One of the most picturesque and charming villages in France…Lac Annecy, oh what a treat.
Picture a lake that looks remarkably like lake Wanaka in the South Island of New Zealand, but instead located in the incredible French Alps. With the lakeside town full of winding canals, cute cobbled streets and pastel coloured houses, you can expect a romantic, adventurous and relaxing weekend away.
The lake is the third biggest in France, known for its clean water, swimming and water sports, so in summer, this place is pumping with stuff to do. We however, visited the beautiful Annecy in autumn time and like Grenoble, this is another perfect spot to add to your autumn/winter European bucket list. During these cooler months, the town is still vibrant, beautiful and full of life, but don’t forget your jumpers and coats. Its bikini season no more!
A weekend stay or a road trip stop over, is the perfect amount of time to explore Annecy. You really don’t need any longer. The stunning village is small enough to explore in a few days, but big enough to leave you wanting more. Keeping in mind that both Switzerland and Italy are both within a couple of hours drive, so if you’re road tripping around, Annecy is the perfect place to stop in for a day or two. Likewise, if you’re living in London or any other European city and fancy a weekend getaway…Annecy will not disappoint and here’s what you can expect:
The lake (lac in French)
Like I mentioned above, lac Annecy is the third biggest in France and known as “the cleanest lake in Europe,” due to some strict environmental laws that were introduced in the 1960’s. With an incredible backdrop of rugged mountain scenes, this lake takes the cake and is really quite beautiful.
In summer you’ll find yourself swimming, sunbathing and getting involved with the various water sports that the lake has to offer (kayaking, paddle boarding, wake boarding, windsurfing etc). In autumn/winter however…I would suggest not. (brrrrrrr too bloody cold mate).
Instead, do as we did and either hire a bike or skate along the cycle path for as far as you wish. Don’t try do the whole lake though…well unless your Lance Armstrong because its pretty big. 27.59 km² to be exact, plus the cycle path only goes part of the way. This activity though, is a cool way to see the lake and even a chance to get that much needed exercise. “Phew”, I said to Bryn as we got back from our skate, “I’m effing unfit!”
If you want to explore more, head off on a 1 or 2 hour boat cruise, where you can enjoy the stunning landscapes from the middle of the lake. These run from early Feb, through till the end of December and depart pretty frequently. You’ll find more info HERE on the “Compagnie des bateaux” website (meaning company of boats) and your sure to enjoy yourself.
Sitting perfectly on the northern tip of the lake is the magical town of Annecy. Sometimes called “Venice of the Alps,” you can definitely see the similarities between the two. Beautiful all year round, Annecy is full of colour and full of charm.
From the lake, walk towards Pont des Amours, also known as Love Bridge. Legend has it that if two lovers kiss on the bridge, they’ll stay together forever. Naw cute right? I didn’t even know this until I read an article on Annecy after we visited. Also I’m unsure if we kissed…whoops. Probably a bad omen but ah well, never been big on myths anyway.
From here, follow the canal in towards town. If your there in autumn, the fallen leaves, white swans and little row boats make this look just like a post card.
When you reach the town, take time to stroll the streets that follow the canals. The cobbled footpaths wind together, allowing you to see the town centre in no time. There are boutique shops, bakeries, restaurants and bars that are cool to check out and gorgeous to look at. The pretty pastel buildings are stacked up side by side, like best friends dressed up and ready to party. You can’t help but stand there and stare at them, taking a few too many pictures along the way.
One of the most iconic landmarks of Annecy is the Palais de I’Isle. Looking like its come straight out of a fairytale, this is the image I saw on Pinterest that had me craving to visit Annecy. Of course and as murphy’s law would have it, the Palais de I’Isle, which was actually an old prison, was under a little construction. So although you could see the iconic building front (which is now a local museum), there was a large scaffold in the background to remind you that you actually weren’t in Prince Charmings fairytale. Dammit…Bryn will have to do. We still took lots of beautiful photos here and it makes sense why this is one of the most photographed attractions in France…just BEAUTIFUL!
Every Sunday in Annecy the local markets are in full swing, so during your weekend trip, make sure you wander through and get involved. This was actually way more hectic than I thought! People, food, children, dogs and stalls in every direction. You gotta hustle your way through the crowd and once you find something for lunch, all etiquette goes out the window as you elbow your way to the front. No surprises that when we popped out of the crowds, paella and choucroute in hand, we went straight back to the lake to enjoy it in peace.
During the night, head to one of the many pubs for a drink before indulging in raclette for dinner. A French and Swiss favourite, raclette is basically a whole lot of cows cheese, melted in an open fire and then scraped over your meal of boiled potatoes, dried meats, pickled onions and more. The best way to warm up on a cold autumn/winter night and your travelling right? So who cares about the fact that you eat your body weight in cheese. NOMMMMMMM
In regards to accommodation and where to stay in Annecy, I would look no further than these listings on Booking.com. Stay either in Annecy itself or (for a more private stay), in one of the surrounding villages on the lake. Alternatively, Airbnb has a ton of options also. Because Brynnie and I were living the vanlife, we stayed in a camper friendly car park right on the lake, opposite the windsurfing area. There are campsites too! Plenty of options for everyone.
The perfect weekend getaway, road trip stop over or 24 hour stay…Annecy is magical, so get there and take care.
Leah | free & addicted
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