Annecy is one of the most beautiful small cities in all of Europe, lined with canals, pedestrian lanes and old buildings. It's a wonderful journey to get there by train, with lovely countryside along the way, farms, rolling hills and forests. You’ll see cows, sheep, horses and other while gliding by, a very pleasant journey. It's about 4 hours away from Paris by train, too far to come for a day trip, so you'd want to spend at least a night or two here. There is a lot to enjoy in this picturesque place with its many historic old buildings.
Annecy, located in southeastern France, is known for its stunning natural beauty and charming old town. Annecy is the largest city of the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of Southeastern France, population 131,766. Nicknamed the "Pearl of French Alps" and sometimes called "Venice of the Alps," it lies on the northern tip of Lake Annecy, 35 kilometres (22 mi) south of Geneva, Switzerland.
Upon arrival you’ll walk under arcades into the old section of town, and simply wander through the marketplace and little lanes. The picturesque old town (Vieille Ville) is a major attraction with its cobbled streets, pastel-colored buildings, and winding canals. The idyllic setting is created by three canals and the Thiou river, which passes through the old city. Stroll through the narrow lanes, visit the local shops, and enjoy the delightful ambiance.
This would be a lovely part of town even on a normal day when there's nothing special going on, but especially as we were here on a Sunday morning when it really comes to life with the outdoor food market, filled with energy, activity and people. This local market is also held on Tuesdays and Fridays, fine times to experience the vibrant atmosphere and browse through a variety of stalls selling fresh produce, local specialties, artisanal crafts, and olives. We're in France, after all, and they love their olives. You can get some tapenade, the ground up, crushed olives, which they give away as free samples, along with some unusual artichokes.
All sorts of things are for sale besides food: books, clothing and old bric a brac and junk, just a great spot for people-watching, sheltered in medieval arcades. You can imagine that this has been going on here for probably 500 years in pretty much the same way as it's functioning today. This is a colorful spot, that's for sure. There are fresh baked goods, cheeses of all kinds, and there's even some souvenir shops with their postcard racks.
Most of the people here are not tourists, though. They're mostly local residents or perhaps some French tourists. Annecy is a very popular town for the French to come and visit.
The iconic Palais de l'Isle 12th-century castle is situated in the middle of town on an island in the Thiou River and has served as a prison, courthouse. This medieval island in the midst of the river is really quite something to walk through. The Palais de l'Isle was classified as a Historical Monument in 1900, and today houses a local history museum. Its unique architecture and location make it one of the most photographed landmarks in the countryside of France.
And there's the pretty lake Annecy, which is claimed to be the cleanest lake in all of France. Lake Annecy is a crystal-clear lake surrounded by mountains, offering breathtaking views and a range of water activities. You can rent a boat, go for a swim, or simply relax on the lakeside beaches.
Up on the hill is the Castle Museum. If you've got the time, it's worth a stroll through it, or you could go up just for the view looking out across the village. Château d'Annecy was the home of the Counts of Geneva and the Dukes of Genevois-Nemours. Overlooking the old town, the Château d'Annecy is a restored medieval castle that now houses the Annecy Castle Museum. Explore the exhibitions that showcase the history and culture of the region while enjoying panoramic views of the city.
Jardins de l'Europe: These beautifully manicured gardens are situated along the lakeside and provide a tranquil escape from the bustling city. Take a leisurely walk, have a picnic, or simply enjoy the scenic views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
Pont des Amours: This charming footbridge connects the Jardins de l'Europe to the Pâquier promenade. Known as the "Bridge of Love," it offers a romantic setting with lovely views of Lake Annecy and the surrounding landscape.
Annecy Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Pierre): Located in the old town, the Annecy Cathedral is an impressive 16th-century church known for its intricate stained glass windows and beautiful interior. Take a moment to appreciate the architectural details and enjoy a moment of tranquility.
Annecy Conservatory of Art and History: Housed in a former convent, this museum showcases a collection of fine art, sculptures, and artifacts related to the history and heritage of Annecy and the region.
Le Pâquier: This large park on the lakeshore is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. Enjoy a leisurely walk, have a picnic, or relax on the grass while enjoying the panoramic views of the lake and mountains.
These attractions offer a taste of the natural beauty, history, and culture that Annecy has to offer. Whether you're interested in outdoor activities, architectural marvels, or simply soaking up the ambiance, Annecy has something for everyone.
Le vieil Annecy ("Old Annecy") was a settlement from the time of the Romans. Annecy was the court of the counts of Geneva from the 10th century. It passed to the counts of Savoy in 1401. In 1444, it became the regional capital of the provinces of Genevois, Faucigny and Beaufortain.
Switching from the counts of Geneva's dwelling in the 13th century, to the counts of Savoy's in the 14th century, the city became Savoy's capital in 1434 during the Genevois-Nemours prerogative until 1659. With the advance of Calvinism, Annecy became a center for the Counter-Reformation, the old Bishopric of Geneva being transferred to it in 1535. Its role increased in 1536, during the Calvinist Reformation in Geneva, while the bishop took refuge in Annecy.
During the French Revolution, the Savoy region was conquered by France. Annecy became attached to the department of Mont Blanc, whose capital was Chambéry.
After the Bourbon Restoration in 1815, Annecy was returned to the King of Sardinia and the Catholic diocese restored in 1822. When Savoy was annexed to France in 1860 with the Treaty of Turin, it became the capital of the new department of Haute-Savoie.
The city experienced an industrial development in the 19th century with silk manufacturing. Some of its industrial legacy remains today with the headquarters of NTN-SNR bearings, Salomon, Entremont and Dassault Aviation.
From the end of the 19th century, Annecy developed tourism around its lake summer facilities, winter resorts proximity and cultural attraction with its castle renovation and fine art museum opening in 1956 and the Animated Film Festival since 1963, hosted in Bonlieu's cultural centre. The municipal environmental policy managed to keep 40.3% of green spaces, and the city was awarded the "Golden Flower" in 2015, given to the nine most-flowered French cities.