Annecy in the French Alps really packs a punch for family travel. Few places allow you so many things to do like take a hike in the mountains, swim in a glistening alpine lake, meander through an old medieval town and shop til you drop. Annecy has all this to offer as well as amazing food and some pretty cool chateaus dotting the lakes edge.
I have to be honest that my experience of France or more precisely French people hadn’t been overly positive on previous visits and they continued to underwhelm me on this trip. We ran into some trouble when arriving in Annecy when our phones were not working and we had no wifi.
Unfortunately our Airbnb host was a no show so we were left stranded without communications trying to reach him. Despite asking people for over two hours to borrow a phone to keep calling our host not one single person was willing to help including the extraordinarily rude man in the tourist information who harrumphed and kept telling us it was not his problem and he would not help.
But don’t despair cause a visit to Annecy is still very much worth the effort and eventually we gave up on our host and booked into the nearby Novotel Annecy for a very enjoyable family stay!
I recommend spending at least three or four days in Annecy to really appreciate the beauty of the area. Here are my top five things to do (with or without kids) in Annecy:
1. Take a boat cruise on Lac du Annecy
The jewel of the area is Lac du Annecy which is a crystal clear glacial lake with tiny villages dotting the shoreline on both sides. A boat trip is the best way to take in the grandeur of the region with the towering mountains and imposing castles. Photos do a much better job at showing how pretty this place is.
The best way to see Annecy from the water is hopping on board the local ferry service that does a short sightseeing tour or a longer ferry service that stops at all the small villages in the area. The boat trips also include a commentary to give you some background info on all the historical aspects of Annecy.
We opted for the ferry so we could hop on and off for a day of sightseeing but be prepared to plan your itinerary and stick to your times as the service is fairly infrequent and may need to be combined with some local buses to get between points.
2. Stroll through the old town
Annecy’s old town is a compact and gorgeous collection of laneways and pretty coloured buildings all set on the canals feeding from the lake. The town is often referred to as the Venice of France for obvious reasons.
It will only take you a couple of hours to take in the sights of the old town but you will want some extra time to stop and eat at some of the bars and restaurants or perhaps the yummy gelati shops that dot each corner.
Annecy old town also hosts regular fresh produce markets which are a feast for the senses with a hive of activity for the locals and beautiful fresh vegies and fruit available to purchase as well as many French delicacies and meat products. The kids loved the interaction with the local stall holders and checking out all the weird and wonderful foods on offer.
3. Visit the lakeside villages - Talloires and Saint Bernard
My favourite village near Annecy was Saint Bernard which has a quaint little main street with some great bakeries and cafes and pretty laneways of houses with farm animals in the side yards.
If you feel like stretching your legs there is an interesting walk trailing up behind the village, through pastures to the Chateau Saint Bernard Menthon. With some claiming this castle was the inspiration behind Disney’s Sleeping Beauty you will find an imposing and striking building especially if viewed with the looming mountains back dropped behind – the view you get as you walk up to it!
From the walking trail you also get amazing views back over Lac du Annecy and towards the southern French alps as an added bonus. If you want to visit the inside of the castle you need to check out their website for opening times as a family does reside in the castle and only opens its doors for set visiting hours.
Another village well worth a day visit is Talloires which is a boutique high-end spot to visit but has a wonderful beach area with sprawling green lawns, a diving board and slippery slide into the lake. It’s a beautiful spot to laze away some hours in the sun taking in the surrounding scenery and when it’s time to leave you wo’nt find a prettier lakeside dock overflowing with spring flowers.
Keep in mind that if you head to any of the smaller villages many of the businesses will shut down through the middle of the day so it is best to take your own picnic and snacks as finding something around lunchtime proved a little tricky on a couple of occasions for us leaving us with hungry and worn out kids.
4. Shopping in Annecy
For a small place Annecy offers some great shopping with a decent shopping mall and village streets packed with clothing stores, gifts and homewares.
Inside the old town you will also find some quirky and interesting souvenir shopping to remember your trip by.
5. Swimming in Lac Annecy
You wouldn't often associate the French alps with swimming but Annecy is a perfect spot for a summer holiday and there are so many swimming pools (as they are called in Europe) set up on the lakeshore for the whole family to relax and splash out for some fun.
I have already mentioned Talloires but another fun spot for a family swim is at Imperial Beach which can be walked to from the old town in about twenty minutes. Crystal clear waters and views to inspire the most jaded traveller best sum up this location on the lakeside. Also within the complex is a playground, table tennis and a large kids wading pool.
Hire yourself some inflatable tubes and float away into the centre of the lake and just soak in the beauty….
Click here for a full list of swimming spots on Lac Annecy.
I hope you love taking your family to Annecy as much as we did. Oh, and if you are looking for a great central place to stay in Annecy then you shouldn’t hesitate to stay at the Novotel Annecy where we were met with perfect, friendly hospitality and comfortable family friendly rooms and meal options. You can check out the available rooms and prices for the Novotel here…
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