01 Sep Lake Annecy, France: A practical guide to travel and accommodation
The secret to enjoying the perfect visit to Lake Annecy is knowing how to get around and where to stay so you can explore the most exciting parts of this region. My guide will point you in the right direction – whether you’re planning a city break in Annecy’s old town or an Alpine adventure in a lakeside village.
Lake Annecy and the city of Annecy itself are picture-perfect. With breath-taking clear lake waters, craggy alpine peaks papered with lush green woodland and a jewel-coloured old town, there are a million reasons to want to visit this less well-known region of France. I’ve been returning to this part of the Alps for most of my life, and I’ve got a huge amount of love for this mountain wonderland.
If you’re planning a trip here – great news! I think you’ve made a fantastic choice.
I realise though, that planning a visit to this area can seem a little intimidating. With so much to see and do, where do you begin? Annecy isn’t a small city, and the lakeside towns and villages that twinkle in the distance on an evening pose a myriad of options for accommodation and exploration.
Knowing where to stay and how to get around will make all the difference – as it’ll put you at the heart of the action you’re most keen on throwing yourself into. It’s the perfect way to upgrade your holiday from good to pretty darn perfect.
So, to give you a helping hand I’ve put together a guide to help you navigate planning a trip to Lake Annecy.
I’ll share my recommendations for getting there, getting about and share some secrets to finding the best places to stay based the type of adventure you want to have. Shall we get started?
What more inspiration for planning an Alpine adventure? Check out my guide (and printable packing list!) for summer in the mountains.
Before you begin
With so much on offer, it’s worth taking the time to decide on your priorities before booking. Think about what you’re planning to spend most of your time doing. Are you hoping to hike or cycle to your heart’s content, bask by the lake or indulge at some of the city’s enticing restaurants?
You’ll also want to think about what time of year you’ll be visiting, and what type of accommodation suits you best. It’s helpful to decide whether you’ll be looking for home comforts, outdoor space, room for a crowd or somewhere a little out of the ordinary.
Once you know what you want to do, you can shape your trip around this – so you can make the absolute most of it.
How to get to Annecy
You’ve got three options – road, rail and air. The best fit for your trip will depend on where you’re travelling from and, to some extent, whether you’d like the freedom of having a car to get around.
Getting to Annecy by air
Although Annecy has it’s own airport, it’s largely served by internal flights. So for international connections and budget airlines, you’re best heading to nearby Geneva or Lyon. Both have great road connections to Annecy, with Geneva a little over 40 minutes away.
To Annecy from Lyon
Hiring a car will give you lots of freedom for your trip – and makes it easy to get to Annecy.
If public transport is more your thing, take advantage of high speed rail services between Annecy and Lyon Saint-Exupéry TGV. The airport station is just a few minutes walk from the airport terminal, and Annecy’s modern rail station is conveniently located strolling distance from the old town.
Alternatively, Ouibus offers a less frequent, but generally faster bus service from the airport to Annecy.
Check timetables and ticket prices for both trains and buses from Lyon airport on SNCF’s website.
To Annecy from Geneva
Public transport from Geneva airport is possible, but it’s complicated. You’ve got an international border crossing, and will need to negotiate a rail replacement bus service. Geneva Eaux-Vivres station, which links Switzerland with France, is presently being rebuilt. And whilst you can book tickets from here, they’ll actually be a rail replacement bus service, with a potential switch to a train at La-Roche-Sur-Foron. We attempted this option in summer 2016, but found it fraught with difficulties so I’m not in a rush to recommend it.
I’d seriously recommend saving yourself the worry and take a bus from Geneva airport to the centre of Annecy or hire a car instead.
Getting to Annecy by rail
The small but perfectly formed railway station in Annecy gives you access to the French mainline, high-speed rail network – an easy way to reach most of France’s major cities. A direct train from Paris’ Gare de Lyon takes just shy of 4 hours, which sounds impressively quick to me. Check out the SNCF website (France’s national rail network) for timetables and fares.
Getting to Annecy by road
Annecy is well-connected to the French autoroute network via the A40 and A41, so it’s easy to reach from most of northern and western Europe. From the UK, it’s about an 8 hour drive from the Channel Tunnel.
If you want to turn your journey into more of an adventure, check out my guide to Troyes, a pretty city in the Champagne region, that makes a great mid-way stop.
How to get around Lake Annecy
There’s not necessarily one answer to how best get around Lake Annecy. Depending on what you’re planning for your day, you might want to choose different options. I’ve got you covered, whatever you choose.
The old town of Annecy and it’s nearest beaches are all easily explored on foot. Wide sweeping promenades wrap the northern end of lake, and they’re just perfect for strolling along. It’s easy to pass a few days in the city without your own transport – just hire a bike for a few hours or hop on a bus if you want to go further afield.
If you’re feeling enthusiastic, the lakeside villages are easy to reach by bike. Follow the Voie Vert, a fantastic cycle path that circles the lake, to find new places and to branch off for more ambitious routes. There are bucketloads of hire shops around the lake, with options from hourly to all day rentals.
- I’ll happily recommend Cyclable Annecy. It’s situated right on the edge of the old town and a stone’s throw from the Voie Vert. I’ve given one of their standard bikes a 50 mile thrashing in a day and it was great.
- For serious cyclists, try Basecamp in Talloires. They’ve got a huge range of high-end bike that will see you through some major mountain climbing. I’ve not tried out their bikes, but breakfast in their cafe is delicious (clearly this is important on any cycle trip).
If you’re keen to discover the lakeside towns and villages, you’ll find reliable bus services throughout the day and week operated by LIHSA. As well as being great value routes with regular services, in places they connect with free shuttle bus services to help you get higher up into the mountains.
Try taking the LIHSA to Talloires and then the free Navette (summer only) to reach the stunning viewpoint at Col de la Forclaz.
Note: LIHSA doesn’t have it’s own dedicated website, which can make it a tad tricky to plan journeys in advance if you’re not a confident French speaker. You can try their French site here or contact Annecy’s tourist office for more visitor-friendly help finding the right services.
Honestly, having a car is one of the best ways to make the most of a trip to this stunning region. Not only does it give you the freedom to travel when and where you’d like, it’s also the best way to cover ground. Ski resort breakfast walk, afternoon on the lake, evening dinner in town? It’s easier by car.
Having four wheels will open up a far wider range of accommodation options, places to explore and new things to discover. As a bonus, it’s mostly pretty easy to park for free around here.
Note: Bear in mind that the old town is pedestrianised. If you’re staying in an B&B or apartment here, you’ll need to pop your car in one of the overnight underground car parks.
Where to stay around Lake Annecy
There’s no perfect answer to ‘where should I stay’ near Lake Annecy. So help you narrow down your choices, pick your type of escape. Based on the trip you’re planning, I’ve suggested my favourite options.
City break in Annecy
Want to visit Annecy for a city break? Here’s my ideas for urban explorers.
When: There’s lots to enjoy throughout the year.
My recommendation: Opt for a hotel, bed-and-breakfast or airbnb in, or close to, Annecy’s old town.
Why? If you’re looking to make to most of a short trip you’ll want to be in right in the heart of things. Take advantage of the opportunity to stay in one of the charming historic buildings in this part of town and soak up the atmosphere. Or grab yourself an apartment with views across the lake. Staying in the city centre also means you’re close to public transport connections if you want to get out of town for a day.
I can’t hesitate to recommend this fabulous airbnb we spent three days in during July 2016. Our host Laurane went out of her way to be helpful, plus it’s just round the corner from one of my favourite cafes. You couldn’t be better located if you want explore the old town.
Family fun around Lake Annecy
Want to make the most of the lake and mountains? Here’s some crowd-pleasing ideas for families and groups of friends. Best enjoyed if you’ve got your own transport.
When: Late spring through to late summer if you want to make the most of life by the lakeside.
My recommendation: Embrace the great outdoors and enjoy one of the dozens of campsites around the lake. You’ll find some fantastic sites, many with direct access to lakeside beaches.
Look along the western side and at the southern end of the lake (in particular around the villages of Saint-Jorioz, Duingt and Doussard) where you’ll find everything from old-school pitches for campers and tents, EuroCamp sites with pre-erected tents, holiday chalets and even glamping pods. I’ve also got a soft-spot for the village of Talloires which has a stunningly-located little campsite that traditionalists will love – Camping l’Horizon – as well as a beachfront campsite, that comes highly-recommended, at the Plage d’Angon.
Why? Camping is budget-friendly, fun and sociable. Plus you’ve got a wide range of accommodation options to suit your group. These sites are ideally located for if you want to spend the majority of your time at the lake or out exploring. Most are also within an easy stroll of one of the pretty lakeside villages (for your everyday essentials and a slice of alpine life).
Mountain adventurers around Lake Annecy
Planning to do some serious exploration of the mountains around the lake and more of Haute-Savoie? Here’s some inspiration for couples, friends and families planning a longer stay (a week or more).
When: Spring through to autumn.
My recommendation: Rent an apartment, gîte (French holiday home) or airbnb in one of the lakeside towns and villages. This is my favourite way to spent time on Lake Annecy.
Why? If you’re keen to get out on foot or two wheels, staying outside of the city of Annecy will make it easier. Most apartments and homes will have parking, and a kindly word with your host will help you to find out whether bikes are also welcome.
Staying out of the city will give you a chance to enjoy small town life and indulge at some of the quintessential village cafes, bars and patisseries. But wherever you are around the lake, Annecy is rarely more than a half hours drive away, so you won’t miss out on exploring the city.
Generally speaking, you’ll find better value rentals on the western side, côte ouest, of the lake. If it’s fabulous sunsets and easy access to the bigger peaks that’ll make your trip, opt for the côte est, or east side.
So there’s my guide to one of France’s most beautiful cities – and some inspiration for shaping your stay into your perfect holiday.
Is there anything more you’d like to know? Post your Lake Annecy travel questions below and I’ll do my best to answer.