Annecy, France is a small city situated on a stunning aqua clear lake between the Northern alps of France. Only thirty minutes away from Geneva, Switzerland, this French-Swiss town is unlike any other. Another nickname for this city is the Venice of France because the small center of the city is filled with water passages lined with beautiful flower boxes. The city is romantic because the waterways filled with lights that illuminate the bricks and you feel as if you are in a whole other world with no one around you. The cuisine is a remarkable French meets Swiss infusion, and is known for the gastronomic selections from the Haute-Savoie region.
I had the pleasure of spending three nights here in the heart of Annecy and I could of spent four more. There is so much to do around the lake and surrounding cities. This lake region is filled with more active sports then one can imagine. Top golf courses, biking, swimming, boating, and hang gliding are a few of the activities one can do on any given day. The choices of restaurants in Annecy are endless and any would be a good choice.
If you had three to four days to spend in this city here are a few of my suggestions. Get on a boat. Take the tour around the lake and get off at Talloires (village across the lake). When you exit at the dock you will see to your left a small passage that will line the lake. It may look closed to visitors but you do have access to it. At the end there will be a very private dock you can jump in and out of the lake. The lake is magical, the colors endless, and the runoff from the snow-capped mountains that surround you on every side provide some of the cleanest waters in the world. After hanging out in Talloires, take the boat around the remainder of the lake and you will get to see some of the other small cities along the way.
Another wonderful day trip is taking the bus or renting a car to go up to the top of the mountain nearby called Le Semnoz and stopping by the luge d'ete center to go for a ride. If you take a bus ride up there, one free luge pass is included. Along the mountainside there are cows roaming free and the views go for miles. Also on this mountain is hiking at the very top and you can sit down and watch hang gliders take off. I personally could do this for an hour. It is amazing to see someone lay out their parachute, check all the ropes, and then time the wind perfectly just to be swept up into the sky, thousands of feet above the valley floor.
In the city itself, you can rent a boat for an hour and go on the lake to enjoy a more private experience, though it is better to go with a group as it is more cost efficient. Spend time walking around the shops in Annecy and get a cultural taste for this unique region of France. Stop and take a picture on the iconic bridge that overlooks the Palais de L'Isle. Walk up the cobblestone streets to Chateau d'Annecy that was built in the late 12th through 16th centuries. Every inch of this city is aching for a photo.
Now for food. One restaurant here in Annecy tops all of the fondue and raclette that I have ever consumed. This restaurant was so good that I ate there twice and I think you should to. The restaurant is Le Frétti. The first night you eat outdoors and the second night you eat inside and here is why: The first night you have to have their iconic fondue with a side of cured hams and cornichons — which is fun to eat outside and people watch. The second night eat inside and experience raclette (has to be done inside due to electrical reasons). For a meager price per head they give you about half a wheel of cheese that gets melted under a hot metal rack and you scrape it off and eat with potatoes and more cured hams. This dining experience it so unique and you feel as if you are the cook. This region takes their cheeses very seriously and Le Frétti executes it flawlessly.
If you are going to get another dish at any of the restaurants, one must try tartiflettes. it is a dish of scalloped potatoes with more cheese, sautéed onions and lardon. It is a great meal to have on a cold night and to be enjoyed with one of the region's unique ciders.
Annecy has stolen my heart and it will forever be one of my favorite places in all of Europe. Remember to get in the water, enjoy some cheese, and get whisked away to another world.