Summer activities in Annecy, France.
Whether you are interested in history, food, adventure, nature or just relaxation in the sun, the lakeside town of Annecy in south east France is a must-see on your travel itinerary. The beautiful aquamarine waters, set against the stunning back drop of the French Alps is known as “little Venice” and is a popular tourist resort. Wander through the medieval canal-side Old Town. Relax under an awning for a long lunch, enjoy an array of water sports or engage in some adrenalin-filled activities.
Explore the Old Town
Step back one block from the bustle of modern Annecy and wander the cobblestoned streets of the Old Town. Admire the medieval buildings along the pristine canals. Visit the historic churches, explore the narrow alleyways, or shop at one of the many market stalls which are open a couple of days a week.
Here you will find everything from fresh local produce to souvenirs. Central to the old town is the Palais de Isles. The 12th century building straddling the canal has served as a prison, courthouse and private residence during its history. It is now a local history museum, open two days a week during the summer months. It was unfortunately shrouded in scaffolding for maintenace during our trip. So we were unable to get the iconic Annecy shot of the Place on the canal.
Visit Chateau Annecy
Climb the hill to Chateau Annecy, seat of the Counts of Geneva from the 12th to 16th century. Climb the tower and enjoy the displays of the Natural History Museum. From local fishing history and aquaculture, to fossils and artifacts, you can spend hours browsing the exhibits.
The adjacent chateau now houses an art gallery and cultural museum. Temporary exhibitions and animated film displays are featured throughout the year. Browse also through an exhibit of historic local furniture, cultural artifacts and illuminated texts. From the castle ramparts you will have panoramic views across the lake.
Hire a paddleboat on the lake
Enjoy Europe’s cleanest lake from the water. Hire a paddleboat and float around the lake enjoying the crystal clear waters. Maybe enjoy a cooling dip. Paddle boats are available around the park in Annecy in a range of sizes. Some even include a slippery dip for kids and kids at heart to make the most of their time on the water
Take a cruise around the lake
Many tour operators provide lake cruises of varying lengths, some providing lunch others light refreshments. Taking advantage of the local ferry service can also be a good budget option. A round trip will take you to all the lakeside towns along the way and give you spectacular views of the lake, beaches and Alpine scenery.
Walk or cycle around the Lake
Hire a bike or walk along the cycle path which extends 47 kilometres around Lake Annecy. Built along an old railway line, the flat pathway is an easy ride, taking in the breathaking scenery along the way. Take the opportunity to stop off for a cooling dip at one of the many beaches.
In the Old Town you will find a number of “Glace Artisans”, preparing delectable home made ice cream. A must on a hot summer’s day while exploring the cobblestoned streets. Here you will find the most delicious ice cream you have ever eaten
Dine at a canal side restaurant.
Numerous restaurants flank the canals of the Old Town, where you can sit beneath an awning and enjoy authentic French Cuisine. The mussels in white wine sauce were perhaps my favourite of the many meals we enjoyed during our stay here.
The main town also has a range of restaurants and cafe’s where you will find good food to meet all tastes and budgets. From gourmet French cuisine, to ethnic food and delectable patisseries, Annecy is certainly a foodies paradise.
Relax in the Gardens of Europe
The beautifully landscaped lakeside gardens in the centre of Annecy are the perfect spot to relax under the shade of a tree and enjoy a beautiful summer’s day. Grab some bread, cheese or local meats from the market holders and join the holiday makers for a picnic by the lake. Enjoy a glace or frozen yoghurt from one of the many vendors as you take in the breathtaking views.
Cross the Pont des Amours.
While lakeside, don’t forget to have a photo taken on Pont des Amours. This famous bridge provides views from one side across the lake to the alps beyond and into the medieval old town from the other side. Legend has it that if two lovers kiss on the bridge, they will be together forever.
Spend a day at the beach.
Annecy itself has a number of popular, free swimming areas where you can enjoy a swim and relax in the surrounding parkland. Beautiful beaches surround the lake at many of the smaller towns, some however do charge for entry. The quaint village of Talloires provides many interesting buildings, including the old Abbey which is now a luxury hotel. This can be easily accessed with a ferry ride across the lake.
Take a hike in the mountains.
A 17 km drive into the alps brings you to Mount Semnoz. From Cret de Chatillon there are numerous easy hikes through alpine fields carpeted with wildflowers. The sound of cowbells echo throught the pristine air as cows and goats graze among the pastures of the dairy and cheese makers. Enjoy breathtaking scenery of the local area. A restaurant provides meals and refreshments at the end of your hike
Annecy is one of the most popular paragliding sites in France. From our chalet we could watch the gliders sail overhead, landing in the village of Talloires below. Ian had the opportunity to chat with some paragliders at the training field across the road, as they undertook their initial training sessions before their first jump. Tandem jumps with experienced paragliders will take you over the lake and natural landscapes surrounding Annecy.
Visit Chateau du Menthon
Set high above Annecy, Chateau de Menthon, once home to St Bernard and his rescue dogs, looks like something straight out of a fairytale. The chateau has been home to the same family for over 1000 years and limited group tours of parts of the castle are available on Fridays and Saturdays. Our tour took us through the medieval chapel of St Bernard and the library, which also once formed the main room of the fortress. The Library now contains a collection of richly illuminated books and a carved 15th century mantlepiece depicting the life of St Bernard.
The grand sitting room and chamber are lined with tapestries and are sumptuously furnished with pieces from the Louis XIII era, Venetian and Florentine pieces.
Downstairs in the former kitchen, lords received pilgrims on their voyages, with a display of ancient weapons including a Celtic bronze sword dating back to 900BC. The tour was in French, however a printed English leaflet enabled us to follow along with the tour.
Visit the Gorges du Fier
Located 10 kilometres from Annecy you will find the Gorges du Fier. Carved out by the Fier River, the gorge provides a spectacular display of waterfalls and rock formations, which can be viewed close up via a kilometre long walkway suspended 24 metres above the gorge. Not a good activity if you have a problem with heights, but you will enjoy magnficent views of the natural landscape.
Visit Castle of Montrottier, Lovagny
While in Lovagny, visit the Castle of Montrottier. Set on a rocky outcrop near Annecy, the castle was built between the 13th and 16th centuries. It now houses an extensive collection of weapons, armory, porcelain and pottery which were bequeathed to the state along with the castle.
Climbing the narrow, spiral stone stairs of the 13th century tower provides magnificent views over the surrounding regions. Guides dressed in period costume provide guided tours of the castle
As with Chateau du Menthon, tours are exclusively in French, however an English leaflet enables you to enjoy a self guided tour.
Annecy was one of the favourite places on our most recent European itinerary, with a wide range of activities to interest everyone.
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