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Annecy - 10 Insider Tips for France's Outdoor Mecca

  • August 29, 2019
Credits cover image: Lac Annecy Tourisme

Annecy is not only a beautiful city, but also a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Benjamin Marias knows his home like the back of his hand, organizes tours and reveals his 10 best tips in and around the Alpine town.

Annecy is world famous for its old town, the Vieille Ville. But the French alpine town is not only worth a trip for city travelers, but also for outdoor fans. After all, Annecy has just about everything in a very small space: from the clear lake Lac d'Annecy to skiing areas, mountain rivers for paddling, challenging trails and great gravel slopes for trail runners and cyclists.

The Frenchman Benjamin Marias has lived in Annecy for ten years and knows the region better than anyone else. His love of outdoor life attracted him to the town of 125,000 inhabitants. Benjamin is the founder of Air Coop. With his company, he advises outdoor brands and ski resorts on sustainability issues. His big goal: "Outdoor should be as sustainable as possible, preferably even have a positive ecological impact on the region, so that we can enjoy this great environment for another 100 years and longer".

For OutDoor Society Benjamin presents his top 10 outdoor tips for Annecy and the surrounding area - all accessible without a car!

Also interesting:

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1. Breakfast along the Wooden Walkways in Saint-Jorioz

Breakfast in a cafe? Nice, but even nicer: to take something along from one of the countless bakeries or cafés and cycle to the west side of the lake to enjoy the morning sun while having breakfast. It is beautiful, for example, along the wooden footbridges in Saint-Jorioz. Because there, directly at the Lac d'Annecy, everything comes together: First a swim in the morning, then breakfast outside and start the (outdoor) day.

The port of Saint-Jorioz offers the perfect breakfast panorama.
The port of Saint-Jorioz offers the perfect breakfast panorama.
Image credit: Tristan Shu / Tristan Shu

2. Hidden Beach in Saint-Jorioz

Whilst in the 5000-soul town Saint-Jorioz, a trip to the Marais de L'Enfer is worthwhile for nature and bathing lovers. This was once a not very inviting swamp area, but thanks to new wooden paths, it takes ten minutes on foot to get to a great spot where you can jump directly into the lake in the middle of nature. It is also quieter than the local campsites and the urban beach.

3. Camping and Fly Fishing on the Fier

A little further away from Annecy and more to the east lies the mountain river Fier. From Annecy it can be reached by bike in half an hour. The Fier is a great place for fly fishing, swimming and camping. Especially close to the village of Thones you can camp on the riverbank - or simply barbecue for an afternoon with friends or family.

The river Fier is inviting for swimming and camping.
The river Fier is inviting for swimming and camping.
Image credit: G. Blin / G. Blin

4. Lunch at Le Haras

Speaking of food: If you prefer to stay directly in Annecy's great old town for lunch, the best place to relax is Le Haras. Where horses were once trained, there is now a car-free zone with a small but amazing restaurant: In the Armony Saveurs there is the best veggie burger of the city in the shade of 200-year-old trees during the summer months.

No cars, no stress - Le Haras is the perfect place to relax in Annecy.
No cars, no stress - Le Haras is the perfect place to relax in Annecy.
Image credit: Françoise Cavazzana / Françoise Cavazzana

5. From Menthon-Saint-Bernard to Bluffy and Annecy

Benjamin's absolute favorite tour by bike: start in Annecy, from there it goes around the eastern shore of the lake to Menthon-Saint-Bernard and on to Bluffy, where the paragliders start. From there a beautiful gravel path leads to the Col de la Forclaz with a perfect view of the summit. Around the back, on partly tarmacked and partly gravelly sections, it goes back to the lake. There, the choice is: more vertical meters in the mountains or back to Annecy idyllically along the shore? The whole thing is not a hardcore trip, but a nice tour for one day.

The ascent to the Col de la Forclaz is perfect for gravel bikes.
The ascent to the Col de la Forclaz is perfect for gravel bikes.
Image credit: Philippe Royer / Philippe Royer

6. With Children: Enjoy the View on Semnoz

Semnoz is the closest ski resort to Annecy, the fastest accessible mountain and offers a great panoramic view of Mont Blanc and the city of Chambery. Semnoz is exactly the right choice if you want to take it easy with children: From Annecy you take the shuttle bus to the mountain. There is a summer toboggan run, beautiful spots for camping and a lot of animals to admire in the great outdoors.

The perfect trail running tour starts in the old town of Annecy.

7. Trailrunning on the Mont Veyrier

The perfect trail running tour starts in the old town of Annecy directly on the lakeside at the city harbor. From there it's a walk to Mont Veyrier. You can pack your 1291 meters in 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your fitness. If it is already late or time is short, a shorter run on about 500 meters of climbing is also available. From the mountain down it's again about 45 minutes. With a break at the summit, this is a perfect outdoor experience for about two hours.

8. Outsider Weekend at the Semnoz

The 1699-meter-high Semnoz is much more than a pure skiing area in winter. There are countless micro-adventures for nature lovers. Together with the outdoor platform Chilowe, Benjamin regularly organises Outsider Weekends with kayaking, hiking, camping or mountain biking. And on the way back to Annecy is naturally by bike.

The Semnoz attracts outdoor fans both in summer and winter.
The Semnoz attracts outdoor fans both in summer and winter.
Image credit: Dominique Lafon / Dominique Lafon

9. "Outdoor Triathlon" for the Perfect Day in the Annecy Region

Benjamin's perfect outdoor day in the Annecy region would be an "outdoor triathlon": start off with trail running in the morning from Annecy to Mont Veyrier. From there back at the lake, go for a swim and relax. In the evening cycle around the lake. You should definitely have done that in Annecy.

10. Wine in the Evening Completely without Masses of Tourists

And Benjamin's insider tip for the end of the day: Wine at La Cave: a small wine tavern in the middle of the old town of Annecy. Tourists easily overlook it because it is a tiny location in the middle of small alleys. There you will find the best wine selection of the city and simple but delicious local cuisine such as cheese or ham from the region.