A guide to two nights in Annecy, France

Before I went to Annecy everyone I mentioned it to was either full of raptures on how wonderful it was, or seemed jealous as they hadn’t made it there yet. As such, my expectations were perhaps higher than they would usually be when going to a new place. I’d seen a few pictures of the old town, but otherwise I knew very little about Annecy other than the fact the town was right next to a lake of the same name. Our friend who were visiting in Lyon suggested combining our trip to see him with a short stay in Annecy, and we were more than happy to take that recommendation. Although we made our trip in the week (arriving Sunday lunchtime and leaving Tuesday morning) it could be adapted to any two-night period.

Getting to Annecy

Like many places in France, Annecy is well connected by trains which makes it easy to get to if you’re reliant on public transport and don’t have access to your own vehicle. We were able to get direct trains from Lyon to Annecy which took about 2 hours. At one point we were looking to return direct from Annecy to Paris which is also possible and about a 4 hour journey.

Although we’d booked our train tickets to Annecy in advance, we left our return flexible as we knew that depending on the weather and if we could find somewhere to leave our bag we might want to stay a bit longer than our friend, who had commitments back at home. We bought our return ticket on the same day we made the journey and the price was exactly the same. I don’t know if that’s always the case, but it means (particularly off-season) you can allow for some additional flexibility in your plans without it costing too much more.

Day One – Exploring the Old Town in Annecy

We arrived into Annecy at around midday, and knew we had a few hours before we’d be able to deposit our bag at the Airbnb that we were staying at. This did limit what we could do within the first few hours, but luckily there are plenty of eateries where you can spend a bit of time enjoying some food and drink. We spent a couple of hours in a café, before wandering around some of the old town. Being there on a Sunday afternoon meant that there were some shops which were closed, but as it’s very much set-up for tourists there was still plenty to look at.

Whilst the old town is beautiful, it is actually only a tiny part of the city. The area with the old buildings alongside the river was actually quite small, but packed full of shops, restaurants and ice cream stops. We tried lemon and basil sorbet for the first time, and if you’re looking for a refreshing flavour this is definitely the one to go for! Being there before the season really got going meant that whilst still busy, it was much less busy than I can imagine it being in the height of summer. Alongside our ice cream from Maison Perriere, I can also recommend popping into Atelier Maurier where we all came away with a souvenir!

From the old town, you can easily access the lakeshore and the Jardins de l’Europe lakeshore park. Whilst there were plenty of options to hire a pedalo, we decided to stay on the lake-shore. Had the weather been better and we’d stayed for longer, I’d have been very tempted to either take a boat trip or hire a paddleboard to get out onto the water for part of the trip.

Once we’d deposited our bag, we headed up to see the castle up close. The Château d’Annecy is now used as a museum with various exhibitions. Sadly we’d missed the visiting hours but there was still some information about the castle’s history available outside. We then continued up the hill to the Basilique de la Visitation, which is quite a dominant feature over the town as we discovered when walking the next day.

Day Two – Hiking in Annecy

Part of the reason we wanted to come to Annecy was that lakes and mountains is much more our style and preference than a city break, so it was a good way of combining our city break to Lyon with a slice of the outdoors. Annecy is a great location to access the outdoors, with the large lake and watersports easily available, but also a lot of hiking and cycling routes in the surrounding area too. Although our time in Annecy was very limited, I can see how you could easily spend longer there, using it as a base to access the mountains.

Sadly the weather wasn’t on our side, but we didn’t let this stop us from quite a lengthy hike in the horrible weather. Despite my waterproofs, I still ended up soaked, so I would say you have to really want to do the walk for it to be worthwhile if the weather isn’t brilliant.

Mont Veyrier

We headed from our accommodation up to Mont Veyrier, the first part of the walk taking us along the lakeshore to reach the official route starting point. We headed quite steeply uphill through forest to reach Mont Veyrier, then continued along a ridge to Mont Baron, before descending down to Veyrier-du-Lac. From here we then continued back along the lakeshore into Annecy, although we could have taken a bus for the last section. We set off later than I would usually have done for a walk that length (we hoped the weather might have eased off), and it took us about eight hours in total.

Despite the weather, it was a really good hike. It was challenging in sections, so much so that one part we had some railings and footholds added to help with a short descent, and definitely required decent walking boots and a level of fitness / familiarity with hiking. Given the weather, there was an awful lot of mud, so any footwear not prepared for that would have been ruined pretty quickly. At 1291 metres, we had an ascent of about 800 metres, with the same to descend at the other end of the ridge. The route was well signposted, including some helpful no entry signs when it looked like the path was going a certain way (and wasn’t meant to be). I don’t have a great head for heights, so benefited from the fact the cloud cover prevented us from getting a decent view (it made it much easier for me to get along the more exposed areas not being able to see straight down), although I can imagine the view being absolutely stunning on a clear day and I am sad we missed out on that.

Where we stayed in Annecy

There are a mix of different accommodation options in and around Annecy, depending on if you want to be in the main town, or a smaller town or village further round the lake. You can then choose between hotels, campsites or a self-catered option. We stayed in a two-bedroom apartment which was about a ten minute walk from the train station and worked really well for us as a location.

Where we ate in Annecy

We ate very well in Annecy, and with no pre-planning. Whilst I can imagine it’s different at a busier time of year, we didn’t need to book ahead (although I think we got a bit lucky with one of the places we ate!) and we ate very well.

If you’re looking to eat anything traditional, you’ll soon notice that cheese, meat and potatoes are the main substances of most dishes, and so it’s the perfect location to try something like a fondue, tartiflette or raclette. On our first night we ate at La Table du Thiou which was well located in the old town and felt quite homely inside. the food was also very nice, but paled into insignificance compared to our second night.

On our second night we ate at Chez Mamie Lise, whose entrance way was filled with accolades for how good it was. We weren’t disappointed. The décor has gone heavy on the cosy wooden chalet theme, but the food was delicious and I don’t think it was just because it was after a very long and wet walk. We arrived quite late (which is why I think it was luck we got a table) which meant that we ordered our starter and mains to come together so we were able to have them. The onion soup was exactly what I needed – warm, hearty and packed with flavour. I then followed this up with duck breast, which was more refined but really tasty. Our friend who lives in Lyon declared it one of the best meals he’d had in recent memory. I would certainly be happy to seek it out again if we returned to Annecy.

We also enjoyed a brunch at Dip Honest Food which was enjoyable, but somewhat less traditional. It certainly felt more like a trendy brunch spot that wouldn’t have been out of place in Bristol or London, but it set us up nicely for our long walk. It also looked as if it would cater for different dietary requirements, so if a heavy cheese or gluten diet isn’t something you can manage, it would give you an alternative option.

Have you been to Annecy? What would you recommend adding to an itinerary?

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