A pastel coloured town with a shimmering turquoise lake and mountain backdrop, check. So enchanting that you feel like you’ve stepped into a fairytale storybook, check, check, check! Welcome to Annecy, a ridiculously colourful and charming town in the foothills of the French Alps. You could easily be mistaken for thinking you’re in Venice with its colourful buildings and canals, or in Lucerne or Lake Como with its brilliant lake and surrounding mountains. It’s Annecy’s location that makes for one magical setting, and you just know a Disney princess would happily live here.
Annecy doesn’t have a long list of ‘things to do’. Instead it’s the perfect place for some aimless wandering, and with so many Instagram worthy opportunities around every cobblestone laneway and canal, it will keep you busy for at least a few hours. When you’re tired of looking at flower-lined canals, outdoor cafes and medieval buildings, go back to one of those gelateria’s you saw on the last 5 corners.
The most recognizable and photographed landmark in Annecy is the Palais de l’Île. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s a small, unimpressive castle, but in fact it’s had a varied history, being used as a mint, courthouse and prison over the years. Even the old prison is picturesque in this town. Nowadays it’s used as a local museum, which isn’t nearly as exciting.
Once you’ve finished getting lost in the old town, the next thing to do is spend the rest of the day relaxing by one of the lakeside parks or beaches. The water in Lake Annecy is incredibly clear, which is quite fitting given that it’s supposedly the cleanest lake in Europe with the water coming from melted snow in the nearby Alps. I recommend making use of the fantastic cycling and walking tracks or hiring a pedal boat and cruising the lake.
With Annecy only a 45-minute drive from Geneva airport, I used it as an overnight stop on my way to Lyon. It’s also a perfect stop if you’re traveling between Paris and the French Riviera.
I have Instagram to thank for my discovery of Annecy, and I’m sure tourism will dramatically increase over the next few years as more and more people learn about this colourful town through social media like I did. So do yourself a favour and put Annecy on your list next time you’re in France.
What are your other favourite European fairytale towns?