Annecy is the jewel in the crown, charming visitors at first glance. The historic heart of the town, called “Old Annecy” and popularly known as the “Venice of the Alps”, enchants with its fairytale like scene, snow-capped mountains, Old Town (Vielle Ville) pastel painted houses with arcades, brightly coloured facades with geranium bedecked window boxes, cobblestoned streets and canals that crisscross through its centre. Get lost in its winding alleyways then watch the world go by from a café terrace. What more could you ask for!
The 12th Century Palais de l’Île is one of Annecy’s most photographed monuments sitting on an island in the Canal du Thiou. The best photo opportunity would be from the Pont sur le Thiou Bridge, where from here the Palace appears to become like a fortress with its sturdy quadrangular construction resembling the bow of a ship. The Palais de l'Ile first served as a prison, but by the middle of the 14th Century, the Palace was instead used as a coin minting workshop. In the 15th Century, the Palace became the residence of the Dukes of Savoy and in the 16th Century was converted to the Palace of Justice (Law Courts).
Château d'Annecy sits on a hill above the town with gorgeous views over the lake and the surrounding mountains. Built in stages throughout the Medieval to Renaissance period the Castle was the home to the Courts of Geneva who resided here during the 13th and 14th Centuries. The Château today is a popular museum that holds an extensive range of regional history, paintings of local landscapes, contemporary art and medieval sculptures.
There are some stunning open green spaces to enjoy while in Annecy beginning with the Pont des Amours or Lovers' Bridge, which spans the Canal du Vassé that flows from Lac d’Annecy and is one of the most idyllic settings sitting beneath a canopy of leafy trees. This arched ironwork bridge seems to inspire romance with its majestic lakeside scenery. Situated on seven hectares and bordering both Lac d’Annecy and the Jardins de l’Europe the Champs de Mars has some amazing views and is a favourite to enjoy a picnic, go boating or cycling on a sunny day. Another beautiful park along the lake next to the Pont des Amours is the Jardins de l'Europe filled with flowers and offering great views over the Chateau d'Annecy. The 15th Century Eglise Saint-Maurice, the oldest in Annecy is a short walk away from the gardens. The Avenue d'Albigny begins near the Jardins de l'Europe and extends to the Parc Charles-Bosson. This scenic stretch of shoreline along the lake has tall, leafy plane trees that shade the lakeside pedestrian path, which is a pleasant place for a leisurely stroll while admiring the picture perfect lakeside scenery.
The Rue Sainte-Claire is the place to go while in Annecy for both great shopping and restaurants. This street is overflowing with old world charm, 16th-18th Century arcaded townhouses with so much historic character. Here you will find upmarket retails stores, ice cream parlours, trendy cafés and gourmet dining restaurants. When in Annecy be sure to visit Philippe Rigollot Pâtissier Chocolatier, one of the best pastry chefs in all of France and 2005 World Champion for pastries and 2015 for Chocolates, situated just 500 metres from the station and 200 metres from the Castle by the ramparts on Place Georges Volland. Among the must try desserts is the award winning Mr. & Mrs. Smith apple tarts.
There are a few Châteaux in the region well worth a visit including the dreamy Château de Menthon Saint-Bernard, perched on a hilltop overlooking Lac d’Annecy. Château de Montrottier is nestled in the village of Lovagny, in a magical setting of wooded hillsides, this turreted medieval fortress resembles the images of storybook Castles and walking through the Castle's grand halls and ancient dungeon feels like stepping back in time. The 16th Century Renaissance Château de Clermont is a rare example of Italian architecture in the Savoy region. The Château de Clermont was the summer residence of Monseigneur Gallois Regard who had familial connections with the Popes in Rome. It is listed as a historical monument and impresses visitors with its monumentally proportioned facade and graceful arcaded galleries that frame a quiet interior courtyard.
Lac d’Annecy is also the gateway to some of the nearby world class ski resorts of Chamonix and Megève. The region has magnificent scenery, outdoor activities including walking and cycling tracks, boating and old fashioned yet world class restaurants all in a traditional alpine style. The main beach of Annecy Lake is the Plage d'Albigny (Avenue du Petit Port), which has a spacious grassy area for sunbathing and a path for walking or cycling.