Located 50 km south of Geneva, Annecy is a city of 50 000 inhabitants (200 000 inhabitants when accounting all the surrounding suburbs), lying at the north end of its lake, one of the purest in Europe. Located at an altitude of 448 m, the city and its lake are surrounded by beautiful mountain summits. On the west side, the Semnoz (alt. 1704 m) can be accessed by car and gives a very nice panoramic view on all the surroundings. Overhanging the south east shore, the Tournette (2357 m) is a very popular hike, allowing incredible views on the whole lake area.
The city is crossed by several channels, and for that reason is sometimes called “The Venice of the Alps”. The main channel, called “The Thiou”, crosses the old town (“Vieille ville”), the most touristic part of the city, with monuments and arcade houses dating back to the XVth century for the oldest ones. The city has been existing since roman times but took some significance only around 1535, when the Catholics were thrown out from Geneva and the Geneva bishop had to settle in Annecy.
The old castle, formerly the residence of Geneva counts, hosts an interesting museum with a lot of regional collections. Its oldest part dates back to 12th century and the most recent part is from the 16th century. The "Vieilles Prisons", also called Palais de l'ile, is a set of old constructions lying on a narrow island on the Thiou river, and dating back to the XVth century. It has been restaurated and hosts temporary expositions.
The cathedral, built in 1535, sits along Jean-Jacques Rousseau street and is worth a visit. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who followed music lessons at the school ("maitrise") in the same street (nowdays at the n 13), sang and played flute in this church. Close to it lies the music school, which was previously the palace of the Geneva bishops. It was constructed in 1784 in a place where lied previously the house of Mme de Warens. In the courtyard, a small fountain marks the place where Jean-Jacques Rousseau met Mme de Warens for the first time at the spring of 1718. Jean-Jacques Rousseau lived in Annecy with Mme de Warens until 1736. In the same street, at n 15, lies a very old house where St Francois de Sales (1567-1622), first bishop of Annecy and one of its most famous citizens, lived for 8 years and wrote his most famous book, "Introduction to devot life".
Other places of interest include the Paquier, a wide open space in front of the lake, the "Pont des amours", a small pedestrian bridge above the "Canal du Vassé" (a romantic channel lined with tall trees and leading to the lake), the "jardins de l'europe", a park for strolling close to the lake planted with numerous tree species, the city hall, the church St Maurice (the oldest in Annecy, it is a dominican church built between 1422 and 1445), the church St Francois (also called italian church, built ~1600), the more recent church ND de Liesse (19th century), the "Basilique de la visitation", a large church overhanging the city and keeping relics of St Francois de Sales (1567-1622) and of Ste Jeanne de Chantal (1572-1641). The basilique St Joseph des Fins (1939), the last church built by the benedictan architect Dom Bellot, is also worth a visit.
During the month of June, the water of the lake is about 21-23°, and since the lake is one of the purest of Europe, do not hesitate to take all the necessary for a good swim at one of the beach of the lake (Albigny beach is 10-15 min walk from Jean xxiii center).
If you have a car, a few places outside the city are worth a visit:
- The "tour du lac", a scenic drive all around the lake
- The "Gorges du Fier", a spectacular canyon about 20 km away
- Several old castles which host rich collections of local history: Montrottier (on the road to gorges du Fier), Thorens (native place of St Francois de Sales), Menthon (following the east shore of the lake)
- Hiking to Mount Veyrier: the road starts one kilometer above LAPP and climbs up to the "col des contrebandiers" (smuggler pass). From there a short walk will lead you to the mountain summit
- Forclaz pass: about 20 km south along the east shore of the lake. Spectacular views on the lake, a paragliding place and the starting point for hiking to the top of the Tournette Mountain
- The historic and hiking place of "plateau des Glières", where fights between the french resistance and the german army, assisted by the Vichy government milice, occured in 1944
- The Parmelan, a limestone plateau (1835 m) overhangin the Annecy area (2 to 3 hours hike to reach the summit)
- The Semnoz mountain (1704 m), which can be reached after a 15 km drive from Annecy downtown
Here are some links related to tourism in the Annecy region:
Annecy lake 1
Annecy lake 2
Some brochures on Annecy and its lake