Just an hour by plane from Paris, Annecy is one of the most popular towns in the French Alps. The city lies on the northern shore of Lake Annecy, and it’s the most significant city in Haute-Savoie.
Annecy is nicknamed the “Venice of the Alps” for its magnificent canals; it’s known for its picturesque architecture and its traditional but upscale food scene. In the winter you have the chance to experience it without the usual crowds, and it’s the perfect time to indulge in delicious Haute-Savoie cuisine without feeling too guilty.
Allow me to share where to stay and what to do in Annecy, especially if you enjoy travelling in style.
Hotel Le Pélican
With an enviable location on the banks of Lake Annecy, Le Pélican is a fantastic lodging alternative with contemporary amenities in a setting that appears to be frozen in time. The four-star hotel has over one hundred rooms and suites with views to either the lake or the hilly landscape and the inspiring Basilica of the Visitation.
The modern hotel was developed in a historical building from the 1820s and can be described in two words; Le Pélican is stunningly panoramic. There’s no doubt this is where you want to wake up every morning at Annecy.
Breakfast at the Hotel
Le Pélican is more than a luxurious and peaceful accommodation; it’s also where you want to take the most important meal of the day. The hotel takes inspiration from Annecy’s gourmet traditions, local markets and Michelin-starred restaurants to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner, either at the Ô Bon Bec restaurant, the Maître Rouge Boulangerie or your room.
Having breakfast at the Maître Rouge is worth it for the bread alone. The “red bakery” makes artisan bread and pastries daily under the command of Jean-François Rouge — pain au chocolate, pralines, baguettes and cakes; everything is as good as it sounds. Needless to say, you don’t find bread of this quality anywhere else, not even in Paris.
Spend the Morning at the Lake
There’s nothing like making the most out of a sunny day hitting Lac Annecy. The Champ de Mars is a trendy picnic spot, and it’s not far from the beautiful Jardins de l’Europe (Gardens of Europe). Cycling and walking around the lake are lifting activities as to help you digest a hearty breakfast.
You can rent a rowboat if you’re not afraid of getting splashed or an entire catamaran with its own skipper. Water sports bring thousands of visitors to the crystal-clear lake every year.
Lunch at L’Impérial Palace or Ô Bon Bec
L’Impérial is an elegant estate on the shore of Lake Annecy which belongs to PVG Groupe, same as Pelican hotel. The one-hundred-year-old building is a pleasant stay, but its four restaurants are open to the public — meaning you can enjoy the hotel’s world-class cuisine anytime during your stay in Annecy.
For lunch, your best bet is La Brasserie, an open-space casual restaurant facing the lake with a sunny terrace surrounded by gardens. The Sunday brunch buffet is an authentic feast. Still, you can order bistro delicacies on any other day of the week, from poached cod with cream sauce to luxurious escargot ravioli.
Another wonderful choice would be to come back to Pelican hotel and indulge yourself with a seafood lunch paired with crisp white wines and mountains views. I would recommend Girardeau oysters to start with, langoustines with hummus and seaweed for the main course. Their tarte au citron is fresh and light to finish your gourmet meal.
Evenings in Annecy
As the sun goes down, the single best thing to do in this colourful town is wander around Annecy Old Town, along the Thiou River that runs through the city. The beautiful houses surrounded by water, the ancient bridges that connect the area, and the delightful cafés, bakeries and shops in Old Town will keep you entertained all evening.
Old Town has remained unchanged since at least the 19th century, and it has certainly earned the moniker “little Venice.” See if you can spot the remnants of the old city wall built in the Middle Ages. The town is simply charming!
Climb up to the fortified castle of the Counts of Geneva known as “Château d’Annecy”. Up there, the view over the rooftops of Annecy is a stunner. The mist has finally lifted and the light is beautiful. From here you can see the bell towers of two churches: the Notre Dame de Liesse church and the St Pierre Cathedral.
A cozy dinner at Ô Bon Bec
Ô Bon Bec restaurant offers a fantastic dinner menu as well, in which creativity and Alpine tradition meet to offer delicacies like unctuous marble foie gras, tender beef cheeks and a to-die-for selection of local dry-cured meats. This is what I call a gourmet-bistro experience.
What would winter holidays in the mountains be without its unmissable Christmas market?
If visiting Annecy in winter, you’re in for a picture-perfect postcard of the snowy Alps. The town is close to several skiing resorts, but most people look forward to the famous Annecy Christmas markets, the Village des Alpes, and the Christmas Market in the Old Town. Both markets are ideal for treating yourself with sweet bakes, mulled wine and artisan wooden gifts for your loved ones back at home. Winter here also comes with a spectacular light show - the city hall becomes the center of attention once the night sets in.
Winter in Annecy has something for everyone. It offers holidaymakers different possibilities than in the summer. Even though the city is a little sleepy, it is a great opportunity to explore it magnificent snowy views without the crowds.