Annecy is a Michelin three-star rated university city dating from the 16th century but with 19th century boulevards in typical French style. The city is at the end of Lake Annecy with steamers, sailing and water skiing available, which makes for a stunning setting (imagine finding York at the end of Windermere). There is an excellent view of the lake, mountains and town from the castle, which is also the local museum.
At night the Thiou canal running through the city provides an illuminated backdrop to the many restaurants and cafes along its banks. The classic picture is of the Palais de l’sle, a former prison surrounded on both sides by the canal.
Cheap eats are in the cafes which crowd under the arches of the 17th century buildings just off the riverbank. For children, there are two play areas close to the promenade along the lakeshore and a large pay-in swimming complex with diving platforms out into the lake. When tired, children will love the many ice cream cafes with extensive menus.
As well as many hotels, Annecy has two campsites, the one up the hill and slightly out of town being your better bet if you want to get any sleep, as the one in town is behind a row of restaurants that wash up late into the night.
Annecy is 3.5 hours from Paris Gare de Lyon on the TGV or take the night sleeper, although it does arrive at 06:30! (See www.seat61.com
for full details). There are also through trains to St Gervais (for Chamonix), Geneva and Lyon. London can be reached by changing at Lyon and Lille, so avoiding crossing Paris. Annecy is a short drive from Geneva airport and within easy motorway reach of Lyon St Exupery airport. The rail station is the hub of an excellent local bus network, but the whole city centre is within easy walking distance of the station.