Also known as the “Venice of the Alps” in the Rhone-Alpes region of southeast France you will find the city of Annecy. Romantic by nature, with stunning turquoise canals intersecting within the old, cobblestone roads of the city center, Annecy is every bit a fairytale.
Unlike the canals in many other European cities, the ones in Annecy are crystal clear, almost begging you to jump in for a quick swim (you know, right in the middle of the city center). They are running from Lac Annecy (Lake Annecy), the third largest lake in France. Formed over 18,000 years ago by large melting alpine glaciers, Lake Annecy is also known as “Europe’s cleanest lake” due to strict environmental restrictions put in place in the 1960s. Small rivers further feed the lake from the surrounding mountains as well as the Boibioz, a powerful underwater source that enters at 82 m depth. The result, a crystal clean lake, with stunning mountains serving as a backdrop is nothing short of spectacular scenery.
With such natural gifts, Lake Annecy is a popular spot for tourists to enjoy cultural and sport activities all year round. During the summer, you can take advantage of water activities such as swimming, sailing, water-skiing and diving as well as cycling and mountain exploration.
They also host many events, including a “Pyroconcert”, which features a musical concert in the center of the water highlighted by stunning pyrotechnic effects. Can you imagine something more impressive? Thanks to a comprehensive tourist website, you can find tons of information about planning a trip to Annecy here.
With about 52,000 inhabitants, the town of Annecy is also quite small. The most frequented area of the city by visitors is La Vieille Ville (the old town center), which is complete with small, winding cobblestone paths, lined with boutique shops and small eateries. It’s really pleasant (and recommended) to spend the afternoon casually strolling (perhaps hand in hand with your partner) through the streets, taking in the simplistic beauty Annecy has to offer.
We were unlucky during our visit, as it rained the entire afternoon (bad for pictures), but we managed to find a cozy corner booth in a café to sit and watch the people walk by over a warm cup of coffee, followed, of course, by a delicious crepe with Nutella from a corner shop.
Some of the main sites in Annecy include the Palais d’Isle, Église Saint-Maurice and the Château d’Annecy.
The Palais d’Isle is one of the most visible landmarks of the city, situated on an island between canals. Since its creation in the 12th century, it has served as a home for lords, courthouse, prison and today a museum and exhibition of the local architecture and history.
The Église Saint-Maurice (St. Maurice Church) is the oldest church in Annecy, built in 1422. It features gothic style architecture and has been a national monument since 1957.
Lastly, the Château d’Annecy (Annecy Castle) is a restored castle that sits upon the hill overlooking the city. Today, it serves as a museum.
Even though Annecy is quite small, getting there is easier than you may think. It is a short distance from Geneva, as well as Lyon and Grenoble. You can get there by train, bus or plane.
Featured image from Alex Brown via Flickr.