Why we chose Annecy as our new French base


After three years residing in the Paris region, we finally moved to Annecy for our new French base in 2017. This beautiful part of Eastern France is located in the mountainous département of Haute-Savoie. There are many advantages to living in the area, particularly if you want an alternative to Paris or Provence.


Annecy, our new French base!


Aimée and Rachel in Annecy © French Moments

When we moved from Sydney, Australia to France back in 2014, we naturally headed to Paris as there was work waiting for me.

But deep down my wife and I were hoping to one day move to “la Province, that is somewhere in France outside the Paris region.

By the way, the Province should not be confused with Provence, the region in South-East France bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Annecy © French Moments

A view of the Little Venice of Annecy © French Moments

Moving to another French region

To move to another region in France is not always an easy process. Like moving in any country you have to think about finding a new home. And a new job or professional activity, without forgetting to plan the change of address, transfer to new administrations, etc.

Most of all you have to make sure your next place of residence is the right one. That is a home in a new region you won’t regret after a few weeks or months of life there.

Moving from the hustle and bustle of a large city like Paris to a 3,000 inhabitants village near Annecy was a choice we thought about over and over before making the big jump.

Of course we wanted some space, the quietness of a more rural place, a slower pace of life, a breathtaking view of the mountains… But you have to be sure you’re making the right choice though as the two ways of living – urban and rural – are so different.

French base Annecy Groisy

The view from our new French base in the Annecy region © French Moments

Let’s be honest, for us the triggering component of our big move was to be closer to family. We had friends in Paris but without family close-by.

For us we had three choices: Australia, England or the French Alps. Back in 2017 we chose the last option.

NOTE: in mid-2019 we relocated to the village of Burwash in South-East England to be closer to Rachel’s family before Brexit was put into effect.

Why Annecy is one of the best places to set up home

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For many visitors in France, Annecy and the Savoie province is a bucket-list destination. There are many reasons for that. I can list a few that may help you choose this area too…

1. Annecy is very close to Geneva

Geneva Annecy Salève

View of Geneva, Switzerland from the Salève Mountain near Annecy © French Moments

Think about it. You are 40kms or 40 minutes from Geneva, one of the largest cities of Switzerland. Many expats have a job there and settle their homes across the border in the Ain or Haute-Savoie départements. For a good reason: the cost of living is much cheaper!

In addition, living so close to Geneva also means you have an international airport at hand. For instance there are connecting flights to Paris, the UK, and many other European and international routes offered. Also good to know, you will easily connect with other fellow English speakers in Annecy who have settled in the area too!

2. Annecy is an area of natural beauty

Lake Annecy © French Moments

The lakefront in Annecy © French Moments

I have been talking about Annecy to many English-speaking people back in Australia or more recently in Paris. Most of them had never heard about Lake Annecy. And many didn’t even know that the town was situated in the French Alps.

Well, take a look at the above photo and you’ll appreciate how stunning Annecy is. The lake is one of the purest in Europe and is of natural origins.

From the top of the mountains that surround it (Semnoz, Mont Baron, La Tournette) the views are spectacular and reach the Jura mountains, Mont-Blanc, the Vanoise and even Les Écrins.

3. Annecy is a human-size town

Annecy © French Moments

One of the canals in the old town of Annecy © French Moments

With a population of approximately 125,000, Annecy is a relatively small town compared to Lyon, Grenoble and Geneva.

It means that from the historic part of town, you quickly reach the lakefront and the mountains. In that sense, this way of life reminds me a bit of Sydney where wildlife is found very close to downtown. Also, the historic town centre is an enchantment and features small canals, hence the nickname “Little Venice of the Alps“.

4. Annecy enjoys a rich cultural activity

Return from the Alpine Pastures Festival, Annecy © French Moments

Return from the Alpine Pastures Festival, Annecy © French Moments

Thankfully Paris doesn’t hold the monopoly of culture in France. In fact, cities such as Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux or Nancy have much to offer to their residents and visitors. And Annecy is no exception.

Granted, there are no exceptional museums there (but Lyon and Geneva are not too far to travel to). But there are many events organised throughout the year:

  • the beautiful Venetian carnival in March,
  • the International Animated Film Festival in June,
  • the Fête du Lac in August (one of Europe’s biggest fireworks display events),
  • the Italian Film Festival in September,
  • the Return from the Alpine pastures in October when the cattle come back from the pastures up the mountain where they spent the summer…,
  • and the Christmas market in December.

You won’t get bored if you choose Annecy as your French base!

5. Annecy is a mecca for outdoor activities

Annecy French Base Haute-Savoie

The Annecy region, a paradise for hikers © French Moments

After your arrival in the Annecy region you’ll quickly find out that sport and outdoor activities play an important role there.

Thanks to the lake and the nearby mountains, you’ll be spoilt for choice with an impressive range of outdoor activities:

  • aerial sports (hand-gliding, hot-air ballooning, paragliding, light aircraft…),
  • nautical sports (rowing, kayaking, canyoning, fishing, windsurfing, diving, boat-trips, water skiing, stand up paddle boarding, sailing, wakeboarding…),
  • winter sports (ice-climbing, Glacier walking, snow-shoes, ski, dog-powered triking…),
  • without forgetting mountain climbing, golf, Nordic walking, caving, and more more.

6. Eat authentic good food from Savoie!

raclette Annecy Savoie

Raclette Dish © French Moments

My last point for choosing Annecy as a great French base is about the food… mais oui… I’m French after all as well as Australian 🙂

To go to all the effort of moving country and region and not be able to enjoy great regional food would be a huge disappointment!

Well, we’re lucky that Annecy and the historic province of Savoie are renowned for the quality of its food, particularly cheese.

Who hasn’t heard of Beaufort, Tomme de Savoie, Reblochon, Raclette or Tartiflette ?

You have to come and taste these delicious dishes and cheese. From the lakeside open-air cafés to the Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurants, you can indulge with delicious local food. You won’t have to worry about the amount of calories you’ll be eating because you’ll quickly lose them walking up the mountains the next day!

For more information about the Annecy region and the French Alps, we’ve found Michelin’s Green Guides quite useful. It gives you historical and cultural insights on the region, info on sights and attractions and even suggested driving tours.


New French Base: As a Conclusion

Needless to say moving region can be hard and it’s not always as rosy as we’re making it sound but it is always worth it long term.

This region of our new French base has so much to offer and opening our eyes each day to mountain views was incredible and something we never wanted to take for granted.

Pont des Amours, Annecy © French Moments

Pont des Amours, Annecy © French Moments

Our long term plan is to split our time between Australia and France and hopefully this dream will take shape in a couple of years.

Mont Salève

Pierre at the top of the Salève mountain © French Moments

Where to stay in Annecy

You can choose from a wide range of accommodation in the region of Lake Annecy. Click here for a list of hotels, campings and guest houses, or use the map below:


Pin this pic on Pinterest! >>

Annecy Pinterest Haute-Savoie


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About Author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".


  1. Deirdre Kelly on

    Hello Pierre
    came across your blog. My daughter left melbourne a year ago and followed her heart. 🙂 A wonderful young Swiss man living in Lausanne. So “where does that leave me ” a single mom with no family in Australia. I live in Adelaide. Georgie starts work as a Radiologist at the CHUV hospital in May 2020 . I plan to spend part of the time in Lausanne however at the age of 62 it is hellishly expensive. Georgie says that in a couple of years she will be able to move me over on a family reunificiation visa however I would be dependant on her to support me. Living in France is another option and I see that you spend time in Annecy. I will be visiting this gorgeous town this Dec 2019 so will see if suitable. Just checked the cost of living index and half of the cost of everything in Switzerland and only 40km outside Geneva.
    What I would like to hear from you is do you think that I would be a bit isolated on my own in Annecy or is it a busy town with lots of opportunities to meet friends. Would really welcome some feedback. This is just the start of my journey of relocation so quite exciting.
    Cheers Deirdre

    • Hello Deirdre,
      Thank you for your message! I would say that Annecy makes a good French base not too far from Geneva. Lausanne is a bit further away (1.20 hrs by motorway, 105 kms). From the 15th December 2019 a new train line will open between Annemasse and Geneva, making connection to Lausanne (via Geneva -Cornavin) much easier than before.
      Annecy is a medium-sized city and the quality of life is really good. The historic town centre, the lake and the mountains are a great asset – and we personally know English-speaking people there. A large expat community (Americans and Brits) live there and work in Geneva. I hope your trip in December will give you a better insight! (and by the way enjoy the Christmas market in the old town!!).
      Lastly this article was written at a time when we did make Annecy our new base – we are now residing in South-East England but often come back to the French Alps as we have family there 🙂

  2. Hi, How far are the ski areas? Is there decent medical care in The area? You say it’s half the cost of Geneva, but is it reasonable in terms of French economy? Many thanks, Pam

    • Thank you Pam! Annecy is not far from the ski areas. The Aravis mountains are less than a 35/45 min drive with resorts such as La Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand or Manigod. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is 1.15 hrs from Annecy with a vast (and historic) ski area.
      There is decent medical care in the region, maybe one of the best in France (this is due to the proximity of winter/summer resorts).
      The downside is the cost of living which is indeed quite high compared to the rest of France (unless you are paid in Swiss francs and working in Geneva!)… although less expensive than Paris 🙂 However this is a very beautiful region, particularly if you’re fond of mountains… and great cheese! 😉

  3. Thank you for your quick response Pierre. We are both retired, so expense factors are an issue, however we may be able to afford it. Looks like living slightly outside the city limits could be fairly cheaper especially with rents. The smaller ski areas, vs. Chamonix-Mont-Blanc are more appealing at our age😀☺ and I love the fact that there is such a wonderful lake. My husband likes to fish and we both love to hike, so it looks like there is a lot we can do. I really appreciate your answers. It helps. We will probably try to go over and rent for a 2-3 month period prior to making any decision. That is….when someone will let us undisciplined Americans (with Covid protocols) into the country:) Sincerely, Pam

    • Sorry for the delay in my reply! Yes I think renting a place for 2-3 months is a great idea. It will give you some insights about the region. Let me know if you need more info when the time comes! 🙂

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