As a listed town of art and history, Annecy deserves a closer look to discover its secrets. you can get to know its architecture as the town tells a story through its beautiful façades, charming bridges, iconic buildings and magical panoramas. Tour guide Denis Fogola, has put together a route to take you from the centre right up to the old town.
STAGE N°1: Setting off from Bonlieu
Start in town at the Centre Bonlieu, founded in 1981 by the architect Novarina, who was also behind the Sainte-Bernadette Church near the Impérial Palace and the palais de justice. Among others institutions, Bonlieu houses the Tourist Office and the cultural centre. While here you can pick up a map for finding your way. Make sure you look up to admire the glass ceiling of this typical 21st-century building.
STAGE N°2: A stop on the Pont des Amours
Make your way to Le Pâquier, lthe vast green esplanade (also directly accessible from the Impérial Palace) and walk towards the pont des Amours. This iron footbridge built in 1848 and renovated in 1906 is shaped in a single arch over the Vassé canal. The bridge offers spectacular views over Le Pâquier, the lake and the île aux Cygnes on one side, and across the old town, the quays and their wooden boats on the other. The pont des Amours is named as such because it was originally a peaceful spot where lovers would meet.
You will also be able to admire exceptional views of the Préfecture, built in 1861 by Lyonnais architect Léon Charvet. In 1860, Annecy became French along with the rest of the Savoie region, having previously belonged to the kingdom of Sardinia. The town needed an administrative centre after the handover, and its architecture was inspired by 17th-century French châteaux.
STAGE N°3: Remarkable views over the old town
Continue walking along the lake until you reach the boat Le Libellule, on Quai Napoléon III. From here, you can take in stunning views over the old town, overlooked by the château. You will immediately see that the town was built around the château and the palais de l’Île. The bell tower of the basilica stands in the distance above the town. Take the time to admire the views from the shadow of hundred- year-old trees in the remarkable strong>jardin de l’Europe. Very few town centres have a park, and even fewer on the banks of a lake!
STAGE N°4: The impressive façade of the town hall
If you continue walking to the right you will arrive at the town hall. The central section of the building with its columns and triangular pediment is quite impressive! Built in 1846, the town hall boasts a beautiful façade in a Neo-Classical Sardinian style also prominent in Turin. In 1995, the square and the water feature were revisited by Jean-Michel Wilmott, a renowned French architect based in Paris. And many years ago, this very square, place de la Grenette, used to host the local market and animal fair.
STAGE N°5: The iconic Palais de l’Île
Take the underground passageway in front of the town hall to get to the other side of the street. From the brasserie des Européens, walk left along the quai Vicenza and stop on the pont Perrière to enjoy the view of the palais de l’Île. The palace was built on a triangular shape on a rock and water flows either side of it. The building dates back to the Middle Ages and has served many functions, including a fort, a mint, a prison (several times between the 13th and 19th centuries, and finally in 1945) and a court of law. Narrowly saved from destruction in 1900 and listed as a historical monument, it is now home to the Architecture and Heritage Centre. Today, the Palais de l’Île has become the symbole d’Annecy, Unsurprisingly, it is the building most photographed by tourists!
STAGE N°6:Renaissance style at the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre
Walk as far as the Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau to discover the majestic cathédrale Saint-Pierre a former Celestine monastery built in a Renaissance style in 1535. It is now a listed historical monument, just like the organ and the sculpted wooden pulpit perched on an eagle inside. Feel free to enter the cathedral and admire the stained-glass windows depicting local Saint François de Sales. As in other churches in the town, the bells were cast at the renowned Paccard de Sevrier foundry.
STAGE N°7: Square de l’Évêché, a bucolic setting
Go behind the cathedral to find the public gardens on the former square de l’Évêché and its majestic trees. The perfect setting for relaxing in the shade away from the noise and the cars. Sometimes in the weeks before the summer, you can hear music coming from the local Conservatoire. Take a look at the little fountain topped with the bust of famous writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau and surrounded by a golden railing.The statue is an homage to the time the writer spent in the town at the age of 17, when he met Mme de Warens, the teacher he fell in love with.
STAGE N°8: The Maison Gallo on the Place Sainte-Claire
Walk down the quai Mme de Warens and along the canal. Cross the pont de la République and continue as far as the place Sainte-Claire, which used to be home to a large-scale spinning mill. This square originally built in the 1970s is also the site of the maison Gallo which now houses an interior design and furniture shop. Charles Gallo, a Piedmont architect for the kingdom of Sardinia, decided to move to Annecy where he designed and renovated the town’s buildings.
He bought a house at n°24 Place Sainte-Claire and restored it around 1794. The architect revamped the façade, adding flower garlands, shells, and remarkable architraves under the roof. These decorations vary from floor to floor and are in a typically Neo-Classical Piedmont style.
STAGE N°9: The grand finale at the Château
Walk down the côte Saint-Maurice to reach the square of the former church of the same name. Here you can enjoy vue panoramique over the rooftops of the old town. To finish, make your way up to the château, a listed historical monument and one of the town’s most impressive buildings. It was built between the 13th and 17th centuries, and was the former residence of the counts of Geneva and dukes of Genevois-Nemours. It was also used as a military barracks, and is now home to a museum featuring permanent collections, temporary summer exhibitions and an alpine lake observatory. Round off your visit to the château with a grand finale as you admire the magnificent panorama from the courtyard with Annecy at your feet.
Expect breathtaking perspectives over the town, the lake and the mountains!