Annecy is a small alpine town South of France known for its picturesque old town with flower-bedecked canals lined with pastel-colored buildings. Based out of Geneva in Switzerland Annecy was just an hour away by bus for us which made for an easy day trip to the pretty town aptly dubbed as the ‘Venice of the Alps’.
Unfortunately, there is no information on bus connectivity between Geneva and Annecy on the internet probably because it keeps changing. As per the latest update, we had, and the information we obtained from a friend who had visited a few months back the bus was to leave from the bus station near the main train station in Geneva.
But when we reached there the lady there informed us that the buses would now leave from two different locations in Geneva – Jonction and Carouge. She handed us a pamphlet with timings. Carouge seemed feasible and we had 45 minutes before the next bus thanks to the wonderful transportation in Geneva we took the tram and reached Carouge well before time.
There are two buses leaving at the same time, one is express and the other with frequent stops. We opted for the express bus. The bus winding through small villages and the road lined with bright colors of fall reached Annecy Gare within an hour.
We collected a walking map of Annecy from the Gare office which marked the Annecy points of interest. Our first impression of the city was completely different with huge colorful modern buildings bedecked with wrought iron balcony railings.
We wondered if we were walking in the right direction or at least if we were in the right place. There was no sign of the canals and the medieval buildings as we had seen in the pictures of Annecy.
Jardins de l’Europe
Nevertheless, we followed the map and after walking past several restaurants and apartments the street ended at an enormous wooded area the ‘Paquier‘ at the shores of a shimmering blue lake – the gorgeous Annecy Lake. The esplanade was packed with people relaxing and enjoying a stroll around the lake.
The large public garden on the shores of Lake Annecy was originally a marshy land. Today it is a popular place for jogging, strolling or to sit back relax and take in the vistas of the surrounding mountains.
Pont des Amours
The popular Pont des Amours (Armours Bridge) also known as the ‘Bridge of Loves’ is a footbridge that spans over the Vasse canal. The bridge connects the Paquier to the Gardens of Europe and is a perfect spot to take in the magnificent alpine views.
The Vasse Canal is lined with lush trees shadowing the boats moored beneath. You can also rent boats and enjoy the gorgeous setting of the Annecy Lake and its surreal colors.
When you walk back to the main street towards the old town you will find some of the important Annecy buildings, on the left is the Annecy City Hall and opposite to it on the other side of the street is the colossal St Maurice Church.
St Maurice Church
The Roman Catholic church of St Maurice is the oldest church in Annecy and dates back to 15th-century. The gothic church has some remarkable stained-glass windows.
Next to the St Maurice Church is another huge church St Francois Church which stands on the edge of the old town along the canal.
St Francois Church
St Francois Church also known as ‘Church of the Italians’ is a Baroque church dating back to 17th-century.
Once we walked past the St Francois church we were taken in by a complete surprise. The modern Annecy we were seeing until now completely transformed into a medieval atmosphere.
We were greeted with the picture-perfect Annecy – the flower-bedecked canal with the swans gliding through the turquoise blue waters and the lakeside cafes and restaurants with outdoor seatings. And in the middle of all this in the backdrop is the Palais de l’Isle the iconic landmark of Annecy.
Palais de l’Isle
The historic building dates back to the 12th century and has served as a prison and a royal residence and today house a history museum. A visit will walk you through the exhibition of town heritage and also through the old dungeons, and prisons rooms.
Walking along the canals lined with restaurants, the wore out walls of the buildings and the numerous bridges over the canal reminded us of the charming city of Venice. Annecy seems like a slice of Venice taken out and placed somewhere amidst the French Alps.
We made way through the crowd of the restaurants to Pont Perriere snapped some pictures of the Palais de l’Isle. The next first thing we wanted to do was to finish with the important Annecy attraction the castle and then spend all evening just sauntering the alleyways. But before that, you ought to have some scoops from yummilious gelatos from the shop here called Glacier Perriere. They served some delicious flavors.
The street on the left of the bridge ends at one of the medieval entrance to the castle. The castle is just a 10 min walk uphill from the center and not very steep. The road uphill from the entrance is lined with some of the very old ramshackle buildings. As you walk up at the end of the street you can have a wonderful view of the city rooftops. When you have hiked all the way up on to your right is the castle and to the left, you will see a magnificent church ‘Basilica of the Visitation’ which is another 10 minutes walk from here.
Basilica of the Visitation
The Gothic Revival style basilica was completed in 1930 and stands on a hill in a beautiful setting with a backdrop of Alps. The church interior is decorated with beautiful mosaics and stained glass windows.
The castle dates back to 13th-century has served as the residence of the Counts of Geneva and used as military barracks.The castle is open at particular times and there is an entrance fee. You can check the prices and timings here. When we visited there was some Science festival and hence the entrance was free.
The museum in the Annecy castle hosts temporary exhibitions alongside the exhibitions on the history of the castle which displays interesting sculptures and wooden chests, cupboards and medieval furniture.
Definitely not to miss are incredible views of the city rooftops, the lake Annecy and the towering mountains from the terrace of the castle.
There are several cobblestone alleys descending down into the center of the castle square. We route we took winded through beautiful ivy covered houses into a popular square jampacked with people. There were numerous restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops.
What to Eat in Annecy
We were by now hungry and were looking for a place to have our lunch which was difficult as every restaurant and cafe was packed with tourists. We visited Annecy in late October and still, this was the case we wondered how it would be in the peak season. You have ample of options to choose from like pizzerias, waffles, and burgers but we recommend you try something cheesy which is the local specialties like fondue or Raclette.
We were already missing the fondue we had in the Swiss town of Gruyeres couple of weeks back and hence we settled on a fondue pot along with the salad.
There are numerous churches in Annecy tucked away amidst the alleyways of the medieval buildings. Some 5 minutes walk further from Palais de l’Isle there are passages through the medieval arches which lead onto the street where stands the magnificent 16th-century Cathedrale Saint-Pierre or the Annecy Cathedral and if you walk further there is the imposing 19th century Eglise Notre-Dame-de-Liesse.
We kept walking along the canal until we came to a busy street lined with some modern buildings and branded boutique shops. Walking back into the busy street was like a walk back from the time warp. We were absolutely smitten by the fact that the modern city of Annecy nestles within it a well-preserved charming medieval city where you can spend all day lazing and taking in the wonderful views.
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