Visiting the beautiful French city of Annecy and its surroundings for historical sites and the famous lake festival on its 150th anniversary
Annecy is made beautiful by a combination of historical buildings from the Middle Ages and canal networks which snake through the old part of the city. Arcaded streets filled with restaurants and cobbles provide further interest and the banks of the Thiou Canal run down through the city’s main park and out under Lovers Bridge into the crystal clear waters of Lake Annecy. If that wasn’t pleasant enough, the Lake itself is situated against the backdrop of the Alps which dominate the surrounding landscape. Life is also made considerably easier by the fact that everything is within walking distance. Annecy is magical place at any time but I was here for the 150th anniversary of the lake festival or Fete Du Lac, it promised to be an incredibly special day.
Les Gorges du Fier
74330 LOVAGNY FRANCE
Tel : +33 (0)4 50 46 23 07
Fax : +33(0)4 50 09 85 37
The festival would come later that evening but my first stop of the day was at Les Gorges du Fier which lies ten kilometres away near the small village of Lovagny (buses are available from Annecy, take the line #1 to Poisy then change for #12 to Lovagny. From the bus stop to the Gorges du Fier you'll have to walk about 1km). The Gorge is navigated by walking on a network of metal platforms attached to the sides of it. It is a little difficult to navigate for someone not totally at ease with heights (like myself), but it creates an impressive sight as you hear the roar of the water and then look down to find it raging below you.
As you continue through the gorge there are a number of things to look for, such as ghostly faces in the rock and the local legend that surrounds it. It is a wonderfully enchanting place and very easy to believe it hosts enchantments and magic within its boundaries. The small entry fee of 5 euros makes it an unmissable place to visit for a few hours. The 13th century Château de Montrottier, is located nearby for those wishing to continue their exploration of the local legends.
Phone :33 (0)4 50 46 23 02
Fax : 33(0)4 50 46 11 48
Both the Gorge and Chateau are open daily but check opening times as they vary between seasons.
As well as the general ornate beauty of the city, Annecy also has a couple of places of historical interest. Situated in the old town is the castle built originally in the eleventh century by the Prince of Savoy. Parts of the castle are of different ages but it is well worth a look. Aside from the towers it also houses a number of different art exhibitions which range in subject matter but are generally modern in theme. At my time of visiting they had a massive animation exhibition on show. Entry to the castle is 4.90 euros. A double ticket can also be bought which lets you into both the castle and the Palais de I’lle for around 6.50 euros (the other notable historical building to visit in Annecy).
The Palais de I’lle is the symbol of Annecy and is a small prison constructed in the 17th century in the middle of one of the canals. The building is connected to the banks by two small bridges and resembles a small chateau. It is impossible to miss as you wander the streets and helps give the place yet more unique charm and character.
Where to Eat
Bleu de toi
2, place ST-Francoise
There is no shortage of restaurants and food outlets in Annecy but my personal recommendation is the excellent ‘Bleu de toi’ creperie. It is located a few metres away from the canal bridge which overlooks the Palais de I’lle at Place St-Francois. It is a perfect place to get lunch and large amounts of ice-cream. The menu is very reasonable with stuffed pancakes between six and nine euros. Furthermore, unlike many of the restaurants in Annecy they serve food all day and not just between 12 and 2. Being situated just away from the main mass of people also makes it easier it find a place to sit.
The Fete Du Lac
The Fete Du Lac is a festival held every year on the first weekend in August to celebrate the city's relationship with the lake and people flock from all over Europe to attend it. Despite this I did not find any trouble getting a parking space a few hundred metres away from the lake near the justice building. It is also worth noting that while Annecy was busier than usual there was never any problem getting into places.
The festival takes the form of a massive fireworks display across the lake set against thematic music and the impressive backdrop of the Alps. It is important to note that the park area near the lake is completely closed and emptied at the time the event begins to draw near. In order to experience the display inside the barriers you need to buy a ticket, these range massively in price but a place can be purchased on the grass for as little as eight euros and there were still tickets available up to about an hour before the show started.
Tickets can be bought from tourist information or in advance from the Annecy website (www.annecy.fr/). If you don’t get a ticket there isn’t much to worry about as you can see the main fireworks display clearly from the roadside and many people choose this option instead.
The display itself was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. Lasting an hour the sky was continually lit up with the most amazing array of colourful explosions which continued to impress from start to incredible finish. The music ranged from movie themes to classic and nautical numbers and was a great accompaniment to the perfectly choreographed fireworks. The display was made all the more spectacular by the reflections shimmering on the lake and the imposing mountain range.
When the show finally came to a finish the whole place erupted in applause and everyone knew they had just witnessed something truly special. For anyone who loves the spectacular it was simply the only place to be on that night.
Where to Stay
It is a good few Kilometres away from Annecy but by far the best value place I have found to stay in the Savoy region is the campsite near Chamonix named Camping Du Glacier d'Argentier. The campsite offers decent facilities such as clean showers, toilets and electrical points. The rate is astoundingly cheap with a pitch costing twenty-two euros a night for three people, two tents and a car. Absolutely unbelievable considering it is located in a key tourist spot and it was the height of the summer season. It is highly recommended, there are transport links to Annecy via the train station in Chamonix.
For those looking to stay closer to Annecy (or not enthusiastic about the idea of camping), there are a wealth of charming and ornate hotels to choose from. Hotel Splendid and Hotel Du Nord are two such hotels. They both offer comfortable rooms at reasonable prices which will allow you experience the charms of the city without travelling from the Chamonix Valley.
Hotel Du Nord
24, rue sommeiller,
Quai Eustache Chappuis,