Intro: Visitors flock to Annecy for two main reasons: the lake and the mountains. But visitors don’t expect to fall in love with this area in southeastern France as quickly as it happens. In this extensive guide to planning your trip to the Annecy region, you’ll discover helpful tips like how to get around, what to do, and some interesting facts about this stellar region.

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Looking at Annecy Lake from the above
Looking at Annecy Lake from the above

About the Annecy Mountains Area

Anyone who says the perfect destination doesn’t exist has not been to Annecy, France. This charming town, flanked by the French Alps, invites visitors to be whisked away by the beautiful canals, medieval buildings, and the glimmering Lake Annecy. Nature lovers can take off into the mountains, and travellers can participate in almost any water activity on the lake. And when you’re not enjoying what Annecy’s outdoors offer, you can fuel up on the delectable gastronomy found all over France, and especially in this special place.

The prominent peaks comprising the views from Annecy include Mont Veyrier (4236ft) and La Tournette (7713ft) to the east and Semnoz (5574ft) to the west. The imposing massifs tower over the sparkling turquoise waters of Lake Annecy, known to be the cleanest lake in Europe. Trails abound in the Annecy Mountains and their surrounding peaks, and adventurers’ efforts will be met with cascading waterfalls, pristine lakes, and views of the Alps stretching to the horizon.

When you’ve had your wilderness fix exploring the many trails, head into the Old Town area of Annecy for a delightful glimpse into local culture and taste of gastronomy. Known as the “Venice of the Alps,” you’ll find meandering canals lining the city blocks, making for many pleasant walkabouts and photo ops. Don’t miss (well, you can’t miss) the Palais de l’Île, a medieval edifice that was once used as a prison in central Annecy. Surrounding by canals, you’ll wonder if prisoners ever tried to swim away—visit the museum that inhabits the building now to find out.

When you visit this area of Haute Savoie, you’ll undoubtedly notice the stunning Lake Annecy in the foreground of your peak views. This lake draws summer crowds for its refreshing clean water, white-sand beaches, and the plethora of sports available to fill your vacation days.

When it comes time to visit Annecy and the surrounding villages and peaks, use this helpful trip planning guide to learn what to see, when to go, and how to get around. If you’re not planning a trip, let this guide be your inspiration!

How to get to the Annecy Mountains Area

Located in southeastern France, Annecy and the French Alps are easily accessible by air or land. Whether you’re coming from elsewhere in France, Switzerland, or Italy, you’ll have no trouble reaching this coveted destination.

Flying to the Annecy Mountains Area

Your best option for reaching the Annecy Mountains by plane is from Geneva (GVA), which is only 45 minutes away by car. You can also come in through Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (LYS). The closest small-scale airport, Chambery (CMF), operates mainly during winter to cater to the ski resorts. If none of those options work, you could come through Italy from Turin (TRN) and Milan (MXP), though these are farther away and likely to be more expensive.

The first three airports are less than two hours away by car, making Annecy a very accessible destination.

  • Geneva Airport (Switzerland) – 45min drive
  • Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (France) – 1h 30min drive
  • Chambery Airport (France) – 45min drive
  • Turin Airport (Italy) – 3h 15min drive
  • Milan Malpensa (Italy) – 4h 35min drive

Getting to the Annecy Mountains Area by Car, Bus, or Train

Since France neighbours a few popular travel destinations, it’s likely that you’ll be getting to Annecy by land. Here’s some information to help navigate the Annecy Mountains area if you’re travelling by car, bus, or train.

By car

  • Lyon, France to Annecy – 1h 45min drive
  • Geneva, Switzerland to Annecy – 45min drive
  • Turin, Italy to Annecy – 3h 15min

By bus

  • Lyon, France to Annecy – 2h 30min
  • Geneva, Switzerland to Annecy – 1h 45min
  • Paris, France to Annecy – 4–6 hours
  • Milan, Italy to Annecy – 6–8 hours

By train

  • Lyon, France to Annecy – 2–3 hours
  • Geneva, Switzerland to Annecy ­– 2–3 hours
  • Paris, France to Annecy – 4–5 hours

Best time to visit the Annecy Mountains Area

You can head to Annecy at the foot of the French Alps year-round, and you’ll find plenty of activities to partake in, and the best time to visit depends on your preferred activities. The ski resorts around provide excellent winter adventures and the lake and hiking trails draw crowds during the spring, summer, and fall. The winter certainly has its charm, and Lake Annecy will reflect the mountains year-round—pure beauty!

For the adventurers among you—and we know there are many—Annecy and the surrounding mountains provide prime hiking and water sports conditions during the late spring, summer, and early fall. You’re likely to encounter some crowds during July and August when the French school holidays happen, and this area is a top destination for vacationers. But with so many hiking options, you can find solitude if you venture far enough to places like the Col de Borneronde and the Col des Aravis. In the early fall, most of the summer crowds have dispersed, and you can admire the changing leaves in peace. Take special note during the spring for blossoming fields of wildflowers, which are harvested to produce some local spirits like Chartreuse, Genepi, and local brandies.

When the winter rolls around, hiking conditions become less favourable. But, don’t worry—winter-lovers will still enjoy the area with nearby ski resorts Semnoz, La Clusaz, Manigod, and La Grand Bornand. Some of the trails in the higher peaks surrounding Annecy are suitable for snowshoeing as well.

How to get around the Annecy Mountains Area

Annecy’s road network is well laid out and the transit system is effective. Getting around Annecy is a breeze whether you want to walk, bike, bus, or drive—the method will depend on your travel budget and style.

If you’re staying in the centre of Annecy, you can wander on foot to the main attractions and take a local bus to the trailheads. A single day pass for the bus will cost 4.20 EUR, or get a card of 10 adult rides for 11.50 EUR. Get more information about public transportation in Annecy from Sibra, the local transport company.

If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can rent a bike and ride to your daily hikes or around the lake. Sibra also offers city bike rentals through Vélonecy, which costs 21.00 EUR per day and 52 EUR per week for one adult. For mountain bike rentals, look into local companies like Val Sports.

Of course, you’ll have the most freedom if you rent a car. Most of the hikes that 10Adventures recommends in the Annecy Mountains area are best accessed with a vehicle, so if you’re travelling with the sole purpose of hiking, renting a car is an ideal way to get around. But keep in mind that parking can be challenging to find or expensive if staying in the Old Town. On-street is free but timing is limited. For long stays, your only option is overnight parking. If your accommodation doesn’t provide parking, the nearest parking is at Les Marquisats, about a 10-minute walk out of town on the west side of the lake. If you’ve budgeted for those extra costs, find a deal a rental for Annecy on rentalcars.com.

The oldtown of Annecy
The oldtown of Annecy

Where to stay in the Annecy Mountains Area

The Annecy Mountains area offers many accommodation experiences, from luxury hotels to lakeside camping. While you’re planning your trip, explore your options on helpful sites like booking.com and hotels.com. For unique stays, do some digging on Airbnb.com to find places like this charming studio on the west bank of Lake Annecy or this stunning apartment with a spiral staircase in the Old Town. Or, rent an entire place at the base of the mountains or on the lake with OVO Network, which offers unique hand-picked chalets and apartments in this region. The cute accommodations available may enhance your desire to visit the Annecy Mountains area.

Old Town Annecy

If you’re heading to the Annecy area for a short trip of just a few days, your best bet will be to stay in the Old Town. Here, you can walk to all the nearby attractions in town, sample menu items at the numerous world-class restaurants, and wander the stunning canals at your leisure with your bed never too far away.

Stay in the heart of the enchanting place to absorb all you can after your day trips to the mountains or lake. Keep in mind, though, you will be farther from the swimming and hiking areas, so if these activities are paramount, consider some of the areas listed below.

Talloires

For those heading to the Annecy Mountains area to hike as much as possible, the east bank of Lake Annecy in Talloires is the ideal location for you. It’s a less-populated area than the Old Town, and it overlooks the lake. This area also benefits from late sun, so evening barbecues and sipping wine outside can ease the transition from day into night. No matter your budget, you’ll find suitable accommodation here, from lakeside campsites and cabins to luxury villas and hotels.

West Bank of Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy attracts all kinds of travellers, and for great reason—you can do almost every water sport on this lake! Does this sound like your dream? Look into staying on the west bank of the lake near Seynod in a smaller village on the lakeshore. Accommodations range from campsites to expensive villas with impressive pools. Your choice!

Saint-Joiroz accommodations offer a quiet respite after busy days of beach activities, and the village has some of the best beaches on the lake. Pay particular attention to the village of Duignt if you adore fairy-tale castles that appear to be floating on lakes because the unique peninsula that Duignt is built on has precisely that.

Annecy Le-Vieux

To immerse in the French vibes, consider staying in Annecy-le-Vieux. The area around the lake is a quieter spot for visitors, still not far from the Old Town and the mountains. You can take your day trips to the lake and the mountains and return to a family-run guesthouse to enjoy some authentic cuisine with your French hosts.

Beautiful mountain views in the Annecy Mountains Area
Beautiful mountain views in the Annecy Mountains Area

Where to eat in the Annecy Mountains Area

Not to alarm you, but you may spend just as much time eating as you will adventuring in the Annecy Mountains area. You are in France, after all, where the word gourmet comes from. In Annecy and the nearby villages, you’ll be spoiled for choice from budget-friendly cafes to Michelin-star restaurants, all offering an array of delectable French cuisine to suit any tastes. Have a look at the specialties below that you must try while spending time in Annecy.

Traditional French dishes in the Annecy Mountains Area

Raclette – A traditional treat in the Alps that you’ll also find in Switzerland, raclette stands out as one of France’s heartiest and most delicious menu options. Head to Salle des Gardes, a restaurant located right on the canal for some of the town’s best raclette.

Pastries – Nothing says France like freshly baked pastries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (oh, that’s just me? Okay, just breakfast, then). Visit Marmillon to try the best croissant of your life.

Baguette – Reload and refuel on some of the most delicious carbs that exist: baguette! This classic French bread stays crunchy on the outside and soft and airy on the inside. Every bite is a delight! You’ll find these at every boulangerie in town.

Cheese – Wandering the village streets, you’re sure to encounter the finest French cheeses. Grab some options to accompany your fresh baguette. While dining in, be sure to order fondue. Check out Le Freti, a cheese shop by day and restaurant at night, and a local favourite for fondue. Speaking of fondue—be sure to sample the varieties that include tomato, onion, and other interesting flavours. They also offer fondue in single portions, so your group can sample many different kinds.

Ice cream – Annecy offers scrumptious cool treats. Stop into Glacier des Alpes to choose your flavour after having a few free samples to make the best choice. Then, pick a spot in the plaza, and savour your ice cream while people-watching to your heart’s content.

Tartiflette – This savoury dish of potatoes, Reblochon cheese, lardons, and onions makes for a comforting meal after a long day of adventuring. The restaurants in the mountains boast some of the best tartiflette on their menus. La Ferme in La Clusaz has an atmosphere that can’t be beaten and scrumptious tartiflette. You’ll also find croziflette, a twist on the original dish using pasta in place of potatoes.

Seafood – The lake is not just for water sports, but seafood as well. Order some mussels for a break from all the cheesy goodness you’ll consume in Annecy. Dine at La Porte Sainte Claire for top-notch seafood dishes.

Wineries near the Annecy Mountains Area

If you hail to France in hopes of tasting some fine wine, you will not be disappointed in the Annecy Mountains area. In the department of Haute Savoie, you’ll enter a fragrant world of alpine vineyards that produce 25 types of grapes. Order a glass of the dominant grapes like Mondeause, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Chardonnay, or Roussanne, or take a day trip to a winery to sample straight from the source.

Boat on the Annecy Lake in France
Boat on the Annecy Lake in France

Things to do in the Annecy Mountains Area

The Annecy Mountains may appear on your travel list for one or two reasons, but let us assure you that activities here abound. You’ll easily fill your time whether, it’s three days or two months.

Hiking

For our 10Adventures team, the hiking opportunities in the Annecy Mountains area fuel our wanderlust like few other areas in France. It’s an underrated, less-travelled-to mountain paradise with its landscape comprised of the Alps spilling into Haute Savoie. Imposing snow-capped peaks, alpine lakes, fragrant meadows, and water sources galore—hiking in this natural majesty will not disappoint.

In addition to the ubiquitous natural beauty, local history abounds in every step, with war memorials and charming ancient castles dotted throughout the landscape. When you get peckish on your hike, you can stop by one of the many farms selling unique and delicious cheeses.

You’ll find stellar 360-degree views when you climb Mont Baron and challenging hikes that lead to endless valley views speckled with alpine lakes all around like the Plateau des Glieres: Three Têtes Hike. Those two certainly pose more of a challenge and suit seasoned hikers, but many family-friendly options exist, like the Angon Waterfall loop and Refuge de La Bombardellaz hike. Some areas allow random camping, and a few trails have huts if you want to stay overnight in the wild.

No matter where you choose to explore in the Annecy Mountains area, bring plenty of water and don’t forget your camera!

Cycling

Cycling around the Annecy Mountains area gets your heart pumping and allows you to explore some sections you wouldn’t walk to, from city biking to mountain biking or watching the Tour de France, which passes through this area annually.

You can cycle 26.1mi on a mostly flat bike path that hugs the lakeshore. What should only take you about three hours will likely take a whole day since you’ll want to stop and admire the view at every turn. It really is magnificent to observe all the shades of blue and green on the lake, the mountains, and the sky. Additionally, you can take your city bike on an old railway system that goes quite a distance into the Savoie department.

For adrenaline junkies, look towards the Semnoz trail for a gnarly downhill stint. There’s a bus available from Annecy that will take you and your bike to the top so you can cruise down. The mountain peaks and ski resorts around Annecy provide excellent mountain biking routes.

Water Adventures

One of the cleanest and most beautiful lakes in Europe adjacent to the high mountains—we’d call that a bonus, for sure. After a long hike, you can jump in from one of the many beaches on Lake Annecy. Or fill your days between hiking with almost any water sport you can think of, including paddleboarding, waterskiing, wake surfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, sailing, canoeing, and kayaking. Get your legs pumping in a pedal boat, dive underwater with some scuba gear, or completely detach from your stress and rent a yacht or catamaran.

Seriously, if the mountains weren’t the main attraction, the lake would have just as many visitors. Oh, did we mention it glimmers under the sun and appears crystal clear up close? Yes, it’s kind of perfect.

Cultural Activities and Festivals in Annecy

When you go to the Annecy Mountains area, you’ll be welcomed into a historically rich world with religious sites and ancient buildings to explore and admire. And if you’re there during summer, you’ll be met with several lively festivals celebrating everything from animated films to fireworks.

Spend your rest days wandering the plethora of medieval wonders and Catholic churches with stained-glass windows, medieval paintings, and impressive church instruments. One iconic spot is the Palais de l’Île, built in the 12th century and remains a museum showcasing its past as a prison, courthouse, and lord’s residence. Or head to some historical sites that remind of World War II, like the bunker on the Semnoz hike and the Resistance Museum across the street from the Morette waterfall.

Visiting Annecy during the summer opens many doors to the local culture. They have several lively festivals in town, including an international animated film festival in June, a Venetian Mask Festival, and the lake fireworks festival every August. In the nearby mountains, where some of our hikes take place, Le Grand Bornand holds a week-long festival for kids and La Clusaz hosts a Reblochon cheese festival.

And relaxing is a cultural activity, right? Tourists flock to the beaches around Annecy Lake, where sand or grass moves between your toes as you run to the refreshing blue water. To get a glimpse into local life, stroll the Old Town and visit the farmer’s market on Sundays to browse the colourful stands along the streets above the canals.

Beautiful beach near Annecy Lake in France
Beautiful beach near Annecy Lake in France

Other Must-Do Activities in Annecy

Pont des Amours (Lovers’ Bridge) – this legendary bridge brings lifelong love to any couple who kisses on this bridge. Even if you’re not in a relationship, this bridge brings a sense of admiration as you walk between two gardens, gazing over the lake with the mountains in the background.

The Gardens of Europe – If you’re avoiding beach crowds, the Gardens of Europe offer many perfect grassy spots to enjoy a picnic lunch with lake views, then lie down comfortably to digest inhaling the fresh aromas of nature. Keep an eye out for temporary art installations.

Paragliding – Interested in seeing the views from above but don’t want to hike there? Thrill-seekers can book a paragliding session to soar above the spectacular scenery of the Annecy Mountains. Our local expert highly recommends Flyeo, a company that has been in the area for years and offers both tandem flights and paragliding courses for all levels.

Beaches ­– If you’re visiting the wondrous Annecy during the summer, undoubtedly, a beach day or two will be on your itinerary. The lake shimmers a gorgeous aqua colour under the sun, and you can walk or bike to some high-quality beaches to relax.

For those who don’t mind spending a few extra Euros, you can hit up the paid beaches that offer lounge chairs, toilets, showers, sports courts, and some with children’s pools adjacent to the lake. These beaches include Imperial beach, Saint-Jorioz beach, Talloires beach, and Menthon Saint-Bernard beach. But, don’t worry, my budget-travelling friends, free beaches are available, including the largest, Albigny beach, and Marquisats beach on the west bank of the lake. Note that some free beaches so not have life guards (Marquisats is an exception), so check the local information before heading to the beach with kids. Some beaches are dog-friendly.

Farm tours – If you couldn’t tell from the food section above, the Annecy Mountains area produces a lot of cheese. Spend a whimsical day exploring the farms among the rolling hills, meet the farmers, discover the art of milking and cheesemaking, and sample the local fare.

Safety in the Annecy Mountains Area

Whenever you travel, especially for outdoor recreation, safety concerns should be kept at the top of your mind. Luckily, Annecy and its surrounding villages and mountains have a low crime rate, so your concerns will mainly be around the wilderness and weather conditions.

  • Weather conditions could be a concern at any time of year. As a mountainous region, snow covers many of the peaks during winter, and avalanches can occur. During early spring, you’ll encounter snowmelt, muddy trails, and ice near the summits. As with all mountains, the weather can change quickly, so pack for all possible conditions according to the forecast.
  • When you’re on the trails, always inform someone of where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Check trail reports, and respect the wildlife that may be roaming around you.
  • If you’re exploring on your own, make sure to download maps and GPS tracks.
  • We would be remiss not to mention keeping your valuables safe, and be mindful while in crowded public places or on public transportation as petty theft can occur anywhere in the world.

Interesting facts about the Annecy Mountains Area

  • Because of the canal network that winds through Annecy, the city is known as the “Venice of the Alps.” If you don’t have time to visit Italy, Annecy will do the trick!
  • Annecy bid to hold the 2018 Winter Olympics but lost to PyeongChang, South Korea.
  • This area is one of the oldest inhabited areas in the Northern Alps, dating back over 5000 years and has been annexed to both Italy and Switzerland during different eras, which is why there’s a large influence in food and drink from those areas.
  • Lake Annecy is the cleanest lake in Europe, thanks to strict environmental regulations instated in the 1960s.
  • Reblochon cheese is made in the Aravis valley (where some of our top hikes take place), which in old French means “second milking.” The local landlords used to tax the farmers for how much milk they produced, so the farmers would leave some milk behind in the cows. They would then produce this cheese from the second round of milking for their own personal consumption, so the landlords never knew.
Observing the Lake Annecy views in France
Observing the Lake Annecy views in France

Frequently asked questions about the Annecy Mountains Area

Do they speak English in Annecy and the surrounding mountains?

The local population speaks French primarily, but since it’s a famous destination, those employed in the tourism industry usually have a basic knowledge of English. Keep your French phrasebook handy—this is a great place to learn!

How many days do you need in the Annecy Mountains area?

You can easily fill three days with a jam-packed itinerary, extend your vacation to relax for a dreamy week, or rent an apartment for two weeks and get acquainted with the Annecy, the Alps, and all the activities on offer.

How much is a trip to the Annecy Mountains area?

Since Annecy booms with popularity and is located in Europe, your trip costs won’t be super low. However, if you’re heading for hikes, you’ll only need food and accommodation, which could be around $65 per day per person. On the higher end of the scale, luxury travellers will spend about $220 per day per person, including a fancy hotel and eating out for every meal.

What is Annecy known for?

It’s colloquially known as la Venise des Alpes (the Venice of the Alps)—you can imagine how beautiful it must be to earn that title! The picturesque juxtaposition of the stunning Old Town centre and the fairy-tale canal running through it draw tourists from all over.

There’s a certain je ne sais quoi about the Annecy Mountains area that you’ll just have to discover when you travel to this idyllic destination. For help planning your trip to France, check out our Ultimate Guide to France, and always feel free to connect with us if you have any questions or want to share your travel stories or expertise. Bon voyage!

What is the weather like in Austria?

Austria experiences generally warm, pleasant summers, cooler spring and fall seasons, and snowy, windy winters. The temperature rarely dips below -10°C or rises above 27°C. Visitors in the summer should be quite comfortable, and those in the winter should take care to pack warm clothes.

What is the food like in Austria?

While you’ll be able to find many of the same fast-food and international eateries in the cities of Austria that you would anywhere else, the local cuisine shines in local restaurants and smaller towns. Taking influence from the rest of Central Europe, you can expect to find dishes with lots of meat and dairy. A typical breakfast might consist of bread with jam or cheese and coffee. Lunch is traditionally a meat-based soup or sandwich, and dinners often include variations of dumplings, rolls, or stews.

Dessert is a well-loved facet of Austrian cuisine. You’ll likely be munching on strudel, sachertorte (apricot and chocolate cake) or fluffy, sweet pancakes dipped in compote.