunning backdrop of the mountains and neighbouring lake.
These natural beauties can also be explored during a short trip to Annecy. We took a 25 minute bus ride up to the summit of nearby Semnoz and took in some bracing mountain air while enjoying spectacular views of the Alps in the distance.
In the summer this is a great destination for walkers, bike riders and fans of alpine cows. In the winter it transforms into a ski station with sledges and other winter activities.
Photo: Guilheim Vellut/Flickr
Back in town, it is possible to walk around some stretches of the lake but following a day of exploring Semnoz, we decided to rest our tired feet and take a boat trip to see the clear blue waters and more mountain views up close.
All of these activities are packed into a walkable sized town. We stayed in a rented apartment close to the train station and were only a ten minute walk from the town’s main sights, transport hubs and plenty of restaurants.
The beauty of Annecy is no secret. Plenty of tourists visit on a daily basis and famous fans include Cézanne, Mark Twain and actors Jean Reno and Bruce Willis.
When to go
We visited at the end of July and spent time outside enjoying breathtaking views of the lake and mountains from La Plage Imperial (a well manicured public space for beach activities with a small admission fee) and the Jardins de l’Europe on the water’s edge.
Lake Annecy. Photo: AFP
It may get a little chilly for strolls along the promenade, but the town would undoubtedly be equally beautiful, and maybe a little less jam-packed with tourists, in the colder months of the year.
A visit in the autumn would also give more opportunity to enjoy indoor activities like visiting historical sights and the local cuisine, raclette.
Be sure to pop in to Saveurs d’ici et là a little boutique whose owners select top quality produce from all over France.
We chose to stock up on local produce like alpine honey and tomme cheese.
If you think there is a place we should include in our “One place to visit in France this weekend” series email [email protected] following the same Q&A format as above.
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