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Things to do in Annecy
Capital of the Haute-Savoie region since it was annexed by France from the mighty Dukes of Savoy in 1860, the attractions of Annecy are by no means all historic. It has an elegant Centre Ville, with gourmet delicatessens, patisseries and chic boutiques on elegant avenues, and it's a thriving watersports and paragliding hub too. And of course the town is gateway to ski resorts including La Clusaz and Le Grand-Bornand in the Alps – but what you're most likely to remember long after you've left Annecy are the spectacular views of the lake and mountains that fill your senses the minute you arrive. Whatever your reason for visiting this lovely lakeside town – overnight on the way to the pistes or for a weekend Annecy break – Accor offers some of the best hotels in Annecy old town or by the lake.
Outdoors Activities in Annecy
Lots of our Annecy accommodation is central, so you can easily walk to its main attractions. Straddling the Thiou Canal, medieval Vieille Ville is a good place to start your exploration, with its maze of alleys packed with Savoyarde auberges, ice-cream parlours and stores selling ceramics. On the last Saturday of the month, a "brocante" market takes over rue Sainte-Claire where you can rummage for antique glassware and furniture. The historic nucleus of Vieille Ville is Annecy's Palais de l'Isle, a stone oddity shaped like a ship and encircled by the canal. In previous incarnations it was a prison, a courthouse and a local mint, and today it is open for tours of its dungeons and courtroom. From the canal, streets wind up to the Musée-Château d'Annecy, perched over the town, with a façade that melds turreted medieval fortifications with Renaissance elegance – its vast halls are home to exhibitions of Savoyarde decorative arts, and you'll have incomparable views over the town and lake from the castle courtyard. Other Annecy landmarks include the 16th-century Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, with a Renaissance façade and stained-glass rose window, and the hilltop Basilica of the Visitation, dating from the 1930s and featuring a striking marble interior and more Lake Annecy and mountain panoramas from its ornate bell tower. What else to do in Annecy? Pick up local Tome des Bauges cheese, diot pork sausages steamed in white wine and a slice of buttery Saint-Genix de Savoie brioche cake from Centre Ville stores and picnic in the tree-filled, waterfront Jardins de l'Europe. From there, a short stroll leads to the decorative, wrought-iron spans of the Pont des Amours (Annecy's Bridge of Love) for lake views, or to the Quai de la Tournette, from where Lake Annecy boat trips depart to pretty lakeside villages including Talloires and Veyrier-du-Lac.
Best Restaurants in Annecy
Annecy makes an ideal centre for outdoor family holidays. Annecy beach life takes in grassy Plage d'Albignyand Plage de l'Impérial, where you can hire paddle boards and pedalos, while other nautical activities include water skiing, kayaking and sailing. Inland, there are Annecy hikes in the Massif des Bauges hills as well as cycling routes up the forested Col des Contrebandiers. The town is a gateway to winter-sports resorts, and don't forget that Annecy is arguably the capital of French paragliding. You can try your hand at paraglider activities over the lake, around Mont Veyrier – with glimpses to the iconic Mont Blanc – and over the limestone peaks of the Dents de Lanfon escarpment.
Best Hotels in Annecy
Local specialities in the Savoie were long based on produce from cows grazing high-attitude pastures, on potatoes and on fresh-water fish from its lakes and river. You'll still find scores of inviting auberges in Vieille Ville, where riverside alleys twinkle after dark with lights from terrace restaurants serving raclette cheese fondue and tartiflette – a hefty dish of Reblochon cheese, potatoes and lardons. These days, however, and despite its small size, Annecy also punches well above its weight on the gourmet front, with several Michelin-starred restaurants edging the lake. Perfect accompaniments to the robust local cuisine are white wines including the sparkling Crémant de Savoie, Apremont and Roussette from the Savoie region – France's only mountainous wine-producing area, and well worth a tour for tastings at vineyards clinging to precipitous slopes in the foothills of the Alps. To wind up a leisurely Savoyard feast, try the local digestive, génépi, made from a sage-like alpine plant.
When to Visit Annecy
Accor's Annecy accommodation includes a choice of budget hotels – one of our hotels in Annecy old townhas secure car parking, which is very limited in the area. As well there are 3- and 4-star family hotels in central Annecy with games areas for children and bed-and-breakfast packages if you're overnighting on the way to the mountains. A little further out of town, our options include Lake Annecy hotels with swimming pools and a 4-star hotel with a spa, perfect for a romantic weekend in Annecy. Business travellers will be pleased to learn that we have Annecy hotels in all price ranges with coworking areas and conference rooms.
Getting to Annecy
Winters in Annecy are cold, with frequent snow, while summers are sunny and warm. It's a fantastic place to visit any time of year, however, as in winter the town is springboard to the ski resorts of the Haute-Savoie, and in summer life moves outside to al fresco restaurants and lakeside parks. June sees visitors pour to celebrate animated films at the Annecy Festival, and in early August the Fête du Lac heralds a fireworks bonanza on the lake.
The nearest airport is Annecy Mont-Blanc, 20 minutes north of the city centre and serving some French destinations as well as London and Amsterdam, but most international visitors arrive from Geneva Airport, 45 minutes north by car via the tolled A41; there's car hire in the terminal, as well as a regular regional bus service to Annecy. Trains run from the airport to Geneva-Cornavin station; change there for the 1.5 hour rail journey to Annecy's train station, Gare Routière.