At the edge of the turquoise lake, bounded by mountains, Annecy is one of the most beautiful and popular resort towns of the French Alps. It is the capital of the Haute-Savoie department which became part of France relatively recently after a referendum in 1860. Annecy has often been referred to as the “Venice of the Alps” thanks to its picturesque canals running through the old town. It is dominated by the “Chateau d’Annecy”, a castle originally built between the 12th and 16th centuries. It served as the main residence of the counts of Geneva and the dukes of Savoy. The town of Annecy acquired the castle in 1953 and restored it. It is listed as a historic monument by the French Ministry of Culture.
Annecy has several museums and interesting churches but the lovely old town is the main sight and a great place to eat, drink and natter. Much of the old town is a wonderful labyrinth of narrow streets, reserved for pedestrians. Colourful buildings house many restaurants, bistros and cafés with outdoor seating and charming views.
Annecy’s old town is particularly attractive and interesting on market days. A fresh produce market is held on Tuesday, Friday, as well as Sunday mornings. In addition there is an antiques and craft market on most final Saturdays of the month.
Arguably the most interesting and certainly the most photographed building is the fort-like "Palais de l’Isle" (Island Palace). It served through history as the palace of the counts of Geneva, courts of law, a mint and a prison. Dating back to the twelfth century, it looks like a stone ship anchored in the middle of the Thiou River. This river is the shortest river in France at 3.5 km long.
Promenades and Cruises on Lake Annecy, France
A major attraction of Annecy is its beautiful location on the banks of Lake Annecy. The Botanic Gardens, picnic areas, and children’s play areas are available behind the Hotel de Ville as well as the Parc de l’Impérial.
Boat excursions are popular on Lake Annecy and range from lunch and dinner cruises to short round-trips. It is also possible to rent boats from the park behind the Hotel de Ville. Powerboats and pedal boats can be rented by the half-hour.
Churches and Pilgrimage Sites in Annecy
The churches of Annecy feature impressive architecture and art. The Renaissance-Gothic Cathedral St Pierre became the seat of the bishop of Geneva after the Reformation forced him out of the newly Protestant city. St François de Sales and St Jeanne de Chantal, the patron saints of Annecy, were originally buried in the Eglise St Francois near the Hôtel de Ville. However, their remains were moved to the Basilica of the Visitation built during the 1930s on the edge of the Semnoz mountain as it descends into the town of Annecy. The church remains an important place of pilgrimage.