I have to admit I had never heard of Annecy before my friend suggested it as a holiday location. One of my closest friends lives in California (we met travelling across Europe in 2006, and have since seen each other most years, living with each other in London and even being each other’s bridesmaids!) and had planned a big European trip with her husband and two kids, researching (mainly through blogs!) family friendly destinations and Annecy came up. She suggested it as somewhere to meet up and I thought ‘why not’, it’d be lovely to spend some time with her family without all the sightseeing pressures of London, and Peggy loves hanging out with older kids. We honestly didn’t expect to love it so much! I had a fair few questions whilst we were out there, and although I didn’t plan on doing a blogpost (which is why all these photos are more casual, iPhone snaps!), I thought it might be nice to answer a few of the questions posed, here…
HOW DO YOU GET THERE?
This was the hardest part of the planning of the trip, to be honest. It’s not exactly near an airport – you can fly to Geneva, which is the cheapest way, and then hire a car or travel by train or bus. We flew to Lyon with Easyjet and rented a car as we thought it would be less tricky without the hassle of crossing the border etc and it was *quite* straightforward, if probably not the cheapest or easiest in hindsight (tip: do not book with Europcar!). Someone also mentioned that you can get the Eurostar to Paris and then change to Annecy which might be a great option for cutting down on the carbon footprint, but it was a pricier option.
IS IT REALLY EXPENSIVE TO EAT THERE?
We only ate out for two nights and if I’m being really transparent here, we went to the same restaurant! The town centre itself is beautiful, with hundreds of open-air restaurants set on the three canals but a lot of them seemed French brasserie prices, €20 for a main dish and quite touristy. For the first evening, we arrived late so opted for a basic sourdough pizza place (‘The Little Italy’) as we could share with Peggy (and the pizzas can be ordered by halves and are quite affordable), and the staff were so friendly we booked to go back with our friends the next evening!
But it was so easy not to spend too much. The park by the lake has so much going on – fairground rides, playgrounds, live music etc – one night we just enjoyed walking around the lake and letting the kids play and ate some takeaway sushi. There was a Farmer’s market by my friend’s apartment so she picked some food up for sandwiches one day and we made a picnic by the lake for lunch.
IS IT GOOD FOR KIDS?
Yes. SO good. We’re not quite at the stage where we have to think ‘too’ much about what Peggy needs, as she can’t walk yet and is quite limited with what she can play with, but I would love to bring her back when she’s older!
It is so set up for outdoor activities – renting boats, hiring bikes, swimming in the lake (we swam next to a mother duck with her ducklings!). There is so much to do, plus the ‘beaches’ are grassy banks stretching onto the lake so it’s soft and comfortable for sunbathing, and most spots have a cafe, toilets and showers nearby. We went in July and it wasn’t too busy, and if you cycle or drive, you can keep going until your find a spot to park/rest – we snagged a free parking space by the beach when we went.
There are also lots of local open-air sports centres, we spent one afternoon at a local outdoor paddling pool (Piscine des Marquisats) with slides, a splashpad and a huge pool for adults (just a 15 minute walk from the centre of Annecy) – €5 all day for adults (kids are free), which was great for smaller kids. My friend sent me a link to the water park they found after we had left (a bit further around the lake), which they said was amazing – Plage de Menthon Saint Bernard.
DO YOU NEED TO HIRE A CAR?
The Lake is quite big, it would take around an hour to drive around it and there are some gorgeous little villages and towns to stop off and see but that said, we tried to drive to the beautiful village of Talloires – it came highly recommended and looked stunning as we drove down, but even in early July we couldn’t find a space to park.
You can easily rent bikes to get around, and the bike paths are so well laid out, you don’t need to be an expert (and there are tons of cafes you can stop off at on the way!).
IS IT GOOD FOR COUPLES OR A FRIENDS HOLIDAY, TOO?
Yes – if you like the outdoors (or even just sunbathing!), then this is for you. It’s beautiful, so won’t disappoint, and I even surprised myself with how much I enjoyed cycling around the lake. There are loads of pedalos and rowing boats you can rent, too, not to mention the restaurants which I am sure stay open until after 7:30pm!
There are lots of live music too by the main park in front of the lake, it was Bastille Day when we were there and everyone was preparing for the fireworks at around 11pm.
IS IT MORE THAN A WEEKEND BREAK?
I think a week here would really help the mind relax.
ARE THERE LOADS OF MOSQUITOS AND MIDGES?
We didn’t notice any!
WHERE IS GOOD TO STAY?
Again, we can’t answer this wholly, as we booked an Air Bnb which looked close at first glance (without knowing anything about the town) and it was 30 minute walk via an underpass to the town! If returning, we would stay either in an apartment near the main town by the canals, or perhaps in another, less touristy village along the Lake – maybe Talloires (which has beautiful medieval architecture). There were lots of campsites too, which usually sounds like my worst nightmare but here? I think I could…
I hope that has given you a bit of an idea on Annecy, I’ve never been one for a French holiday (I’m a Spain-lover!) but this has completely changed my mind and we can’t wait to explore more of the area.
Greetings from Annecy! I’m glad you enjoyed your time visiting our city but am sorry you didn’t get the chance to explore too much. Annecy is a great place for being outdoors And we have amazing hiking all around. Also I would recommend exploring the mountain villages. My family has traveled the world as digital nomads and this is where we decided to settle and raise a family. Best place in the world imo 🙂
Alexandra Stedman says
Yes we need to go back for sure and explore more! x
I was there yesteday ! lovely place. Also great for hiking in the Alpes and really charming in winter as well. Close from Lyon which a must for every foodie.
Great article and yes la france c est cool aussi 🙂
Next trip you should give a try to south of France and Rousillon !
I’m so glad you and your family got to discover Lake Annecy and were lucky with the weather too as it’s not always blue skies and sunshine 🙂 This is where Spain is probably a safer bet as weather in the mountains even in the summer is temperamental.
We live in Geneva and even though we have a huge lake here, we go at least once if not twice a year to Lake Annecy as the colour of the water there is gorgeous. Travelling from Geneva is super easy but car rental may be more expensive given it’s in CHF.
We in fact always go to Talloires as the views of the mountains from this side of the lake are in my opinion the most beautiful and the village is gorgeous (we actually celebrated our civil wedding at the Abbaye de Talloires with our family as we love it so much!)
My top tip is to go early. If you arrive before 10am, the entrance into Plage Talloires is free (although it’s only 2 EUR after 10am during the high season) but most importantly you will still be able to park in the car park next to it. If travelling with kids or babies (we have a 18 month old), there are plenty of trees for shade and a paddling pool.
My favourite month to go is September especially if you can catch Indian summer weather as it’s quieter but we were last there mid-July and it didn’t feel overcrowded at all.
Alexandra Stedman says
Perfect tips! Thank you! xx
Sally Skelson says
We visited Annecy a few years ago while we were staying in Chamonix, it’s a gorgeous spot and while we were there, there was an amazing farmers market
If you liked Annecy you might like Strasbourg…
Thank you so much for this info and inspiration Alex – especially when it was your ‘downtime’ family holiday!! So useful now holidays look rather different with a baby!
Tricia M says
Good to have you back, had been wondering what had happened to you? I visited Annecy several years ago whilst accompanying a school foreign exchange. We only visited for a day but had lunch at one of those cafes (maybe with the red awning?) I loved the way the water ran through the town in that little channel and how clean , clear it was too. We did a cruise on the lake, all very lovely and relaxing. It’s nice to go somewhere not so obviously touristy and get a true flavour of a place. I remember that whole area had lots of very pretty villages. Like you we go to Spain and am planning to visit the Basque region next. Where to next?
Alma Society says
Annecy looks so idyllic! I’m definitely planning a trip. I’ll follow your recommendation and we’ll stay by the canal. Thanks for making me discover this beautiful town x
It looks lovely but can we all go by train instead of flying? I have kids too and I am worried about climate change. I hate to be a killjoy but…
Alexandra Stedman says
You can – of course! x
Maureen Griffiths says
Hi Alex, I purchased your Money guide last week but as yet have not received the Welcome email which will enable me to read your book. I have been in touch with Found Entertainment but they have not responded satisfactorily. If this matter is not resolved soon, I will be requesting a refund.
I hope you can sort this out.
Alexandra Stedman says
Hi Maureen, sorry about this, for personal reasons I have taken time off the blog – has this been sorted now? x
gmail login says
Wow! This is the first time I’ve heard of Annecy, what a gem! Love the photos.
Live in Switzerland and can say travel to Annecy from airport is really easy. you hire a car there and can come through French side. No border hassles. For future reference.
Alexandra Stedman says
Wish I knew! x
Only just spotted this post! We have spent the summer travelling around Europe in a campervan with two young kids. We chanced upon Annecy and loved it, so much so we stayed for 9 days, our longest stop by far. Agree with everything you said. Perfect place to unwind but also for perfect for kids as there is so much life and activities on and around the lake. And probably the best bike path I’ve ever been on!
Annecy looks so idyllic! I’m definitely planning a trip. I’ll follow your recommendation and we’ll stay by the canal! Thanks for sharing