Annecy’s Lakefront Promenade

From pedaling and paddling to picnicking and people watching, there’s something for everyone on Annecy’s lakefront.

I love a good walk.  All kinds of walks.  Short walks and long walks.  Remote hikes and quick trips to the store.  Walks in famous places and hidden, forgotten spaces.  Amid the bustling of the city or the rustling of a forest breeze.  I love a good walk, and I cherish my favorites.  For me, a stroll along Annecy’s lakefront promenade ranks among the very best.  Set against the backdrop of stunning mountain scenery and tracing the shore of pristine, azure blue waters, Annecy’s lakefront has a little bit of everything.  You can find bikes, benches, beaches and boardwalks.  Parks, ports, paddleboats, and promenades.  There is nature and history, art and romance, and of course there is excellent people-watching.

 

The entirety of Lac d’Annecy is filled with memorable sights, destinations, and activities.  This story focuses on the north shore of the lake where the town of Annecy meets the waters.  We’ll walk from west to east, meandering along a delightful urban promenade through dozens of special places and experiences.  At roughly three miles in length, the journey is not a long one.  With a brisk pace you might rush through it in an hour.  But there is so much to see and do in this short stretch that you could easily spend a day or more, if you want to make the most of what the waterfront has to offer.

Annecy Promenade Route Map

  1. West Shore Rail Trail
  2. Parc de Colmyr
  3. Plage des Marquisats
  4. Port des Marquisats
  5. Quai de la Tournette
  6. Water Taxis and Boat Tours
  7. Le Thiou
  8. Jardins de l’Europe
  9. Pont des Amours and Canal du Vassé
  10. Le Pâquier

11. Promenade Docteur Paul Louis Servettaz

12. Park Charles Bosson

13. Plage de l’Impérial

14. Impérial Palace

15. Plage d’Albigny

16. Wetlands

17. Le Petit Port

18. Boardwalk

19. East Shore Trail

  1. West Shore Rail Trail
  2. Parc de Colmyr
  3. Plage des Marquisats
  4. Port des Marquisats
  5. Quai de la Tournette
  6. Water Taxis and Boat Tours
  7. Le Thiou
  8. Jardins de l’Europe
  9. Pont des Amours and Canal du Vassé
  10. Le Pâquier
  11. Promenade Docteur Paul Louis Servettaz
  12. Park Charles Bosson
  13. Plage de l’Impérial
  14. Impérial Palace
  15. Plage d’Albigny
  16. Wetlands
  17. Le Petit Port
  18. Boardwalk
  19. East Shore Trail

West Shore Rail Trail

Trail South of Colmyr

It’s possible to walk or bike around nearly the entire shore of Lac d’Annecy on a separated trail, and this is a very popular excursion for visitors and locals alike.  The route strings together sunny beaches, cozy villages, chateaux, restored wetlands, and more.  On the west side of the lake, this trail follows an old rail line, which means that the grades are mostly flat and there is a very comfortable separation from traffic.  The trail even travels through an old rail tunnel near the village of Duingt.  As it approaches the northern shore of the lake, the trail diverges from the old rail line to connect the heart of historic Annecy and continue alone Annecy’s lively lakefront.

Parc de Colmyr

Parc de Colmyr

The Parc de Colmyr is a remarkably tranquil respite, given its location.  It hugs a narrow piece of real estate between the lake shore and busy ring road.  But you hardly notice the traffic once you step into this little oasis.  Enjoy a bench beneath a shady tree as you are rewarded with views of Mont Veyrier, the city of Annecy, and all of the sailboats and paddleboats in between.

Plage des Marquisats

View of Mont Veyrier from Plage des Marquisats

It’s more of a grassy lawn than a sandy shore, but the Plage des Marquisats is a great place to roll out a blanket, have a picnic, and enjoy the scenery.  In autumn, the beach offers a front row seat to the Dragon Boat Festival hosted by the canoe and kayak club next door.

Port des Marquisats

Port des Marquisats

With new apartments, hotels, and restaurants sprouting up nearby, the Port des Marquisats has added a bit more liveliness in recent years.  You can cool off with a refreshing dip in the lake from the pier, or try your hand at the tiller with sailing lessons from the local club.  This spot also offers a nice vantage of several landmarks and destinations in town and around the lake.

Quai de la Tournette

The Quai de la Tournette connects the port to Annecy’s old town.  Along the way, you can burn off some energy paddling around the lake, biking along the trail, or trying out the outdoor fitness station.  If a relaxing sit is more your speed, shady lawns and sunny benches have you covered.  On a nice day, this stretch of promenade is packed, and the people-watching is excellent.

Water Taxis and Boat Tours

As the Quai de la Tournette bends towards the mouth of the Thiou River, bobbing sailboats give way to grand tour vessels and water taxis.  From here, you can embark on lake tours of various lengths and interests, or even enjoy a scenic lunch or dinner cruise.  Private water taxis are available for a price to whisk you to various destinations around the lake, but in the summer months the local transit agency partners with boat operators to offer a very affordable navibus service.  Whether you are headed out for a sunny beach day, a wilderness hike, or an elegant dinner, the navibus can be a unique and relaxing way to reach your destination without driving or busing on the congested road that circles the lake.  A bike share kiosk is also located here if you prefer to ride (it’s designed for trips of less than one hour – for longer trips, there are many bike rental options).

Le Thiou

Annecy's Old Town, on the banks of the Thiou River

Our journey takes us briefly along the banks of the Thiou River, where we reach what is surely the most iconic location in all of Annecy.  Here, Annecy’s historic old town spans the riverbanks and greets the lake with postcard perfect views.  From this vantage, the Château d’Annecy, Palais de I’Île, Église Saint-François de Sales, and Église Saint Maurice frame our scene, while cozy alleys and idyllic canals entice you to explore.  You will find no lack of ice cream, fondue, raclette, and tartiflette.  Enjoy shopping, parks, plazas, and museums.  You will also find the throngs of people who have been similarly ensorcelled by Annecy’s charms.  If you find your way to continue your journey along the lake, your next stop is the Jardins de l’Europe.

Jardins de l’Europe

Between the Thiou River and the Canal du Vassé, our path follows a formal and elegant semicircle around the lake’s edge.  Formerly marshland, plague quarantine area, vegetable garden for nuns, and other uses over the centuries, this peninsula now hosts a picturesque “European Garden.”  There are many seats in this area to rest and take in the scenic lake and mountain panorama, and the tiny Île des Cygnes (Isle of Swans) is just offshore.  As always on Annecy’s lakefront, paddle boats are at your disposal.   A statue of Claude-Louis Berthollet awaits you at the tip of peninsula.  Berthollet, a renowned chemist and politician, was born in nearby Talloires in 1748.  If the lakeside is perhaps too busy or too bright for you, tranquil gravel paths wander through the forested garden with benches, fountains, art, and ample shade. 

Pont des Amours and Canal du Vassé

A verdant tree canopy envelopes the canal, casting a greenish hue as the sun filters through the leaves to the turquoise waters below.  Adorable boats bob in perfect rows along either bank of the canal.  It all adds up to one of the most magical settings in Annecy, the Canal du Vassé.  You can take it all in from the (very popular) landmark Pont des Amours.  Some say the person you kiss on this bridge will be with you forever.  More salacious legends say the bridge got its name long ago as a rendezvous point for prostitutes, who could find privacy in the nearby gardens.  Today, it’s a must-visit location along Annecy’s lakefront. 

Le Pâquier

The “Pâquier” is Annecy’s front lawn.  On any particular you day, you might see people chatting with their neighbors, walking the dog, enjoying a picnic, playing a sport, taking a class, or attending a party.  It’s also the gathering place for big events like the Fête du Lac and International Animation Film Festival.  The name comes from an Arpitan (Francoprovençal) word for pasture, and indeed this area is the remnant of what once was a much larger wetland and pasture area.  As early as the 14th Century, prominent local families began donating portions of this pastureland for the enjoyment of the people of Annecy, and the people have been enjoying this lakefront lawn ever since.  One path brings you directly to the water’s edge along a stone quay, while another path holds close to Avenue d’Albigny with its stately shade trees and cycle track.  Or you can chart a middle path and feel the grass between you toes.  Horse chariot tricycles are the undeniable highlight for Le Pâquier’s youngest visitors.

Promenade Docteur Paul Louis Servettaz

Tree branches reach out to the lake across the Promenade Docteur Paul Louis Servettaz

The paths of the Pâquier converge into the Promenade Docteur Paul Louis Servettaz.  Dr. Servettaz was a city councilperson and diving enthusiast who brought attention to pollution and threatened wildlife in Lake Annecy.  In the 1950s he helped to lead a coalition of local communities to institute major public works to protect the waters and wildlife of the lake.  He also worked to consolidate the lakefront for public use and access.  Thanks to his work and many others, Lake Annecy is now one of the most pristine and healthy lakes in Europe.  In his honor and memory, Annecy has given his name to one of the most scenic and pleasant stretches of lakefront.  Here on the Promenade Servettaz, the trees and trails of Avenue d’Albigny draw close to the waters edge, and long, arching branches stretch across the quay as though they are reaching out to touch the alpine waters.  The setting is magical – a perfect place for a stroll.

Park Charles Bosson

Parc Charles Bosson

You can find a playground, small aviary and (underwhelming) mini-golf course in this park at the foot of the Impérial Palace, but the area I like best is the green space on the western shore of the peninsula.  Here, a grassy lawn, manicured flower beds, and tall trees frame views of the lake and mountains.  Tree branches along the water’s edge reach out and wrap around the promenade far enough for leaves to dip into the water.  From this cozy cocoon, you can sit with a view back toward Annecy’s old town, with the château and Basilique de la Visitation towering above. 

Plage de l’Impérial

Plage de l'Impérial

Picnic on the lawn, sunbathe on the pier, or brave the deceptively tall slide and diving platform to cool off directly in the waters of Lac d’Annecy.  Recently opened to the public, this small beach and swimming area is popular and packed with people in the summer. 

Impérial Palace

The Impérial Palace is a landmark in the truest sense of the world, standing prominently beside the shore in views from all around the lake.  Full of history and glamour, this Annecy icon includes a hotel, spa, restaurants, casino, and more.  But for the purpose of our lakefront stroll, I’m most interested in the shady, manicured lawn that surrounds it.  Between the lake shore and the grand façade of the hotel, a cool and calm oasis offers respite from the busy beaches to the east and west.  There is also a small boat ramp to launch paddleboards and kayaks that you can rent nearby.

Plage d’Albigny

Gradually during our walk we have approached nearer and nearer to the eastern shore of Lac d’Annecy, where the lake waters lap at the foot of Mont Veyrier.  As we progress past the Impérial Palace and arrive at the Plage d’Albigny, the mountain emerges from the background and suddenly feels very close, looming over the city and waterfront.  This is the setting for what I think is the nicest beach in Annecy proper.  The Plage d’Albigny has a long waterfront, easy access to the water, and a pleasant shady lawn close to the shore. Based on the size of the summer crowds, many others seem to agree with my assessment. 

Wetlands

East of the Plage d’Albigny, we see one of the few remaining remnants of Annecy’s original lakeshore – a marshy wetland environment.  New improvements to the cycle track are visible here, as well as restoration of some of the native vegetation.  Just across the Avenue du Petit Port, the ritzy Rivage Hotel and Spa has recently opened.  Here you can enjoy a cocktail on the front patio while the lake and promenade provide an entertaining backdrop.

Le Petit Port

Le Petit Port

As we reach the point of our journey where the north shore of the lake bends to the south, natural wetlands give way to Le Petit Port.  This compact but pleasant park has a grassy lawn, benches, trees, public art, and notably an excellent sitting wall.  Across the street, a collection of shops and restaurants face the lake, if you can brave crossing busy traffic.

Boardwalk

East shore boardwalk looking back toward Annecy's historic old town

Space is at a premium on the east shore of the lake where the steep slopes of Mont Veyrier draw close to the water’s edge.  Here the cycle track maintains its position between the road and the magnificent tree line.  The pedestrian path, on the other hand, departs from the shore onto a delightful boardwalk that perches atop the lake for the next two thousand feet.  Interspersed along the way are interpretive areas and playful public seating.  While it provides for a lovely walk, the boardwalk is also a popular place to lay out a beach towel, or dangle your toes in the refreshing lake waters. 

East Shore Trail

Looking south along Lac d'Annecy's east shore

Past the boardwalk, our waterfront trail continues, but the city of Annecy reaches its limits, giving way to its neighboring villages of Veyrier-du-Lac, Menthon-Saint-Bernard, Talloires, and beyond.  While the trail on the east side of the lake has some elevation changes and breaks in continuity, it does offer a different experience from the rail trail on the west side of lake.  Here, the trail passes through a series of charming and lively villages, each with their own special character and attractions.  But we will save those for a future adventure and cap our Annecy promenade stroll with a well-deserved lakefront meal, enjoying a view of the setting sun across the lake beyond the silhouette of Annecy’s skyline and the path of our day’s journey.

 

The magic of Annecy’s lakefront is found in the variety of experiences it offers, but some inevitably stand out more than others.  Do you have a favorite?  Is there something we missed?  Let us know in the comments!

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