Many people have heard of Lake Annecy France, but not many are aware of how many wonderful things there are to do in and around it. From the oh-so-charming and beautiful old town of Annecy to the surrounding countryside to the nearby mountains, the Annecy mountains region is busting with fantastic activities, jaw-dropping beauty, and of course, outstanding gastronomy.
Here are 16 interesting things to do in and around Lake Annecy France.
17 Things to do in and around Lake Annecy France
Table of Contents
- 17 Things to do in and around Lake Annecy France
- 1. Walk the streets of the incredibly beautiful Annecy old town.
- 2. Visit the most photographed spot in Annecy – Palais de L’ile
- 3. Walk along the Annecy canal
- 4. Visit Annecy Castle and admire the view
- 5. Visit the church where everyone wanted to be buried
- 6. Visit the Breathing Lotus Flower
- 7. Rent a boat/kayak/stand up paddleboard and get out on the lake
- 8. See if you have the balance for Yoga on a SUP
- 9. Take a walk through the Bout Du Lac Nature Reserve.
- 10. Cycle Around Lake Annecy
- 11. Have a wellness experience at Villa Caroline
- 12. Learn How to Make Soap
- 13. Take a Cow Art Walk in Le Grand-Bornand
- 14. Brave the cold with Tuomo Yoga
- 15. Visit La Clusaz
- 16. Explore Thones
- 17. Experience the Alpes at La Source
- Where to stay around Lake Annecy
- Near the Lake – Les O d’Annecy
- Between the lake and the mountains – Au Bois du Moulin
- In the Mountains – Hotel La Ferme – La Clusaz
- How to get to Lake Annecy
- Lake Annecy in Conclusion
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Why is Lake Annecy famous?
- Can you swim in the lake in Annecy
- Is Lake Annecy in France or Switzerland?
- How many days is enough for Annecy?
On arrival in the Lake Annecy area, the first thing I noticed was the amazing color and clarity of Lake Annecy. The quality of water in the lake is known to be quite exceptional. This is all thanks to a doctor who lived in the area in the 1950s. He liked to dive in this French lake and saw that, at that time, it was very polluted.
He convinced the surrounding villages to build a sewage pipe around the lake with a treatment plant at the start of the 1960s. This was very unusual at the time. The lake itself is fed by pure water coming from the top of the mountains and in July and August, the lake can reach temperatures of up to 24 degrees.
1. Walk the streets of the incredibly beautiful Annecy old town.
I have visited many beautiful towns in my time as a travel blogger but wow, Annecy’s old town has to be one of the most stunning. Annecy was lucky enough not to be bombed during World War Two as it wasn’t strategically important. However, the old town fell into an unattractive state until locals recognized the power of tourism from Lake Annecy.
From the 1970s, the town began painting its buildings and repairing its lovely canals. From June through to September, they employ over 100 gardeners to keep what feels like every railing in town filled with blooming flower baskets.
The streets are narrow and winding but also filled with cafes and shops plus there are some beautiful arcades. It really does look like something out of an Instagram fairytale!
2. Visit the most photographed spot in Annecy – Palais de L’ile
Ironically, in such a beautiful town the most photographed spot was actually a prison. This 12th-century building was actually a justice court as well as a prison, thus the name Palais de L’ile. The building was used as a prison up to 1864 and was even rejuvenated for that purpose for some captured German soldiers in 1944.
It is possible to visit the inside of Palais de L’ile. It is open every day except Tuesday. The best photos, of course, are of the outside of the Palais de L’ile and its unique ship shape.
3. Walk along the Annecy canal
The lovely Annecy canal begins at Pont des Amours, the lover’s bridge, and even dips underground at several points. Annecy is known as the Venice of the Alps because of its canals.
4. Visit Annecy Castle and admire the view
Annecy Castle was the residence of the Counts of Geneva in the 13th and 14th centuries. Today it is a museum that runs regular exhibitions. It is a beautiful building but perhaps best of all are the panoramic views of Annecy’s old town, Lake Annecy and the surrounding mountains.
5. Visit the church where everyone wanted to be buried
Eglise St Maurice was built by the Dominicans in the 15th century and it is the oldest church in Annecy. The church is quite simple inside, but this was the place to be buried in Annecy and there are many bodies buried underneath the church.
6. Visit the Breathing Lotus Flower
The breathing lotus flower has been exhibited outside Annecy’s Hotel de Ville for the last three summers. It was created by Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa. The petals of the pink flower actually move, thus the name of the breathing lotus flower. It is quite stunning and a fantastic photo opportunity.
7. Rent a boat/kayak/stand up paddleboard and get out on the lake
Of course, the best way to enjoy Lake Annecy is to be on it and there are many opportunities to do that. While there are many places around the lake to rent equipment, Bout du Lac at the eastern edge of the lake has everything you could need to enjoy the lake, including a beach of its own.
NB: There are many beaches around Lake Annecy. The general rule is if you pay for parking, you don’t pay for the beach or vice versa. There are also beach clubs and private beaches that are part of a hotel or restaurant. In July and August, the buses that run around the lake are free.
8. See if you have the balance for Yoga on a SUP
I am a yoga regular at home in London, but I had never before tried to do yoga on a stand-up paddleboard. Lake Annecy seemed like a great place to do so! Yoga on a SUP offers all the usual benefits of yoga, plus it places additional demands on your core and stability. And did I mention the amazing mountains and lake all around?
I was quite nervous about falling in. My teacher was fantastic and tethered my SUP to her SUP and we stayed close to the dock. This allowed me to get comfortable with doing the postures on the unfamiliar base of a stand-up paddleboard and contain my fears of turning a downward dog into a swim!
Classes run for 90 minutes and include 60 minutes of actual yoga (the idea is to move around the lake). I would absolutely do this again as it was so wonderful to be in the fresh air doing yoga and by the end of the lesson, I felt quite comfortable with the stand up paddleboard.
9. Take a walk through the Bout Du Lac Nature Reserve.
One of only two natural reserves in the Annecy mountains region, Bout du Lac nature reserve is located on the shores of Lake Annecy. It is a wetland area crossed by two rivers, the Eau Morte and the Ire, both of which feed Lake Annecy. The area has been protected since 1974.
The reserve is filled with various flora and fauna and has a pedestrianized walkway.
10. Cycle Around Lake Annecy
It is now possible to cycle the entire distance of Lake Annecy for the first time. The distance around the lake itself is 40 kilometers If you’d like to extend the ride, it is 50 kilometers round trip to Val de Chaise where the bath connects with other mountain trails.
The path can be used by cyclists, in-line skates, pedestrians, and dogs if on leads, and it is accessible. It is not open to those on horseback or motorised vehicles of any type.
11. Have a wellness experience at Villa Caroline
When Villa Caroline opened in December 2020, it was a unique concept for France. This lake-side boutique hotel/spa focuses completely on wellness. Guests take part in either a fast or a detox program which allows up to 1000 calories a day. All of the ingredients are local.
The hotel has 18 beautifully furnished rooms, all with views over Lake Annecy. Villa Caroline is located directly on Lake Annecy, so there is no need for a pool. There is a wonderful grassy outdoor area as part of the hotel, with direct access to the lake. I had a wonderful swim in Lake Annecy when I visited.
In addition to offering paddle boards and bikes, Villa Caroline has a fitness room with the usual rowing machine, weights etc. Yoga classes are run every day on the first floor of the hotel, and there are many walks around the hotel. Plus, the Villa has a spa that offers outstanding massages.
If you’re looking for a well-being break, this is a stunning spot. However, if you’re in the area and not after a complete well-being break, it is possible to visit Villa Caroline for the day or to come just for a massage.
12. Learn How to Make Soap
Letitia Hespel is a trained herbalist who grows organic plants on her beautiful property in the Annecy mountains. Laetitia trained at the French Institute for Herbalism, and she now hand-picks and dries her plants at low temperatures. Half of her plants are sold to Clarins and the balance is used in things like herbal tea, soap and massage oil.
In 2019 Laetitia started to make soap in the traditional style and set up soap-making workshops that are run at her home in Alex Village. Visiting her lovely home and seeing the amazing gardens is a key part of the charm of a Cimes and Racines workshop.
I had never made soap before and had never thought about how it was made. Laetitia guided us through the saponification process. This traditional method of soap making ensures that all of the glycerine which softens the skin stays in the soap. Hot production processes remove glycerine.
We became amateur scientists with our coats, glasses and beakers. We mixed oil with caustic soda to create our base soap. We then had a range of different plants and oils we could choose from to customize our soap to our tastes.
The end result was what looked like a loaf of soap that we could take home. The soap then couldn’t be used for 3 months. I have now used up over half of my soap “loaf,” and I definitely notice that my skin is smoother after washing versus traditional commercial soaps.
13. Take a Cow Art Walk in Le Grand-Bornand
Le Grand-Bornand is a traditional mountain village located on the Western slope of the Aravis mountain range. Not only is this charming village the birthplace of Reblochon cheese, but it is also home to a permanent exhibition about cows. There are cow sculptures, paintings, photos and even comics throughout the resort.
The cow exhibition began in 2000. It was the year 2000, there were 2000 cows in the area and 2000 people lived in the town permanently. The cow exhibition was such a success it became permanent. Head to the tourism office in Le Grand-Bornand and pick up the walking tour brochure for cow art. Each piece has a QR code that will tell you its story.
14. Brave the cold with Tuomo Yoga
Tuomo Yoga means inner fire in Tibetan. I must admit, I had never heard of it before traveling to the Annecy Mountains. Local Alexia Vulliet trained at Philippe Djoharikian’s “Babaschool” and now offers tuomo yoga to those in the Annecy Mountains.
This form of yoga is all about tapping into our resistance to the cold to aid deep purification through a mix of methods. We met Alexia at the edge of a forest. We removed our shoes to walk through the forest and connect with the earth.
Once we arrived at the side of a small freshwater lake, we practiced meditation and postures to clear our minds of negative thoughts and focus on our belly chakra to connect to our inner heat. Part of the meditation is also to help detach from the fear of immersing oneself in freezing cold water!
Following about 20 minutes of meditation, breathing and postures, we removed our layers and headed into the fresh water. The method suggests staying in the water for the same length of time as the temperature eg if the water is 10 degrees, don’t stay in it for longer than 10 minutes.
Thank goodness there was no need to submerge the head, but the practice favors immersion through one’s shoulders. I managed to get into the water and it took a few minutes for me to adjust and relax enough to submerge my shoulders. At that point, I am afraid to say that I only lasted a few more seconds!
However, Jane, who was traveling with me, could stay in the water submerged to her neck for nearly ten minutes, so it absolutely can be done. I am a big fan of using cold water techniques to invigorate the body and would definitely try tuomo yoga again.
15. Visit La Clusaz
Lovely little La Clusaz is a charming mountain town that can be explored all year round. There are plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants to keep visitors busy and both reblochon cheese and skiing museums. The main square in town is made for sitting and people-watching. And don’t miss popping into Patrick Agnellet for some ice cream and/or chocolates.
If you visit La Clusaz in summer, the town also runs a popular yoga festival.
16. Explore Thones
Just 20 kilometers from Annecy, this charming mountain village (the French are excellent when it comes to charming mountain villages!) is located halfway between the city and the mountains and is a great base for exploring the mountains.
However, don’t just use Thones as a base. It is a very pretty village with a 17th-century church, a small heritage museum, a pedestrianized main street full of shops and cafes and some lovely mountain views.
17. Experience the Alpes at La Source
La Source is a family attraction in the Annecy Mountains that opened in 2021. It is a multi-disciplinary shared exploration and creative space. There is a small farm with lots of animals made for visits from children. The area has plenty of games as well as a visual history of the surrounding village.
There are also more cows – on the side of the building as well as sculptures with light and movement. A range of small huts brings to life different elements of the Alpes..
Where to stay around Lake Annecy
Near the Lake – Les O d’Annecy
The beautiful guest house Les O D’Annecy is my kind of boutique hotel. This bed and breakfast is run by a delightful couple and half of the rooms are essentially in their home (they have their own private area). There are just five rooms in total, each unique but with a similar comfortable yet stylish design theme. The rooms are all quite large and have separate large bathrooms with walk-in showers.
But the wow factor is the view of Lake Annecy from Les O d’Annecy. All of the rooms have some type of view and some their own terrace. Plus, depending on the weather, breakfast is served outside with a view or rest on one of the stylish red loungers.
In addition to the view, there is an indoor swimming pool, a cute hut/caravan for massage, hammocks and an area to rest in the treetops. There is a warm and inviting lounge on the ground floor of the house and chairs and other comfy seating options spread out throughout the property.
Breakfast is served buffet style on the ground floor and offers every French breakfast delicacy you could imagine, including fresh pastries, homemade jams, eggs cooked any style, yoghurt and fruit etc etc.
I was only able to stay at Les O d’Annecy for one night. I very much wished I had stayed longer to take full advantage of this charming property.
Between the lake and the mountains – Au Bois du Moulin
If you’re looking for somewhere different to stay around Lake Annecy and the Mountains, check out Au Bois du Moulin.
A mix of glamping and gite, Au Bois du Moulin sits at the edge of the forest in the middle of an equestrian center. The site also has a natural water pool and the horses and other animals can be seen from the site.
There are three accommodation options at Au Bois du Moulin – a wooden caravan, a tiny house with mezzanine beds, and a crystal dome. I climbed up the spiral staircase and stayed in the crystal dome which was like a night under the stars but far more comfortable. The bathroom facilities are a short stroll away inside the main house. Each of the accommodation options has its own bathroom facilities.
Au Bois du Moulin is known for offering a very tasty cheese fondue in the evenings that come with meat, bread, a big salad and local Savoie wine. Breakfast is local bread, fresh fruit depending on the season (I enjoyed apricots when I was there), homemade jams and yoghurts.
If you’re looking for somewhere a bit different to stay then Au Bois du Moulin could be for you. I particularly recommend it to families.
Check the availability of Au Bois du Moulin
In the Mountains – Hotel La Ferme – La Clusaz
This charming chalet is situated at the top of the town of La Clusaz, providing fantastic views. Every room at this cozy boutique hotel has a view of the village, and if that isn’t enough, there is a giant terrace with full panoramic views and a sauna.
The rooms at Hotel La Ferme aren’t huge but they are stylish with wooden floors, a feature wall, and simple high-quality linen and towels. The bathroom has a walk-in shower and comes with Molton brown toiletries. The toilet has its own separate space.
La Ferme is also justifiably well known for its bar and restaurant. In addition to the large terrace there is another terrace at the top of the hotel which turns into a bar in the evening. The restaurant has a wonderful wooden paddle menu that is filled with mountain classics like raclette and fondue.
By this point, I had already eaten my fair share of cheese, so I ordered a lovely chicken in honey with a vegetable salad with some great local Chardonnay. Alas, I couldn’t completely hold out on more cheese but I only shared their local cheese platter after the meal.
How to get to Lake Annecy
The nearest major airport to Lake Annecy is over the border in Geneva which is only 40km away. Within France the nearest airport is Lyon which is one hour and 45 minutes away from Annecy.
The train between Paris and Annecy only takes three hours and 45 minutes IF you take the direct TGV service. The average train time between the two cities is closer to six hours.
Lake Annecy in Conclusion
The region around Lake Annecy France has everything from charming old towns to the amazing Lake Annecy to the stunning Annecy Mountains. There are loads of activities to do to enjoy nature in the region all year round. The gastronomy is outstanding and there are many cultural activities to complement enjoying life in the French outdoors. I highly recommend a trip to Lake Annecy, France!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Lake Annecy famous?
Lake Annecy is famous for its pure water and beauty. The lake is fed with water from the nearby mountains.
Can you swim in the lake in Annecy
Absolutely and I did. It is also possible to kayak on the lake, take boats, paddle boats and do stand up paddleboarding.
Is Lake Annecy in France or Switzerland?
Lake Annecy is located in France quite near the border between France and Switzerland.
How many days is enough for Annecy?
The old town of Annecy can be explored in one day. However, I would allow another two days to explore the area around the Lake and enjoy the lake itself. Then another two days to explore the many towns and activities of the nearby mountains. Five days is a good amount of time to explore the area. Why not make a week of it and spend a couple more days just relaxing by Lake Annecy?
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Annecy Mountains covered all of the costs involved in writing this post about Lake Annecy, France. However, as always my opinions are my own. However, this post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.