Why visit the Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley? Well, it should be in every mountain lover’s bucket list! There are plenty of reasons why to go and visit Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley. That is why I put together a Must-Read Guide to Chamonix Mont-Blanc.
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You can summarise why Chamonix is so amazing in seven facts:
1) Chamonix lays at the foot of The MONT BLANC (4810m), the highest mountain in Europe, making of it, a unique spot! (You must have read already my Must-Read Guide to Courmayeur. Courmayeur is on the other side – the Italian side, of the Mont Blanc or Monte Bianco).
2) Chamonix in winter is famous for its freeriding and lots of activities for non-skiers. Plus Chamonix is not only for the daredevil! It offers activities and variety of slopes for all levels.
3) Chamonix in summer is amazing, and you can tell that a favourite spot for visitors. There are lots of incredible sightseeing tours to take. And wide range of outdoor activities for all.
4) Chamonix is a year-round destination and a lively Alpine city. This is not a purposed-built resort, people live here all year. That makes the vibe of the place!
5) Chamonix’s heritage. You can find it through its art, culture, architecture and cuisine.
6) Very close to the highway. Chamonix is one of the easiest towns to reach .
7) Chamonix offers a wide variety of accommodation for all budgets. So, it is not only for the rich and famous!
History of Chamonix. Must-Read Guide to Chamonix
Chamonix has a long and fascinating history. Starting from the first explorers to the golden age of winter sports.
The town has an amazing cultural and architectural heritage.
You can book one of the weekly guided heritage tours. In these you can discover the architectural diversity of Chamonix. Baroque churches to Protestan chapels. Hotels and palaces from the “Golden Era” to “Art Deco” facades. From traditional farmhouses, to colossal villas passing through chalets contrasting with modern buildings.
1741: Two English men Windham and Pococke discovered “Chamouny” valley and its glaciers. The population at the time was living on farms. These two men lead the first touristic exploration climbing the Mer de Glace glacier.
1786 – The age of mountaineering started. Jacques Balmat and Michel-Gabriel Paccard conquest the summit of the Mont-Blanc. This sealed the fate of this small mountain village forever.
1821: The creation of the first company of guides in the world. This helped organise and supervise climbers in high mountains. In 2021 the Compagnie des Guides will celebrate 200 years.
1924: First Winter Olympics in Chamonix.
1955: Inauguration of the Aiguille du Midi cable car. At 3,842 m it allows the high mountains to be accessible.
1992: Official opening of the Montenvers railway
Today, Chamonix Mont-Blanc is the world capital of skiing. It is also the birthplace of mountaineering. Plus, the third most visited natural site in the world.
Chamonix has been a magnet for sportsmen and women, and artists. Today, like yesterday, Chamonix inspires curiosity and admiration…
How to get to Chamonix Mont Blanc. Must-Read Guide to Chamonix.
Chamonix is the resort with easier access in the French Alps! Located at the crossroads of France, Switzerland and Italy.
The town benefits from a direct access by motorway.
Chamonix has its own train station connected to the international railway:
o The “Mont Blanc Express”
o “Léman Express”
TGV train from Paris. (Chamonix has its own train station connected to the European rail network)
There are three main international airports nearby:
o Genève (Switzerland) : 1h by car (motorway)
Regular public transport, shared transport or private
o Lyon St Exupéry (France) : 2h15 by car (motorway)
o Milano (Italy) : 2h30 by car (motorway)
Other airport close by is Turin.
Shopping at Chamonix -Must-Read Guide to Chamonix
There is a main pedestrian street in the town centre of Chamonix with 400 boutiques. Open 7/7 days.
What can you buy in Chamonix? From luxuries to souvernirs. Or if you like your sports, you’ll find the best sport brands. Millet, North Face, Crazy, Salomon, Rossignol, Moncler, Peter Mac Arthur, Lacoste and Longchamp…
Where to eat in town – Must-Read Guide to Chamonix
You can find all kinds of food in Chamonix. From Savoyard specialties served in rustic mountain restaurants, to Michelin-starred Albert 1er. You can eat from international dishes to nouvelle cuisine. For wine lovers, first class sommeliers conduct regular wine tasting evenings or lunches.
· Restaurant Albert 1er : Simplicity is perfection
A family tradition, of five generations, manned by Damien Leveau. His food has roots in the Alpine lands of France and Italy. He has achieved a star of the Michelin guide.
Located in the heart of Chamonix. This restaurant has the most extraordinary decorations of Chamonix. It serves Savoyard specialties. Created in 1946 by Grandpa Luc and still run by his family.
Relax with a drink at the lounge bar or sit at the sunny street café, a perfect place for watching the world going by!
Restaurant La Calèche contact +33 4 50 55 94 68
The pedestrianised streets offer lovely boutiques, fine restaurants and bars.
Chamonix welcomes year-round customers from the entire world. Thus, they have Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Indian, Mexican restaurants also.
Everyone can find their ideal place.
Where to eat on the mountain
Depending on where you are in the mountains, there are 34 altitude restaurants.
Below are some favourites.
o Refuge Plan de l’Aiguille
Located below the intermediate station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car. The Refuge Plan de l’Aiguille overlooks the Chamonix valley. It has a panoramic terrace. Claude and Marie-Noëlle will cook you homemade dishes!
Refuge Plan de l’Aiguille contact: +33 6 65 64 27 53
o Restaurant 3842m / Cafeteria Summit
One of the highest in Europe!
Outstanding setting & unique in the world. Certified “Maître Restaurateur”. This restaurant offers menus with fresh seasonal and local products.
After taking a train for 20 minutes through alpine woods in the mountains you’ll be there. The resort of Montenvers-Mer de Glace. I have written a story about our visit in summer .The train departure is some 5 minutes from the town centre. Up there you can enjoy a meal at the Montenvers Refuge overlooking the glacier.
The granite-built refuge is from the 1880s, when travellers used to come by mule. Imagine that! Those where the actual ‘machos’!
Famous people came to visit this special place such as Napoléon III, Pasteur, Victor Hugo…
Renovated in 2016-2017, it maintained the historic soul and spirit of the building.
Another place to go and have lunch with a view. Right on top of the Le Brévent cable car, so accessible for pedestrians and skiers. Serving Savoyarde specialties, as well as pasta, soup, steaks and foie gras.
Le Panoramic contact: +33 4 50 53 44 11
o Le Alpage de Balme in Vallorcine
Located near the top of the gondola, over the Aiguille des Posettes drag lifts. This is a classic mountain restaurant serving home cooked food. You should make a reservation as it is a foodie’s favourite.
L’ Alpage de Balme contact: + 33 683 33 86
o La Cremerie du Glacier in Argentiere.
Small wooden chalet near the bottom of the Pierre-a-Ric home run. You can access it on foot going through the access road from the bottom of the Grands Montets. Built by Georges Ravanel, who used to cut ice from the glacier to sell to local hotels and restaurants in 1926. It soon became a stop place for hikers around. It serves Savoyard specialties for lunch and dinner. From farçon to fondues, omelettes, gratins and croutes.
La Cremerie du Glacier contact: +33 4 50 54 07 52.
Après ski in Chamonix – Must-Read Guide to Chamonix
Many bars open from 5 p.m. to 1 or 2 a.m.
Some of them offer happy hours and live music in the main seasons. There is an international atmosphere in Cham, and that shows in its bars.
o Bars and lounges :
Les Caves – Le Privilège – Barberousse – Social Club – Bar d’Up – L’Alibi – Chambre 9 – Elevation 1904 – Moo – Munster – Monkey – Jekyll & Hyde – La Terrasse – MBC…
o Night Clubs :
L’Amnesia – Le Tof – Les Caves
o Others :
Casino Le Royal
Chamonix and its different ski areas – Must-Read Guide to Chamonix
Chamonix offer you a natural playground unique in the world, with breathtaking views. There are four ski areas to suit every skier. 170 km of skiing over 100 slopes. There are also four high altitude sites for sightseers, climbers, walkers.
Les Houches 950 – 1900 m : Ski through natural terrain on a wide plateau with a 360° panorama. Les Houches also offer a snow park and Nordic pistes. Forests and farmsteads and also the Verte des Houches. It hosts the Wold Cup every year, downhill and super combined.
Brévent – Flégère 2000 – 2525 m : You access by a cable car and you get stunning views of the Mont-Blanc range and the Mer de Glace. The slopes are south-facing, so come here looking for sunshine. In summer there is lots of climbing, hiking and paragliding.
The Grands Montets 1230 – 3300 m : The place for expert and experienced skiers. They call it “Les Grands”. Legendary north-facing trails are available with impressive vertical drop. This area has given its fame to Chamonix. Snow cover here is remarkable until the end of the season. Remember that the top of the Grands Montets has closed and will continue so in 2020.
Balme – Le Tour – Vallorcine 1480 – 2336 m : The place for families, and skiers and boarders of all abilities. Located in the border with Switzerland. You access it from the villages of Le Tour and Vallorcine. Here there are choices of wide, gentle pistes by the trees and exciting glades skiing. More experienced skiers and boarders will enjoy the outstanding off-piste opportunities.
Children and beginners will find several easier ski pistes down the valley. Check those close to the villages. Examples are Les Planards, Le Savoy, Les Chosalets, La Vormaine and Le Tourchet.
Two attractions you should take time to do:
Aiguille du Midi (3842 m).
Go for the scenery and discover what the high mountain has to offer. You can check my post on the Aiguille du Midi here. You can try the “Step into the Void”- walk into a transparent cage and look down if you are not afraid. Or access the famous glaciar off-piste Vallée Blanche route.
You will understand the history of the mountain, also see the sad shrinking of the Mer de Glace. A staircase through the rocks shows you how fast the glacier has melted over the years. Don’t forget to go into the ice grotto, dug every summer.
Transfer around the villages – Must-Read Guide to Chamonix
Guests staying at hotels, residences, gites and chalets in Chamonix will get FREE guest cards on arrival.
This card gives guests discounts, free buses and trains between Servos and Vallorcine. Also they get reduced rates at the municipal sporting and cultural attractions.
The local buses will transport you to the different ski areas and places in Chamonix valley. It runs every 10 or 30 minutes.
FREE LITTLE BUS DOWNTOWN – “LE MULET”
Every 20 mn – Free for everyone
NIGHT BUS – in the Chamonix valley – “CHAMO’NUIT”
From 20.50 to 23.30 everyday. 2 € / person / one-way ticket
How to ski the mountains in the Chamonix Valley – Must-Read Guide to Chamonix
The ski areas in Chamonix cater to all ability levels.
Les Planards or Savoy or La Vormaine areas are for beginners. Also Les Houches is great for people starting to ski or board.
Les Houches, Brévent-Flégère and Le Tour ski areas are suitable for intermediates.
The ski areas for intermediate offer options for experts. But the grand favourite for experts is the Grands Montets!
Skiers and boarders come every year to Cham attracted by its brilliant off-piste. Glaciers, steep couloirs, tree skiing, powder are available. All with the spectacular views of the Mont Blanc massif.
Note that off-piste is only for experienced skiers. Guides have to go with skiers or boarders going off-piste.
Ski Schools – Must-Read Guide to Chamonix
There are twelve ski schools and thirteen mountain guides offices. You are spoilt for choice here.
It is possible to have private lessons or group lessons all day, half day or only 2 hours.
Located in the heart of Chamonix, in a quiet street in the city center. It has been completely renovated by the famous interior designer Sybille de Margerie. A mixture of typical architectural style combines contemporary touch and mountain atmosphere.
This is one of the favourite hotels in Chamonix for many people. It is a property, divided in two buildings called L’Albert 1er and La Ferme. Each room at Le Hameau Albert Premier is very well decorated. Its 2 Michelin stars restaurant offers Savoyard specialties. The wellness centre has a hammam, hot tub, sauna and massage rooms. There is a free shuttle to the slopes, and you can walk to get to the Chamonix SCNF in 5 minutes.
Modern and cozy décor next to the Aiguille du Midi cable car. This 4-star hotel has a great NUXE spa. Read my report of the hotel here. Great hotel for families, if you don’t mind your kids eating lots of sweets. The clue is in the name!
The concept of this hotel is ov the female alpinists. In this case of Isabelle Straton. She was the first female climbing the Mont-Blanc in winter in 1875. She did so with her guide Jean Esteril Charlet Starton.
Inside you will see elements of the history of these two alpinists,
This hotel is very spacious and comfortable. Most rooms have balcon over the Mont Blanc or the Chamonix mountains.
Located in the middle of town. Great option for those not wanting to spend all their salary on the holiday. Rooms have wooden walls and are simple and clean. Many offer great views of the mountains. The hotel offers breakfast. The ski shuttle stop is 50 yards away from the entrance.
Summer in Chamonix is very popular. The town has lots of vibe and visitors. It is different from many other French resorts that do not attract visitors in that season. Here there are lots of international cultural and sporting events. Chamonix is the world of mountaineering so there is always something going on!
You have up to 45 different activities adapted to all abilities.
You can search for your own accommodation in the snow for your next ski holiday through our Accommodation Search tab. Or if looking to stay in the heart of the Mont Blanc Valley in the Aosta Valley, check Il Coure della Valdigne review here. This is our own family home in the mountains, that I am renting out when not using, you can always write me a private message if interested to email@example.com
You can book directly through Airbnb through this link
If you want to take your family skiing and you don’t know where to start, read here. And search for your ski transfers from all airports to the Mountains here. And for those that are like me, that are lazy to cook, you can get your food, even gourmet mountain food delivered to your home with Huski.
If renting equipment (skis or snowboards) check our agreement with Skiset– you can get up to 50% off ski or snowboard rental rates. I have been using them for years every year when I go to America and Europe and they are great!