Built around the river Thiou, Annecy has been called the Venice of the Alps because of the canals that cut to the old part of town, Vieil Annecy. You can explore the arcaded streets where Jean-Jacques Rousseau arrived in 1728.
After seeing Annecy, consider a trek to the Gorges du Fier (www.gorgesdufier.com; tel. 04-50-46-23-07), a dramatic river gorge 9.5km (6 miles) to the west. To reach it, take a train or bus from Annecy’s rail station to Poisy. From the station, go about 1.5km (1 mile), following the clearly marked signs. This striking gorge is one of the most interesting sights in the French Alps. A gangway takes you to a gully three to 10m (9.75–33 ft.) wide, cut through the rock by torrents of water; you’ll hear the roar of the river at the bottom. Emerging from this labyrinth, you’ll be greeted by a huge expanse of boulders. You can visit the gorge from June 15 to September 10 daily 9:30am to 7:15pm (last trip at 6:15pm), and from March 15 to June 14 and September 11 to October 15 daily 9:30am to 6:15pm (last trip at 5:15pm). The site is closed October 16 to March 14. A hike to its well-signposted depths takes less than 1 hr. and costs 5.70€ for adults, 3€ for children 7 to 15; it’s free for kids 6 and under.
You can also take a cruise on the ice-blue lake for which the town is famous. Tours of Lac d’Annecy, conducted from February to December, last 1 hr. and cost 14.40€. An English-speaking guide points out the sights. Tours depart between one and six times a day, depending on the season. Inquire at the Office de Tourisme, or call the Compagnie des Bateaux du Lac d’Annecy (www.annecy-croisieres.com; tel. 04-50-51-08-40).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.