Guy Murdoch is the French Alps manager for Savills Ski. Based in Annecy, he focuses on the sale and acquisition of prime property in the French Alps and surrounding areas. Guy has been with Savills since 2013.
What’s the appeal of Annecy for international buyers?
It’s an amazing place: a beautiful city on the northern tip of Lake Annecy, with incredible scenery. Annecy is an excellent gateway to the French Alps, particularly if you’re a skier. The old town has an Italianate feel and the architecture is wonderful – they call it the “Venice of the Alps”. One hundred and seventy thousand people live in Annecy all year round, so it doesn’t feel like a resort, and it’s only 40km from Geneva – you can get to the airport in 35 minutes by car. The TGV – the intercity high-speed train – gets you to Paris in three hours 40 minutes.
For skiers, it’s an hour or so by car to Chamonix, Megève, Morzine and Les Gets. Courchevel and Méribel are an hour and a half away, and the drive to Val d’Isère takes about two hours. At the weekend locals go to La Clusaz, 40 minutes from town: it’s a good resort with a strong snow record. And you can be in Italy in an hour and 15 minutes via the Mont Blanc Tunnel.
There are good schools in Annecy if you have a young family, particularly the École Internationale Bilingue de Haute-Savoie. For bigger international schools, some families send their children to Switzerland. But the French education system is excellent.
Which are the best bars and restaurants right now?
For something low-key in the middle of Annecy, L’Étage is a favourite of mine. It’s a traditional French restaurant where the house speciality is an amazing steak-frites with Café de Paris sauce and, in the winter, traditional Alpine food such as fondue and raclette. It has a lovely log fire and high ceilings hung with old wine bottles – plenty of atmosphere.
In summer, No 1 on my list is L’Auberge du Père Bise in Talloires, a beautiful village in a bay towards the south of the lake. It’s great for a special occasion and the chef, Jean Sulpice, has two Michelin stars. In Annecy-le-Vieux, east of the town centre, there’s Laurent Petit’s three-starred Clos des Sens – he does an incredible 10-course Grand Fête tasting menu with wine pairings.
For an apéritif after work, Bon Pain Bon Vin is a great bar in Annecy’s old town, with an excellent wine list, imaginative cocktails and a range of charcuterie and cheese boards. It’s a great place to unwind.
What kind of lifestyle does Annecy offer?
The weather here is fabulous. Summer starts in May and lasts until the end of September, when the weather can still be 23C or 24C – those are the best months to visit outside the ski season.
Annecy appeals to people who are really into outdoor activities in both winter and summer. Clients looking to buy a second home now want to spend two or three months here across the year. In winter they’ll go skiing in Megève one day, to Lyon for some culture the next, then to the slopes in Chamonix the day after that. In summer there are any number of activities on offer in the mountains and on the lake. Walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, paddleboarding, yachting, waterskiing – you name it, you can do it here.
It’s wonderful to live by the lake. If you’ve had a tough day you can wander down to the water in a matter of minutes and feel as if you’re on holiday. That, for me, has huge appeal. It’s a totally different cultural experience.
Which are the best places to live?
The centre of Annecy is popular with those who work in town or need to commute to Geneva, but it’s the little villages around the lake that really appeal to international clients: Veyrier-du-Lac, Menthon-Saint-Bernard and Talloires on the east side, and Sévrier on the west. They’re all beautiful. What makes them particularly special is that they have villas right on the lakefront, albeit not many, as it’s a restricted market. Anyone with a budget of €3m-plus would most probably be looking for something on the lakeside, ideally with private lake access and a mooring.
Which side of the lake is best is a hotly debated topic. On the east side you have views towards the town and amazing sunsets – lots of sun in the afternoon, too. But the western side has lovely morning light and a better view down to the southeast of the lake. At least, that’s what they say.
GUY MURDOCH, FRENCH ALPS MANAGER, SAVILLS SKI
GMurdoch@savills.com +33 (0) 6 29 38 26 68
Pictures from top: Guy Murdoch; Annecy, known as the Venice of the Alps (Alamy); beetroot two ways at Clos des Sens; skiing at La Clusaz, 40 minutes from Annecy (Unsplash); the morning sun over Talloires (Unsplash)