Lying 50km to the south of Lake Geneva, Annecy, set on a sparkling turquoise lake, the Lac d’Annecy, is one of the most beautiful and popular resort towns of the French Alps. It enjoyed a brief moment of political and religious importance in the early sixteenth century, when Geneva embraced the Reformation and the Catholic bishop, François de Sales, decamped here with a train of ecclesiastics and a prosperous, cultivated elite.
These days, the delights of the town lie not just in its historical monuments, like the imposing château on the hill or the stronghold of the Palais de l’Île closer to the lake, but also in the stunning scenery. Annecy’s old town is a bewitching warren of passages and arcaded houses that date from the sixteenth century and are divided by peaceful little branches of the Canal du Thiou. Many of the houses here are ringed by canalside railings overflowing with geraniums and petunias in summer; added to the cool shade offered by the arcades, these flowers make the town’s pedestrianized streets a delight to wander around on a sunny day. At the height of summer, however, you can barely move for the crowds, so you’d do well to take to the streets as early as you can in the morning.