Annecy City Guide: What to Do On A Weekend Break in the “Venice of the French Alps”
By Kevin Bonnaud
What to see and visit in Annecy
Annecy’s Top Landmarks
Annecy’s iconic medieval castle-museum overhanging the old town is a good way to start a walking tour to learn more about the city’s artistic and natural heritage.
Visitors can then make a detour towards the Animated Film Museum (free) before going down to the Palais de l’Ile former prison which forms a tiny island right in the middle of the Thiou river.
Travelers from Lyon feel a little bit home with paved streets and squares, countless churches and traboule-like passageways.
The Morens bridge provides views of the famous canal and its flower-lined quay. The canal is bordered by colored houses leading to Lake Annecy and its waterfront promenade and parks.
A Boat Tour on Annecy Lake
There is nothing like a boat tour to admire the beautiful landscapes around Annecy, from the clear waters of the 27 km² natural lake to the Aravis and Bauges mountain massifs.
The Annecy Lake Boat Company proposes a series of cruises with (or without) short stops allowing passengers to discover, for instance, Talloires’ beautiful bay.
If you’re looking for a more authentic experience, you can try out a 10-seat
old-fashioned wooden boat. The small but chic vessels depart from the Vassé canal next to the Lover’s Bridge (Pont des Amours).
Art By Friends, Annecy’s Urban Art Gallery
Art By Friends (14, Avenue du Rhône) is one of the unconventional and vibrant cultural places street art enthusiasts look for when they visit or move to a new city.
It’s an exhibition center where local, national and international artists live, work and share their passion with the public through live and sometimes improvised performances: wall painting, drawing, screen and stencil printing, pyrography, and ceramics.
There are regular exhibits, previews and private viewings, workshops, and concerts.
Visitors can buy some of the works in the gallery’s gift shop or have a drink at the bar.
Annecy’s Food and Drink
Coffee Break & Tea Time
Try the strong and robust coffees from Brumes’ café (2, Passage des Bains) made by experienced baristas who use a round blend with hints of cacao and different brewing processes for sensitive palates (filter, aeropress).
This 2-year-old coffee shop with its aesthetic Scandinavian-like décor is a treasure nestled in a hidden passageway, and a definite Annecy must-see.
If you consider yourself more of a tea person, try the Ataya tea bar (19, Rue Someiller) for organic teas and infusions in a relaxing atmosphere.
Happy Hour with great wines and local beers
La Cave (8, Rue du Pâquier) has just been named France’s best wine bar by Terre de Vins magazine for its wide-ranging and bold wine list, promoting well-known estate vineyards as well as young and local wine growers.
Biodynamic wines are not a trend here, but a conscious choice. Food accompaniments are gourmet, local and seasonal with fresh alpine fishes like arctic char, cauliflower and other veggie dishes rarely seen in wine bars. The venue is cozy with its outdoor terrace and red ochre walls.
For local craft beer instead, be sure to stop by the Ouistiti à Roulettes bar (31 rue sommeiller).
Enjoy French Alps specialties in a local Upper (Floor) restaurant
The Annecy old town is full of local and popular restaurants where foodies can taste French Alps specialties mostly made of cheese, cold cuts or potatoes.
L’Etage (13, Rue du Pâquier) is a traditional restaurant serving local dishes such as cheese fondues with mushrooms ceps or truffles (menus : 20 / 37 Euros.): a food feast in a 17th century wealthy apartment with beautiful woodwork and exposed stone walls.
But the restaurant access isn’t so traditional. To reach the food, customers enter the bar and climb to stone stairs of a traboule before entering the dining room. Original and a good bet for a good meal.
Blind Cheese Tastings
Gourmet visitors can smell and taste Reblochon, Beaufort, Tome and other Savoy cheeses from Pierre Gay, a cheesemaker awarded with the title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2011 (an artisanal distinction for the French worker of the year).
The blind tasting includes cold cuts, pastries and local wines.
Cheese lovers also have the chance to visit a cheese cellar in a secret location around the castle guided by Alain Michel, cheese refiner from La Crémerie du Lac.
These unforgettable experiences are put together by The Local Bird, a group of professional and passionate insiders proposing food tours, photo treasure hunts and free-diving courses.
Bring local treats home
The temptation is high to fill your bag with local food souvenirs. Go to Au Fidèle Berger bakery to buy Annecy’s famous chocolate bells or Annecy Reeds (Roseaux d’Annecy) filled with local liquors.
Many French Alps specialties can be found at La Fermette grocery store on the Morens’ bridge.
If you want some fresh and original ideas for your next “French apero”, make a quick stop at La Marmotte qui sirotte, a brand-new apero shop.
Get Your Opinel’s pocket Knife in the Brand’s First Shop
The legendary small knife maker has recently opened its first own shop in Annecy (22 Rue Filaterie).
Visitors can get the famous, multi-function Opinel pocket knife, considered one the world best designed objects because of its robustness, ease-of-use, and swivel locking ferrule.
The Chambery-based company sells 5 million knives every year in 70 countries: a four-generation success story started in 1890.
Decorative Items and Lifestyle Shopping
Le Boutik Hotel (2 rue des Marquisats) is a charming hotel with great views of the lake.
It’s also a store where guests can buy (almost) anything they see on display in the rooms and public areas from decorative objects to bedding: a sort of showroom where customers test and visualize before buying. The shop is also open to clients not staying at the hotel.
If you are interested in decorative accessories, jewels and other trendy lifestyle items, you should also go to Blossom, (4 Passage Gruffaz) another concept store which is also a tattoo parlor.
How to get to Annecy from Lyon
By car – 1h30 – A43 freeway to Chambery, then A41 freeway to Geneva.
By train – 2 hours from Part Dieu station.