One Day in Annecy Itinerary: A Day Trip from Geneva

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by Brittany Scott-Gunfield

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Annecy is a beautiful French Alpine city just 50 km south of Geneva, with a beautiful old town showcasing its unique architecture amongst the canals, as well as an enormous lake and lush mountains all around, waiting for you to explore over one day in Annecy. Nicknamed the Venice of the Alps due to its canals, but with the splendour of Monaco, you won’t be short of things to do on your Annecy itinerary, making for a perfect day trip from Geneva.

How Many Days in Annecy?

There are plenty of things to do in Annecy, however, it’s also a beautiful place to simply walk around and enjoy the pastel colours of the buildings in the old town and the incredible blue of the famous lake and summer sky, interrupted by the green of the surrounding mountains.

In one day, you can explore the old town on foot and enjoy a picnic by the lake, either in the city park or on one of the beautiful beaches on the shores of Lake Annecy.

However, if you have 2 days or a weekend in Annecy, you can also enjoy a hike up to one of the mountain tops in the French Alps for a spectacular view of Lake Annecy, the city and other small towns in the distance.

Ultimately, how many days to spend in Annecy depends on how much time you want to spend adventuring through the magnificent natural landscape.

Town of Annecy
Town of Annecy

Getting To & Around Annecy

If you’re taking a day trip to Annecy from Geneva, you can drive South for 50 km on the A41 to be there in less than an hour.

Do be aware that, although Switzerland is part of the Schengen Area, you may still need to show your ID to pass its borders and you have to pay a road tax to drive on Swiss motorways.

You can also find plenty of parking in Annecy, with a 24-hour car park by the central train station.

The train is an equally simple option, with Swiss Railways trains taking just over an hour and departing regularly throughout the day to arrive at Annecy train station, which is within walking distance from the old town and city centre.

Or, you can take a slightly cheaper and shorter journey with Flixbus or Blablabus, or car-share with Blablacar to save even more and take the opportunity of talking to a local to practise your French and find out some of the Haute-Savoie’s hidden gems.

If you prefer to go on an organised Annecy day trip from Geneva, you can take this half-day tour or this half-day tour that takes care of the planning for you.

You can also travel to Annecy from Lyon, with direct trains taking about 2 hours and the drive taking about as much time. This makes visiting from Lyon another great option. You can view train schedules here.

Our route doesn’t venture far out of the old town, which covers an area of a few kilometres, so you can easily walk around it in a day, however, there is a comprehensive bus system in the city, called Sibra, to make it easier to reach the modern centre and outskirts.

You can also rent bikes all over Annecy, with one company, Vélonecy, offering reasonably priced bike rentals per hour or day so you can get around the centre more quickly or venture out on the cycle paths around the lake.

Streets of Annecy at night
Streets of Annecy at night

1 Day in Annecy Itinerary

A day is the ideal amount of time to spend strolling along the quaint streets and canals of the old town, before visiting a museum and enjoying a picnic by the lake or a boat trip around Lake Annecy to get a different perspective.

Old Town of Annecy

Annecy Old Town is a beautiful area on one edge of the lake, with Le Thiou Canal running through its heart and smaller streams separating the streets, creating an intricate patchwork of bridges and passageways throughout.

As you spend the beginning of your day in Annecy, notice the colourful houses jutting out over some of the canals, including some ‘hôtels particuliers’ owned by notable families of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Enjoy breakfast in one of the many cafes and restaurants in the area or make a mental note of somewhere to come back to for lunch or dinner to enjoy the gastronomic scene in the city and tuck into some fondue or a tartiflette.

If you visit Annecy in February, you might be lucky enough to see the Venetian carnival; a parade of performers in traditional Venetian costumes who silently walk through the old town streets over one weekend. The costumes are remarkable and well worth stopping by for a photo.

However, if you’re visiting in July, you can enjoy arts festivals that descend on the whole city and admire the sculptures hidden around the street corners, as well as performers and poets.

Canals in Annecy
Canals in Annecy

Cathédrale Saint-Pierre

One of the highlights of Annecy’s old town that you can enjoy all year round is Saint Peter’s Cathedral.

Having originally been constructed in the 16th century, due to damage and reparations you can see the contrast between the Gothic interior, shown through the bright stained glass windows and the beautiful symmetry of the Renaissance exterior.

Inside, you can take a moment to cool off from the summer sun while admiring the architecture and catch a glimpse of the enormous 19th-century organ that stands over 7 metres tall. 

Pont Morens

As you continue wandering the old town streets, towards the second stop on your Annecy day trip itinerary, pass over the pretty Pont Morens. From this delightful old bridge with a weir, you can enjoy wonderful views along the canal lined with colourful houses and charming bars and restaurants.

Musée-Château d’Annecy

There are three main museums in Annecy: the Musée-Château d’Annecy, Palais de L’Île and Le Musée du Film d’Animation. However, each museum is relatively small and only a short walk from each other, so you can visit at least two of them in one afternoon.

Just a 4-minute walk from Le Thiou is Annecy’s castle which has been converted into a museum. With numerous artefacts as well as centuries-old paintings and a collection of contemporary art, the Musée-Château d’Annecy has a lot to offer everyone with any kind of historical or artistic interest.

Having formerly served as the official residence of the counts of Geneva – there were many noblemen living in the Duchy of Savoy area so the château changed hands over the centuries – the mediaeval castle was expertly restored into the striking building we see today.

Le Palais de L’Île

Heading back down to the centre of the old town and following Le Thiou, you’ll come across a curious medieval castle sitting in the middle of the canal. Built in the 1100s on top of a natural rocky island in the canal, this small palace has served many different purposes over the centuries.

A prison numerous times in the last millennia, the palace was a mint for the Count of Geneva in the 1300s and was transformed into a courthouse in the late 1500s. In the mid-1800s the palace was briefly a home for the elderly, and more recently a boarding school for carpenters and stone carvers.

You can see evidence of the Island Palace’s long history in its architecture, as additions were made over the years to optimise the palace for its new purposes, before undergoing restoration works in the 1980s and 2016.

Now, the palace is an art and history museum, where you can learn about the island’s history, visit its chapel and see how the 14th-century gold and silver mint worked.

Le Palais de L’Île

Le Musée du Film d’Animation

Definitely check out the Animated Film Museum, 10 minutes walking southeast of the château or the palace, as it’s free all year long.

Visually detailing the history of animated images and moving pictures, the museum takes visitors on a journey through the history of film and into the minds of the creatives who developed the art form.

Thanks to this museum, which also has a large collection of loaned objects from other countries, Annecy is now a European hub of animation, with its international animated film festival taking place at the beginning of June each year, drawing huge crowds from all over the world.

Lake Annecy

After spending most of your day in the old town and historical sites, it’s time to see the lake.

Shop in Monoprix for a budget-friendly picnic, or find nearby some small shops selling wonderful homemade takeaway meals such as octopus salads, rice dishes and sausages. You can also stop by the Pierre Gay fromagerie for some delicious local cheeses.

Plage des Marquisats

One of the most popular and easy-to-reach beaches on the lake is the Plage des Marquisats, just a 10-minute walk away from the centre towards the South. It can become busy in summer, but this small beach reaching into the crystal clear waters of one of the cleanest lakes in Europe is a great place to have a picnic on a sunny afternoon and venture out for a paddle.

You don’t have to pay to sit at the beach and there are snack bars as well as toilets and showers, so it’s a practical spot to spend a lot of time too.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Annecy on the first Saturday of August, you can watch the huge 2-hour-long fireworks show with music over the lake from here as well!

Jardins de l’Europe

If you’re only having one day in Annecy so don’t want to lug wet clothes around with you, you can have your picnic in the Jardins de l’Europe behind the town hall.

This beautiful park full of trees and small birds gives you stunning views of the lake, with two fountains and a small wild island close to the shore, in front of the statue of French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet from Talloires, on the opposite side of the lake.

The Jardins de l’Europe are a great spot for a picnic as the trees provide a lot of shade and the small friendly birds will come by to pick up your crumbs.

From here you can cross the Pont des Amours to reach Le Pâquier d’Annecy, a large green with walkways through if you want to spend the rest of your afternoon basking in the sun or joining in a football match.

On this side of the lake, there are also a few boat rental agencies so if you have time you can rent a motorboat or pedalo and enjoy your afternoon on the lake.

View of Jardins de l'Europe
View of Jardins de l’Europe

Have 2 or 3 Days in Annecy?

One of the best things to do around Annecy is to hike up the surrounding hills and mountains to get a stunning view over the lake. If you walk for 40 minutes or take a bus to the opposite side of the lake, a path comes off Avenue de Chavoires leading up the mountain with options of different routes with varying difficulty.

It takes 1 hour to reach Sous Pré Vernet, 1 hour 15 to Talabar, 2 hours 40 to Mont Veyrier and 2 hours 55 to Mont Baron. Be wary, however, if there are fast and slow routes to the same point, the faster routes will be more direct and thus significantly steeper.

If you’ve got 2 days in Annecy and want to get out and about around the lake, there is a 25 km cycle route around the lake which you can enjoy, or simply follow the winding roads. You can even take an organised cycle if you prefer to go with a guide.

Thanks to the Tour de France regularly coming through Annecy, with the famous hairpin bends of the Alpe d’Huez not too far away, the roads are very well-kept and suited for all cyclists regardless of experience.

Another option is to spend one day or at least an afternoon out on the lake, so rent any kind of water transport, from motorboats, speedboats and catamarans to pedalos, kayaks and canoes; there are plenty of ways to enjoy the gorgeous lake, just don’t forget your sunscreen.

If you’re a watersports enthusiast and the wind is favourable, you can even rent wing foils or do stand-up paddle yoga in the lake!

If you’re spending a week in the Alps or more than 3 days, you can also drive for around 20 minutes westwards to spend time exploring the spectacular Fier Gorges, with the amazing Château de Montrottier which you can visit.

You can also time your visit to Annecy with the food market that takes place every Wednesday in the Place des Romains for the freshest of picnics, or to simply see the city streets come alive.

Lake Annecy
Lake Annecy

Where to Stay in Annecy

Hôtel du Château – This cosy hotel in the centre of Annecy is a great choice for mid-range travellers. There are a number of comfortable rooms to choose from and there is also a continental breakfast available each morning.

Allobroges Park Hôtel – Another lovely hotel in the centre of Annecy, this one has a range of wonderful, clean and comfortable rooms on offer, a delightful terrace to enjoy, breakfast available in the mornings and a restaurant/bar on site.

Aparthotel Adagio – Those after a comfortable self-catering option in Annecy will love this centrally-located aparthotel. They have a number of fully-furnished flats available, ranging in size, and plenty of other amenities to ensure guests have a great stay.

Annecy Hostel – Budget and solo travellers will love this hostel. Centrally located close to all Annecy has to offer, they have both private rooms and dorm beds available along with great common areas and good self-catering facilities.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Annecy hotels!

Annecy may be well known as a beautiful Alpine city, but it’s by no means overloaded with tourists and remains an extraordinary city to visit. Whether you have a week in the Alps or just one day to explore Annecy, you’re sure to fall in love with this dazzling city surrounded by incredible scenery.

Are you planning to visit Annecy? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Brittany is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Colchester, England, she is slowly but surely travelling the world as a digital nomad. She loves to hike around different landscapes and has a deep love for travelling around France (and elsewhere in Europe).

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