Annecyannecy, the "Pearl of the Alps", is without a doubt - along with Chamonix for the high mountains - the tourist capital of the Alps. Between its lake with the purest water in Europe, its perfectly renovated old town, its quality of life and its exceptional flowery environment, everything concurs to make Annecy a real jewel A chic and delightful destination that will live from friday 11 to Sunday 13 March 2022 to the rhythm of its Venetian carnival.
Annecy, City of Art & History
Annecy is a city of art and history and offers a picturesque medieval center with its canals and bridges. As a jewel, the Palais de l'Île, a former fortified house from the 12th century, appears like a prow on an islet of the Thiou, a short river that waters the city in two charming arms: the Port and the Vassé canal. Hence the nickname of Venice of the Alps given to Annecy. The banks of the Thiou are lined with adorable boutiques that make the old pedestrian center a distinguished shopping spot. Annecy, which lies at the foot of the Bornes and Bauges mountains, is both lake and alpine and displays the same pluralism in its culture. Known to film buffs for hosting the International Animation Film Festival in June, it also hosts the spectacular Fête du Lac in May. On the heights of the city, the historic symbol of Annecy, the castle built between the 12th and 16th centuries was inhabited by the Counts of Geneva, then those of Savoy. Now a communal building, it houses a museum and the Regional Observatory of the Alpine Lakes. In the country of Marc Veyrat, the starred chef with the black hat, good restaurants and pleasant terraces also attract visitors. So, would you rather have a fish fry or a Savoyard fondue? Pedal boat on the water or diving in the lake? Visit a museum or discover a nature reserve? The city of Annecy never ceases to seduce you.
A charming old town
Just a few steps from the town hall, you can immediately tell when you are leaving the town that we will call "new" to enter the Old Town: here are small winding streets, with an irregular grid inherited from the Middle Ages, here are old houses with mullioned windows, arcades where shops used to be located or wooden doors topped by a bracketed arch. And monumental access doors still remain, such as the Porte Sainte-Claire. In passing, linguists will explain the origin of the expression "to sort on the shutter": in the Middle Ages, the street formed the vital axis of the city, then very narrow and lined with various stalls where the craftsmen were grouped by trade. But make no mistake: potential buyers did not always enter the stores. Merchants would open their shutters and put some of their goods on them: customers would then sort the goods on the shutter! More generally, it is important to know that decay and slums threatened the entire site shortly after the Second World War. And it was at least three decades of joint efforts by elected officials, shopkeepers and an active minority of residents that really saved this magnificent architectural ensemble. Almost all the canals, all the street furniture and more and more facades had to be treated at the same time. At the same time, the road system was adapted to the car-free environment to deliver an old city that has become one of the most beautiful places to visit in France.
The Palais de l'Île, a unique place
With the lake, the Palais de l'Île - also called "Old Prisons" - is the other emblem of Annecy. A building that splits the waters of the Thiou canal with its stone bow. This building, built on a natural rocky island, was first a fortified house that housed a monetary workshop and a prison. Mentioned for the first time in 1325, this fortified house will officially become the Palais de Justice de l'Île, before being assigned in the 18th century to administrative functions, while keeping its main role of prison until 1864. Saved from demolition, the Palais de l'Île was classified as a Historic Monument in 1900 and now houses the Architecture and Heritage Interpretation Center, as well as a museographic tour to discover the history of this unique place. We appreciate the allure of this 12th century building, set up as if on a peninsula, with its thick stone walls that plunge directly into the water and make it a super-star for countless tourist cameras. The Palace of the Island regularly hosts exhibitions.
Basilica and viewpoint
The basilica, built in the 20th century, is recognizable by its unclassifiable style and by its geographical location: it dominates the city of Annecy like a mother watching over her children or her sheep. Its most representative element is the spire of the elevated bell tower-porch, reaching 72 m.
A man of faith born in the castle of Sales near Thorens, Saint François de Sales was destined by his father for political life. He was educated in Annecy where he committed his future to the ways of prayer. After brilliant studies, he was ordained a priest in 1593. At the age of 35, he was appointed coadjutor of the bishop of Geneva, Monsignor Granier, and soon succeeded him in Annecy. In 1610, he asked his greatest penitent, Jeanne de Chantal, to found with him the order of the Visitation, in order to visit and assist the poor. He died in Lyon, was canonized in 1665 and proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1877. His remains, as well as those of Saint Joan of Chantal, rest in the new Basilica of the Visitation in Annecy. Saint François de Sales, his doctrine and his action remain alive in the hearts of all the people of Annecy.
A castle to go back in time
Through its different stages of construction, the castle bears witness to the history of the city. The oldest part of the building is the Queen's tower, at the entrance, massive and robust, dating from the 13th century. In the 14th century, the first part of the Nemours dwelling was built on the initiative of the Counts of Geneva. It was called the Old Dwelling with the construction of an addition in the 16th century, logically named the New Dwelling. In the meantime, the first Duke of Savoy added, in the middle of the 15th century, the tower and the Perrière dwelling. After the fire of 1952, the castle was threatened with destruction and was saved thanks to the Society of Friends of Old Annecy. A museum installed in the Logis Nemours permanently presents very varied collections (art, archaeology, nature), while the Perrière tower is dedicated to the Alpine lakes
In Annecy, the other Venetian carnival
Every year, on a weekend in February or March (from March 11 to 13 this year), along the canals and in the alleys of the old town of Annecy, the masks come out for the Venetian carnival. No parade but an unreal ballet of nearly hundreds of masks and costumes cross passers-by, pose and stroll slowly in the silence punctuated by juggling games, bands or other animations. They gather for an animated presentation on a podium put at their disposal, on Saturday at 2 pm. An opportunity for the public to have an overview of the extraordinary abundance of these Venetian variations. A mysterious and bewitching atmosphere that seduces many participants but also many amateur photographers who shoot the sumptuous silhouettes richly decorated, highlighted by the typical colors of ocher or red walls of old buildings of Annecy. Annecy, nicknamed the "Little Venice of the Alps", is a complete illusion! To your masks!
When to visit? Annecy can be enjoyed all year round. Spring and autumn are very pleasant, in winter the ski resorts are within spatula range and in summer the lake is a prime spot. To attend the Venetian carnival, go on Friday March 11th (from 6pm to 8pm), Saturday March 12th and Sunday March 13th (from 10am to 6pm).
How to get there. By car, by plane (Annecy airport), by train (direction Annecy or Albertville) or by bus, everything is possible.
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