Is 2 days in Annecy enough? What to do in Annecy, France

We spent 2.5 days in Annecy, France. Was it enough? Read on for my must-do activities, and the alpine dish you can’t miss!

I visited Annecy this past June. How I had come to hear about the lovely little jewel that is Annecy, France is a bit of story in itself.

Years ago, not long after moving to Denver, my husband (then boyfriend) and I were sipping cocktails strolling along what we Denverites know as the Santa Fe Art Walk. It’s a street festival occurring on the 1st Friday of each month, showcasing artisans and art galleries. There are some very cool curated vintage stores there, and one summer evening in one of these shops, we decided we were both called to the framed travel poster you see below. It hung on our wall for at least a year before I decided to look up the place in the artwork – it was Annecy, France.

The art that eventually led us to Annecy (top) and posing on some abandoned furniture adjacent Denver’s Santa Fe Art Walk (right)

Fast forward to planning our 18 day Euro trip years later. We had settled on Lisbon, Ischia, and Paris. 

“Do you think we could squeeze it in without being too rushed?” I nodded at the picture on the wall.”

“I’m down if if you’re down” agreed my then fiancé. And it was settled. We’d fly into Geneva and spend 2 nights, 3 days in Annecy, then take the train to Paris. A smaller alpine city on a lake, it seemed like the perfect compliment to the rest of the trip, and a good alternative to the overly-popular Lake Como.

I didn’t do much planning for our 2.5 days in Annecy, aside from accommodations. We did not have a plan to get from Geneva airport to Annecy. While there are some trains and bus routes that go to Annecy from Geneva, we had been through a long enough travel day and when I arrived at the Geneva airport and looked at the train times, then considered cabbing to the separate train station, then the 1.5 hour train journey vs the 40 minute car journey, we ultimately decided it was worth it to just call an Uber. It ran about 90 euro in a Swiss-driven BMW (though I heard French operated might be cheaper) and looked like we went through a toll booth at the Swiss-French border, which we didn’t get billed for.

Day 1: Arrive to hotel. Explore Annecy Old Town. Try Raclette.

We decided to stay right in the Old Town, which I highly recommend. We were able to walk everywhere, and we were surrounded by anything we might need. After arriving at the Hotel Apitik, a well-appointed, cute but no-frills little hotel in the middle of town, we washed up- to immediately head back out and see the town! 

The most famous landmark in Annecy, the Palais de l’île

View from our balcony at the Hotel Atipik 

 We were but a 5 minute walk from the Palais de Iile, originally an old prison, and the main visual attraction of Annecy. It sits at the head of the canal, near where it opens onto the lake, and marks probably the most “touristy” area of town. After stopping on the famous bridge and snapping a quick picture, we had our bearings. We hit a few cute boutiques, stopped in for a glass of wine, then set out for the one thing I knew I wanted to experience in Annecy- a Raclette dinner. If you haven’t heard of Raclette, it’s an alpine cheese dish (think fondue) but it’s served as a massive half wheel of cheese. A flame is lit under the wheel, which is supported up on a metal stand, which you then tilt when you are ready to harvest the delicious melted cheese, and smother it all over the potatoes, cornichons, and deli meats you are provided. It’s awesome. Consume a bottle of wine and prepare to barely be able to move in the best way. Rest up.

Day 2: Rent an electric bike and circle the lake. Rent a paddleboat and picnic on lake Annecy 


Upon arriving in Annecy, you will immediately notice it’s a true European bicycle-culture city. Which, as a tourist hoping to cover a lot of ground but not wanting to deal with a car rental, this is a great option! There were several bike rental companies around the old town, but we rented from Cyclable Location Pâquier, who were great. We opted for electric bikes, and it was my first time riding one. Turns out, they are awesome- you barely have to pedal, but you can if you want. They get up to pretty impressive speed, and it was fairly intuitive if you’ve ever ridden a regular bike. The hardest part is navigating the many other bikers, but once you get out of the main down town, it opens up, even on a lively summer Saturday morning. We started rounding the lake clockwise towards the Imperial Palace hotel. There is a bike path that runs around the entire lake and takes about 3 hours. Views of the turquoise blue lake are unmatched, and you’ll see some awesome chateaus as well. I recommend bringing a water and sunglasses at the least. We did about 40 mins one way then turned around, simply because we weren’t planning on a 3 hour excursion, but I would try the full loop if I went back. We passed some enticing beaches on the route, so consider bringing a swimsuit for a quick dip!

After taking in Lake Annecy and returning the bikes, we grabbed a coffee and headed to the room to grab swimsuits and a backpack. I recommend stopping at one of the many grab and go shops, picking up a sandwich and some canned cocktails. Pack a backpack with your food and drink, and perhaps a small speaker. Head to where the canal meets the lake, and during the summer- you see a handle of options to rent a paddleboat from the very chic, carefree French teenagers running the docks. You’ll have to leave an ID in exchange for the boat, and the rate run about $25/hour. There’s even a “deck” to lay out on some of the boats, and they fit 4-6 people. Floating out on paddleboat on Lake Annecy was a highlight of my Europe trip. The lake is shallow in the main boating area, and you can stand up in many areas. We took turns jumping between the insanely clear crystal blue water (it’s known as “the cleanest lake in Europe”), then soaking up the sun on the paddleboat. Immaculate vibes. When you return, they charge you for just the time you were out, to the nearest 15 min increment.

After the lake, we walked through the adjacent Jardins de I’Europe. We stumbled upon a beer garden and enjoyed mingling with the locals in the late afternoon sun.

Day 3: Shop. Visit a French Pharmacy. Catch the train to Paris.

Our last day in Annecy was a travel day, but we were still able to squeeze in a few to-dos. Notably, the Old Town is full cute little shops. Since this was our 2nd to last stop of the trip, we picked up a few souvenirs and gifts for family. And then I spotted her in all her glory – an infamous French Pharmacie in the flesh. After telling my husband he should go find a coffee shop to sit at (no shortage of these), I dove in. If you are a product junky in any way, its heaven. Think Caudalie for half the price, and the popular A313 retinol cream we cant get here in the states. Honestly, I would just pack light on my cosmetics next time, and plan to re-up once I get to France. I was shopping so slowly that a few times, I was certain the pharmacist thought I might be a shop-lifting concern (I just like to shop METHODICALLY & CAREFULLY), but alas, once I approached the counter for check out, and she realized I was American, a warm smile came over her face and she seemed to understand the reason for my sloth-like pace. 

“One moment” she told me with a smile in perfect English. Oh no… what American faux-paus had I made now I thought. But she returned, and handed me a small bag- FULL of probably 25 glorious French samples! They even seemed like she had picked them out to match my skin type. What an angel. And, her skin was flawless I might add. 

After that lovely encounter, I went to retrieve my husband from the nearby coffee shop, where he had found a 2 ft baguette sandwich and stalled out at about 1 ft. It was time to retrieve our bags from the front desk of the always-friendly Hotel Apitik, and head to the SNCF train station, which was conveniently but a 3 minute walk from our hotel, in the middle of town. We had pre booked our tickets online, so we only had to hop on the train and find our seats. We had “splurged” the extra 10 euros for the 1st class seats that faced each other, and opted for the 2nd floor, to catch the best views of the French countryside as we headed to Paris, which I absolutely recommend. It was extremely cushy. Bonus points for there being an entire cafe on board with food & drink. The journey took about 3 hours and 45 mins on a direct train, which was such a nice alternative after the amount of flights we had been on in the past few weeks. 

I left Annecy on a high. Something about the place was just so pure, while also just…elevated? Like society was just functioning as it should be there. My husband and I both agreed we could live there someday. While 2.5 days was indeed a short trip, I still felt like we got a great taste of what the town had to offer, and I’m SO happy we squeezed it into our trip. 

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