Must-read guide to Chamonix

Winter in Chamonix- Photo credits: Salome Abrial. OT Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix

Must-read guide to Chamonix Mont-Blanc

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.
Ski de Randonnée in Chamonix. Photo: Christophe Raylat. OT Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix.
Ski de Randonnée in Chamonix. Photo: Christophe Raylat. OT Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix.
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!
Architecture in Chamonix. Photo: Salome Abrial. OT Vallée de Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix.
Architecture in Chamonix. Photo: Salome Abrial. OT Vallée de Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix.
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.
Architecture in Chamonix, painting at the Office of the Mountain Guides. Photo: Salome Abrial- OT Vallée de Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix.
Architecture in Chamonix, painting at the Office of the Mountain Guides. Photo: Salome Abrial- OT Vallée de Chamonix. Must-Read guide to Chamonix.
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.

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Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?

Skyway Monte Bianco viewed from Pavillion, at 2,200m - mid-station of the Skyway Monte Bianco.

Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?

Aiguille du Midi or Punta Helbronner- which one you should go to visit? Honestly, I would visit both and connect from one another through the Panoramic Mont Blanc Tunnel gondola.

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

You can tell my happiness of being on top of the world (at least European world). Here at the Aiguille du Midi. Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?
You can tell my happiness of being on top of the world (at least European world). Here at the Aiguille du Midi. Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?

The case for Aiguille du Midi – Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?

Aiguille du Midi (3842m) is located in Chamonix, in the border with Italy, and is one of the biggest attractions to go year-round, and lots in the summer to go and see the Mont Blanc (4810 m).

The funicular departs from a very modern lift base that has a shop, a food outlet and the big funicular that takes you to the middle station, from where you take a second funicular to the top. The top has a series of different terraces at different heights, to see 360-degree views of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps in all their splendour plus the magnificent Mont Blanc. Inside the structure is a bit old and you go within a cave, taking an elevator to go up the rock. This does not take the awesomeness of the landscape… It is really worth to go up there, you do feel you are on the top of the world, even though is really the top of Europe!

The Panoramic Mont Blanc lift connects Aiguille du Midi in France, with Punta Helbronner, in Italy. Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?
The Panoramic Mont Blanc lift connects Aiguille du Midi in France, with Punta Helbronner, in Italy. Aiguille du Midi vs Punta Helbronner – which one you should do?

You can connect to go to Italy via the Panoramic Mont Blanc lift, which is a series of three gondolas (cable cars) going together on top of the Mer de Glace (the glacier sea) that zips you to Italy to Punta Helbronner (3466 m). This gondola has reopened last year after being closed for a bit due to one of the cabins falling on the glacier. I’ve written about it in this post some time ago. Still, this happened in winter, when this lift was closed, and it was due to a massive snow storm combined with really cold temperatures which froze the snow on top of the cable and its weight made it snap.

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The Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola to re-open 15 June

The Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola to re-open 15 June

The Panoramic Mont Blanc gondola to re-open 15 June

The Panoramic Mont Blanc Gondola has been closed since January 2018, when storm Eleanor laid too much snow on the cables and that cause them breaking and  two gondolas falling down on the Glacier du Géant.

The lift connects the Aiguille du Midi (3,842m) in Chamonix, France to Punta Helbronner (3,466m) in Courmayeur, Italy, and the people that ride on the lift can see the marvellous Mer de Glace underneath. The ride takes 30 minutes to cross 5 km and is only opened in summer.

Around February the Compagnie du Mont Blanc found some more faults, but the company was still optimistic to open by the end of May. Now they are announcing its opening on 15 June. Last summer the gondola has to remained closed in order to change its power cable.

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Our Route des Grandes Alpes to cross from France into Italy

A stop for lunch at Notre Dame de Bellecombe. Our Route des Grandes Alpes to cross from France into Italy.

Our Route des Grandes Alpes to cross from France into Italy

This past summer we went to have a holiday in the mountains. From Chamonix we were off onto Courmayeur. But it was a Saturday – what is considered here in the mountains as a Samedi Noir or Sabato Nero, meaning very long queues to cross the Mont Blanc Tunnel.

This past summer was ridiculously hot – even in the mountains – with the temperature being 31 C in Chamonix in the morning – imagine staying a couple of hours in line to cross the Mont Blanc Tunnel did not seem too much fun at the time.

How adventures start - with a good map. The IGN Route des Grandes Alpes. Our Route des Grandes Alpes to cross from France into Italy.
How adventures start – with a good map. The IGN Route des Grandes Alpes. Our Route des Grandes Alpes to cross from France into Italy.

I’ve asked the evening before some friends I have in Chamonix on how other way we could go – and how about taking the Petit St Bernard Pass. Arnaud Jamson, the deputy director of the Chamonix Tourism Office suggested me to go all around and stop in Megève for lunch, then go to the Lac du Roselend and from there go up to La Rosière to cross into La Thuile through the Petit St Bernard. This is a typical road for motorcyclists and bikers alike – many of these roads have been used by the Tour de France!

As I have a memory of a mosquito, I’ve asked at the hotel’s reception where I could get a good map, and I was told to go into the main street in Chamonix. There is a wonderful books and magazine store – that I could stayed for hours just looking around, where I bought the IGN Map of Route des Grandes Alpes. I love maps and this one was a great addition to my collection.

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L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa in Chamonix- a hotel’s review

Going back to L'Héliopic after a day out in the mountains. Review of L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa in Chamonix.

L’Heliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa in Chamonix- a hotel’s review

This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer here.

L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa is a four stars hotel next to the Aiguille du Midi lift in Chamonix. Very well located in Chamonix; it is ideal if you are going up to the Aiguille du Midi and 10 minutes from Chamonix centre.

We have been twice at the hotel with my kids and husband in the summer in our way to Italy. My kids called it ‘the best hotel in the world’ – mostly because it has a dedicated kids’ area with free sweets, juices and a virtual reality machine and computer…. No brainer! The only thing is that while you are having breakfast suddenly your kids -maybe yours are very well educated and don’t do that, but I can say I educated mine, but they still disappear from the breakfast room and suddenly are – where? – obviously in the kids’ area having more sweets than their little bellies can bear!

The bar at L'Héliopic. Review of L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa in Chamonix.
The bar at L’Héliopic. Review of L’Héliopic Hotel Sweet & Spa in Chamonix.

My kids would also say that the spa area is really good, which it is indeed! With a nice large pool, a jacuzzi, an ice grotto, an ice dive standing pool, a sauna and hammam, plus a lovely relaxation area with hanging cocoons, it is a very nice place where to finish your day. It can get busy, so choose your time during the early afternoon or a bit late, just before it closes in the evening.

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What’s new in Chamonix for the 2018/19-ski season.

Le Brevent in Chamonix - ski with the views to the Mont Blanc. OT Vallée de Chamonix - Photo by Salome Abrial. What's new in Chamonix for the 2018-19-ski season.

What’s new in Chamonix for the 2018/19-ski season.

Chamonix is the capital of skiing, and it does not cater only to the daredevil, extreme skier, but also to families and beginners. Its different areas have something for everyone. Chamonix is a long valley within tall mountains, with a series of ski resorts on both sides of this valley.

Ready for the adventure - Vallée Blanche, Chamonix- what is new for Chamonix's 2018/19-ski season - Never ski the Vallée Blanche without a ski guide. Photo: Salome Abrial. OT Chamonix.
Ready for the adventure – Vallée Blanche, Chamonix- what is new for Chamonix’s ski season 2018-19 – Never ski the Vallée Blanche without a ski guide. Photo: Salome Abrial. OT Chamonix.

With 13,000 inhabitants Chamonix is a lively town that caters to tourists in all seasons. 400 shops opened all days, all year round and 130 restaurants can entertain the most discerning client, and those who don’t want to spend their bonuses. There are plenty of options for everyone.

Located in the border of France with Italy and just very near Switzerland, one can stay in Chamonix and ski the three countries with the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass. If you want to only ski in the Chamonix Valley Ski Areas, then purchase the Chamonix Le Pass.

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QC Terme, the Italian spa experience arrives in Chamonix

A new QC Terme opened in Chamonix - a sauna surrounded by skis.

QC Terme, the Italian brand of deluxe spas has just opened in Chamonix, by the Mont Blanc. There has been for years another QC Terme on the other side of the Mont Blanc, at Pré de St-Didier.

In this new QC Terme spa, nature is the protagonist, offering an indulging experience of swimming amidst the snow and grassy meadows.

Infinity pool at the QC Terme in Chamonix.
Infinity pool at the QC Terme in Chamonix.

The spa has an unexpected combination of warmth and freshness, water and earth. Within the spa’s 3,000 square meters there are more than 30 wellness practices, offering a multi-sensory journey. An infinity pool with a reflection that merges with the water of the adjacent Alpine lake and the Bossons Glacier.

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A Day Visit to the Terminal Neige-Refuge in Montenvers, Chamonix.

The Terminal Neige-Refuge in Montenvers is a great day out, or a magnificent place where to sleep for a couple of nights up in the mountain. Credits : Villa Marie – Saint-Barth / L. Benoit, L. Di Orio

A Day Visit to the Terminal Neige-Refuge in Montenvers, Chamonix

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On our way to Courmayeur, this year we stayed for two nights in Chamonix. We had the luck to go this time up to the Gare du Montenvers and take the train up to the mountain to see the glacier of the Vallée Blanche. That in itself was a great day out! The train goes over a rack and pinion railway and through some nice forests and then climbs up giving travellers amazing views of Chamonix and the mountains surrounding the valley. Most people go up the station and then climb down the stairs to the ice cave, which needs to be carved each year in the glacier, as each year the glacier retreats many meters. It is impressive to see how high the glacier was not so many years ago. There is a small gondola that takes you to the top of the stairs, and then each year the stairs have to be extended down and down to reach the entrance of the ice grotto.

The train takes you from the station in Chamonix up to Montenvers, where the Mer de Glace awaits. Photo: The Ski Guru
The train takes you from the station in Chamonix up to Montenvers, where the Mer de Glace awaits. Photo: The Ski Guru

The day we choose was amazing, pretty warm in the sun, with some clouds menacing a storm that did not materialise, and we were happy to be up the mountain, as in the valley of Chamonix it was 31 C (this summer was way too hot all over Europe!). This considering that Chamonix is by Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe and even here it was hot!

The Mer de Glace as seen at the arrival station at Montenvers. Photo: The-Ski-Guru.
The Mer de Glace as seen at the arrival station at Montenvers. Photo: The-Ski-Guru.

Not too many people know, that 100 metres from the train station (gare), walking back to the valley, you find the Terminal Neige-Refuge. This hotel was built in 1880 to accommodate the first mountaineers and travellers who went to visit the Mer de Glace. From outside is a typical ‘rifugio’ of the Alps, with granite façades and small windows. The hotel is perched at 2049 meters over sea level (6725 feet) with magnificent views to the Mer de Glace glacier, the mythical Aiguille des Drus, the Grand Jorasses, and also the Valley of Chamonix.

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Planning your summer holiday in the mountains and beach – our next trip

The view from the top of the Skyway Monte Bianco - Punta Hellbronner- Amazing rotating gondola that takes you up to the highest point in Italy to see the Mont Blanc and all the surrounding mountains. Photo: The-Ski-Guru.

The summer holidays are coming upon us and I am counting the days to leave this hot city and have some days off. I have been planning this summer holiday for at least half an year and cannot believe it is finally coming! We will be going to the mountains and the beach in one trip, to please all the members of the family.  Even though I will be having a couple of meetings here and there, it is still time to spend with the family and enjoy being and playing outside.

I love planning where we are going to go each year. For winter we always go to the Alps driving, and we have done already 5 years of going to Pila, just up from Aosta, one going to Madonna di Campiglio and one adding Courmayeur to the end of our stay in Aosta/Pila. We always travel by car, as we take all our equipment with us, and we are well positioned in SE London to get to Folkestone for the Eurotunnel station.

Start of the trip at the Eurotunnel - can't wait! Photo by The-Ski-Guru.
Start of the trip at the Eurotunnel – can’t wait! Photo by The-Ski-Guru.

Summer is not different. I find that purchasing flights for the family during the kids’ school holidays is very expensive, plus I do love our road trips. So off we’ll be going soon to Folkestone to board the Eurotunnel and get into another adventure.


One thing to remember is to get the car lights stickers that are obligatory for UK cars driving in the Continent, so you do not blind the cars coming the other way, the yellow vests per each person in the car, a triangle and I am not sure if the breathalysers are still requested in France. It was the case, then I’ve read that it was not the case anymore – just check online before travelling just in case! Have all these things inside the car, reachable if you are stopped by the police, not in your car boot, as you could be fined if you need to get out to get them!

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The Panoramic Mont-Blanc lift, that connected Aiguille du Midi with Punta Helbronner has fallen down and will be closed this coming summer.

The gondolas that go on top of the Mar de Glace, from Aiguille du Midi in France (Chamonix) to Punta Helbronner in Italy (Courmayeur)

The Panoramic Mont-Blanc lift finished in the ground after suffering very weird conditions. A thick ice cover, thicker than the width of the cable covered a very long stretch of cable creating a very heavy mass, which made the cable collapse.

The Mont Blanc Panoramic Lift has fallen to the ground due to the weight of ice on top of its cable.
The Mont Blanc Panoramic Lift has fallen to the ground due to the weight of ice on top of its cable.

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