A weekend getaway to Annecy: Outdoor adventure, fabulous food and happy French people

Sea, Sex and Sun has gotten old: Welcome to Fromage, Fun and French Happiness, aka Annecy. It’s no secret that the French are known for their je ne sais quoi, but one thing they’re not known for is smiling. So when you hear that Annecy is one of the happiest cities in France, you know it must be some sort of Shangri-la.

You might even see a French person smile (gasp!).

Maybe it’s the stunning views, the delicious food, or the outdoor adventures. Or maybe it’s just that the people of Annecy have discovered the secret to happiness – enjoying the simple things in life, like a good baguette and a beautiful view.

Right by the Swiss and Italian borders. Annecy has become a popular tourist destination due to its stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and vibrant atmosphere. Whether you are looking for a relaxing weekend getaway or an action-packed adventure, Annecy has something to offer for everyone.

I was staying at Le Clos Marcel, a 20-minute car ride from Annecy. It was a lovely spa hotel located by the lake: the sauna was great to unwind in after exploring the city and doing outdoor activities, and paddle boarding at dawn is a memory I’m not ready to forget.

Outdoor activities

Annecy is nestled in the French Alps, which means that outdoor enthusiasts have plenty of opportunities to explore. Whether you’re hiking or skiing (check out La Clusaz), cycling around the lake, or paragliding over it, the views are nothing short of stunning.

When I was there I cycled around the lake and it was such a beautiful ride, I really could not recommend it more. ​​You can rent a bike from several places in
Annecy, including Lake Annecy Bike Rental and Hertz Ride.

The price of a rental bike varies depending on the type of bike and the duration of the rental. If you’re not up for the full 42-kilometer loop, you can also just rent a bike for a shorter period and explore the lake’s nearby villages and towns.

Cycling around the lake takes approximately two-to-four hours, depending on your pace and how many stops you make along the way. The route is mostly flat and easy to navigate, with several rest stops and picnic areas along the way.

You’ll pass by charming villages like Veyrier-du-Lac and Talloires, each offering their own unique charm
and beauty. The stunning views of the lake and the mountains are a sight to behold. For those who prefer a more leisurely pace, Annecy is home to several parks and gardens, including the Jardins de l’Europe, the Jardins de l’Impératrice, and the Jardins de Léman. These gardens are perfect for a relaxing stroll or picnic, and offer breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and lake.

La crème de la crème

But let’s be real – one of the best things about any trip to France is the food, and Annecy does not disappoint. The town is known for its delicious cheeses, like Reblochon and Tomme de Savoie, which pair perfectly with a fresh baguette.

And if you’ve got a sweet tooth, the patisseries here are out of this world. The buttery croissants, flaky pastries, and decadent tarts will have you reaching for your stretchy pants in no time. Le Fournil de Cyril is one the most popular patisseries in town, but you really can’t go wrong with any of them.

A cultural playground

Of course, no trip to Annecy would be complete without soaking up some culture. The Vieille Ville, or old town, is a maze of charming cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and picturesque canals. Visit the Musée-Château d’Annecy for some European art and history, or check out the stunning architecture of Église Notre-Dame-de-Liesse and Église Saint-Maurice, two of the town’s most beautiful churches.

And if you’re lucky enough to be in town during the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, you’re in for a treat. It’s like Cannes, but with more cartoons and fewer celebrities (unless you count the voices
behind the animated characters). This year, the animation festival runs from 11 thru 17 June.

Last but not least, let us not forget the Annecy Carnival, during which the town comes alive with music, dance, and colorful costumes during this annual celebration.

A glimpse into the future ….

So, you’ve spent a weekend in Annecy – what’s next? Well, first off, you’re going to need some time to recover from all the cheese and wine (trust me, it’s worth it). But after that, you’ll probably find yourself daydreaming about the stunning views, the thrill of paragliding and the charming streets of the old town.

You might even catch yourself practicing your French, in the hopes of fitting in with the happy locals. And who knows – maybe you’ll even start planning your next trip back to Annecy before you’ve even left.

One thing’s for sure – Annecy will leave you with unforgettable memories and a longing to return to this
enchanting town in the heart of the French Alps.


Read more about France in Dispatches’ archives here.

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Charlotte Laborie grew up in England, Belgium and Switzerland. Charlotte then moved to Paris and graduated from Sciences Po Paris. She is still based in Paris, where she works in marketing.

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