As befits a town at the gateway to the French Alps, Annecy’s food is hearty.
The intimate restaurants in the Old Town will feed you up with tartiflette (potato and cheese dish) or raclette, while even the Savoyard salad features thick chunks of blue-veined cheese.
Yet despite this excess of carbs, Annecy’s residents are remarkably slim.
When they aren’t driving up to the mountains to ski, the people of Annecy run, walk, cycle or climb, all within view of the glistening lake that dominates this beautiful medieval town.
Annecy’s lake is nine miles long and billed as the cleanest in Europe. Sail boats and canoes criss-cross it, elegant motor launches glide over it and hardy children tumble into it.
'Its location makes it perfect for those who want to be close to the mountains but not stuck in a constant snowdrift'
Yet it is not just the lake and the clean air that make Annecy a delight. Its location in the Haute Savoie, 30 minutes from Geneva on the new A41 motorway and 25 minutes from the nearest ski resorts (La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand), make it perfect for those who want to be close to the mountains but not stuck in a constant snowdrift.
“Annecy provides a wonderful quality of life,” says David Giraud, president of French developer MGM. “Many British buyers want year-round life with access to other activities such as golf and theatre. Annecy suits these people.”
All this beauty comes at a price: property there, especially with a lake view, is not cheap. Expect to pay from £560,000 for a prime apartment overlooking the lake. MGM is selling off-plan flats in and around Annecy from £270,000 that should appeal to buyers who want a lock-up-and-leave flat with solid rental potential.
On prestigious Avenue d’Albigny there are two low-level buildings with 17 two- to four-bedroom flats priced from £500,000 to £1 million. La Reserve, a similar project in the same road, will have one- to three-bedroom apartments from £346,000. Five minutes’ walk back from the lake, in the Parmelan area, apartments start at £300,000.
Drive 10 minutes out of Annecy around the lake and you will find quiet Savoyard villages. “Property is more expensive on the sunny hillsides of the eastern shore in traditional villages such as Menthon Saint Bernard, Talloires and Veyrier,” says Jean-Christophe Skiera of Winkworth France.
“The views are best, however, on the west bank, with areas such as Saint Jorioz and Duingt offering easy access to the lake.” Winkworth is selling a three-bedroom waterfront chalet in Brédannaz on the western shore for £299,550, which rents for up to £798 a week in summer.
On the Rive Plein Soleil on the eastern side, MGM plans to build 28 one- to four-bedroom apartments in four chalets with a communal pool and garden. All homes at Les Jardins d’Eos will have views over the lake and mountains. Prices start at £282,000. Yes, Annecy has charm, class - and plenty of calorie-loaded food.
MGM: 020 7494 0706; www.mgm-immobilier.fr;
Winkworth France: 020 8576 5582; www.winkworth.fr;
Latitudes: 020 8951 5155; www.latitudes.co.uk.
Location: Annecy, with a population of 52,000, is in the foothills of the Alps and is the capital of the Haute Savoie in France’s Rhône-Alpes. Geneva is 32 miles to the north, the Rhône river is to the west and Italy is 62 miles south-east. Annecy is known as Little Venice for its canals. The waterfront houses in the Old Town, as in Venice, were built on the riverbed itself, with the embankment only added later.
History: the town’s colourful history dates from the Middle Ages, when the Count of Geneva made Annecy his official home in the 13th century. Three hundred years later, Annecy became known as the “Rome of Savoy” when the Bishop of Geneva fled there after being expelled by the Calvinists from Geneva.
Today, Annecy is a centre for hi-tech firms and precision tool making, with a strong economy. Nearly 50,000 residents from this part of the Haute Savoie cross over the Swiss border every day to work in Geneva or Lausanne.
Before 1970, Annecy’s Old Town was extremely poor. Today, careful restoration has made it a hotspot for residents and tourists. The narrow streets are filled with restaurants and bars, and tourists and residents come to wander along the flower-filled bridges that cross the canals.
Access: BA and Easyjet fly daily from Heathrow and Gatwick to Geneva. Annecy to Geneva is 30 minutes along the new A41 motorway. Paris is three hours away by TGV.
Traditions: the Haute Savoie was traditionally a poor area. Its food - potatoes, sausages, cider and polenta - reflects this. Farming was the main industry and is still important today. On the second Saturday in October, residents celebrate The Descent of the Alpine Pasture when horses, cows, goats and sheep are paraded through the centre of town.
Property: Annecy Le Vieux, 10 minutes east of the town centre with easy access to the lake, is where MGM is selling Le Domaine de Saint Laurent, which has communal gardens and pool. Prices start from £270,000.
Buying: typical annual maintenance charges for MGM two-bedroom apartments average £1,200. Local taxes (taxe foncière and taxe d’habitation) would average £1,118 a year for a two-bedroom apartment. Allow up to 10 per cent for buying costs in France. New-build properties in France do not generally include fitted kitchens.