Annecy France is just a couple of hours by train from Chamonix Mont Blanc.
It is one of the loveliest French towns and deservedly earns it’s nickname “The Little Venice of France”.
This is a well preserved medieval town, built directly into canals, that is fed by Lake Annecy. It really is just like Venice, with charming buildings that rise straight up from the canals and lovely cobbled winding streets that wend their way through the ancient city.
Getting There From Chamonix
The train journey is only a couple of hours. As you’ll know the train system that plys the ski resort is free for skiers as is the Chamonix ski bus. This train stops at St Gervais so this is where you’ll need to change trains onto the main line to Annecy. The free transport does not apply if you’re travelling beyond Servoz.
Remember…if you’re catching “The Mulet” to get to the train station at Chamonix Mont Blanc, it’s often quicker to get off at Rue de la Tour and walk the one block to the Station. The Train Station is the last stop on the Mulet’s route around town, so it will get there, but only after a long time.
Annecy France: Finding Your Way Around
When you alight at the Le Gare, your first stop should be the Tourist office on the Lake’s edge.
They’re very helpful with maps and routes for self-guided walks.
At the exit of the Train Station, turn left and go along Rue Sommeiller. This part of town looks pretty grungy, but don’t worry, this goes in the direction of the old city. The direct way is to keep walking along this road and turn right at Rue Favre. The Tourist Office is on the left hand side, just before you get to the Lake. It’s inside a modern office building.
I took the scenic route - turn right from Rue Sommeiller into Rue Carnot. Follow the signs from here towards the Office de Tourisme. At the end of the street, Rue du Paquier, you’ll come to the lake with beautiful open parklands. The tourist office is to your left.
Once you have the maps, you’ll be fine.
Things To Do
The first thing to do is visit the open air market before they pack up at lunch time. The markets are located on the cobbled ancient streets around the old city. If you head for the direction of the Palais de I’lle, you’ll be sure to come across the markets. They’re spread out over several streets in this area of the medieval city.
Annecy France Market Day
Annecy is wonderfully charming. The ancient buildings are built right on the canals with quays allowing pedestrian traffic over the water. You can’t help but be charmed by the lovely little arched stone bridges.
There is the ancient prison right bam smack in the middle of this beautiful setting and this is now converted into a museum. The historical buildings are all very well restored.
One thing to note – the museums close strictly at lunch time, so plan your walk around town so that you
• get to enjoy the markets,
• have lunch,
• a lovely self-guided walk around town,
• explore the parks by the lake,
• and you’ll be in time for the afternoon sessions of the museums,
• to get you back to the station in time for your return journey home to Chamonix Mont Blanc.
Annecy France Market Day
A Potted History
There’s evidence of human occupation on the lakeside as far back as Neolithic times (4000 BC). Annecy was favoured by the Romans as it was on a major route from Rome into Gaul.
Its importance was heightened when it became an important administrative and judicial centre for the Savoys in the 1500’s.
In the Reformation in Geneva, the deposed bishop decided to settle in Annecy. The town grew in importance as it became an important Catholic refuge. The terms used in the official guide book describes it as “Annecy had become small Catholic citadel facing Protestant Geneva”. That must've been really something in those days.
The Poor Clares set up a thriving cotton and textile mill at Annecy. It’s still there at Place Sainte-Claire.
At the highest point in the old city is the Chateau. It now houses an art gallery, amongst other displays. This was built by the Counts of Geneva who lived here from the 1200’s and was annexed by the Savoys in the 16th Century.
Annecy France: Self Guided Walks
The self guided walks are informative and clearly identifies ancient landmarks still evident around the buildings in town.
I found the most interesting walks in Annecy France were the
• walks of the Old Town and its Churches
• walk “Off the Beaten Path”
• walks around the Canals.
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