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!
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.
Moving to another French region
To move to another region in France is not always an easy process. Like moving to 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.
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.
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
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
Think about it. You are 40kms or 40 minutes from Geneva, one of the largest cities in Switzerland. Many ex-pats 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
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
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
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
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 paddleboarding, sailing, wakeboarding…),
- winter sports (ice-climbing, Glacier walking, snow-shoes, ski, dog-powered triking…),
- without forgetting mountain climbing, golf, Nordic walking, caving, and more.
6. Eat authentic good food from Savoie!
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 their 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 in delicious local food. You won’t have to worry about the number 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 to a new 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.
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.
Where to stay in Annecy
You can choose from a wide range of accommodations in the region of Lake Annecy. Click here for a list of hotels, campings and guest houses, or use the map below:
Liked what you read? Pin this pic on Pinterest!
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.
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 🙂
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! 😉
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! 🙂
Hi Pierre: Enjoyed your info here. I keep reading it and I continue to have ants in my pants!! You know anxious to be in Annecy, France someday again. I was there quite a few years ago for 3 nights and vowed to return one day. I even helped some friends to build a house off the lake…. I put tiles on the roof of one of those houses!! At this point in time I can’t get there because my wife and I have a beautiful Golden Retriever & we won’t subject her to stress on a plane. So for now we are still in the states and are doing fine. We want to split our time with another location and Annecy. Maybe a warmer location near the Italian/French Riviera….. can you suggest? Antibes? Villafranche sur mer? Not Nice, not canne. Anyway , not sure who is going to stay alive around here, but if wife and I do we hope to be in
Annecy once again soon! Thanks for all the info again. If there’s any info you can pass along to us while we wait we are listening and reading!! Be well in France and Australia!
Thank you! On the French Riviera, you can definitely check out Villefranche, or maybe Eze and Menton. West of Cannes, Saint-Aygulf is a nice spot too. All the best!
We are an Australian couple in our 50s with adult children.
We have decided we would like to experience 6 months in a cold, snowy climate and have decided Annecy looks like our choice pick for October 2024 – March 2025.
I spent a year with our children in 2000 in the Ardeche and my son lives and works in Paris so France is a very comfortable choice.
Where would you suggest we look to renting a house for 6 months? I plan to spend a weekend there in September this year to have a look around but would appreciate your advice.
Thanks so much for this resource.
Hello Tamara, there are so many places in the region of Annecy that would make a great base. If you are looking for places on the lakeshore, why not one of the villages around Lake Annecy (Veyrier, Menthon, Talloires). However, if you want to be closer to the ski resorts, La Clusaz, Manigod and Le Grand Bornand are within 30 min from the centre of Annecy. In fact, snow is not guaranteed in Annecy and on the lakefront throughout the winter. Hope this helps!