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Cities of France - Annecy

According to "Lonely Planet", even Savoyards spoilt rotten with Alpine views every day of their lives grow wistful at the mention of Annecy. Why? Just look around: the mountains rise steep, wooded and snow-capped above Lac d'Annecy, so startlingly turquoise it looks unreal; the Vieille Ville (Old Town) is a ludicrously pretty ensemble of pastel-daubed, geranium-strewn houses; the turreted castle – wait, even the old prison – ticks all the medieval-fantasy boxes.

With that phenomenal backdrop, it's no wonder everyone is outdoors – hanging out in pavement cafes, mountain-gazing in gardens, swimming in the lake and cycling around it. Annecy, we think you will agree, really is quite lovely.

Known as the Venice of Savoie, Annecy is dissected by small canals and streams running out of the lake, which is clean, fresh and a wonderful azure colour.

Annecy is a commune in the Haute-Savoie department in the Rhône-Alpes region in south-eastern France. This medieval town centre built around a 14th Century Chateau lies on the northern tip of Lac Annecy, just an hour's day trip away from Geneva.

It is easy to be active around this picture perfect spot. Go for a swim, row or sail on the lake, hike on the mountains around the city, bike around the lake, or, for the fitness fanatics, up in the mountains or even hanglide above the lake from the Col de la Forclaz.

For those happier to take life at a more leisurely pace, simply wander along the pedestrian-only by-ways that weave the city and river together. Shop in the many quaint boutiques to be found lining the stone paved streets, or sample the brioche (sweet roll) and other goodies to be found in the popular boulangeries.

Sitting in the centre of the Canal du Thiou is the whimsically turreted, 12th-century Palais de l'Isle. It has been a lordly residence, courthouse, mint and prison over the centuries. Today Annecy's most visible landmark is a local history museum.

As you make your way out of Annecy's medieval old town, continue down to the tree-fringed lakefront and the flowery Jardins de l'Europe, linked to the popular picnic spot Champ de Mars by the Pont des Amours. This "Lovers' Bridge" is a beautiful example of the iron architecture typical of the 20th century.

Other sights you might want to put on your list include the restored Château d'Annecy which has been the home of Counts and Dukes, as well as the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre, built in the early 16th century as a Franciscan friary.

No matter which attractions you visit, just make sure you have your camera at the ready as Annecy is a photographer's dream.