After sitting nearly 6 hours elbow to elbow on a crowded train from the Côte d’Azur, we at last pulled into the first stop of our grand summer European tour, Annecy, France. Hopping off, we stretched our legs and gazed up in wonder at the souring alps of Southeastern France.
All in a line, like a row of ducks, we made our way from the train station, stopped on a small bridge and tried to solve the riddle of where to meet the property manager of the apartment that would be our home for the next week. A phone call did the trick and a little further along, we saw a man waving his hands at us as we waddled our way towards our accomodations.
We were fortunate enough to stay right in the heart of the charming medieval Old Town. The apartment couldn’t have been better, with the exception of not having A/C. It would have been nice to close the windows and not hear everyone having a grand ol’ time at the bars until 2am…
The area is perfect for families, couples and solo travelers. Architecture and history buffs will enjoy exploring the Old Town including the Palais de l’Ile and Carillon de la Basilique de la Visitation. Adventure seekers and water lovers will find endless activities such as hiking, biking, parasailing, paddle boarding, swimming and sailing. There are so many things to do in Annecy, it’s a destination with something to satisfy any type of traveler.
With or without children, there is plenty to do in Annecy. Since my children are older, they can keep up with Mom and Dad without much problem. And sometimes I can keep up with them without much problem as well!. We just take more breaks during the day. Not that I’m complaining 🙂
Things to Do in Annecy, France
Stroll through the Old Town along cobblestone streets next to brightly colored buildings and winding canals. The bridges are bursting with color as flowers spill over the baskets adorning each span. Walk over Pont Perrière (Perrière Bridge) one of the most photographed spots in Annecy, then head over to learn about the fascinating history of Palais de l’île. The oldest part of the building dates back to the 12th century and has served as a jail, a courthouse, a mint and an administrative center. We chose not to go inside, but the kids were happy learning a bit of history and admiring the Palace of the Island from the Middle Ages.
Another option to visit in the Old Town is the ancient fortress, Château d’Annecy, which currently houses an art museum. Again we chose not to go inside but the kids had fun riding scooters in the square out front. The Château was just up the hill from our apartment, so we let them ride up and down the slope in the hope they would burn off any extra energy. Optimists ‘r us !!
In the morning, there is a huge fresh market to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats, and clothing and is well worth a visit. We picked up items for dinner and some vanilla bean for Derrick to make an apple tart.
There are plenty of cafés and restaurants situated along the waterfront and deep within Old Town where a visitor can enjoy a quick treat or leisurely meal. We ended up eating a Le Sapaudia – twice. The atmosphere, staff and food were terrific. I usually avoid eating at the same place more than once while traveling but when you find something exceptional, it’s time to break a rule. The pizza’s were delicious and my Italienne Salad was amazing. The pizza’s at The Little Italy are also good. We had an Italian theme going on with our meals that week 🙂
Visit the huge park right next to Old Town, Jardins de l’Europe. It’s perfect for letting the kids run and play or for eating a picnic lunch. One evening we brought a blanket to the park and listened to live music at the gazebo. The kids tuned in for awhile, then chased each other around playing tag until it was time to head back to the apartment for dinner.
During one of our walks, we stopped to eat a sandwich and let the kids free range the expansive lawn of Le Pâquier. We then continued our walk along the edge of the lake to the Impérial Palace, built in 1913. The kids played at the park next to the hotel before we turned around and made our way back to Old Town.
In warm weather, swim in the clear waters of the lake, rent a paddle or sail boat and explore the area. We rented a paddle boat and worked our way from the shore, babbling the whole time about the beauty of the lake. The kids couldn’t resist jumping in, even though the water was still a bit chilly in early June.
The lake is unbelievably clear and is known as “Europe’s cleanest lake” thanks to strict environmental regulations enforced since the 1960’s.
Take a boat tour around the lake with Compagnie des Bateaux du Lac d’Annecy for an opportunity to see other lakeside villages. If we had more time, it would have been fun to get off and explore one of the smaller communities.
Need time to just relax? Enjoy one of the Annecy’s numerous beaches. We spent some time at the grassy Marquisats beach near the port and Plage du Plant Beach located near the sailing club. Both of these beaches were filled with locals enjoying the afternoon sunshine. We chose to only swim at the free beaches, but there are several paid beaches you can visit if you’d prefer to have more facilities and activities available.
Another great way to tour Annecy is to rent bikes and ride around the perimeter of the lake. And when I say around the lake, I don’t really mean ride all the way AROUND. The lake is huge! It’s the 3rd largest in France. The 40 km cycle path only goes part way around , anyways. The first stretch runs along the western side of Lake Annecy, with much of the path on an old train line. The biking trail ends in Albertville for anyone adventurous enough to ride that far. Not the I would have ever considered biking that far alone, much less with two kids.
We biked for approximately 12 km (7.5 miles) before turning around in Duingt. We were out for about 4 hours or so which included a stop for lunch and another for a drink at a bar situated right next to the lake. By the way, wine and a return bike ride don’t mix too well. 🙂
Taking a hike through the lush mountainside is another great option for keeping the kids active. Annecy is definitely a place to enjoy the great outdoors. The landscape is stunning and there is no good reason to stay inside when there is so much to see out! We packed another picnic lunch and ate while taking in the spectacular views of the city below.
More adventurous visitors can paraglide or take an overnight hike in the nearby alps that surround the village.
The trails weren’t too difficult for my kids to manage and there were plenty of signs advising you on the length of each trail. Strollers wouldn’t work on the climb though, and you’re kids need to be able to walk up some fairly steep inclines.
We spent an entire week in Annecy, enjoying the mountains, lake and Old Town. It’s a city that I could see myself visiting time and time again.
Annecy is a beautiful French village you don’t want to miss when visiting Europe. Once you visit, it’s easy to see why it’s called the “Venice of the Alps.”
What other ideas can you share for things to do in Annecy?