11 Best Things to Do in Annecy, France (Updated 2023)

by Jen
Best Things to Do in Annecy, France
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From the moment I wandered into Annecy, I was captivated by its fairytale charm. Nestled between the towering French Alps and the pristine waters of Lake Annecy, this town is often dubbed the “Venice of the Alps” – and for good reason. With its winding canals, pastel-colored houses, and flower-adorned bridges, Annecy feels like a dreamy escape from reality.

But beyond its postcard-perfect aesthetics, Annecy offers a rich tapestry of experiences. Whether you’re cruising on the lake, savoring the region’s famed tartiflette, or exploring the town’s historic château, every moment in Annecy feels like a step back in time. And when the sun sets, the town’s vibrant markets and cozy cafes come alive, offering a taste of authentic French culture.

In this guide, I’ll take you through the cobbled streets of Annecy, sharing hidden gems and local favorites that make this town a must-visit in France. Ready to embark on a journey to one of France’s most enchanting destinations? Let’s dive in!

To help you make the most out of your next trip, here are my top 11 things to see and do in Annecy, France.

The top places to visit in Annecy, France right now
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Best Places to Visit in Annecy

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Annecy? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this quaint vacation spot in France. So keep reading to discover all these unique Annecy places to visit.

Are you looking to leisurely stroll along serene canals and explore historical landmarks? Or would you prefer to indulge in exquisite local cuisine? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Annecy can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Annecy that you should know about.

1. Palais de l’Île

If you’re hitting the streets of Annecy, the Palais de I’Île is too iconic to miss. This place is like a time capsule, giving you a straight-up journey through various epochs of the town. Built in the 12th century, it’s been everything – a residence, a courthouse, and yes, even a prison. Now, it stands as a museum, smack in the middle of the Thiou Canal, and it’s as photogenic as they come.

When you’re ticking off the best things to do in Annecy, carve out time for this spot. The museum inside spills all the secrets of Annecy’s past and the building’s own varied history. It’s straightforward, no-frills storytelling that gives you a solid peek into the life and times of historical Annecy, France.

Its location is a winner, bridging the gap between the Old Town and the newer parts of the city. So, it’s not just a pitstop, it’s a connector to different parts of your Annecy exploration. Whether you’re there for the history, the architecture, or that perfect canal reflection shot, Palais de I’Île has got something for you.

When in Annecy, don't miss the iconic Palais de I'Île, a historical gem turned museum in the heart of the town.
When in Annecy, don’t miss the iconic Palais de I’Île, a historical gem turned museum in the heart of the town.

2. Lake Annecy

Dive into one of the coolest activities in Annecy by spending a day at Lake Annecy. Think crystal-clear waters, a backdrop of the French Alps, and a plethora of activities that cater to every type of traveler. Whether you’re into leisurely boat rides, adrenaline-pumping water sports, or simply soaking in the serene views, Lake Annecy doesn’t disappoint.

The lake, nestled amidst towering peaks, offers a refreshing escape from the city buzz. It’s a hub for both relaxation and adventure, with options to sail, paddleboard, or simply picnic by the water. Cycle paths and walking trails ensure every angle of the lake is explorable and admirable.

Local eateries along the shoreline serve delectable treats, pairing your lake day with fantastic local cuisine. Imagine enjoying a savory crepe or a scoop of artisanal ice cream. With the lake’s tranquil waters in view, it’s simple, unpretentious, and downright enjoyable.

In a city dotted with landmarks, Lake Annecy stands out as one of the unique places in Annecy, France. It’s a natural wonder and a hotspot for activities, relaxation, and some good old-fashioned fun in the great outdoors. Ready for a day at Lake Annecy?

Lake Annecy is one of the best things to do in Annecy, France.
Lake Annecy offers crystal-clear waters, Alpine views, and diverse water adventures for every traveler.

3. Annecy Castle

Perched atop a semi-hill, Annecy Castle has been a silent observer of the town’s unfolding history since the 12th century. Initially a residence for the Counts of Geneva, and later, the Dukes of Genevois-Nemours, it now stands as a beacon for travelers keen on peeling back the layers of time.

If you’re scouting for unique things to do in Annecy, this castle deserves a spot on your list. It’s not merely a collection of old walls and regal furniture. The castle houses several museums, each offering a glimpse into a different facet of Annecy’s rich history and vibrant culture. Expect to encounter a variety of Alpine artifacts and a spectrum of art exhibitions that span from the ancient to the contemporary.

The architecture itself is a blend of periods and styles, combining elements from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The castle has evolved through eras, each room narrating a distinct chapter, from the opulence of countly life to strategic military planning.

The panoramic views from the castle are, in a word, splendid. A sweeping vista of Annecy, the lake, and the surrounding mountains unfolds before you. Its straightforward, unembellished beauty requires no adornment, offering pure visual delight. A visit to Annecy Castle provides a balanced mix of educational exploration and visual delight. Its rich offerings make it a must-visit for any Annecy itinerary.

Annecy Castle has witnessed the town's history since the 12th century, transitioning from a residence to a historical attraction.
Annecy Castle has witnessed the town’s history since the 12th century, transitioning from a residence to a historical attraction.

4. The Old Town (La Vieille Ville)

When wondering where to go in Annecy, The Old Town, or La Vieille Ville, swiftly emerges as an unmissable spot. With its cobblestone streets, pastel-colored buildings, and meandering canals, it’s a vibrant area that invites exploration. The Old Town is more than just a pretty face; it’s a bustling, lively part of the city where locals and tourists converge.

Wandering through its lanes, you’ll encounter a myriad of shops, cafes, and restaurants, offering a taste of the local flavor. From savoring a plate of raclette to picking up a locally made souvenir, the experiences here are as varied as they are delightful. The weekly market is a notable highlight, occurring three times a week. It offers a range of fresh produce, cheeses, and artisan goods to explore and enjoy.

Among the unique places in Annecy, The Old Town stands out for its blend of the historical and the contemporary. The buildings, while reminiscent of a bygone era, house modern amenities and establishments. It’s a place where the past and present coexist harmoniously, offering a rich, layered experience to every visitor.

Whether you’re navigating through its bustling markets, enjoying a leisurely meal, or simply strolling along the canals, The Old Town offers a slice of Annecy that is both charming and utterly engaging. It’s a place where every turn invites discovery and every moment is steeped in the authentic spirit of Annecy, France.

The Old Town, or La Vieille Ville, is a must-visit with its charming streets, colorful buildings, and vibrant atmosphere.
The Old Town, or La Vieille Ville, is a must-visit with its charming streets, colorful buildings, and vibrant atmosphere.

5. Pont des Amours (Lovers’ Bridge)

If you’re compiling a list of sights in Annecy, Pont des Amours, commonly known as Lovers’ Bridge, is a must-visit. This art nouveau structure, located at the edge of Lake Annecy, is a picturesque spot and also a locale steeped in romantic legends. It’s said that if two lovers kiss on the bridge, they will be together forever. This tale adds a sweet, romantic note to any visit.

Among the coolest things to do in Annecy, taking a leisurely stroll to Pont des Amours ranks high, especially for romantic couples. But the bridge isn’t just for lovebirds; photographers, solo travelers, and families also frequent it. They’re drawn by its elegant design and the stunning views it offers of the lake and surrounding mountains. It’s a spot that provides a peaceful yet visually striking experience.

The bridge is also a gateway to the Jardins de l’Europe, a splendid garden. Here, you can continue your walk amidst lush greenery and vibrant flowers. The proximity to the garden allows visitors to combine the architectural beauty of the bridge with the natural allure of Annecy, offering a well-rounded and delightful outing.

Whether you’re capturing the scenic views or locking in a love promise, Pont des Amours is enchanting. Simply enjoying a tranquil moment here offers a charming slice of Annecy that appeals to all. It’s a spot that combines legend, beauty, and serenity, making it a memorable part of any trip to the city.

Don't skip Pont des Amours, known as Lovers' Bridge, a picturesque art nouveau structure by Lake Annecy with romantic legends.
Don’t skip Pont des Amours, known as Lovers’ Bridge, a picturesque art nouveau structure by Lake Annecy with romantic legends.

6. Musée-Château d’Annecy

A thing to do in Annecy that combines a dash of history with intriguing exhibitions is visiting the Musée-Château d’Annecy. This museum, housed in a restored castle, offers a deep dive into the region’s art and history. The castle itself, featuring towers and turrets, is a visual treat. This provides a glimpse into the architectural style of a bygone era.

The museum hosts a variety of exhibits, ranging from contemporary art to historical artifacts. Visitors can explore rooms filled with sculptures, paintings, and photographs, each telling a story of the region’s past and present. The exhibits are thoughtfully curated, providing insights into the cultural and historical tapestry of Annecy and the larger Savoie region.

One of the highlights is the stunning view from the castle’s towers. Visitors are treated to a panoramic sight of the town, lake, and nearby mountains, offering a different perspective of Annecy’s charming landscape. It’s a spot where history and scenic beauty converge, providing a rich and engaging experience for visitors.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an art lover, or a keen traveler, Musée-Château d’Annecy has something for you. This museum offers a blend of experiences that enrich your visit to this enchanting town.

Explore history and art at the Musée-Château d’Annecy, housed in a restored castle with a rich architectural history.
Explore history and art at the Musée-Château d’Annecy, housed in a restored castle with a rich architectural history.

7. Basilique de la Visitation

Head up to the Basilique de la Visitation, perched on a hill, and you’re in for a dual treat: spiritual and visual. Built between 1922 and 1930, it’s a modern spot but doesn’t cut corners on tranquility or grandeur.

Looking for Annecy things to do that are serene and a must-visit? This basilica should be on your list. Inside, stained glass windows and artworks create a peaceful space for reflection or admiration of the art and devotion encapsulated here.

But it’s more than just the art. The basilica is the final resting place of St. François de Sales and St. Jeanne de Chantal, adding a spiritual layer to your visit. Whether you’re a pilgrim or a tourist, the quietude here, amidst stories of sainthood and devotion, offers a unique solace.

Exploring the best places in Annecy? Don’t miss the grounds outside the basilica. With well-kept gardens and panoramic views of Annecy, its lake, and the mountains, it’s your dream destination. It’s a visual treat and also a moment of tranquility in your travel adventure.

Ascend to the Basilique de la Visitation for a serene and visually stunning experience.
Ascend to the Basilique de la Visitation in Annecy for a serene and visually stunning experience.

8. Jardins de l’Europe

Looking for cool destinations in Annecy that offer a blend of relaxation and scenic beauty? The Jardins de l’Europe is a splendid choice. Right beside Lake Annecy, this lush garden offers a peaceful city escape where locals and tourists chill amidst vibrant flowers and towering trees.

Established in the 19th century, the garden has been a go-to spot for generations. It’s a chill-out spot and also perfect for a leisurely stroll. Pathways wind through colorful flora and along the calm lake shore. This is a welcome break for families, friends, and solo wanderers from city life.

The garden itself is a quiet spot, but its closeness to the lake adds a lively vibe to your visit. Nearby pontoons often play host to swans and ducks, a simple yet magical touch of nature that delights both kids and adults.

When exploring Annecy places to visit, make sure to wander through the Jardins de l’Europe. Whether you’re up for a quiet read or a picnic, the gardens are ideal. Just soaking in the calm vibes offers a refreshing break in your Annecy explorations.

Jardins de l'Europe is one of the best things to do in Annecy, France.
Jardins de l’Europe is a tranquil garden by Lake Annecy where visitors unwind amidst vibrant flora.

9. Conservatoire Art et Histoire

Looking to dive into Annecy’s history and culture? Don’t skip the Conservatoire Art et Histoire. Housed in a 17th-century monastery, it’s a window into Annecy’s past and artistic journey. Here, history awaits to be explored by visitors.

If you’re crafting a ‘best things to do in Annecy’ list, especially as a history enthusiast, add the Conservatoire. The exhibits? A journey from archaeological finds to modern art, each piece narrating a bit of the area’s evolution. It’s more than just a museum; it’s where Annecy’s tales of art, history, and culture intertwine and come alive.

You’ll explore exhibits showcasing the region’s development, its industrial history, and socio-economic shifts. Plus, there’s a peek into the evolution of art and design over the years. And keep an eye out for temporary exhibitions. They bring fresh, sometimes innovative, perspectives on Annecy’s cultural heritage to the forefront.

Wondering where to visit in Annecy to learn about its history? Make a stop at the Conservatoire Art et Histoire. It’s not just a visit; it’s an invitation to reflect, appreciate, and understand Annecy’s vibrant history and culture more deeply.

To explore history and culture, visit the Conservatoire Art et Histoire in a 17th-century monastery.
To explore Annecy’s history and culture, visit the Conservatoire Art et Histoire in a 17th-century monastery.

10. Thiou River

When wondering what to do in Annecy that combines leisure and sightseeing, consider a stroll along the Thiou River. This river, one of France’s shortest, snakes through Annecy, flanked by colorful houses, cute bridges, and vibrant flowers. It’s a chill, yet visually sweet spot, letting you explore the town at a leisurely pace.

Walking the Thiou gives a different town perspective, unveiling hidden spots, cozy cafes, and tiny boutiques you might otherwise miss. It’s a path that screams exploration, whether you’re wandering through town or enjoying historic building reflections in the gently flowing water. This is Annecy in a tranquil, yet lively, slice.

Among Annecy attractions, the Thiou River Walk pops for its simplicity and beauty. It’s where you dive into the local atmosphere, observing daily life while soaking in the scenic beauty Annecy’s known for. The river, with its clear, calm waters, reflects the town’s chill, picturesque charm perfectly.

Whether exploring by day or taking a romantic evening walk, the Thiou River Walk delivers a peaceful, beautiful experience. It’s a must-visit in Annecy, offering a slice of local life against a pretty scenic backdrop.

For a leisurely sightseeing experience, stroll along the Thiou River with its charming riverside scenery.
For a leisurely sightseeing experience, stroll along the Thiou River in Annecy with its charming riverside scenery.

11. Col de la Forclaz

Looking for a heart-pumping adventure and unique things to do in Annecy? Try paragliding from Col de la Forclaz. Recognized as one of France’s top paragliding spots, this mountain pass nails it with its high position. Favorable winds make it a perfect launch pad for thrill-seekers.

This is more than just an adrenaline kick – it’s a ticket to a bird’s-eye view of the stunning Lake Annecy and the picturesque towns below. Soaring through the sky, you’re treated to sprawling views of the Alps and lush landscapes. It’s like a live-action panorama unfolding beneath you.

Local outfits offer a range of paragliding experiences, catering to everyone from first-timers to seasoned pros. For beginners, tandem flights with experienced instructors ensure you get all the thrills, minus the worries.

If you’re after more of an adventure, training sessions and solo flights are up for grabs too. No matter your experience level, launching off Col de la Forclaz is a unique opportunity. It lets you see Annecy’s enchanting beauty from a spectacular new angle.

In short, paragliding here is an experience, offering you a unique, exhilarating way to see Annecy that you’ll remember long after your feet touch back down.

For an adrenaline rush in Annecy, go paragliding from Col de la Forclaz.
For an adrenaline rush in Annecy, go paragliding from Col de la Forclaz.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Annecy

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Annecy? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Annecy:

What is the best time to visit Annecy?

The ideal time to explore Annecy is during the summer months, from June to September, when the weather is warm and the city hosts various outdoor events and festivals. However, if you’re a winter sports enthusiast, visiting during the winter months provides access to nearby ski resorts.

Is Annecy suitable for family vacations?

Absolutely, Annecy is family-friendly with numerous activities and attractions that cater to all ages, from leisurely boat rides on Lake Annecy to exploring the Old Town and engaging in various outdoor adventures in the surrounding areas.

How many days should I spend in Annecy?

A 3-day trip is usually sufficient to explore the main attractions of Annecy, including the Old Town, Lake Annecy, and a few additional local sights. However, if you wish to explore more extensively and enjoy various activities, a longer stay would be rewarding.

View of Annecy, France
View of Annecy, France

Is Annecy expensive to visit?

Annecy can cater to various budget levels. While some attractions and dining establishments can be on the pricier side, there are also numerous affordable options for accommodation, meals, and activities, especially if you plan and book in advance.

What is Annecy France best known for?

Annecy, dubbed the “Venice of the Alps,” is famed for its enchanting Lake Annecy, medieval Old Town, and picturesque canals. Notable landmarks like Palais de l’Isle and Annecy Castle highlight its rich history, while the annual animated film festival showcases its cultural significance.

Is Annecy France worth visiting?

Yes, Annecy offers a compelling blend of historical and outdoor activities. Visitors can explore charming landmarks, engage in water activities on Lake Annecy, and enjoy the stunning alpine backdrop. Its diverse offerings cater to both leisurely and adventurous travelers, making it a worthwhile destination.

Is Annecy a walkable city?

Yes, Annecy is known for being a highly walkable city. The town’s charming streets, canals, and the picturesque Lake Annecy are all easily explored on foot. The historic Old Town, with its cobbled streets, pastel-colored buildings, and the famous Palais de l’Isle, is particularly pedestrian-friendly. Visitors often enjoy strolling along the lake, wandering through the local markets, and exploring the quaint boutiques and cafes without the need for a car. Walking also allows visitors to appreciate the serene beauty and romantic atmosphere of this Alpine town at a leisurely pace.

Is there a lot to do in Annecy?

Annecy, often referred to as the “Venice of the Alps,” offers a variety of activities that cater to different interests, making it a vibrant place to visit:

  1. Lake Annecy: You can enjoy swimming, boating, or just relaxing by the crystal-clear waters of one of Europe’s cleanest lakes.
  2. Old Town (Vieille Ville): Stroll through the charming cobbled streets, lined with colorful buildings, and browse the boutiques and local artisan shops.
  3. Château d’Annecy: Visit this restored castle for a glimpse into the region’s history and some stunning views of the town and lake.
  4. Palais de l’Isle: This iconic 12th-century building on an island in the river Thiou houses a local history museum.
  5. Paragliding: For the adventurous, take to the skies with a paragliding experience from the surrounding mountains.
  6. Cycling: The area around the lake offers beautiful cycling paths, including a 42-km track that circles Lake Annecy.
  7. Gardens of Europe: Relax in the Jardins de l’Europe, a beautiful park on the banks of the lake.
  8. Pont des Amours (Lovers’ Bridge): Take a walk over this famous bridge and enjoy the panoramic views.
  9. Local Cuisine: Sample Savoyard specialties like raclette, tartiflette, and fondue in the local restaurants.
  10. Festivals: Depending on the time of year, you might catch events like the Annecy International Animated Film Festival or the Lake Annecy European Film Festival.
  11. Outdoor Sports: The surrounding region is perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and in winter, skiing and snowboarding are just a short drive away.

Is three days enough to see Annecy?

Three days in Annecy is a comfortable amount of time to explore the highlights and soak in the charm of the town. Here’s how you could structure your visit:

Day 1: Explore the Old Town

  • Start with a leisurely stroll through the Vieille Ville (Old Town), admiring the pastel-painted buildings and the flower-decked canals.
  • Visit the Palais de l’Isle and the Château d’Annecy.
  • Enjoy a meal at one of the local restaurants, trying out Savoyard cuisine.

Lake Annecy (Day 2)

  • Dedicate your second day to Lake Annecy. You could rent a bike and cycle around part of the lake or take a boat tour to see the lake from a different perspective.
  • Relax on one of the beaches or participate in water sports.

Day 3: Surrounding Attractions

  • Use the third day for activities around Annecy. This could include a hike to La Tournette for panoramic views of the lake.
  • Alternatively, visit nearby attractions like the Gorges du Fier or the Secret Gardens (Jardins Secrets).
  • In the evening, take a walk along the Pont des Amours and through the Jardins de l’Europe.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Annecy

Navigating through Annecy offers a blend of explorative and relaxing moments, making it a standout destination for travelers who choose to fly to France. The city serves up a mix of historical sites, like the iconic Palais de l’Isle, and natural spots, such as the serene Lake Annecy, ensuring varied experiences for travelers.

Foodies will appreciate the local Savoyard cuisine, while history buffs will find the preserved architecture and museums insightful. Whether you’re strolling through the bustling Old Town or engaging in water activities on the lake, Annecy provides a well-rounded trip.

It’s a destination that balances leisure and adventure, offering a snapshot of France that is both traditionally rich and refreshingly vibrant.

The top things to do in Annecy, France for all types of travelers
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