Medieval France meets the French Alps in this picturesque town on the northern bank of an alpine lake. Discover Annecy’s centuries-old castles, explore the narrow maze of cobblestone streets and hike and ski through a spectacular mountainous landscape.
Annecy’s Old Town features narrow pedestrian-only streets interrupted by canals and lined with boutiques and open-air restaurants. Visit on a Tuesday, Friday or Sunday morning for the popular food market.
Go to one of the town’s principle landmarks, the Château d’Annecy. This large castle dates back to the 12th century and was once home to the counts of Geneva. Climb up one of the towers for panoramic views of the town and the lake. After investigating rooms that contain sculptures, paintings and historical artifacts, find the Palais de L'Ile. This medieval palace is situated on an island in one of the town’s canals. For more spectacular medieval architecture, stop by the Château de Menthon. The 12th-century citadel sits on a rocky spur on the east bank of Lake Annecy, surrounded by forests.
Devote some of your vacation time to the lake. The large freshwater body claims to be the purest in Europe and hosts a range of activities. Enjoy swimming, sailing, waterskiing and diving. Most of the waterfront near the old town consists of boat docks, but small beaches, such as Plage de Annecy can be found on the eastern shore. Rent a bike and cycle the path that runs alongside part of the lake.
Head into the French Alps surrounding the lake for lots of outdoor pursuits. During the warmer months, hike or ride a horse along trails that extend through forested areas. Ski and snowshoe through the terrain in the winter. Take a guided tour of the Gorges du Fier, a narrow canyon 6 miles (10 kilometers) west of Annecy.
Reach Annecy by flying into the international airport in Geneva, a 40-minute drive from the town. When you see the mountains, canals and castles, it is easy to understand why Annecy is such a popular vacation spot.