Discover the fantastic Annecy Venetian Carnival

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Every year in Winter an elegant and mysterious carnival takes place in the French Alps town of Annecy. With people wearing fantastic Venetian-style masks, the Annecy Venetian Carnival is one of the most beautiful in France. Unsurprisingly it attracts thousands of visitors in the fantastic setting of Annecy and its romantic lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. We’ve been visiting the carnival a couple of times and here’s what we saw!

 


What is the Annecy Venetian Carnival?

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – in the Old Town © French Moments

As its name indicates, the event is reminiscent of the fantastic carnival held in Venice, Italy.

The use of Venetian-style masks during the Annecy Carnival was first introduced by ARIA (a local italophile association) on the 16 March 1996. A few dozen people paraded with their Venetian-style masks.

The following year, more than 40 people joined the event. As it became more popular over the years, it ranked as one of the major cultural events run in Annecy. (with approximately 350 masks). Now known as Carnaval Vénitien d’Annecy (Annecy Venetian Carnaval), it takes place over two days in February. The event also includes parades, conferences, exhibitions and concerts.

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – in the Gardens of Europe © French Moments

An elegant and silent carnival

To the contrary of exuberant carnivals such as those of Dunkirk and Nice, the Annecy Carnival is often described as being one of refinement and elegance.

There are no parades organised with noisy marching bands and crazy jugglers. Instead the hundreds of people wearing masks quietly wander the streets bordering the canals of the old town.

This takes place from 10am on Saturday and Sunday.

Both days at 2pm, all costumed people step on the stage set up in the Jardin de l’Europe by the lake.

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – by the lake © French Moments


Where to stay in Annecy?

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Our visit to the Annecy Venetian Carnival

I had discovered the Annecy Carnival for the first time in 2018. The following year I wanted my little girl Aimée to see it.

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

Aimée and her mask in Annecy © French Moments

We parked our car at 9.30am in the carpark near the Imperial Hotel.

We then walked by the lake via the avenue d’Albigny and arrived at the Bonlieu Centre just before 10am.

Lake Annecy © French Moments

Walking towards Annecy by the lake © French Moments

The atmosphere was already magical with snow-capped mountains reflecting in the lake…

Lake Annecy © French Moments

Lake Annecy and the snow capped mountains © French Moments

Swans were part of the role play too!

Lake Annecy © French Moments

Lake Annecy © French Moments

Bonlieu Centre and the Tourist Board

At the Bonlieu Centre we met our first masks.

Annecy Carnival © French Moments

By the Tourist Office (Bonlieu Centre) © French Moments

Inside the centre is the Lake Annecy Tourist Board, an unmissable place if this is your first time in Annecy. You’ll get practical info, maps and advice from the team.

To my surprise, Aimée was really into it… she’s usually quite shy with people she doesn’t know. But here she proved to be so confident! She wanted to pose for the photo with her favourite masks…

Carnival of Annecy © French Moments

Aimée posing with the first masks we met! © French Moments

As for many children, Aimée really enjoyed these discovery moments. So many bright colours, wonderful dresses, mysterious masks, extravagant hats… gilding, feathers, accessories from yesteryears (umbrella, walking stick, mirrors).

My camera was constantly requested: “Papa, papa, take a photo of me with this one too…!”

Annecy © French Moments

On the Champ-de-Mars, Annecy © French Moments

Annecy © French Moments

A Cat mask, Annecy © French Moments

Aimée was going from one discovery to the other. She definitely stipulated that the mask with a pink and green petal-shaped dress was its favourite of the day.

Annecy © French Moments

Aimée’s favourite: the mask with a pink and green petal-shaped dress © French Moments

At the corner of a street, she saw a costumed man who intrigued her.

Ohhh, I don’t like this one!

Looking at the man she pointed to, I realised in fact that… he didn’t have any mask on!

Well, you’ll understand that Aimée was only 5 at the time. 🤭

A walk in the streets of Annecy

As I mentioned above the Annecy carnival is quite a simple event to attend.

The masks wander freely and without constraint across the old town of Annecy and in the gardens by the lake.

Carnival of Annecy © French Moments

The masks wander freely and spontaneously in the streets © French Moments

Each of them spontaneously decide to stop at interesting Baroque-looking spots and to take on the most graceful pose.

Annecy Carnival © French Moments

Masks posing in Baroque-style settings © French Moments

Therefore it’s up to us, visitors, to find them on the bridges, at the corners of the streets, on the steps, along the canals…

If the masks must remain calm and refined, one can’t say the same for the zillion of people that come to admire them. They are like Hollywood stars, they appear under the cracklings of the photographers’ flashes.

Pont des Amours, Annecy © French Moments

Under the cracklings of the photographers’ flashes on Pont des Amours © French Moments

On my second visit to the carnival, I decided to follow a little itinerary through the charming streets of Annecy.

  • Parked our car at the Imperial Palace and walked to the Bonlieu Centre where the Tourist Office is.
  • Walked through the Champ-de-Mars to Pont des Amours
  • Strolled by the Canal de Vassé
  • Went back to the Jardins de l’Europe by the lake
  • Reached the old town via Quai Napoléon III with a beautiful view of the Annecy Castle
  • Crossed Pont Perrière and its picture-postcard view
  • Wandered the arcaded streets of the old town (rue Sainte-Claire, Pont de la République and back via rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau).

In the garden by the lake

The most emblematic spot of the carnival and the most famous is… the Pont des Amours (literally the Bridge of Love). From a certain time in the morning, the place is so crowded that it’s a real challenge to cross it.

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

So many people on the bridge! Hope it won’t collapse!! © French Moments

On the lake’s pontoons, many masks play comedy, interacting between each other and with the public.

Fancy some bugnes?

Near the footbridge, a stand sells delicious bugnes, traditional beignets eaten during carnivals in France.

Bugnes, Annecy © French Moments

Bugnes seller by the Pont des Amours © French Moments

Bugnes, Annecy © French Moments

Delicious Bugnes sold by the canal in Annecy © French Moments

By the Canal de Vassé

Then, we reach the Quai Jules Philippe. A beautiful spot bordered with majestic plane trees. This is where Aimée met her favourite masks.

Canal de Vassé © French Moments

Along the canal, quai Jules Philippe. Notice the kayaks behind! © French Moments

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

Train-themed masks! © French Moments

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

Another Aimée’s favourite mask! (she likes red…) © French Moments

A look at the romantic Canal de Vassé and the Pont des Amours in the distance.

Annecy - Canal de Vassé and Pont des Amours © French Moments

Canal de Vassé and Pont des Amours © French Moments

In the Jardins de l’Europe

Then, we went back to the Jardins de l’Europe by the lake. This is where the masks will parade at 2pm.

The quiet waters of the lake surrounded by the snow-capped mountains of the Alps make a superb setting for admiring the masks.

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

A canal, a lake, snow-capped mountains… what a beautiful setting for a carnival! © French Moments

On Quai Napoléon III, a picture-postcard view of Annecy and its castle.

Quai Napoléon III and Annecy Castle © French Moments

Quai Napoléon III and Annecy Castle © French Moments

There we’ve found beautiful masks posing by the lake:

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – by the lake © French Moments

The Venice of the Alps

Let’s leave the gardens and water front for the old town.

Annecy © French Moments

The Venice of the Alps © French Moments

The narrow arcaded streets of the old town offer a wonderful setting to the mysterious masks.

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

A mysterious mask in the old town of Annecy © French Moments

The most visited photographed places after Pont des Amours is from Pont Perrière. A picture-perfect setting where the canal meets the castle of Palais de l’Isle.

Pont Perrière, Annecy © French Moments

An intriguing mask on Pont Perrière, Annecy © French Moments

At the corner of the streets and in the front courtyard of an aristocratic mansion, the masks take the pose much to the delight of the public.


More photos of the Annecy Venetian Carnival

Want to see more?

You’re in luck, I’ve got tons of photos…

Here’s a little retrospective on the 2018 edition.

This time I came alone (without my little girl) and took the time to wander in the streets of old Annecy in search for the best masks!!

A view of the castle…

This is probably my favourite photo: these three masks posing on Quai Napoléon III with the Annecy castle in the distance.

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – by the lake © French Moments

Romance in the gardens…

Several masks took a stroll in the Jardins de l ‘Europe:

By the waters…

By the canal de Vassé, I met this delightful couple (you can see them on the video I posted above this post):

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – by the canal de Vassé © French Moments

I can tell you that these two were having so much fun playing their romantic role…

Other masks posing by the canal de Vassé:

Some masks are quite surprising… and honestly I don’t really know what to make of it! 😀

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

That’s an interesting one! By the canal de Vassé © French Moments

On the other side of the canal is a merry-go-round. It makes a great décor for more pics:

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – by the canal de Vassé © French Moments

You’ll find many masks posing on the lake’s pontoons.

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

Mask posing on a lake’s pontoon, Venetian Carnival of Annecy © French Moments

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – on a lake’s pontoon © French Moments

Have a closer look!

Just look in detail at the elaborate features of a mask:

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – near the City-Hall © French Moments

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – by the lake © French Moments

As you’ll guess by now, it’s not just about the ‘mask’ hiding the person’s face. It’s about the whole costume that (re)creates a character. Look at this graceful one:

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – in the Gardens of Europe © French Moments

The two Instagram-perfect spots!

Finally, here’s two not-to-miss spots if you’re looking for instagrammable pics!

The first in Pont Perrière in the old town, with the Palais de l’Isle in the background:

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – on Pont Perrière © French Moments

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

Pont Perrière, Annecy © French Moments

The second spot connects the Champ de Mars to the Jardins de l’Europe. This is the most romantic places you can find in Annecy: Pont des Amours (the Lovers’ Bridge!)

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

A mask posing on the Pont des Amours © French Moments

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

Posing on Pont des Amours © French Moments

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Venetian Carnival of Annecy – on the Pont des Amours © French Moments


The Annecy Venetian Carnival: Facts and figures

Each year the Annecy Carnival:

  • gathers nearly 500 masks
  • draws about 70,000 visitors
  • takes place during three days (Friday-Saturday-Sunday) 
  • takes place 10 days after the Venice carnival
  • includes two days of free silent wandering in the old town (10am-6pm)
  • has been organised by the Association Rencontres Italie-Annecy (ARIA) since 1997
  • is an integral part of the “Venetian Week” (Semaine Vénitienne) organised by ARIA.
Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

At the Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments


Practical info!

In case of bad weather (rain or snow), people wearing masks will go under shelter! You’ll find them under the many old arcades in the old town or inside the Bonlieu Conference Centre. As soon as the weather permits it, they’ll back to the canals.

This makes the carnival of Annecy a free and enjoyable event for everyone.

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

The Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) were taking part in 2019!! © French Moments

In 2020 the 24th edition of the Annecy Venetian Carnival takes place from Friday 6 to Sunday 8 March.


What to do and see in Annecy?

Here’s a few ideas of what to see and do when visiting Annecy and its superb region!

 


Other Events in Annecy

The major cultural events in Annecy include:

  • the Marathon of Lake Annecy (April)
  • the Annecy International Animation Film Festival (June)
  • the Lake Festival, one of Europe’s biggest fireworks displays above the lake (August)
  • the Annecy Italian Film Festival (September)
  • the Return from the Alpine pastures (October)
  • the Saint-André Fair (1st Tuesday of December)
  • the Christmas Market (December)

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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. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French 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.

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