15 sites to discover around Annecy

2

Is it necessary to present Annecy and its lake with emerald waters in which the Alps are reflected? This tourist mecca in Savoie is indeed surprisingly charming and beautiful if you like water and mountains! But beyond the picturesque district of the Venice of the Alps and the lake, what are the sites to see in the region around Annecy? This is the subject of this article where I propose you discover 15 sites less than 40 km from the centre of Annecy!

Around Annecy

What does Annecy mean to you?

The old town with the Venice of the Alps district?

Annecy, our French base © French Moments

Annecy, the Venice of the Alps © French Moments

The romantic Pont des Amours?

Pont des Amours, Annecy © French Moments

Pont des Amours, Annecy © French Moments

Lake Annecy with its pure, sparkling waters?

Lake Annecy © French Moments

Lake Annecy © French Moments

The Venetian carnival?

Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

At the Annecy Venetian Carnival © French Moments

Tartiflette and other Savoyard specialities?

Return from the Alpine Pastures Festival, Annecy © French Moments

Tartiflette dish at the Festival, Annecy © French Moments

Annecy is all this… and much more!

But for now, let’s go outside the city walls to explore its surroundings…

And to do so, I decided to avoid the lake!

How?

Yes, simply because I have already published an article about it… and that would be repeating myself!

If you want to discover Lake Annecy, it’s here!

Or you can watch my presentation video on Youtube (in French!):


Staying in the region of Annecy

To plan your accommodation around Annecy, click on this link to booking.com or browse the map below:



Booking.com


What to see around Annecy?

Let’s get to the heart of the matter with 15 ideas for discoveries around Annecy.

Annecy is located in a dense and touristic area… to avoid having to write an encyclopaedia on the subject (!!), I have voluntarily limited myself to a small selection of 15 destinations within a 40 km radius maximum.

If you have any suggestions for visits around Annecy, please write them in the comments at the bottom of the article!

Here are the 15 sites we will discover around Annecy:

  1. Montrottier castle and the Fier gorges
  2. Alby-sur-Chéran
  3. Aix-les-Bains and the Bourget lake
  4. Clermont Castle
  5. Chaumont Castle
  6. The Caille bridges
  7. The Salève
  8. Geneva
  9. Thorens-Glières Castle
  10. Plateau des Glières
  11. La Roche-sur-Foron
  12. Thônes
  13. Le Grand-Bornand
  14. La Clusaz and the Col des Aravis
  15. Faverges

And as a bonus, the three mountains around Annecy:

  1. Parmelan
  2. Mont Veyrier
  3. Semnoz

To help you, I have included links to the corresponding tourist offices for most of the destinations around Annecy. Do not hesitate to go there to get personal information on natural or cultural sites to discover, hikes or the program of upcoming events.

Let’s start this little trip around Annecy with a site that is very close to the city centre and yet so out of the ordinary!


Castle of Montrottier

Castle 12 km south-west of Annecy

Around Annecy - The castle of Montrottier © French Moments

The castle of Montrottier © French Moments

Standing on an isolated hill, the castle of Montrottier is one of the most beautiful in Savoy. It dates back to the 13th and 16th centuries in a typical Savoyard military architectural style, then restored in the 19th century. In the Middle Ages, the fortress guarded the road from Geneva to Chambéry.

From the top of the circular keep (36 m), the view extends over the surrounding hills of the Albanais and the Alps: the Parmelan, the Mont Veyrier (and behind it a small part of the Mont-Blanc), the Dents de Lanfon and the Tournette.

The interior of the castle houses the vast collections bequeathed in 1916 by the collector Léon Marès to the Florimontane Academy: weapons, earthenware, porcelain, ceramics, tapestries, antique furniture and rare objects from Africa and the Far East.

Around Annecy - The castle of Montrottier © French Moments

The castle of Montrottier © French Moments

The site of the castle of Montrottier

The Fier gorges

Natural site 12 km south-west of Annecy

Around Annecy - Gorges of the Fier © French Moments

The Gorges of the Fier © French Moments

You will find the Gorges du Fier in the commune of Lovagny, below the castle of Montrottier.

For thousands of years, erosion has slowly carved out these famous gorges. In July 1869, footbridges were installed over the water.

Around Annecy - Gorges of the Fier © French Moments

The passageway in the Gorges of the Fier © French Moments

The passageway is suspended at a height of 20 to 30 metres and extends 252 metres above the river. It leads to the “Sea of Rocks”, a formation of huge boulders, piled up in chaos.

Around Annecy - Gorges of the Fier © French Moments

The “Sea of Rocks” © French Moments

The Gorges du Fier on the blog

The site of the Fier gorges


Alby-sur-Chéran

Historic town 15 km south of Annecy

Around Annecy - Alby-sur-Chéran © French Moments

The central square of Alby-sur-Chéran © French Moments

The centre of this small town of Alby-sur-Chéran is the Place du Trophée. The houses of the picturesque square have arcades that used to house shoemakers.

Around Annecy - Alby-sur-Chéran © French Moments

The arcades of Alby-sur-Chéran © French Moments

Indeed, in 1880, Alby-sur-Chéran was a capital of shoemaking, with a total of 300 shoemakers. The cobbler’s museum perpetuates the memory of this ancient activity.

Around Annecy - Alby-sur-Chéran © French Moments

The central square of Alby-sur-Chéran © French Moments

To be discovered in the vicinity:

  • the Albanais countryside, with its gentle green hills
  • its small capital, Rumilly, with its arcaded houses
  • the Pont des abîmes (bridge of the abyss) near Cusy
  • the Nature Museum in Gruffy in a 19th-century farmhouse.

The site of the Rumilly – Alby-sur-Chéran tourist office


Aix-les-Bains and Lake Bourget

Spa town and lake 35 km south of Annecy

Around Annecy - Aix-les-Bains © French Moments

Aix-les-Bains © French Moments

The spa town of Aix-les-Bains lies on the eastern shore of Lake Bourget.

Its visitors enjoy the elegant animation of the streets of the thermal district whose vestiges date back to the Roman era (caladium in the basement of the old thermal baths, arch of Campanus, Temple of Diana…).

Around Annecy - Aix-les-Bains © French Moments

The casino of Aix-les-Bains © French Moments

The banks of the lake offer charming walks with a view of the Dent du Chat. Boat cruises take you to the famous Hautecombe Abbey.

Around Annecy - Lake Bourget © French Moments

Lake Bourget © French Moments

To see in the immediate surroundings: Le Revard, “THE” mountain of Aix-les-Bains. The departmental road D913 climbs to the top to give you an exceptional panorama: to the west, the town of Aix-les-Bains, the Lac du Bourget, the Mont du Chat and to the east, the Bauges massif and the Mont Blanc.

Around Annecy - The view from the Revard © French Moments

The view from the Revard © French Moments

Aix-les-Bains on the blog

The Aix-les-Bains tourist office website


Castle of Clermont

Castle 29 km west of Annecy

Around Annecy - Village of Clermont © French Moments

Village of Clermont © French Moments

The village of Clermont occupies a beautiful site south of Frangy. The small town has one of the most beautiful Renaissance castles in Savoy. Although it looks austere, the castle of Clermont actually hides a magnificent Renaissance-style inner courtyard. This main courtyard is surrounded by three wings of double-storey galleries.

Around Annecy - Castle of Clermont © French Moments

The inner courtyard of Clermont Castle © French Moments

It took the Regard family 4 years to build the castle (1578-1582). It has been the property of the Haute-Savoie department since 1966.

Seyssel

At the end of your visit, you can also reach the village of Seyssel, 8 km east of Clermont.

Around Annecy - Seyssel © Florian Pépellin - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Seyssel © Florian Pépellin – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Watered by the Rhône, it is actually two villages: one in the Ain department, the other in Haute-Savoie. The two communes are linked by the Vierge Noire suspension bridge (1838-1840).

The Clermont castle website


Chaumont Castle

Castle 31 km northwest of Annecy

Around Annecy - The village of Chaumont © French Moments

The village of Chaumont © French Moments

The old castle of Chaumont overlooks the small village of the same name on a rocky promontory of the Vuache mountain.

Around Annecy - Chaumont (Haute-Savoie) © French Moments

The village of Chaumont (Haute-Savoie) © French Moments

The fortress dates back to the 12th century and guarded the north-western part of the Genevois County. In 1355, Chaumont passed into the hands of the House of Savoy. The troops of King François I took it in 1536, and then those of Louis XIII in 1630, when the castle was finally dismantled.

Around Annecy - The ruined castle of Chaumont © French Moments

The ruined castle of Chaumont © French Moments

The beautiful ruins can be visited with beautiful views of the village and the Alps.

On the road back to Annecy (D1508), there is a beautiful view of the castle of Sallenôves.

Around Annecy - castle of Sallenôves © French Moments

The castle of Sallenôves © French Moments


The bridges of the Caille

Monument 17 km north of Annecy

Around Annecy - Ponts de la Caille © French Moments

The pont de la Caille © French Moments

On the D1291 road which links Annecy to Geneva, you cross the Usses gorges by a spectacular bridge.

It is in fact two parallel bridges, known as “Ponts de la Caille“. The bridge used by the departmental road is the Caquot bridge dating back to 1925. The other bridge is the more interesting of the two – and the more historical too.

The Charles Albert Bridge is now reserved for pedestrians. It was built by Charles Albert, King of Sardinia, in the neo-gothic style with its two pairs of crenellated towers that support the bridge cables. When it was inaugurated, it was the highest suspension bridge in Savoy. It crosses the valley at a height of 140 metres.

Around Annecy - Ponts de la Caille © French Moments

The pont de la Caille © French Moments

Belvederes have been built around the bridge, offering thrill-seekers a great sense of space!

Ponts de la Caille on the blog


The Salève

Natural site 40 km north of Annecy

Around Annecy - Mont Salève © French Moments

Me enjoying the view from the Salève! © French Moments

The Salève is the “Mountain of the people of Geneva”. And rightly so, as it offers a breathtaking view of Geneva and its lake.

Salève mountain Geneva Genève

Lake Geneva from the Salève mountain © French Moments

The road that follows the crest of the mountain offers panoramic views of both the Lake Geneva basin and the Alps. Its highest point is the Grand Piton at 1,379 m.

Salève mountain © French Moments

Mont-Blanc seen from the Salève in Winter © French Moments

To discover the mountain, take the D41A road which climbs from Cruseilles to La Croisette. Then continue down to Monnetier-Morhex.

Salève mountain Mont-Blanc

The Mont-Blanc seen from the Salève mountain (near the telecommunications tower) © French Moments

The Salève on the blog…


Geneva (Switzerland)

City 40 km north of Annecy

Genève. Photo by Christoph Rohner [Public Domain]

Genève. Photo by Christoph Rohner [Public Domain]

Geneva is a Swiss city with a worldwide reputation. Indeed, along with New York and Strasbourg, it belongs to the exclusive club of three cities that host the headquarters of international organisations without being the capital of its own country (the capital of Switzerland is Bern).

The city’s emblem is the jet d’eau on Lake Geneva, whose water spouts out at a height of 140 m.

Salève mountain Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva from the Salève mountain © French Moments

Geneva has long been a Protestant city. In the city centre, you can see the Reformers’ Wall, the Flower Clock and St Peter’s Cathedral (12th-14th centuries).

Around Annecy - St Pierre cathedral of Geneva © Bernard Vogel - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

St Pierre cathedral of Geneva © Bernard Vogel – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

It is pleasant to stroll through the streets of the old town, typical of the architecture of an 18th-century city.

Flower clock in Geneva © Jose Manuel - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Flower clock in Geneva © Jose Manuel – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Geneva Tourist Office website


Castle of Thorens-Glières

Castle 20 km north of Annecy

Around Annecy - Castle of Thorens © French Moments

The historic Castle of Thorens © French Moments

Thorens-Glières is located at the end of the Filière valley which descends from the Plateau des Glières. The small village is the birthplace of François de Sales (21 August 1567) whose baptism took place in the parish church.

Around Annecy - The village of Thorens-Glières, birthplace of St. François de Sales © French Moments

The village of Thorens-Glières, birthplace of St. François de Sales © French Moments

The castle of Thorens-Glières, mostly from the 15th century, occupies the site of an older building (11th century). Its circular keep dates from the 13th century. Inside, there is a fine collection of paintings (Van Dyck, Rubens…) as well as 15th century Brussels tapestries. There is also the table on which the treaty annexing Savoy to France was signed.

Around Annecy - The countryside of Thorens-Glières © French Moments

The countryside of Thorens-Glières © French Moments


The Plateau des Glières

Natural site 34 km north-east of Annecy

Around Annecy - Plateau des Glières © French Moments

A walk in the Plateau des Glières in spring © French Moments

The Plateau des Glières is a popular place in winter for cross-country skiing and in summer for beautiful hikes in the mountains.

Around Annecy - the Plateau des Glières © French Moments

The Glières Pass © French Moments

The Maison du Plateau provides information on activities in the area.

The Plateau des Glières is a place of memory where the Resistance confronted the German occupiers with courage and heroism. Nearly 500 maquisards fought the enemy in 1944 under difficult conditions.

A monument is dedicated to them: the National Monument of the Resistance, inaugurated by André Malraux. It symbolises a broken wing and a sun of hope.

Around Annecy - The memorial of the Plateau des Glières © French Moments

The memorial of the Plateau des Glières © French Moments

The main access to the site is via Thorens-Glières (D55).

The plateau des Glières on the blog…

The site of the Glières mixed syndicate


La Roche-sur-Foron

Historic town and castle 30 km north of Annecy

La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

General view of La Roche-sur-Foron from the Route de Thorens © French Moments

The small town of La Roche-sur-Foron is a road and rail crossroads between Annecy, Geneva and the Arve valley (Bonneville, Cluses…). The town is now a member of the Most Beautiful Detours of France.

The old centre is very picturesque with its arcades and old Savoyard houses.

La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

Rue Perrine, La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

The Saint-Jean-Baptiste church, with its bulbous bell tower, contains some treasures, including a precious Lombard-Piedmontese organ. The construction of the church began in the 13th century.

La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

The old town of La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

On the rocky spur (“la roche”), stands the keep of the powerful castle known as the tower of the Counts of Geneva.

La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

The ruined castle of La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

The remains border the park of the Château de l’Echelle, a four-hectare public garden with a magnificent view of the Arve valley and the snow-capped mountains.

La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

View of the Alps from La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

At the end of the park is another castle: the 14th-century Château de l’Echelle.

La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

The Echelle Castle in La Roche-sur-Foron © French Moments

La Roche-sur-Foron Tourist Office website


Thônes

Historic town 20 km east of Annecy

Around Annecy - Thônes © French Moments

Thônes © French Moments

On the road from Annecy to the Aravis, the small town of Thônes is worth a stop. We are here in the heart of the Reblochon region, the famous cheese from Savoie!

Head towards the central square to stroll under the arcades of the old houses.

Around Annecy - Thônes © French Moments

The arcades of Thônes © French Moments

Around Annecy - Thônes © French Moments

Under the arcades of Thônes © French Moments

Then admire the church (1697) and its beautiful bell tower with an onion-shaped dome topped by a sharp spire. Inside, the decoration is typically Savoyard Baroque. The monumental altarpiece of the high altar dates from 1721. The altar to the left of the choir has beautiful 17th century sculpted figures.

Nearby is the Nécropole Nationale des Glières, a place of remembrance which contains the graves of 105 resistance fighters who fought on the Glières plateau during the Second World War.

You can also venture into the Serraval valley via the Col du Marais (D12) or discover the mountain pastures of Manigod up to the Col de la Croix-Fry.

The website of the tourist office of Thônes – Cœur des Vallées


Le Grand-Bornand

Resort 31 km east of Annecy

Around Annecy - Grand-Bornand © Gegeours - licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Grand-Bornand © Gegeours – licence [CC BY-SA 3.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Le Grand-Bornand is a pleasant place to stay, occupying one of the most open and sunny sites in the Aravis. Nearly 400 old chalets are scattered throughout the commune. The church has magnificently carved walnut stalls.

In a farmhouse dating from 1830 is the small museum of the Maison du Patrimoine. It promises a nice visit if you are interested in the life of Grand-Bornand in the past.

Finally, the Mont Lachat chairlift is one of the few lifts around Annecy that operates during the summer season. It takes you to the top of Mont Lachat de Chatillon at an altitude of 2050 m. Unbeatable view of the Aravis mountain range.

The Grand-Bornand tourist office website


La Clusaz

Resort 31 km east of Annecy

Around Annecy - La Clusaz © French Moments

The resort of La Clusaz © French Moments

La Clusaz is one of the most important winter sports resorts of the Aravis. It is situated in a charming setting of pine forests and gently rolling mountain pastures.

The old village is centred around its church with its beautiful bulbous bell tower.

Around Annecy - La Clusaz © French Moments

The church of La Clusaz © French Moments

Col des Aravis

Natural site 39 km east of Annecy

Around Annecy - Col des Aravis © French Moments

The arrival at the Col des Aravis © French Moments

The Aravis pass is, at 1498 m, one of the great passes of the French Alps, linking Thônes to Flumet.

It marks the boundary between the departments of Haute-Savoie (to the west) and Savoie (to the east).

An excursion to be made especially in the afternoon to admire the sunlight illuminating the Mont Blanc glaciers!

Around Annecy - Col des Aravis © French Moments

Mont Blanc from the Col des Aravis © French Moments

La Clusaz tourist office website


Faverges

Town and castle 25 km south-east of Annecy

Around Annecy - Castle of Faverges © B. Brassoud - licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Castle of Faverges © B. Brassoud – licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Faverges is a pleasant little town on the route from Annecy to Albertville. The small town centre is dominated by the old 13th-century castle (remodelled in the 15th century). It stands proudly on a hillock that was once located on the border of the counties of Geneva and Savoy.

Its circular keep is one of the highest in Savoy (32 metres). It has recently been restored with the addition of a hoarding and a wooden viewing gallery.

South of Faverges, the Sambuy chairlift takes you to the heart of the combe de la Sambuy with a view of Lake Annecy and Mont Blanc.

The Sources du Lac d’Annecy tourist office website


The three emblematic mountains of Annecy

You can discover Annecy from above. To do this, you have to reach the summits of three mountains in the immediate vicinity: Parmelan, Mont Veyrier and Semnoz. Here is a brief overview of the breathtaking panoramas!

The Parmelan

North of Annecy – altitude: 1,856 m / 6,089 ft

Around Annecy - The Parmelan mountain © French moments

The summit of Parmelan © French moments

The Parmelan can be seen from many places in Annecy, and in particular from the quays of the lake. Its summit looks like a formidable wall of cliffs about 200 metres high.

The Parmelan culminates at 1,856 meters of altitude and one can start the ascent from a car park on the heights of the village of Villaz (or from the side of Dingy-Saint-Clair, which is longer).

The Parmelan mountain © French moments

The valley of Dingy-Saint-Clair © French Moments

From the top, there is a beautiful view of the town and its agglomeration, but the lake is partly hidden by the Mont Veyrier.

Annecy seen from the Parmelan summit © French Moments

Annecy seen from the Parmelan summit © French Moments

The panorama extends over the Bauges plateau below, the Salève and the Jura mountains opposite, on the western side. On the east side, Mont Blanc dominates the Alpine landscape, above the sharp peaks of the Aravis.

Around Annecy - The Parmelan mountain © French moments

Mont Blanc from the Parmelan mountain © French moments

Mount Veyrier

East of Annecy – altitude: 1,291 m / 4,235 ft

Mount Baret, Mount Veyrier and Mount Baron seen from Saint-Jorioz © French Moments

Mount Baret, Mount Veyrier and Mount Baron seen from Saint-Jorioz © French Moments

Mont Veyrier and its sidekick, Mont Baron (1,299 m), dominate the eastern shore of Lake Annecy with its prodigious cliffs.

Around Annecy - Mount Veyrier © French Moments

Reaching the top of Mount Veyrier © French Moments

The climb from Annecy is tough but the effort can be reduced by driving up to the Col des Contrebandiers.

The balcony path along the mountain ridge offers an almost uninterrupted view of Lake Annecy, the Semnoz and the Bauges massif.

Around Annecy - Mount Veyrier © French Moments

At the top of Mount Veyrier © French Moments

With binoculars, it is easy to see the old town of Annecy with its “Venice of the Alps” district.

Around Annecy - Mount Veyrier © French Moments

Annecy from Mount Veyrier © French Moments

Sometimes, a few glimpses to the east allow you to see Mont Blanc and the Aravis.

Around Annecy - Mount Veyrier © French Moments

Mont blanc and the Aravis from Mount Veyrier © French Moments

The Semnoz

South of Annecy – altitude: 1,702 m / 5584 ft

Lake Annecy from Talloires © French Moments

Mount Semnoz from Lake Annecy © French Moments

The Semnoz is a 16 km long mountain and is part of the Bauges massif. For many people in Annecy, it is the green lung of the town thanks to its magnificent forests (including the Crêt de Maure forest).

Autumn in the Semnoz © French Moments

Autumn walk in the Semnoz forest © French Moments

Its highest point is at the Crêt de Châtillon at 1,702 metres. This is high enough to enjoy one of the most beautiful panoramas in the northern Alps.

Semnoz © French Moments

The road leading to the summit of the Semnoz © French Moments

An orientation table allows you to spot the main peaks and massifs of the Alps, the Jura and the Massif Central. However, it is not possible to see the city of Annecy, only the western extremities of the town are visible.

Semnoz © French Moments

The orientation table looking to the East, Semnoz © French Moments

Moreover, it is the only mountain in the immediate vicinity of Annecy whose summit is accessible by car.

The Semnoz on the blog…


Practical information

Some practical advice for discovering the sites around Annecy:

The huge traffic jams to get out of / back to Annecy can be avoided by driving outside of rush hour, especially if you use the western ring road. Unfortunately, in summer, you can expect traffic jams at any time of the day on the shores of Lake Annecy.

These 15 sites are an inspiration for you to discover the region around Annecy (less than 40 km by road). Let yourself be surprised by other discoveries during your escapades and stay curious! There is so much to discover, especially if you are a lover of small heritage.

Don’t hesitate to enter the offices of the tourist offices. The receptionists I met during my travels in Lorraine know the area and will be happy to help you discover their beautiful region.

Organise your accommodation in the region around Annecy here.

Visiting the region around Annecy? Think of the following hashtags: #ilakeannecy – #savoiemontblanc – #enfranceaussi – #frenchmoments

Other blog posts that might interest you


 

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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".

2 Comments

  1. William Marks (Bill) on

    I loved Annecy, but only spent two days there. It is obvious that it should have been two months. It is an incredibly beautiful city.

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