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Open-air culture and heritage in Annecy

Culture vultures, history buffs and storytellers will all love exploring the ins and outs of Annecy throughout the centuries. From châteaux to museums to monuments, from the Neolithic era to the Middle Ages, the town offers some of the oldest heritage around. Whether the ruins of lakeside villages, medieval arcades, or criss-crossing canals, the “Venice of the French Alps” and its old town are an invitation to wander through the corridors of time…

Annecy: the exciting history of “Boutae”*
throughout the centuries

No-one will be surprised to learn that Annecy is a lake town. Archaeologists all agree that the town began as a fishing village on the banks of Lake Annecy around 3100 B.C. Subsequent digs have revealed the traces of buildings on stilts built between 4000 and 1500 B.C. The old town, as we know it today, originally looked nothing like the beautiful ensemble of pink, green, and yellow buildings surrounded by canals and admired by all. However, the remains of this ancient town can still be seen, forging both the legend and identity of old Annecy. Following the exciting breadcrumb trail of its paths and walkways means diving headfirst into an ancient and fascinating history.
Annecy was a strategic outpost of the Roman Empire nestled between the towns of Faverges, Geneva and Aix-les-Bains on a road built specially to connect with Italy. In the Middle Ages, craftspeople moved to the banks of the Thiou River, while feudal lords and the Count of Geneva made the old Annecy their home. Over time, the town was shaped by the integration of the Duchy of Savoie into the Genevan lands, the Wars of Religion, the ascension of Francis de Sales to the episcopal see, and the inclusion of Savoie within France. Aside from crafting its contemporary appearance, history has shaped the identity and architecture of this ancient town, passing down subtle traces of its past throughout the ages.
*Boutae is the Latin name for the vicus (a small Roman township) near the civitas (main city) of the Allobroges people that preceded the town of Annecy (Haute-Savoie).

Following the water to understand and learn about Annecy

The canals of the Thiou River lend the old town a charming, refreshing air. This waterway, fed into by Lake Annecy, has an almost constant current. It once supported water wheels, mills and breeding ponds for fish during the Middle Ages, while also offering an invaluable way of transporting foodstuffs and materials into the town centre. The Thiou is one of the shortest rivers in France (2.2 miles), but also one of the most renowned.

When it comes to romance, Annecy is reigns supreme. No-one can resist taking a photo or a selfie while crossing the Pont des Amours footbridge. One side features the lake and its mountains watching over the town; the other offers views of the Canal du Vassé and its boats floating under an archway of plane trees. The construction by Claude Grandchamp, which replaced the former wooden footbridge in 1907, is truly iconic. And according to legend, lovers who kiss on the bridge will be together forever…

The architecture of Annecy: If these walls could talk…

Built on a natural rocky island, the Palais de l’Île has become one of the icons of Annecy. A picture-postcard setting that hides a slightly less picturesque past. As a fortress and the residence of the lord of Annecy during the 12th century, over the years it has been used as a prison, a courthouse, a mint and the town’s archives. Listed as a historical monument in 1900, the building alone symbolises a whole chapter of the town’s history. From here, you can visit the museum at the Château d’Annecy on a hill overlooking the old town. Take this opportunity to admire the fortified doors, pinnacles and machicolations that mark the location of town’s former outer wall. The Hôtel de Sales and its four statues representing the seasons lie a little further ahead. And if you love churches and their secrets, Annecy’s religious heritage is remarkable, with five bell towers, five eras, and one fascinating history waiting to be discovered.

Annecy, beautiful inside and out!

Leave the car and go for a walk… From the centre of Annecy, you are a stone’s throw from one of the most beautiful parks imaginable. Les Jardins de l’Europe offer an authentic, exceptional microcosm, an “enormous, eclectic list of the finest plant species in the great outdoors.” Take the children and look up to make out the tops of these natural marvels planted in 1864, when there were already 650 specimens in the park! This open-air, green museum is just next to the boats opposite the Île aux Cygnes. Next, cross the Pont des Amours and stroll along the Le Pâquier lakeside park, boasting 17 acres of green space leading up to the Impérial Palace, which was built during the Belle Epoque and has played host to royal families and celebrities. From George VI and Edith Piaf to Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin, this majestic hotel stands proudly in the midst of a 12-acre estate home to a stunning sailing boat and a ravishing rose garden.