Mini travel guide to Annecy, France
PUBLISHED: 11:22 20 October 2014 | UPDATED: 11:22 20 October 2014
Jan Mitchell samples the delights of 'The Venice of the Alps'
At first glimpse, Annecy in Haute-Savoie, eastern France, is a veritable feast for the senses. As you stand on the Pont de la Halle bridge, bedecked with bouquets of pungent flowers, it is difficult to say which view is most spectacular.
On one side of this ancient road bridge, lies the truly breathtaking Lake Annecy. At 14 kilometres long, it stretches out before your eyes, the crystal clear turquoise water reflecting glinting sunlight. The verdant mountains of the French Alps rise up majestically, forming a perfect backdrop to the scene.
Yet, when you turn your gaze to the other side of the wide, stone bridge which arches the river flowing from the great lake, this charming town, which lies at an altitude of 447 metres, reveals its magnificent splendour. Everywhere, there are clusters of brightly-coloured blooms, dripping from the many, tiny bridges. In the foreground, stands the unique Palais de l’Ile, once a court house and prison, and latterly housing heritage exhibitions. This unusual fortified house, dating back to the 12th century, resembles a stone boat anchored in the River Thiou, one of the shortest rivers in France. Its waters flow on up through the Old Town, straddled by numerous picturesque bridges.
Although stunning to admire from afar, Lake Annecy is only fully appreciated when you venture onto its waters on a cruise boat, where you can view the lake and surrounding mountains from a different angle. Time appears to stand still as you float, effortlessly, looking back at the Old Town, growing smaller and smaller, as you disappear into the vast expanse of water that is the lake.
Meanwhile, back on dry land, let time slip by as you meander lazily along the quaint quayside. Lunch could be an impromptu picnic on the banks of the great lake or perhaps on the golden sands of the lake’s own beach. Wonder at the velvety mountains, lit by intense sunlight in the far distance, just for your pleasure.
Or you may choose to sample some of the delicious offerings at one of the enticing eateries alongside the river. Savour a glass of local wine in a welcoming Savoyard restaurant, with its tables spilling out onto the quayside, just beckoning you to relax. Gaze lazily at the ever changing scenery on the river, as you watch a succession of graceful swans glide serenely by. Then climb slowly up to the Chateau, now a museum, built by the Counts of Geneva, who lived there from 1219. Since the 12th century, the chateau has overlooked the Old Town, which has preserved its arcaded houses, with their multi-coloured facades, mingling with ancient churches, ornate bridges, narrow canals and beautiful fountains.
Continue along the Quai de l’Ile and you will reach Pont Morens, the oldest stone bridge in Annecy, framed by two staircase towers. It was the first stone bridge to be erected over the River Thiou and was originally covered by houses. When you are eager to see more, make your way leisurely through the narrow, cobbled streets of the Old Town, just begging to be explored. Exquisite gift shops nestle side by side, like precious jewels, glistening in the sunlight. Here, you can discover your own special souvenir, to rekindle the memory of this charming town, at some future point. Mingle and chat with the locals at the colourful markets, selling a vast array of wares. Annecy, with the magnificent setting of its mountains, its lake and its Old Town, undoubtedly succeeds in captivating its visitors.
No foray into Annecy is complete without calling at the most splendid shop in town, ‘Glacier Perriere’. With 58 delectable flavours of ice-cream on offer, your choice will be an impossible one. Then as you savour this creamy concoction, linger a while on the nearby cobbled bridge, Pont Perriere, and stare wistfully over the unforgettable town they deservedly call ‘The Venice of the Alps.’
How to get there: Inexpensive flights to Geneva are available with easyJet and Jet2 from UK airports. Annecy is a one-hour drive or use the train and coach link.
Highlights for 2015: The Venetian Carnival, from 28th February– 1st March, 2015, with stunning masked and costumed figures everywhere; and the Fête du Lac on 1st August, 2015, with the largest fireworks show in Europe.
For further information: visit www.lac-annecy.com or contact the Tourist Office in Annecy:
1 rue Jean Jaurès,
Telephone: 0033 4 50 45 00 33