Annecy is located in the department of Haute-Savoie in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of southeastern France.
The city is nestled between the lake and mountains, within a green region. And I’m not saying that because it’s the city of my teenage years. Not only! 😊 After traveling quite a bit, seeing other breathtaking landscapes, every time I come back here, I marvel again at the beauty of our mountains. It’s also one of the good things that travel brings. The discovery or rediscovery of all the places we visit.
That said, follow me through the streets that rocked my adolescence!
Our visit of Annecy
We will start the visit with the discovery of the “Centre Bonlieu” or the “National Scene of Annecy”. It is a cultural complex in which there are theaters, a library, and very important for travelers, the tourist office.
This building was built on the former site of a Cistercian convent from Bonlieu, a hamlet 30 km from Annecy. You understand where its name comes from.
The “Pâquier” ou “Champs de Mars”
We leave the “Centre Bonlieu” towards the lake, to go to the “Pâquier”.
“Pâquier” is the Franco-Provençal word for Pasture. The land being too swampy for construction, it was reserved for animals… and executions! But that was a long time ago!
Today it is a set of parks and gardens with the “Gardens of Europe”, the “Gardens of the Imperial Palace” and the “Annecy-le-Vieux Municipal Beach”. These are popular gathering places in the area for locals and tourists alike.
Gardens of the Imperial Palace
At the end of the Pâquier, we see the “Imperial Palace” which was inaugurated on July 14, 1913. At the time, it included a Louis XVI-style restaurant and empire-style lounges.
When the Imperial closed its doors in 1965 because it was no longer profitable, Annecy acquired the building to ensure that it would not be transformed into apartments. The city will only sell it when an investor will undertake to restore it to its former splendor. And it’s a success!
This budding beach, also known as Albigny Beach, offers a harmonious setting for bathers and walkers. It is one of the most famous places around the lake.
Gardens of Europe
To get there, we take the “Pont des Amours”.
An urban legend says that lovers who kiss in the middle of the bridge while looking at the lake will be united for life. 😍
Its official name is the “Public Garden Bridge”, but no one calls it that anymore.
“Le Pont des Amours” would come from the fact that it was once the place of the priced love of prostitutes!
But let’s go back to our romantic bridge, and head for the “Gardens of Europe”. A beautiful shady park, quieter and more intimate than the Pâquier. This is the place to choose to get away from the hustle and bustle during the peak season.
We are behind the City Hall that we will bypass.
It was built in a neoclassical style recognizable by the columns and pediment on its façade.
Behind us, one of the Art Deco districts of the city of Annecy. This architecture of the thirties is quite incredible and gives all its beauty to the “new” city.
If you look up, you can see the buildings built in this style and admire the beauty of their curves.
How do you recognize them?
Some indications: No right angles, bow-windows, pediments, and balconies in ironwork.
The old town of Annecy
Here we are on the outskirts of the old town. We pass the church of St. François of Sales or the Church of the Italians because it is frequented by the Italian community. Its priest is Italian, and Mass is also said in this language.
The church was part of a convent. One must imagine that all the buildings attached to it were the place of life of the nuns.
Do you notice the little door on the left? If you approach and look inside the entrance, you will see the old staircase that connected the convent to the church. A small wooden door allowed the sisters to go to Mass without being seen. They had no right to show themselves!
The nave of the church. On the side walls at the top, we see the gates behind which the nuns were hidden to attend Mass.
Did you know that Annecy is nicknamed the “Venice of the Alps”? Suffice to say the importance of the rivers that surround the city. They played a very important role in its development.
I’d like to introduce them to you! 😄
The Thiou is the natural weir of the lake along which the old town was built. Workshops and industries used it to feed their mill, which allowed the development of medieval crafts. It was not until the middle of the 19th century, when water energy was no longer used for business, that it became the object of a walk. Docks were built to accommodate the first tourists.
The Vassé Canal
The Vassé Canal was historically the canal that bypassed the city’s fortifications in the Middle Ages.
Today, it is covered by Vaugelas Street. We see it disappear under the city for a few hundred meters and reappear a little further to go into the Thiou. If you’re curious, head to passage Gruffaz!
He is seen disappearing in the photo on the left, and reappearing on the right one.
Annecy’s Old Town in pictures
Le Palais de l’Isle
This former 12th century mansion surrounded by the Thiou was in turn a prison, a courthouse and an administrative center.
Today, it is a museum that talks about the history of the region. One can visit the old cells, the dungeons and the old chapel while learning about the lives of the prisoners at that time.
It is the former residence of the Counts of Geneva and then of the Dukes of Savoy-Nemours. In the 17th century, it became a military barracks until 1947. The city bought it in 1953, restored it and turned it into a museum.
A set of valves, set up in 1874, was used to regulate the Thiou to prevent flooding.
We arrive at the “Manufacture” the last part of our visit. This area revolves around St. Claire’s Square. Its special name comes from the fact that it is located on the site of the old cotton-spinning created in 1807.
The company employed 1,400 people in 1847. Unfortunately, many children have been exploited, working up to 15 hours a day and being beaten for pittance. In the middle of the century, officials will question these practices.
The walk along the Thiou continues to a nearby town, Cran-Gevrier. After crossing the city, the Thiou becomes wilder again, and the walk continues on a very pleasant shady path.
Annecy is a really beautiful city. The authenticity of its old town on the banks of the Thiou, its colorful houses, and its pedestrian streets make it a good place to stroll. There are also plenty of bar-restaurants that offer local specialties, and the terraces are very welcoming.
And after a good walk, what could be more relaxing than going to enjoy the shores of the lake to rest and admire the view of the mountains. 😊