Snow-Capped Mountains and Fairytale Beauty in the French Alps

In Annecy, you’ll find a stunning lake and medieval treasures waiting to be explored. © Lovric

The Brothers Grimm themselves could not have dreamed up a more exquisite fairytale town than Annecy. Set in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps region in southeastern France, the small medieval town is all cobblestone streets, graceful bridges arching over flower-decked canals, and bustling food markets filled with woven basket-carrying locals. A stunning 15th-century turreted castle and snowcapped mountains sit majestically in the background.

Less than four hours from Paris by train, Annecy makes for the perfect overnight trip, with round-trip tickets starting from $150.

This is a town meant for wandering and letting your fancy take you where it may. Consider starting out on rue Sainte-Claire in Annecy’s medieval quarter (Vieille Ville), where you can’t help but be charmed by the twisty cobblestone streets and 16th-century arcades that line them.

The Vieille Ville market is held on this lovely street on Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday mornings. Even if you don’t buy a thing, it’s a sensorial experience you won’t want to miss. It’s fun to fawn over the fantastic huge rounds of regional Savoyard cheeses, the unusual local sausages (blueberry sausage, anyone?), and the bright heaps of fresh fruits and vegetables.

If you’re set on having a historical cultural experience in Annecy, then visit the Palais de L’Isle, which sits on a triangular islet on the Canal de Thiou, in the center of town. A 12th-century marvel, the former palace (and former prison) is now a museum that focuses on local architecture and history.

Worth sampling is the local raclette, a delicious—and extremely filling—Savoyard dish of melted Swiss cheese and boiled potatoes. The raclette at the restaurant Le Freti (12 rue Sainte-Claire) is the best in Annecy and costs just $15.

But the lake, Lac d’Annecy, is unquestionably the star of Annecy. Shimmering blue-green, half-surrounded by pines, utterly unreal. It’s the sort of lake you could imagine being the source of all kinds of fantastic magical tales and legends.

You can enjoy its breathtakingly clear turquoise waters in any number of ways: swimming at one of its 11 beaches, sailing, water-skiing, or taking a cruise on a paddleboat or motorboat. It’s also a treat to admire the incredible views by cycling the path that runs along the lake’s shore. Bike rentals at Roul’ Ma Poule start from $8 an hour.