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!
What does Annecy mean to you?
The old town with the Venice of the Alps district?
The romantic Pont des Amours?
Lake Annecy with its pure, sparkling waters?
The Venetian carnival?
Tartiflette and other Savoyard specialities?
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!
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:
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:
- Montrottier castle and the Fier gorges
- Aix-les-Bains and the Bourget lake
- Clermont Castle
- Chaumont Castle
- The Caille bridges
- The Salève
- Thorens-Glières Castle
- Plateau des Glières
- La Roche-sur-Foron
- Le Grand-Bornand
- La Clusaz and the Col des Aravis
And as a bonus, the three mountains around Annecy:
- Mont Veyrier
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
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.
The Fier gorges
Natural site 12 km south-west of Annecy
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.
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.
Historic town 15 km south of Annecy
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.
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.
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.
Aix-les-Bains and Lake Bourget
Spa town and lake 35 km south of Annecy
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…).
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.
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.
Castle of Clermont
Castle 29 km west of Annecy
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.
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.
At the end of your visit, you can also reach the village of Seyssel, 8 km east of Clermont.
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).
Castle 31 km northwest of Annecy
The old castle of Chaumont overlooks the small village of the same name on a rocky promontory of the Vuache mountain.
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.
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.
The bridges of the Caille
Monument 17 km north of Annecy
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.
Belvederes have been built around the bridge, offering thrill-seekers a great sense of space!
Natural site 40 km north of Annecy
The Salève is the “Mountain of the people of Geneva”. And rightly so, as it offers a breathtaking view of Geneva and its lake.
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.
To discover the mountain, take the D41A road which climbs from Cruseilles to La Croisette. Then continue down to Monnetier-Morhex.
City 40 km north of Annecy
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.
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).
It is pleasant to stroll through the streets of the old town, typical of the architecture of an 18th-century city.
Castle of Thorens-Glières
Castle 20 km north of Annecy
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.
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.
The Plateau des Glières
Natural site 34 km north-east of Annecy
The Plateau des Glières is a popular place in winter for cross-country skiing and in summer for beautiful hikes in the mountains.
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.
The main access to the site is via Thorens-Glières (D55).
Historic town and castle 30 km north of Annecy
The old centre is very picturesque with its arcades and old Savoyard houses.
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.
On the rocky spur (“la roche”), stands the keep of the powerful castle known as the tower of the Counts of Geneva.
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.
At the end of the park is another castle: the 14th-century Château de l’Echelle.
Historic town 20 km east of Annecy
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.
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.
Resort 31 km east of Annecy
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.
Resort 31 km east of Annecy
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.
Col des Aravis
Natural site 39 km east of Annecy
The Aravis pass is, at 1498 m, one of the great passes of the French Alps, linking Thônes to Flumet.
An excursion to be made especially in the afternoon to admire the sunlight illuminating the Mont Blanc glaciers!
Town and castle 25 km south-east of Annecy
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.
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!
North of Annecy – altitude: 1,856 m / 6,089 ft
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).
From the top, there is a beautiful view of the town and its agglomeration, but the lake is partly hidden by the Mont Veyrier.
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.
East of Annecy – altitude: 1,291 m / 4,235 ft
Mont Veyrier and its sidekick, Mont Baron (1,299 m), dominate the eastern shore of Lake Annecy with its prodigious cliffs.
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.
With binoculars, it is easy to see the old town of Annecy with its “Venice of the Alps” district.
Sometimes, a few glimpses to the east allow you to see Mont Blanc and the Aravis.
South of Annecy – altitude: 1,702 m / 5584 ft
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).
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.
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.
Moreover, it is the only mountain in the immediate vicinity of Annecy whose summit is accessible by car.
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
- Visit Annecy: the Venice of the Alps
- A discovery guide to Lake Annecy: Place to see and Things to do
- The historical and cultural region of Savoie
- The website of the Tourist Office of Lake Annecy
- The Annecy Mountains website
- Accommodation ideas in the region around Annecy
- More about Savoie and Haute-Savoie on the Savoie-Mont-Blanc website