Chamonix Travel Guide: A Complete Guide to your trip to the French Alps
Traveling to the French Alps this winter? Chamonix is a picturesque town among the famous Month Blanc that you must not miss! Below is a travel guide to Chamonix, where you will find the best place to stay in Chamonix, best things to do in Chamonix (besides skiing!), and the best restaurants in Chamonix!
Located about 1 hour south of Geneva lies Chamonix Mont Blanc, a quaint French village best known for skiing thanks to it hosting the 1924 Winter Olympics. The town of Chamonix is situated in a valley surrounded by mountains, with Mont Blanc being the most famous. While these landscapes attract many skiers in the winter, Chamonix has much to offer in all four seasons, including hiking and biking, however, the town itself is so lovely that many come far and wide just to enjoy the scenery, shopping, and Savoyard dishes.
There are several options for arriving in Chamonix. The closest international airport is Geneva which is a 1 hour and 14 minute drive to Chamonix. The Milan airport is 2 hours and 40 minutes, and the Zurich airport is 3 hours and 29 minutes. The cheapest option for arriving in Chamonix from the airport is via bus, which will cost between $11-28 for one way, and without any stops along the way.
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Where to Stay in Chamonix
In terms of where to stay, staying in the town of Chamonix itself is the best option to have the most access to dining, shopping, activities, and bars, and of course close proximity to all of the ski lifts. The very best option for a hotel in Chamonix is the 5 star property, Grand Hotel Des Alpes, located right in the center of the town. This magical alpine hotel comes equipped with a spa, a shuttle to and from the ski lifts, and beautiful rooms. Check out my blog post on where to stay in Chamonix for more!
Skiing in Chamonix-Mont Blanc
There is no particular best time of year to visit, as the mountains are used for skiing, hiking, and mountain biking, however, if you are coming for winter sports, the slopes are open December through April.
Chamonix is one of the best places to ski in the world! It has many mountains to choose from with countless off piste trails as well, if that is more your speed. All in all, whatever pass you choose the lift tickets are still significantly cheaper than skiing in the US! In terms of ski passes, there are several options…let’s break it down.
The first option is the Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass. This pass allows access to any of the following ski and sightseeing locations; Aiguille Du Midi, Montenvers, Tramway Du Mont-Blanc, Brevent, Flegere, Les Planards, Vormaine, Grand Montets, Balme, Les Houches, Megeve, Combloux, La Giettaz, Verbier, Skyway, and Courmayeur. This option costs 74 euro and is really only worth buying if you are planning to do a day skiing plus a sightseeing spot, 2 ski locations in one day, or 2 sight seeing spots in one day. For example, Aiguille Du Midi is a must-do sightseeing spot, and the ticket itself costs 73 euro. It is much more cost effective to buy the Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass the days you plan to ski as well as do another activity!
Alternatively, the other option is the Chamonix Le Pass which grants you access to all of Brevent and Flegere, Grand Montets, Balme, Les Planards and the other beginner ski areas in Chamonix Valley, as well as free access to Chamonix shuttle buses. This pass fluctuates in price depending on the day of the week, however, for 1 day the typical price during high season ranges between 42 and 62 euro. Though, it should be noted that this pass is not worth purchasing if you are a beginner and taking lessons at Les Planard, since the price for the individual slope is about 27 euro for the day.
Ski Rentals and More
Now let’s talk about ski rentals, which are also surprisingly inexpensive compared to the US. It is best to book ski rental equipment ahead of time as there are typically online discounts, and there’s also a guarantee that the equipment you need is not sold out for the week. I booked through Sport 2000, a rental chain in the French Alps, and was able to score 15% off. In total, I spent about $70 for a 5 day rental of skis, boots, and poles.
Most ski mountains have some type of dining option, but my favorite was L’Adret de la Flegere, which had beautiful views of the mountains and amazing Savoyard dishes. Be sure to book for lunch the day prior as it books quickly!
Best Restaurants in Chamonix
There are countless dining options in the town of Chamonix with incredible food no matter where you look. Below some of the best restaurants in Chamonix that you can’t miss!
The perfect place for a cozy yet elegant traditional Savoyard dinner. The decor captures the essence of alpine ambiance, with cow bells hanging on the ceiling and vintage ski art scattered throughout, not to mention the food is to die for!
A perfect, upscale dining experience from start to finish that combines French and Japanese cooking. I highly recommend the salmon which comes with caviar. Afterwards be sure to stop by for a drink at Bar Les Caves, which is just downstairs.
Josephine is like a little slice of Paris in the mountains. Aside from the bustling interior, you’ll find seating outside with heated lamps and blankets, which is the perfect place to relax with their warm onion soup and mulled wine after a day of skiing.
Rose du Pont is a newly opened restaurant in Chamonix, and an absolute must. Its whimsical pink, unique architecture is hard to miss and the inside is even better! There are windows galore, allowing perfect view of the canal, and a floor to ceiling bar that can be admired from the upstairs balconies. The design is a work of art, and the food and drinks are just as wonderful!
Chalet 4810 remained a constant during my time in Chamonix; I couldn’t stay away! On the first floor you’ll find endless amounts of chocolates and pastries, and upstairs there is seating for tea, coffee, and desert. The pastries are so decadent, and a great way to decompress after a day of activity.
Best Things to do in Chamonix
Not a skier? Not a problem! Chamonix has a wide range of activities that shouldn’t be missed for skiers and non-skiers alike. Aside from all of the activities below, walking around and enjoying the beautiful town of Chamonix will never tire. I spent hours each day finding new shops, cafes, and scenic spots to enjoy. Below you will find tips for some of the best activities in Chamonix!
Aiguille Du Midi is one of the best things to do in Chamonix! Aiguille Du Midi, the highest cable car in France, brings you up 3,842 meters in elevation. It has the most breathtaking views overlooking both the French and Italian Alps.
This cable car, included in the Mont Blanc Ultimate Pass, brings you first to a look out point with a small restaurant and bar where you can enjoy the views. The next leg of the journey is taken on another cable car which brings you up to the tallest mountain peaks in Chamonix, where there are several panoramic look out points, a small snow cave, a skywalk called “Step into the Void”, and a restaurant and souvenir shop. Be sure to dress warm as you will be at the top of the mountains!
Snowshoeing is another popular activity in Chamonix if you want to enjoy the snow without the danger of skiing or snowboarding! Many people opt to buy lift tickets at the mountains where they can snowshoe around the ski mountains and also enjoy the restaurants found on the slopes. Snowshoe rentals can be purchased at ski shops like Sport 2000, and you can opt to do a solo hike or a guided hike for the best possible routes.
Paragliding is one of the best activities in Chamonix during all four seasons! Check out this Paragliding Discovery Flight by Ascende Parapente Chamonix for an incredible paragliding excursions! There are many different options for booking, and all start at about 150 euros for a tandem flight to enjoy the picturesque mountains.
The Train du Montenvers, accessed close to Les Planards ski area in Chamonix town, is a small red four car train that brings you up to the mountain of Montenvers, where there is The Mer de Glace ice cave! Here you will also find several trails for snowshoeing, The Refuge du Montenvers Hotel where there is a traditional Savoyard restaurant, panoramic view points of the mountains, and a gift shop and small restaurant for coffee and snacks. Unfortunately during my stay, the ice cave was closed due to wind, so check on the conditions prior to your journey up the mountain. Nonetheless, the train ride itself is so scenic it was still worth the trip!
Cross country skiing is just as popular as alpine skiing in Chamonix! You will find several trails for endless adventure in Chamonix, Vallorcine, Argentiere, and Les Houches. The trails cost about 6.5 euro per day to access and are cash only.
It is a must to try fondue in Chamonix, especially after a cold day out on the mountain. My favorite restaurant for fondue is La Caleche. Not only is the food delicious, but the traditional and elaborate decor makes for a unique dining experience. Be sure to make a reservation in advance, especially if you are traveling during December-January as these are some of the most busiest months!
Chamonix attracts mountain bikers from all over the world! La Tour, Grand Montets, and Les Houches are some of the most spectacular mountains for biking. If you are coming in the winter, fat biking is growing in popularity as a top winter activity in Chamonix. Electric fat bikes can be rented from Legend Chamonix starting at just $50 for 3 hours.
There are endless hikes in Chamonix! Lac Blanc is a beautiful lake in Chamonix, accessed via the Flegere gondola, and has great hiking around the lake and mountain. If you are hiking in the winter, be sure shoes with good traction!
While there is no dedicated area in Chamonix itself for snowmobiling, about 1 hour away you will find Nature Motoneige, a snowmobile company with tours for all levels of skill. The tours begin after 5:15pm when the slopes close, and will provide you with an exhilarating experience and incredible views!
The most popular place for après ski in Chamonix is La Folie Douce Hotel. The outdoor terrace is decked out with 2 bars, including an ice sculpture bar, a DJ, as well as tables and fire to keep warm. At nighttime you will find it is also a popular place to be with drinks flowing, performers, and several DJs.
Another popular nightlife destination is Les Caves, which is a bit more of an intimate lounge with fantastic drinks and a great ambiance.
That’s a wrap on my travel guide to Chamonix, France! Whether you are coming to Chamonix to ski, enjoy the spa, or hike through the mountains, it is a destination that won’t disappoint. Chamonix has one of the cutest ski towns in the world, incredible food, and so many unique activities to enjoy!