Nestled in the French Alps, Annecy is a charming town known as the Venice of the Alps, with cobbled streets and canals. The town of Annecy is on the appropriately named, turquoise coloured, Lake Annecy. Not far from Lake Geneva, Annecy also serves as the capital of the Haute Savoie department.

Annecy is a great summer destination, but there are also many things to do in Annecy France in winter, given its proximity to the mountains and lake. Additionally, the old town is beautiful, even on a cloudy day.

Annecy France in winter - old town with view of canal and clouds

Visiting Annecy in winter is a highlight of mine when considering all the times I have been through this region when travelling from my home in England to go skiing in Bernex, France. Waking up to snow on the ground one time in Annecy was a thrill – it felt like Christmas day as a child.

As an experienced winter traveller, I have been on more ski holidays and winter escapes than I can count on both hands. Therefore, I am familiar with all kinds of winter sports, equipment, and clothing, and I am confident in sharing my advice.

Is Annecy Worth Visiting in Winter?

Lake Annecy in winter with snow and boats
Lake Annecy

If you are reading this article, I imagine you are planning to visit Annecy in winter or deciding between a few locations.

Therefore, to help you answer the question, “Why visit Annecy in winter”, I have pointed out the most important reasons.

Visiting Annecy in winter offers a Christmassy atmosphere with fewer crowds than in summer, making for a more relaxing visit.

The chance of snowfall transforms the town into a winter wonderland, and you can find reasonably priced hotels outside the peak Christmas and New Year period.

10 Things to Do in Annecy France in Winter

In this section, I will outline and explain the best things to do in Annecy in winter for an unforgettable adventure, from exploring its winter wonderland to tasting seasonal delicacies.

1. Lac d’Annecy

Lake Annecy in February - bare trees, row boats on the canal, sunny day
Lake Annecy

Lake Annecy in winter is undeniably one of the highlights of visiting Annecy.

One of the best Lake Annecy winter activities is to stroll alongside the lake, where you will see a stunning view of the turquoise waters set against a mountainous backdrop.

The picturesque Pont des Amours is a charming bridge that crosses a canal at the edge of Lake Annecy and provides an excellent focal point for taking photos.

I recommend that you watch the sunset over the Annecy mountains.

2. Annecy Old Town

The next most important place to visit in Annecy in the winter is its Old Town – in French, known as la Vieille Ville. You will be charmed by the old town’s architecture, and if you are lucky, the roofs will have a dusting of snow.

Meander through the cobbled streets of Annecy’s old town to find souvenirs or tasty snacks. You will also find picturesque photo spots on every street, so be sure to have your camera charged and ready to go.

Annecy’s old town is as beautiful as the old town in Yvoire, a medieval village just over an hour away.

3. Palais de l’Isle

Palais de l'Isle in Annecy France - golden hour lighting with building in middle of canal
Palais de l’Isle

Within the old town, there is a magnificent building that your eyes will be drawn towards. It is the 12th-century Palais de l’Isle, which is an iconic building in the middle of the Thiou river that runs through Annecy.

The fortified structure used to have a range of uses, including a courthouse, a residence for a lord, a prison, and a coin mint workshop.

You can learn about the history of Palais de l’Isle by visiting the museum and exhibitions.

It photographs beautifully, so even if you do not want to visit inside, you should check it out from the exterior.

4. Snowshoeing and Hiking

Snowshoeing in Bernex France - snowy mountain in background

Annecy is a great area to get out on foot. You can find routes on the Lac Annecy tourism website, ranging from very easy to hard.

Depending on the weather conditions, you may be able to go out with just your walking shoes, or you may need to wear snowshoes (raquettes in French) to walk over the snow and grip the ice.

You can rent raquettes from ski/cycle rental shops, such as Takamaka.

For other unique winter sports, you can watch the GlaGla race that takes place on Lake Annecy in winter, typically in late January. It is a SUP race on a mostly frozen lake.

5. Skiing and Snowboarding in the nearby Alps

Skiing in France - skier posing poles on mountain on blue sky day

Annecy is a short distance from many excellent ski resorts.

The closest ski resorts to Annecy are:

  • Semnoz – 25 minutes
  • La Clusaz – 40 minutes
  • Le Grand Bornand – 40 minutes

If you drive to Semnoz, you will have access to skiing, cross-country skiing, well-signed snowshoeing routes, and equipment rental.

Make sure you have the right layers for skiing given the conditions.

If you do not have a car, there is a bus that goes from Annecy to Semnoz. You can read more about the bus to Semnoz in French here.

You can access some of the best ski resorts in France if you are willing to drive a little further. The following ski resorts are a little further, such as:

  • Chamonix – 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Megeve – 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Les Saisies – 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Flaine – 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Morzine – 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Bernex – 1 hour 30 minutes

6. Christmas Activities

Annecy Christmas Market with food stand and christmas lights on a grey day
Annecy Christmas Market

When visiting Annecy in December, the town comes alive with its annual Christmas Festival called Noel des Alpes, which has free admission. Throughout this winter period, the streets are lit with lights to create a festive atmosphere.

You can also look out for the Christmas concert and take to the ice at the nearby ice skating rink. Check the events calendar to see if the market will be open on the date you plan to visit Annecy. 

From mid-November to early January, Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard undergoes a festive transformation into Santa’s Castle.

During this time, you can enjoy a range of activities, including a craft market with wooden chalets, concerts, shows, an ice-skating rink, opportunities to meet Santa Claus, narrated castle tours, and a variety of food.

7. Farmer’s Market

When you visit Annecy in January, after the Christmas offerings, there is a farmer’s market in the old town that runs on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Sundays from 7:00 AM to 1:00 PM, year-round.

The market sells fresh products, clothes, and accessories. Look out for local specialities from the Savoie region, such as Reblochon cheese and local charcuterie meats.  

8. Spa

Escape the cold weather outside and visit a spa in Annecy. Try Cristal Spa in Imperial Palace, the luxury hotel along Lac d’Annecy.

Imperial Palace Hotel guests get one hour of free access to the spa, but they must reserve their time with the spa reception. Children 12 and under are only permitted at the spa between 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM and 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM.

If you are not a hotel guest, you can book a massage or treatment with a minimum value of €130, and you will be granted an hour’s access to the spa before your treatment.

9. Explore the Towns around Lake Annecy

Paragliders in France on blue sky

There are plenty of other towns to include in your itinerary when you visit Annecy in winter.

Col de la Forclaz is a common area for people to go paragliding, around a 30-minute drive from Annecy town. Only the pros will be setting off on a paraglide in winter, so you can head to this spectacular viewpoint of Lake Annecy and see if any people are braving the weather by parachute. There is a paid car park nearby.

There is a restaurant called Le Balcon du Lac close to the Col de la Forclaz viewpoint with a wonderful panoramic view of the lake. In low season (October to April), the restaurant is open Fridays and Saturdays for food and drinks between 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM. It is also open on weekdays and Sundays from 11:00 AM – 5:00 PM.

You can keep up to date with current opening hours on the Instagram page for Le Balcon du Lac

Talloires on the water in winter with boats and cloudy sky
Talloires

Talloires is a town on the southeastern edge of Lake Annecy. Walk down to the water edge at Baie de Talloires. You can also see a scenic viewpoint of Talloires on the side of the road. 

Although Le Chateau de Menthon-Saint-Bernard is not open for regular visits from mid-November until April, you will be able to catch a glimpse of its beautiful exterior from this viewpoint car park.

Remember – you can visit the castle from mid-November to early January and shop the Lake Annecy Christmas market filled with local artisanal goods.

For a journey further afield, it is possible to explore Chamonix and take the cable car up to Aiguille du Midi, the highest cable car in France at 3,842 m. The drive from Annecy to Chamonix is around 1 hour and 10 minutes, so it is feasible to go as a day trip. A typical visit to Aiguille du Midi lasts 3 hours, including the cable car ride.

You can find out the timetable for the cable car’s winter schedule on Mont Blanc’s website.

10. Try Some Local Foods

Mr Smith apple tart from Philippe Rigollot Pâtissier Chocolatier
Philippe Rigollot Pâtissier Chocolatier

For those still wondering what to do in Annecy in winter, you could try some local food.

Typical regional delicacies include fondue and raclette (melted cheese dishes) and tartiflette (dish with cheese, potatoes, lardons and onion).

As someone who cannot eat much dairy, some of the Savoyarde dishes are not possible because they almost always contain copious amounts of cheese.

However, there are other options to try, such as Diots (a delicious local sausage), fruit tarts, French pastries, Vin de Savoie (local wine), and vin chaud (mulled wine).

I got some delicious snacks from Philippe Rigollot Pâtissier Chocolatier – the owner was the Best Pastry Chef in France in 2005. I ordered the Mr Smith apple tart and some macarons, all of which were excellent.

It gets cold during winter in Annecy, so I needed to stop for a warm drink. The queue for Le Bar Roux d’Heure, a highly recommended spot, was too long. So, I went across the street to Haven, an Australian inspired cafe, and had a great dark hot chocolate.

Before dinner we went for a glass of wine at Le Nid du Merle, a wine bar. The bar had a good wine list and it had a pleasant atmosphere.

For dinner, I went to Le Denti, which was a short walk from our hotel. Le Denti is a Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant, and it is easy to see why. The service was friendly and prompt, the food was tasty, and it was reasonably priced.

Where to Stay in Annecy in Winter?

Bathroom at Hebe Hotel with marble walls and gold finishings
Bathroom at Hebe Hotel

Some hotels are not open on Lake Annecy in winter because it is outside the peak season. For example, the Abbaye de Talloires hotel is closed from mid-November to mid-February.

I stayed at Hebe Hotel during my visit to Annecy in January and I recommend it highly. It is a boutique hotel located close to the train station. However, it is also in walking distance to the highlights of Annecy.

Hebe Hotel had very comfortable beds, just what I needed after a week of skiing. Plus, the showers were great and had good water pressure. The rooms are fairly small, but that is OK if you are spending your time out exploring Annecy.

Annecy town - reflection of buildings on lake on sunny day

For the best value for its location, try ibis Annecy Centre Vieille Ville.

For a spot of luxury, book La Maison Bleue Yoann Conte Hotel, a Relais & Chateaux property with a two Michelin-starred restaurant inside. It is not within Annecy but along the waterfront a few towns over. Check availability for La Maison Bleue since it has some brief closures in winter, such as from early to mid-January.

Other great hotels in Annecy to consider include:

How to Get to Annecy?

Driving car from England to France - mountains in background

The best way to get to Annecy is by flying into Lyon Airport, Geneva Airport, Chambery Airport, or Grenoble Airport. Chambery and Grenoble airports are only open in winter for winter sports tourists.

Driving Times to Annecy

  • Chambery Airport to Annecy: approx. 40 mins
  • Geneva Airport to Annecy: approx. 45 mins
  • Lyon Airport to Annecy: approx. 1 hour 25 mins
  • Grenoble Airport to Annecy: approx. 1 hour 25 mins

Once arriving at your airport of choice, you should rent a car – which is the quickest way to get to Annecy. It is possible to take a train from the airports, but it is slower, and some destinations require changing lines.

Another option for getting to Annecy is by driving your car from your home destination in Europe. It is popular to drive to the French Alps from places around the UK, the Netherlands or within France.

You can travel from the UK to France by ferry or Eurotunnel. Both are great, but the Eurotunnel is faster and typically more expensive.

If you are looking to visit other French or Swiss destinations in the area, you can also try out the beautiful towns around Lake Geneva.

If you are driving to Annecy using your car, make sure it is fit with winter tyres and that you have a set of snow chains in the car.  

What is Annecy Winter Weather Like?

You can experience low temperatures (around -1 to 5 degrees Celsius) in Annecy in winter. With this chilly weather, you can expect snow, rain, sun, or cloudy conditions while visiting Annecy in December, January, and February.

When I have been to Annecy in December and January, I have seen a mixture of weather – including snow at Christmastime. My in-laws got lucky when they visited in February 2023, and it was so sunny that they could sit outside and have a coffee without their coats on.

FAQ – Annecy France Winter

Is Annecy France Worth Visiting in Winter?

Annecy is worth visiting in the winter months because it typically receives snowfall, which gives the town a picturesque, wintery aesthetic. Additionally, winter sees fewer visitors, which allows for a more relaxed pace while exploring the area.
 
Furthermore, the snowy conditions provide opportunities for winter sports at nearby ski resorts and on local hiking trails. Annecy hosts special events around the Christmas holiday season, such as the Noel des Alpes festival.

How Far is Annecy from Geneva Airport?

Annecy is approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour from Geneva airport by car. This duration can depend on traffic and weather conditions.

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