Lake Annecy, France: A practical guide to planning your travel and accommodation | Travel guide | Girl with a saddle bag blog

Lake Annecy, France: A practical guide to travel and accommodation

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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?

My guide to Lake Annecy: France’s best-kept secret and 9 unmissable things to do around Lake Annecy should give you some ideas if you’re looking for more inspiration.

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.

Lake Annecy, France: A practical guide to planning your travel and accommodation | River Thiou, Annecy, early in the morning | Travel guide | Girl with a saddle bag blog

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.

Lake Annecy, France: A practical guide to planning your travel and accommodation | View of Annecy from Talloires | Travel guide | Girl with a saddle bag blog

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.

On foot

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.

By bike

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).

By bus

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.

By car

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.

Lake Annecy, France: A practical guide to planning travel and accommodation | La Tournette | Travel guide | Girl with a saddle bag blog

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.

Lake Annecy, France: A practical guide to planning your travel and accommodation | Colourful townhouses along the River Thiou, Annecy | Travel guide | Girl with a saddle bag blog

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.

Lake Annecy, France: A practical guide to planning your travel and accommodation

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.

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  • Lynne crocker
    Posted at 23:25h, 19 April Reply

    Hi! We’re hopi g to come to Annecy..mostly to hike and bike. Not planning on having a it easy to get to most hiking without one and where is the best area to stay? Plan to stay about a week.

    • Alice
      Posted at 12:11h, 26 April Reply

      Hi Lynne, A great choice for hiking and biking! If you’re planning to travel without a car I’d recommend Annecy itself or one of the lakeside villages as your base as they are well served with bus routes to get around the lake, into town and to other nearby locations like La Clusaz or Chamonix. If you’re planning to hire bikes rather than bring your own it may be worth seeking out a hire location that would suit you and choose accommodation nearby to make this as easy as possible. Every village around here has its plus points, but perhaps choose a larger one if you’d also like to eat out often or buy groceries nearby. Have a great trip

  • Dilene Lopes
    Posted at 07:01h, 22 June Reply

    It looks like such an amazing time! I m planning a France road trip so I ll be coming back for more tips ?

  • Shehnaaz
    Posted at 17:02h, 21 August Reply

    Hi there
    We will be in Annecy in December- 5 nights
    I am struggling to choose between 2 hotels.
    Best western Carlton or Novotel Centre Atria.
    Which would you recommend

    • Alice
      Posted at 21:29h, 22 August Reply

      Hi Shehnaaz, I’m afraid I’ve not stayed in either so wouldn’t be able to recommend which is best. But Annecy in December sounds wonderful – have a great time!

  • Isaac Stargel
    Posted at 16:03h, 07 July Reply

    Hey! I’ll be in Annecy for a week at the end of this month and would love to hike and explore the outdoors. I’m an experienced hiker. How would you suggest doing this in Annecy? I will not access to a car.

    • Alice
      Posted at 17:27h, 09 July Reply

      Hi Isaac. Two suggestions. First, check with the tourist office for recommended routes that you can hike from the town of Annecy. There are some! Second, check this season’s bus schedules. There are frequent buses to all the towns and villages around the lakeside. Tickets are very reasonable and they should take you to some good starting points for hikes. Have a great trip!

  • Tom
    Posted at 08:18h, 18 May Reply

    Hi Alice, thanks for your great blog. What are your favourite towns around the lake? We are going to stay for a month and don’t want to be in Annecy itself but rather town that is less busy and has more space but still has a few restaurants and shops. Thanks for any recommendations.

    • Alice
      Posted at 12:13h, 19 May Reply

      Hi Tom, I’m glad you liked the post. My favourite villages on the east side of the lake are Menthon St. Bernard and Talloires. Both are quite large – there’s much more than the lakeside here. You’ll find a handful of cafe/restaurants in each, plus a mini supermarket and artisan boulangerie. They’re also well connected to the town of Annecy by bus if you plan to stay without a car, and cycle paths are on your doorstep. Hope you have a fantastic time, there’s plenty to keep you busy here!

  • nicola moody
    Posted at 12:33h, 15 May Reply

    I absolutely love what you have written! Thank you. We are planning to go for Annecy for 3 weeks and would like to rent a house on the lake, the sunny side, I’m hoping, possibly with a pool. Could you recommend anything or a rental agency?

    • Alice
      Posted at 12:47h, 15 May Reply

      Thank you Nicola! I hope you have the most wonderful stay, Lake Annecy deserves more than a few days to explore so three weeks should give you plenty of time. I’m afraid I don’t have any property recommendations as I’ve never rented accommodation here with a pool. Whilst you will find some, most locals and holidaymakers prefer to swim in the lake so they are less common than in other parts of Europe. I’ve had success booking properties near here with Airbnb but there are plenty of other rental agencies. Best of luck with your holiday!

  • Kathleen
    Posted at 20:10h, 15 February Reply

    We are trying to find a place now for June and July 2019- We would like to be walking distance to the lake. Thank you for this wonderful article.

    • Alice
      Posted at 20:49h, 15 February Reply

      I’m thrilled you’re heading here this year! You’ll find most of the lakeside villages are within walking distance of the lake so you should have plenty of choice. I hope you find the perfect place to stay and have a great trip.

  • Jessica Ramos
    Posted at 18:21h, 24 February Reply

    Thank you so much for all three of your posts on Annecy. We’re going for Bastille Day and to view the Tour de France this year. I’m so excited! Your posts are the most informative I’ve found in my three minute search. Cheers!

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