While you may never have heard of this charming town in the Rhone Alps, you will probably recognise it from screensavers or widely shared articles on “towns to visit before you die” type lists. Annecy is the kind of place that does not just live up to your expectations, it goes above and beyond and will overwhelm you, enchant you and perhaps even inspire you with its magical fairytale features.
Annecy has always been high up on my bucket list but until now I never had the chance to visit. Along with Colmar, it is probably Europe’s most famous fairytale town – a whimsical destination that makes you feel as if you are walking through a picture book.
As the second stop on our epic 6 month Cork to Cape Town adventure, it’s only natural that we were slightly overwhelmed with how well our trip was going and how we had seriously lucked out with the itinerary we had chosen. Here’s a look at what made our short time here so special and why I would highly recommend all you fine people to visit this amazing part of France some day! Here are some of the top things to do in Annecy as well as advice on where to stay and why it’s like a fairtytale town!
You can sleep in a Palace
There are few places in the world you can go and feel like you are in a real life fairytale. Everything about Annecy is magical, including the accommodation choices. If you’re planning a dream trip to Annecy, however, than you have to go all out and stay in L’Imperial Palace with the best location in the town and with panoramic views of the stunning lake. I promise, you will feel like a King or Queen or both!
Picture perfect around every corner.
Annecy is an Instagrammers dream. Around almost every corner there is another picture perfect photo spot, with hanging baskets full of flowers, beautifully painted houses and canals full of water so blue it almost looks photoshopped. I had to drag poor Ian all over the town, taking so many photos that eventually my camera battery died! So then I just continued taking pics on my phone and sharing out adventures with my Snapchat followers.
Ridiculously friendly locals.
As we were walking along the far end Lake Annecy heading back to the Doussard to catch the boat back across the lake, we were picked up by a super friendly local by the name of Pierre Philippe. He passed us in his jeep singing happily and offered us a lift. He said he could take us anywhere we pleased, turning to us saying “You wanna go to Italy? i can take you to Italy? Want to come swim in my pool? You can do that too!” He was so lovely and we had a great chat about what’s going on in France and how he believes everyone needs to be kinder to each other and help in any way possible.
At the market we also met lots of friendly locals, never rushing us to make a choice or buy anything and offering us endless tasters of cheese and dried meat!
The bluest lake in the world.
Okay, I’m using my creative licence with this one but the water in Lake Annecy is honestly some of the bluest water I have ever seen in my life. When you take a photo of the lake, it looks like a page from a picture book. It’s so blue, so clear, so clean and of course so inviting!
We spent an afternoon doing an amazing boat tour of the lake. The pass allows you to get on and off wherever you like, so we stopped off at two towns along the lake shore. Again, we took far too many photos and were blown away by how beautiful both the lake and all the tiny villages on its shore were – it’s a place I would definitely like to return to with my kids some day.
People flying in the sky.
As one of Europe’s premier paragliding destinations and home to the World Paragliding Championships, you can’t go anywhere is Annecy without seeing hundreds of people flying over the skies above you. It’s quite the sight watching literally hundreds of paraglider doing trick shots in the air, spinning around and then land a few feet from where your standing.
I had great fun flying my drone over the lake and capturing beautiful Annecy from above as you will see in the pics below.
FULL of Gelateria’s and Chocolate Shops.
I don’t know about you, but my idea of a dream town is one full of delicious treats, a la Hansel and Gretel. I know my Dad is probably nodding his head in agreement reading this. One of the best things about the old town in Annecy is that every second store is either a chocolate shop or a Gelateria. It is paradise for all you sweet tooths, myself included.
You can’t take the same route twice.
One thing we especially loved about our time in Annecy was that we always took a different route home. Not exactly by choice, but more thanks due to the winding streets, tiny canals, tunnels and back alleys. There was always a new and interesting street to be found which made every hour of every day that bit more magical.
A magical location in the Rhone Alps.
I can’t really talk about Annecy without mentioning the stunning backdrop that surrounds the town and the lake. Surrounded by high peaks and some of Europe’s best ski resorts, Annecy is perfectly located in the Rhone Alps region of France combining all the delights of French cuisine with the spectacular views afford by being nestled right on the border with Switzerland.
Castles around every corner.
In most countries I visit I love taking photos of castles and get pretty excited every time I see a new one. in Annecy, they are literally around every corner. Up on the hill or down by the lake, situated on their own little private plot of land or right in the middle of everything else – there are castles of all shapes and sizes that will fit perfectly into you ideal of a fairytale town.
Old and new, big and small, many privately owned – it’s quite the eye-opener to see such wealth and prosperity in such a small place. Be sure to take a boat trip around the lake to see/visit as many of these castles as possible! If you’re budget isn’t too tight you can even sign up to Airbnb and stay in your a castle!
A town of myths and legends.
Annecy is full of fun myths and legends, the most famous o which concerns one the most beautiful bridges in the town. Lovers Bridge, as it is known in English, is said to have magical powers and if two people kiss on the bridge they will stay together forever. So think VERY carefully about who you go about kissing in Annecy!
Markets you only dreamed about.
We all know France is famous for its food so it’s no surprise that picturesque Annecy is home to one of the best food markets I’ve ever visited. Think stall after stall after stall of mouth-watering fresh produce, straight from the farm to your mouth! Cheeses, vegetables, delicious fruit and freshly squeezed juices, an abundance of dried meats, and a huge variety of olives, sauces, breads and anything else you can dream up.
Food fit for a king (or Queen!).
One word for you: Fondue. Annecy is known for being one of the best places in France if not the world for eating Fondue. It’s a real occasion and while a little pricey, your stomach and memories will thank you! Think a huge saucepan full of the most delicious cheese you can imagine, along with some delicious fresh bread to dip into the hot, sticky goodness. Shared with friends and accompanied with a great wine – food fit for a king!
We also enjoyed pretty much everything else we ate in Annecy. From our delightful picnic in the park, to the fresh quick we ate at a tiny local cafe down a side alley (I’m always keen to avoid tourist traps!) to the pizza we shared on our last night – it really is a foodie heaven.
Dreamy accommodation options.
What sort of fairytale town would Annecy be without some amazing hotels to complete the package? From the spectacular (and super famous) L’Imperial Palace Hotel which dates back to the belle epoque and overlooks the lake with pride of place, to some smaller but charming options (and well within your budget!) such as the Atipik Hotel Alexandra which is within a stones throw of the Old Town and is where I spent two lovely nights while in Annecy. Although Atipic Hotel hosted myself and Ian for our two night stay and I can highly recommend staying there – their purple chandeliers in the rooms were so unique!