Annecy‘s charming medieval Old Town with sensational mountain and lake views is famous. Whether you’re visiting for a day, a weekend, or even longer, you can’t miss these incredible things to do in Annecy.
A destination topping plenty of bucket lists, Annecy is considered one of France’s most beautiful towns, and for good reason. Nicknamed ‘Venice of the Alps’, this idyllic alpine town combines the perfect blend of a city break with a nature escape. From boating on Lake Annecy to exploring the cobbled streets of Annecy Old Town, there’s no doubt you’ll fall in love the way I did.
As a delightful lakeside town, Annecy is located in the Haute-Savoie region of France. It’s only just a short distance from the Swiss border. So for those who are visiting Geneva, consider jumping on a day tour to get there. When you go to Annecy, you can easily walk or enjoy the biking paths to make the most of your visit.
Stop by the local market, visit one of the beautiful chateaux, or sunbathe at one of the lake’s beaches. If you’re looking for things to do in Annecy, France, I’ve got you covered.
Planning a Visit to Annecy? Here Are My Top Picks for the Best Hotels in Annecy:
- Le Clos des Sens, for the best boutique hotel
- Rivage Hôtel & Spa Annecy, for the best spa resort hotel
- Les Loges Annecy Vieille Ville, for the best apartment stay
- Hôtel des Alpes, for the best budget-friendly hotel
15 Best Things to Do in Annecy, France
1. Visit the Old Town
The colorful, narrow streets of Annecy Old Town are perfect for exploring on two feet. Mostly pedestrianized, cobbled lanes are coupled with canals and street-side flower boxes to create one of France’s most charming historic centers.
Beyond the boutiques, cafes, and restaurants that fill the quaint laneways of Annecy Old Town, there are some of the most photogenic points in the city to be found. Pont PIerrière, where Rue de l’Île narrows as it reaches Perrière Gate, is a must-visit spot for camera-wielding visitors, while looking back into town from Pont de la Halle is that postcard-perfect shot everyone is looking for.
2. Eat Raclette at Le Freti
Is there anything better than the smell of melted alpine cheese? Eating it, of course! For the best raclette in Annecy, look no further than the cozy alpine-inspired interiors of Le Freti. Serving traditional cuisine with authentic flavors and ingredients, this homely restaurant near Palais de l’Isle is a must-visit for foodies. Open year-round, there’s no better time than winter to warm up with a hearty dish of raclette, perfect when shared with family or friends. Le Freti is so good I may or may not have made a second trip to Annecy just to eat there.
3. Enjoy Lac d’Annecy
Annecy Lake is one of the biggest draws for visitors venturing to this corner of France. The sparkling teal water of the lake is fed by mountain springs and is considered one of the cleanest lakes in Europe. There’s no shortage of ways to make the most of Lac d’Annecy, from watersports to hiking or biking around the trails that skirt the lake’s edges. Whether admiring views of the lake from Pont des Amours (Lover’s Bridge) or hiring a pedal boat to venture across the surface, there’s a way for everyone to enjoy the grandest spectacle in the region.
4. Explore the Canals
Annecy’s cobbled streets are complemented by a series of canals that weave their way through the town. Known as the ‘Venice of the Alps’, arched bridges and brightly colored flower boxes dress the waterways of Annecy. The main canal that runs through Annecy is fed by the Thiou River, which at just 5 km long is one of the shortest in France. Head to Promenade Louis-Lachenal before turning down any of the small alleys that wind their way through the Old Town.
5. Visit the Farmer’s Market
France is renowned for its Farmer’s Markets and Annecy’s is up to par with some of the best. Handicrafts and fresh flowers accompany cured meats, wheels of cheese, and perfectly ripe seasonal produce every week. Stallholders fill the streets of Annecy Old Town near Palais de L’Isle from 7am-1pm every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday. Pick up some local fare for a picnic by the lake or grab all the ingredients you need for a market-to-table dinner in your apartment.
6. Take a Boat Tour on Lake Annecy
Touring Lake Annecy by boat is one of the best ways to spend a sunny day. The third-largest lake in France, its clear waters are created from snow melt from the nearby La Tournette and Le Semnoz mountains making it one of the cleanest lakes in Europe.
Take in the stunning views across the lake and of the surrounding snow capped mountains as you glide across the glittering water. There are plenty of options to choose from, whether you want to rent a pedal boat or motor boat, join a lake cruise, or consider jumping on a sailing lesson.
7. See Cathedral of Saint Pierre (Annecy Cathedral)
Annecy may not have the gothic churches or spires that other French cities possess, but the Cathedral of Saint Pierre, otherwise known as Annecy Cathedral, shouldn’t be missed. The 16th-century church was built as a chapel for a Franciscan priory and later used as a temple of the Goddess Reason during the French Revolution. A great example of Renaissance architecture, it’s free to visit and open to the public.
8. See Palais de I’Île
A feature of one of the most photographed corners of Annecy, Palais de l’Îlle, which is known as the ‘house in the shape of a ship’ has been a prison, a courthouse, the minting workshop of the Counts of Geneva, as well as an administrative center over time.
Set in the middle of the Thiou Canal flanked by colorful buildings on either side, this scene looks like it was plucked from a storybook. Dating back to the 12th century, Palais de l’Îlle now houses a museum that showcases the building’s many uses throughout history.
9. Spend the Day at Lake Annecy’s Beaches
Just because you aren’t on the coast, doesn’t mean you can’t find a beach. The shores of Lake Annecy offer a few great beach options to perch on. Pack a picnic lunch full of local produce and make the most of a day at the beach.
Closest to town you’ll find Plage d’Albigny, although its proximity to Annecy Old Town means it can fill fast. Plage Des Marquisats offers lovely grassy banks – a more comfortable option than pebbled shores, or head to Plage de l’Impérial if you want a more established swimming spot.
10. Take in the Scene from Pont des Amours
One of the most scenic places in Annecy, Pont de Amours (translated to ‘Lover’s Bridge’) is a spectacular spot. Love birds can put a local legend to the test, which suggests if two lovers kiss in the middle of the bridge that they will stay together for life. The bridge also connects visitors to the Jardins de l’Europe and Le Pâquier Park, where they can enjoy a sense of serenity.
11. Ride a Bike Around Lake Annecy
Another way to make the most of Lake Annecy is by bike. Connected by a network of 132 km of cycle paths called the Tour du Lac d’Annecy, hire a bike in town and explore one of the many routes that trace the perimeter of the lake. One of the best options is to cycle the Lake Annecy Greenway, a 35 km route of an old railroad that previously connected Annecy with Albertville. It’s a great way to take in views of the lake and mountains as well as stop off to visit several small villages on the way.
12. Walk in Jardins de l’Europe
If all the green space Annecy has to offer isn’t enough, be sure to pay Jardin de l’Europe a visit. Open all year round, it is one of the popular places to enjoy a stroll. These lovely gardens were used for various purposes since the Middle Ages, and it was a religious site up until the French Revolution. Perfect for families, grab some local produce from the market and enjoy a picnic with stunning mountain views.
13. Visit the Musée-Château d’Annecy
If you’re looking to uncover more of the history of Annecy, then head to Musée-Château d’Annecy, a once palace-turned-museum. Musée-Château d’Annecy became the residence of the Counts of Geneva in the 13th and 14th centuries and was later listed as a historical monument in 1902. Built between the 12th and 16th centuries, the blend of medieval and Renaissance architecture makes a visit to the castle an interesting architectural understanding through history.
14. Visit the Château de Montrottier
For a fairytale experience, head 15 minutes from Annecy to Château de Montrottier. Step back in time as you explore the unique collections of curiosities which include items from every era and culture. Children will love the entertaining interactive tour in the gardens which lets you meet the estate’s former residents including a spy, an ambassador, or a noble lady.
15. See Gorges du Fier
For more spectacular natural sights, visit Gorges du Fier which has been carved by the waters of one of the most important rivers in the region. Walk the footbridge that is suspended 25 meters above the river below to get up close to one of the best natural wonders of the French Alps. Just 10 minutes from Annecy, and a stone’s throw from Château de Montrottier, you can easily see both of these sights in a day.
Where Should I Stay in Annecy, France?
The Annecy area offers a wonderful range of accommodation options, from luxury lakefront hotels to cozy, well-appointed apartments in the historic center. I’ve listed a few of my top picks below, but be sure to check out my complete list of the best hotels in Annecy and my Annecy travel guide!
Le Clos Des Sens offers visitors a refined escape near Annecy Lake. With its modern, sophisticated design enriched by wood accents and a contemporary fireplace, the hotel exudes warmth. Each room boasts a spa bath. Highlights include a Michelin-starred restaurant and lovely gardens on the property, which help to create an elevated and secluded experience. Book the best rates here.
Luxury meets comfort at Rivage Hotel & Spa Annecy. Set right on the shores of Lake Annecy, it’s the perfect place for a serene getaway. Waterfront views are complemented by the hotel’s contemporary design and excellent spa facilities where guests can unwind. Be sure to dine at Le Ricochet Bar Restaurant, where dishes focus on seasonal produce sourced from local producers. Book the best rates here.
A collection of 5-star self-catered apartments, Les Loges Annecy Vieille Ville is ideally located in the heart of Annecy’s historic center. Warm wood finishes and cozy furnishing provide a homely feel. Some highlights are the Turkish bath, fireplace, and wine cellar. Book the best rates here.
Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Annecy, France
Is Annecy, France Worth Visiting?
Annecy is considered one of the most beautiful towns in France, and it’s absolutely worth visiting for the views alone. Combining alpine charm with a postcard-perfect Old Town, visitors can spend a day hopping between boutique stores before dining on a divine French dinner alongside one of the flower-lined canals.
What is Annecy France Best Known For?
Annecy is best known for its beautiful Old Town and one of the cleanest lakes in Europe. A colorful medieval historic center is set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, making it a hotspot for local and international visitors.
How Many Days Do I Need in Annecy, France?
Annecy is compact, making it easy to see the best the city has to offer in two days. If you want to enjoy more time on the lake and the surrounding mountains, then three to four days will let you fill your time with swimming, biking, or hiking for the perfect blend of city break and nature in one.
Save This Post for Later on Pinterest
PS — Are You Booking a Trip Soon? Use My Booking Checklist!
These are the sites I use most to book my own trips. Using the links below is a great way to support Bon Traveler’s travel journalism at no extra cost to you. If you need help organizing your itinerary, get my free travel itinerary template here.
1. Book Your Flights
Use Skyscanner to find the best flights. It searches 100s of airlines and websites across the globe to ensure you’re not missing out on any route options or deals.
2. Book Your Accommodations
Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.
3. Book Your Tours & Experiences
4. Book Your Car
Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.
5. Don’t Forget Airport Lounge Access
Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.
6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.
My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are: