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Dubbed the “Venice of the Alps”, Annecy is a quaint town in southeast France with winding canals threading through its centre. The Vieille Ville (old town) is brimming with cobbled streets and pastel-coloured houses, and Lake Annecy is said to have the cleanest waters in Europe. Get outdoors and make the most of the fresh alpine air with a hike or bike ride, or cosy up in a local restaurant to feast on gooey raclette and tartiflette (crispy potato with melted cheese and lardons).
Hostels in Annecy include places with large gardens where you can play pétanque or table tennis, or just bask in the sunshine on an outdoor terrace. On-site restaurants and bars serve local craft beers and pub classics like burgers and sharing platters, or you can whip up your own meals in shared kitchens. Annecy hostels have rooms with private balconies for views over the historic centre, as well as air con. You can expect free Wi-Fi in an Annecy hostel and friendly staff to help plan your stay.
Vieille Ville is the medieval old town on the Thiou River, with shopping arcades, pedestrian streets and winding passageways. It’s home to numerous bakeries, restaurants and cafés and has a food market each Tuesday. Check out the Palais de l’Île, a much-photographed fortified palace in the middle of the canal. Lake Annecy is dotted with rowing boats and has two Blue Flag beaches. You can walk to both Plage de la Brune at Veyrier-du-Lac and Plage Municipal in Saint-Jorioz (on opposite sides of the lake) in 1-2 hours from the old town, or take local buses.
The medieval Château d'Annecy, perched high above the town, was once home to the Counts of Geneva. It now houses a museum and gallery and you can climb the steep hill for stunning views from the terrace. The tree-lined Jardins de l’Europe are a popular spot for a picnic. Continue to the Pont des Amours across the Vassé canal. It’s said that lovers who kiss on the bridge will stay together for life.
Annecy itself is small and easy to explore on foot. The bus and train stations (Gare Routière d'Annecy and Gare d'Annecy) are in the new part of town, a 15-minute walk from the Vieille Ville, with regular buses to and from Geneva taking 1.5 hours. For nearby destinations like Veyrier-du-Lac, Menthon-Saint-Bernard and Talloires, hop on a local Altibus. The closest airports are Geneva and Lyon-Saint Exupéry. Both have bus connections to Annecy, which take 1.5–2.5 hours.