Annecy: France’s exciting outdoor capital
As the Pearl of the French Alps, Annecy is arguably one of the most diverse destinations in all of France – and maybe even in Europe. Nestled between majestic mountains and the gentle shores of Lac d’Annecy, this charming place is the perfect base for mountain lovers and water sports enthusiasts. With its stunning Old Town full of historic sights, quaint cafés, and lovely townhouses, history buffs and romantics are sure to get their fix as well. If none of these pique your interest, the huge number of exciting annual events the city hosts surely will. It’s impossible to be bored here!
In winter or summer, come rain or shine, Annecy offers a thousand ways to enjoy yourself. When you study French here, you’re sure to have a thrilling time as you discover this incredible city.
Annecy’s gorgeous centre
One of Annecy’s main attractions is its historic centre, and you only have to take one step into this stunning place to find out why. Beautiful azure canals reflect the hodgepodge of colourful houses here, while buckets of flowers adorn the balustrades like jewellery. Ancient stone arches hide shop fronts and market stalls, while delicious smells from the centre’s many restaurants waft through the winding streets.
In the heart of the Old Town lies the Palais de l’Île, a castle built on a tiny island in the middle of the canal. Shaped like a ship, this medieval castle seems to sail through the heart of Annecy. With slender turrets, tiny windows, and high walls made of natural rock, the Palais de l’Île is a true fairy-tale castle.
The area is dominated, however, by the massive Château d’Annecy. Built on a hill overlooking the cluster of canals and houses below, this majestic castle once served as the home of the area’s most important counts and dukes. Today, anyone can climb its massive tower and enjoy unparalleled views over this picturesque historic centre.
From here, the Old Town opens onto the city’s famous lake, over which stunning, tree-covered foothills loom. Is there a lovelier place anywhere?!
Exciting festivals all year round
For its stunning beauty and its labyrinthine canals, Annecy is famously known as the ‘Venice of the Alps’. However, the many waterways aren’t the only thing that Annecy and Venice have in common.
Every February, Annecy celebrates its own colourful Venetian Carnival. Hundreds of people dress in elaborate and elegant costumes, all sporting the characteristic masks of the original celebration. Against the backdrop of the centre’s medieval architecture, this event is a unique sight to behold!
If you prefer a traditional Alpine festival, you should visit Annecy in October to experience the return of the cattle from the mountain pastures. During this lively event, herds of cows, sheep, and goats flock into the town. Local farmers put on their traditional costumes, blow their alphorns, decorate their cattle with flowers, fly the flag of Savoie, and proudly parade through Annecy’s alleyways.
During this spirited festival, you’ll also get to enjoy displays of traditional crafts, taste delicious local products, and listen to live folk music. If you visit Annecy in autumn, don’t miss this amazing event!
If you arrive in August instead, you’ll enjoy a celebration whose history reaches back more than a century. The Annecy Lake Festival is a huge event which attracts 200,000 visitors each year! When you attend, you’ll see one of the biggest firework displays in Europe painting the night sky over the lake a thousand colours. The accompanying live music creates a truly magical atmosphere.
These are just three examples from the full calendar of exciting events that take place in Annecy every year. At other times of the year, you can watch the Lake Annecy Marathon, join the International Animation Film Festival or the Italian Film Festival, and visit the Saint-André Fair or the Christmas market. With such a wide variety of events, everybody is sure to get their share of festivities!
Summer adventures in and around the city
If you enjoy hiking, the area around Annecy is going to be a dream come true for you! With mountains in all four directions just waiting to be climbed, you could spend months here without running out of hiking trails. One of the area’s highlights is the Semnoz Plateau, which rewards hikers with a breathtaking 360° panorama over the lake. On a clear day, you’ll even catch a glimpse of the giant Mont Blanc, which is around 80 km from Annecy.
If you’re a real adventurer, you shouldn’t miss a trip to the Gorges de Fier. While you cross through the very heart of the gorge on an eerie boardwalk clinging to high rocks, you’ll see bizarre rock formations and the raging river below. For stunning mountain panoramas and gentle alpine pastures with traditional farmhouses, take a trip to the Plateau des Glières. If you prefer to join a group of like-minded people for your hike, our French school‘s activity programme is a great way to do just that. During the summer months, hikes through this stunning area are often featured as part of the diverse social calendar.
Wonderful water sports
Do you prefer spending a sunny weekend in refreshing waters? If so, don’t worry: Annecy won’t disappoint you, either!
Lac d’Annecy is famous as Europe’s cleanest lake, and its crystal-clear waters are a promising invitation to many hours of water-based fun. The variety of activities available here is incredible: you can go water-skiing, swimming, scuba diving, stand-up paddling, canoeing, sailing, wake-boarding, wake-surfing, jet skiing, ride a pedalo, or simply relax on the beach. In some nearby rivers, you can even go rafting and enjoy an exciting adrenaline rush. When it comes to water sports, almost nothing is impossible in Annecy!
Even more lakeside activities
If you prefer looking at the water rather than getting in it, you can enjoy the amazing scenery around Lac d’Annecy with a relaxed cycle along the shores. Of course, you can also go for a more adventurous trip and conquer the surrounding peaks on your mountain bike. On a beautiful day, you’ll often spot dozens of paragliders soaring over the lake. Why don’t you join them and enjoy the view of a lifetime?!
Skiing in the French Alps
In winter, Annecy offers a completely different variety of outdoor activities. Situated within an hour’s drive of several excellent slopes, Annecy is an outstanding choice for an exciting skiing holiday. With hundreds of kilometres of ski slopes and dozens of ski resorts, you’re sure to find the right trail around Annecy, no matter whether you’re a beginner or an expert. If you’re a skier or snowboarder who wants to combine weekend trips to the slopes with an immersive French course, our school’s French + Skiing programme is the best choice for you!
If you aren’t into skiing but would still like to enjoy the incredible mountains around Annecy over winter, we can also help you, too. Our partner school often organises snowshoeing trips that will allow you to explore this winter wonderland while trying out this novel way of hiking.
In winter or summer, Annecy is an incredible place to explore. With magnificent scenery, stunning architecture, and a packed calendar of unique cultural events, this lovely city never fails to enchant its countless visitors. You’ll hardly find a French study location which offers more exciting activities or more breathtaking surroundings than Annecy. If you don’t believe me, go and check it out for yourself – I’m sure you’ll be the next to fall for its charms!
Contact us today to find out how to make your dream of an immersive French course in Annecy come true …