Annecy, France

Annecy is a marvelous French town. Its cobblestone streets wind around outdoor markets, vine-covered buildings and a lazy canal leading to the northern edge of a gorgeous lake encircled by mountains.

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1 Introduction to Annecy, France

Annecy is a tourist town with about 50,000 residents in southeast France about 22 miles south of Geneva. It is nestled in a valley among four mountains at the northern end of Lac d’Annecy, a crystal clear lake stretching over ten square miles. Annecy’s history can be traced back to 4th millennium B.C. and then the Romans in the 1st century B.C. Several of its current buildings, many of which line its canals, were built in the Middle Ages. It has been called the “Venice of Savoie” and the “Jewel of the French Alps.” You can call it charming.

Le Palais de I'lle 3 Passage de l'Île, 74000 Annecy, France
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2 Château d’Annecy Entrance in Annecy, France

Back when the Château d’Annecy was built on Mount Semnoz in the 14th century, you needed to cross a drawbridge over a moat to gain access. This public square is now the more welcoming entrance to the 180 by 410 foot Annecy Castle. Since the early 1950s, this has been the Musée-Château or Castle Museum.

3 Place du Château, 74000 Annecy, France
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3 Château d’Annecy Tower in Annecy, France

The magnificent tower of the Château d’Annecy was built onto the existing castle in 1445 by Louis I, a Count of Savoy. The fortified walls with battlements stand about 108 feet tall and are almost 40 feet wide. During the French Revolution, it became a prison. Today, it is part of Musée-Château.

3 Place du Château, 74000 Annecy, France
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4 Cottage on Mount Semnoz in Annecy, France

This attractive cottage is typical of the French residences you will find on Mount Semnoz rising about 4,000 feet above the town of Annecy, France. Since a fort was first built at this location in the 8th century, this promontory played a key defensive role for centuries as evident by the Annecy Castle in the background. This mountain also served as Stage 20 in the 2013 Tour de France.

18 Côte Saint-Maurice 74000 Annecy, France
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5 Cottage with Purple Lilacs in Annecy, France

The French have a way of making most common sights absolutely delightful. A fine example is this cottage adorned by shutters flanking lace-covered windows with purple lilacs hanging on the stone walls.

18 Côte Saint-Maurice 74000 Annecy, France
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6 Hôtel de Ville Building in Annecy, France

A Hôtel de Ville in France is the city or town hall. This Neoclassical building was built in 1855 when Victor Emanuel II ruled over present day Annecy while he was King of Sardinia, the forerunner of Italy. When the town was sold to France in 1860, Annecy became the capital of the Haute-Savoie department. The building still provides local government administration services.

Mairie d'Annecy Espl. de l'Hôtel de ville, 74000 Annecy, France
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7 Iles des Cygnes in Lake Annecy in Annecy, France

These tourists are paddling around the Iles des Cygnes, a small, tree-filled island just off shore from the Garden of Europe. It is surrounded by spraying water fountains from Lac d’Annecy. The snow-capped mountain is Dents de Lanfon. This means Teeth of Lanfon. The mount reaches an elevation of almost 6,000 feet.

Quai Napoleon & Les Jardins de l'Europe 74000 Annecy, France
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8 Yellow and Orange Tulips in Annecy, France

Visiting France is a joy at almost any time of the year but especially in the spring when lakeside resort towns like Annecy are filled with frequent, blooming flowers. This garden of yellow and orange tulips is in the Jardin de I’Europe. They were first planted in 1863. In 2014, the theme for the Garden of Europe park was “The Story of the Gardens.”

Quai Napoleon & Les Jardins de l'Europe 74000 Annecy, France
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9 Bicycle Leaning Against Wooden Door in Annecy, France

The core of Annecy’s old town is pedestrian only so tourists can casually stroll around to explore this charming French city. Some of the neighborhoods have narrow, cobblestone streets that wind up a hill. So many of the local 50,000 residents prefer their bicycles to quickly navigate through their chores.

3 Passage de l'Isle, 74000 Annecy, France
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10 Palais de I’Isle Reflecting in Thiou Canal in Annecy, France

Sitting regally on a triangular island in the Thiou Canal is an equally triangular castle with thick stone walls resembling the bow of a ship. Apparently, after some of the major Parisian landmarks, the Palais de I’Isle in Annecy is one of the most photographed buildings in France.

Le Palais de I'lle 3 Passage de l'Île, 74000 Annecy, France
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11 Irish Pub Along Thiou Canal in Annecy, France

One of the joys of traveling is partaking in the local cuisine, beers and culture of the city you are visiting. And then you often stumble on a restaurant and/or bar whose theme is from a remote country, like this Irish Pub on Rue du Pont Morens along the canal in the heart of Annecy’s Old Town.

11 Rue du Pont Morens, 74000 Annecy, France
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12 La Porte Sainte-Claire in Annecy, France

La Porte Sainte-Claire once served as a gate through the walls of Medieval Annecy. The portal is named after a former convent for the poor. The arch leads through Passage Nemours. This is typical of the cobblestone alleys you will walk along while exploring the treasures of Old Town.

1 Fbg Sainte-Claire, 74000 Annecy, France
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13 Landmarks along Thiou Canal in Annecy, France

Along the reflecting waters flowing through the Thiou Canal in the historic center of Annecy, France, are the 12th century Palais de I’Isle on the left and the 17th century St-François de Sales Church on the right, also called the “Church of Italians.”

3 Quai des Vieilles Prisons 74000 Annecy, France
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14 Les Jardins du Château in Annecy, France

This quaint building is home to Les Jardins du Château, a bed and breakfast in Annecy, France. It is well named for two reasons. “Les Jardins” in French means “gardens” as is evident by the lush, green vines that grace its façade. And “du Château” translates to “the castle.” This describes its location along the courtyard of the Annecy Castle.

1 Place du Château, 74000 Annecy, France
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15 Little Boy Running Near Thiou in Annecy, France

This little French boy with a red sweater and matching tennis shoes ran eagerly on the Quai de I’Ile towards the Thiou Canal in Annecy, France. Immediately after the photo was taken, he dangled over the railing and searched the river for fish. Despite all of the magnificent Medieval buildings around him in the Old Town, he was disappointed when he didn’t find anything swimming below.

6 Quai de l'Île 74000 Annecy, France
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16 L’Impasse du Trippoz in Annecy, France

Most tourists in Annecy spend their time strolling on the quays along the canals in the center of Old Town. Few people venture onto cobblestone walkways such as L’Impasse du Trippoz at the base of the Château d’Annecy tower. If you get lost, just ask the black cat on the left for directions.

1 Impasse du Trippoz 74000 Annecy, France
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17 Vassé Canal Inlet in Annecy, France

Historically, the Vassé Canal was dug from nearby Lake Annecy to supply water for the moat around the Medieval town. Today, it flows a short distance from the lake and takes a turn into this inlet where row boats are docked. On the left is the tree-lined Promenade Jacquet. In the middle are Quai Jules Philippe and the Hôtel de Ville. On the right is Quai Eustache Chappuis. This is a main artery for cars coming into the Old Town district.

1 Quai Jules Philippe 74000 Annecy, France
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18 Moored Wooden Boats on Vassé Canal in Annecy, France

These handsome, old wooden cabin cruisers are moored at a dock in the Vassé Canal along Quai Jules Philippe. In the background are the Bridge of Lovers, the Promenade Jacquet and Lac d’Annecy.

1 Quai Jules Philippe 74000 Annecy, France
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19 Pont des Amours over Vassé Canal in Annecy, France

I was delighted to learn this quaint bridge over the Vassé Canal next to Lake Annecy is called Pont des Amours, or Bridge of Lovers, until I learned the nickname was derived from its 20th century reputation as a rendezvous point for prostitutes. Ah, the romance returned, however, when I was told if you kiss your lover at the mid-point of the cast iron bridge, you will remain together forever.

Uba Promenade Jacquet, 74000 Annecy, France
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20 Outdoor Café on Rue St. Claire in Annecy, France

When you are traveling, there are two types of restaurants: those catering to tourists and those where the locals eat. This outdoor café on Rue St. Claire in the heart of Annecy’s Old Town is where the French go to sip their morning expresso. That’s my kind of place.

Rue St. Claire & Rue de la Republique, 74000 Annecy, France
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21 Outdoor Produce Market in Annecy, France

On Tuesday, Friday and Sunday mornings, the Rue Sainte Claire Market comes alive with rows of stalls offering fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers and delicacies. While the locals are busy inspecting, squeezing and smelling potential purchases, the tourists enjoy the bustling ambiance. By noon, everything is swept away except the memories. Please see my French market gallery for more colorful photos.

Rue St. Claire & Rue de la Republique, 74000 Annecy, France
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22 Paddle Boat in Lake Annecy in Annecy, France

Lake Annecy is gorgeous …. period. It is over nine miles long, making it France’s third largest lake. It is also the country’s cleanest. The section seen from the Promenade Jacquet is called the Grand Lac. It was created by a melting glacier thousands of years ago which is why it reaches a maximum depth of almost 270 feet. It is fed from several rivers flowing down the surrounding mountains named Dents de Lanfon, Lanfonnet and La Tournette.

Quai Napoleon & Les Jardins de l'Europe 74000 Annecy, France
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23 Palais de I’Isle in Annecy, France

The Palais de I’Isle is the best known landmark and centerpiece of Annecy. Since it was built in 1132, it has housed a lord, a count, law courts, a mint and a prison. Today, it is a history museum focusing on local architecture and heritage.

Le Palais de I'lle 3 Passage de l'Île, 74000 Annecy, France
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24 Pont Perrière over Thiou Canal in Annecy, France

The Perrière Bridge is the first and most famous of the footbridges crossing the Thiou canal in Annecy, France. It connects the Quai de I’lle on the right with the Quai des Vielles Prisons on the left where you also catch a glimpse of Palais de I’Isle.

Quai du Semnoz 74000 Annecy, France
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25 Préfecture of Haute-Savoie in Annecy, France

The French government is organized at the national, regional, divisional or department and finally the commune levels. The town of Annecy is the capital of the Haute-Savoie department. This building houses their administrative services.

Rue du 30ème régiment d’infanterie, 74000 Annecy, France
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26 Quai Around Garden of Europe in Annecy, France

Once the property of nuns, the Garden of Europe is a large park in Annecy, France. It is surrounded by the waters of the Canal du Vassé, Lac d’Annecy and the Thiou Canal. This is the Quai Napolèon III, a promenade that takes you around the peninsula. As you can see, there are plenty of paddle boats available for rent if you would like to spend a few wonderful hours on the lake.

Quai Napoléon III 74000 Annecy, France
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27 Quai de I’Ile and Pont Morens in Annecy, France

These vine-covered buildings with terraces along Quai de I’Ile were built in the mid-19th century. In the background is the Pont Morens, the oldest bridge across the Thiou Canal. When it was built, it was called Château Branlant and had houses on top of it. They were destroyed during the 19th century.

6 Quai de l'Île 74000 Annecy, France
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28 Reflections of Rue du Pont Morens in Annecy, France

There are several reasons to start exploring Annecy early in the morning while the majority of the tourists are still having breakfast. The air is fresh and crisp, the reflections along the Thiou Canal are exquisite, and the local residents have not yet purchased all of the best produce at the outdoor markets like this one on the arched bridge called Rue du Pont Morens.

6 Quai de l'Île 74000 Annecy, France
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29 Springtime White Tulips in Annecy, France

One of the many wonderful things about France in the spring is all of the blooming flowers, particularly tulips like these white ones on the Thiou Canal. In the background is the Ponte Morens bridge.

Vieille Ville Annecy Quai de l'Évêché 74000 Annecy, France
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30 St. François Church in Annecy, France

While Bishop of Geneva, Francois de Sales commissioned this Lombard Baroque church built along the canal in Annency, France. It was finished in 1642, twenty years after his death. He was beatified in 1661 and was canonized as a saint by Pope Alexander VII in 1665. He is the patron saint of the deaf.

1 Place Saint-François de Sales, 74000 Annecy, France
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31 St. Maurice and St. François Churches in Annecy, France

In the background is the domed tower and lantern of Église Saint-Maurice. The Church of Saint-Maurice was built in 1422, making it the oldest church in Annecy. In the foreground is St. François Church. This was the first convent of the Visitation when it was built in 1642. The bridge is Pont de la Halle.

3 Quai Eustache Chappuis 74000 Annecy, France
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32 Église Saint-Maurice Tower in Annecy, France

This is the imposing stone bell tower of Église Saint-Maurice, a Roman Catholic church. It was built in the early 15th century as part of a Dominican Order convent. Saint Maurice was a third century Roman who, as a leader of the Theban Legion, converted to Christianity and then chose martyrdom versus renouncing his faith. Thousands of soldiers were similarly executed. Saint Maurice is the patron saint of Annecy and Savoy.

Rue Saint-Maurice, 74000 Annecy, France
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33 Outdoor Café along Thiou Canal in Annecy, France

The L’Auberge du Lyonnais is typical of the charming hotels and restaurants you will find in the historic center of Annecy. Inside is fine dining. The eatery specializes in fresh fish and French cuisine. My preference was to eat at their outdoor café while listening to the flowing waters of the Thiou Canal.

11 Rue de la République, 74000 Annecy, France
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34 Sluice Gate on Thiou Canal in Annecy, France

Behind this pink tulip is one of several sluice gates along the Thiou Canal that runs for about three miles, one of France’s shortest rivers. Its metal barriers slide on grooves in order to control the water levels and flow rates.

14 Quai de l'Évêché 74000 Annecy, France
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35 Venice of Savoie in Annecy, France

Annecy, France, is sometimes called the Venice of Savoie because of the peaceful canals flowing through the center of Old Town that connect to Lac d’Annecy. However, it is a stretch to compare Annecy’s two main canals named Thiou and Vassè with the 170 canals in Venezia. Savoie is a French department (a geographical and governmental area) within the Rhône-Alpes region of the French Alps.

19 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 74000 Annecy, France
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36 Tourists Walking Cobblestone Street in Annecy, France

The walking paths to the Château d’Annecy and, even further to Basilique de la Visitation, are a series of cobblestone streets lined with vine-covered homes, small boutique hotels and mossy walls. One of the steepest climbs is along Côte Nemours. This pathway traces the town’s historic fortification. It is an up-hill hike. So strap on some comfortable shoes and enjoy.

23 Côte Perrière, 74000 Annecy, France
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37 Elevated View of Castle and Town of Annecy, France

This elevated view of Annecy from the Massif Semnoz foothills is from the esplanade close to the Visitation Basilica. In the foreground is the Medieval Château d’Annecy. This lovely French town near Lake Geneva is surrounded by the Le Mont Veyrier, Le Semnoz, La Tournette and the Parmelan mountains.

Basilica of the Visitation 11 Avenue de la Visitation, 74000 Annecy, France
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38 Visitation Basilica and Convent in Annecy, France

On the right is Visitation Convent. It was founded in 1610 by a Bishop of Geneva named Francis de Sales along with Jane Frances de Chantal. After their deaths, both of them were buried in nearby St. Maurice Church. Their relics were later moved to the Basilique de la Visitation. They were canonized as saints by the Roman Catholic Church. 3,000 Visitation nuns now live in over 160 monasteries across the world.

Basilica of the Visitation 11 Avenue de la Visitation, 74000 Annecy, France
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39 Basilique de la Visitation in Annecy, France

The Basilique de la Visitation looks much older than its 20th century origins. This Roman Catholic church was built in 1930 and consecrated in 1940. The Visitation Basilica’s stone tower contains 38 bells and rises 236 feet above its position on the Massif Semnoz foothills overlooking Annecy. The attached monastery of the same name was founded in 1610.

Basilica of the Visitation 11 Avenue de la Visitation, 74000 Annecy, France
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