At the foot of the majestic snow-capped peak of Mont Blanc, the highest in Europe, lies the traditional alpine village of Chamonix, a picturesque town full of historic churches and charming inns, as well as the most famous and popular spa resort in the Alps. In this post we list some of the best attractions to see and do in Chamonix.
Chamonix has been a world-renowned ski resort since the 1924 Winter Olympics took place. Six different ski areas cater to all levels, from beginners to extreme skiers.
In addition to being a great destination for ski lovers, Chamonix offers numerous activities for all types of travelers and for all seasons. Here you will find the ideal place for hiking, climbing, paragliding, golf and tennis or just relaxing.
What to see and do in Chamonix - Mont Blanc
Located in southeastern France and easily accessible within an hour's drive from Geneva airport, Chamonix is a mecca for mountain lovers. Thousands of people travel here to attempt to climb its most popular attraction, Mont Blanc, a 4,810-meter alpine giant.
Another great place to visit in Chamonix is Montenvers, accessible via a 20-minute cog railway ride. From here you can see the glacier. Sea of ice 7 kilometers long, the third largest in the Alps, and the extraordinary Les Dru (among the most beautiful peaks in the world).
Chamonix also offers wonderful days or circuit rides: for example, the walk to the Lac Blanc postcard or the Tour du Mont Blanc 11 days. Chamonix skiing is popular especially for advanced skiers. And Chamonix is a magnet for climbers and mountaineers, with seventeen 4,000-meter peaks in the Mont Blanc massif. This is the great outdoors at its best.
Other attractions and things to do in Chamonix include paragliding, golf, swimming, indoor climbing, cycling and attending a number of festivals, markets and other events held throughout the year. Another option is to immerse yourself in the cafes, restaurants and bustle of Chamonix's pedestrian center.
Chamonix is also an ideal base for nearby attractions such as St Gervais-les-Bain (20 minutes by car), Geneva (65 minutes), Zermatt (135 minutes) and Grindelwald (3 hours).
Aiguille du Midi: The Pass into the Void, the best things to do in Chamonix
One of the main attractions of Chamonix, the Aiguille du Midi, considered the gateway to the Alps, is reached by the Mont Blanc panoramic cable car. The cable car ride takes a total of 20 minutes from the center of Chamonix to the summit and is divided into two parts.
The first part of the route reaches the Aiguille Map at 2,310 meters, which is the starting point of the Grand Balcon Nord excursion to Montenvers (also accessible from the Montenvers railroad down to Glace des Mer).
The second part of the route continues to the vetta dell'Aiguille du Midi, at 3,777 meters above sea level. This wonderful place has terraces with 360° views of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps.
There is another lift (open only from June to September) that crosses the Giant's Glacier to reach the upper terrace of Pointe Helbronner at 3,842 meters. It is worth the extra walk to enjoy the splendid view of Mont Blanc. Be sure to wear warm clothing and sunscreen and wear sunglasses.
Don't miss the attraction called"Not in the Void": A step into the void. This is a glass cabin (obviously shatterproof), totally transparent on all five sides, suspended over 1,000 meters in a vacuum, offering unforgettable sensations.
Climb Mont Blanc
We cannot talk about Chamonix without mentioning Mont Blanc. With its 4,810 meters it is the highest peak in Europe and every year is conquered by about 20,000 people.
The most popular routes start from Refuge Gouter ( 3,835 meters, accessible with a 4-6 hour hike from the Nid d'Aigle streetcar terminal) and from Rifugio Cosmic (3,613 meters, 30 minutes from the Aiguille du Midi cable car station) and the climb has a 1,000 / 1,200 meter vertical drop to the summit.
Although extremely strenuous, experienced climbers with a guide can climb to the top of Mont Blanc. After conquering Europe's highest mountain, climbers are rewarded with absolutely breathtaking views from the top.
Obviously not everyone can do it because of the technical and physical aspects. Therefore, it would be better for inexperienced climbers to start with other, easier routes. There are many options. The hiking routes include trails for all levels and all offer beautiful scenery.
The Mont-Blanc tramway offers a classic Chamonix experience, ideal for visitors who simply want to admire the scenery. The tramway runs from Le Fayet or Saint-Gervais and makes two stops: Bellevue and Nid d'Aigle.
Located at 1,900 meters and true to its name, Bellevue offers exceptional views. Here, tourists can take a scenic ride through the green pastures or follow the mountain bike trails leading to the village of Les Houches.
To continue on to the summit, take the streetcar to reach the Aguilera at 2,372 meters. Nid d'Aigle lies below the craggy peak of the Aiguille du Goûter (where mountaineers set out to climb Mont Blanc) and offers panoramic views of the Bionnassay glacier. There are many mountain trails around Nid d'Aigle, including scenic trails up to the Bionnassay glacier.
Stroll through the beautiful streets of Chamonix.
Chamonix is a beautiful town, although few people visit to wander through its streets. Clearly, the main attractions are close by. However, like all alpine towns, it has its beauty: crossed by a river, with its bridges, its shopping streets... Strolling through the town you will discover picturesque alpine chalets, charming baroque churches and historic Protestant chapels.
The town is known for its upscale atmosphere and fashionable boutiques. Many visitors stay in luxurious modern hotels, but there are also rustic retreats in the countryside. The town also boasts dozens of top-notch restaurants, from casual bars and pubs to fine dining.
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The Montenvers rack railway
Montenvers (1,913 meters) is a pretty alpine village located about 4 kilometers from the center of Chamonix. It can be reached in 20 minutes by train via the Montenvers railway (Chemin de Fer du Montenvers). The red train leaves from behind Chamonix's main train station and climbs up the mountainside, through pine forests and dark rock tunnels to emerge next to the La Mer de Glace glacier at 1,913m. The views are breathtaking.
The main attraction here is La Mer de Glace, a seven-kilometer glacier with a width of between 700 and 1,950 meters and a depth of up to 420 meters. And the third largest glacier in the Alps, after the Aletsch glacier in Grindelwald and the Gorner glacier in Zermatt.
In addition to the glacier itself, you can also visit a crystal museum, the ice caves, the Temple of Nature, the Glaciorium and the historian Grand Hotel du Montenvers whichhas been recently renovated. If you are accompanied by a mountain guide, you can also get close to the glacier to see up close the crevasses and bottomless holes ...
There are also wonderful hiking trails starting from Montenvers, including the hiking trail. Large northern balcony. For those wishing to return to the village of Chamonix, there are trails that pass through the villages of Les Planards and Les Bois.
The Montenvers train is included in the Mont Blanc Unlimited skipass, along with the Aiguille du Midi cable car, the Tramway du Mont Blanc and several other attractions.
La Mer de Glace, the largest glacier in France
The Mer de Glace is one of the largest glaciers in Europe and the largest in France. And almost seven kilometers long! This historic site attracted many tourists in the 19th century and visiting it is still one of the most interesting things to do in Chamonix.
The easiest way to get to La Mer de Glace is via the Montenvers rack railway we talked about earlier - it only takes 20 minutes! From there the views are beautiful.
From the train station you can also do several interesting hiking trails such as Signal Forbes, which rises to 2,198 my offers excellent views of the glacier.
Grotte de Glace, the best things to see in Chamonix
If you visit the Mer de Glace glacier, you can not miss the Grotte de Glace, an ice cave located at the foot of the glacier. It is 100 meters long and offers the opportunity to visit the inside of a glacier. Note that to get to the entrance you will have to go down about 400 steps (and then climb up).
However, it is interesting because you can see how the glacier has (sadly) retreated in recent years - the blue color inside the glacier is spectacular!
Climb Le Brévent and reach the Aiguillete des Houches.
Visitors can discover some of Chamonix's most unspoiled scenery by climbing Le Brévent. To get there, take the cable car from the village of Chamonix to the first stop at Plan Praz (1,999 meters).
From here, well-maintained trails lead to the peaceful Lac Cornu and Grand Balcony South. On this southern slope, there is a fantastic panoramic view of Mont Blanc. This area is also famous for paragliding. Then, take the cable car to the top. The brévent a (2,525 meters), where you can enjoy wonderful views.
For a scenic drive, take the road to Aiguillette des Houches. It's only about 4 kilometers but the views are incredible, as they always overlook Mont Blanc. And if you want to have lunch with a dreamy view, you can stop at the famous Bellachat refuge. Undoubtedly, one of the best excursions to do in Chamonix.
But if we talk about excursions, one of them should not miss the Lac Blanc. It is beautiful and the peaks are reflected in the water, creating a cinematic landscape. This alpine lake is located at 2,352 meters above sea level.
The easiest way to get there is via the ski lifts that will take you from La Flègere to L'Index. From there begins a well marked but rocky hiking trail of about 3 kilometers to the lake.
Glacier des Bossons, one of the most beautiful glaciers to see in Chamonix
The Mer de Glace is not the only interesting glacier in and around Chamonix. You can also visit the Bossons Glacier! To get there, there is a chairlift that leaves from Bossons and departs just a 5-minute walk from the glacier.
Then, you can walk along the rocky path. The Union that winds through the High Alps at an altitude of 2,589 meters. This route allows you to enjoy incredible views of the Bossons and Taconnaz glaciers.
In winter, this area is ideal for alpine skiing at the Vormaine ski resort, which is the best ski area in the Chamonix valley for beginners and children ready for ski school.
Skiing in Chamonix
Of course, we could not forget to mention skiing, one of the best activities to do in Chamonix. Every year, thousands of people come from all over the world to ski in Chamonix and climb Mont Blanc. And there are few places with better views to enjoy this sport. The village offers four main ski areas:
- Brevant / Flegere - the largest ski area in Chamonix, with 32 runs, including 7 black runs and 13 blue runs, excellent for intermediate and advanced skiers;
- The Grands Montets - This is the highest and most demanding area, with 28 kilometers of slopes in total, including 6 black runs and 4 red runs. It is located between 1,235-3,300 meters above the village of Argentière;
- Les Houches - one of the largest ski resorts in Chamonix, with 55 kilometers of ski runs, 12 red and 2 black. There are magnificent views of the Mont Blanc massif from the top of the elevator;
- e The Domaine de Balme - Its 29 kilometers of mostly gentle slopes offer 20 runs, 11 of which are blue runs.
Although often associated with extreme skiing, Chamonix is well equipped for beginners.
- The ski resort of Les Planards is perfect for children;
- La Vormaine, in the Col de Balme ski area, has gentle, sunny slopes ideal for beginner skiers and snowboarders;
- Le Savoy, at the foot of the Brévent cable car, has two lifts, a beginner's ribbon and a ski nursery;
- On the Grands Montets site, the ESF d'Argentière ski resort has a ski school for children from the age of three.
Other charming villages and natural sites near Chamonix
Chamonix offers many mountain-related activities, but its surroundings are also home to beautiful villages. Don't miss destinations such as the magnificent glacier-cut mountain of Cirque du Fer-à-Cheval (about an hour's drive) and the Evian-les-Bains and Thonon-les-Bain spas on Lake Geneva (both about 90 minutes by car).
In a peaceful lakeside setting, the charming town of Annecy, a major tourist destination in the French Alps, is just over an hour's drive or two hours by train.
Nature lovers will also appreciate the Jura region, a perfect haven of peace made up of green hills dotted with historic towns and beautiful villages. the Vaudois Jura Park is a two-hour drive from Chamonix.
Art and culture lovers could instead reach the cosmopolitan city of Geneva (only one hour by car or two hours by train) or the elegant Lausanne (about two hours by car or three hours by train) in Switzerland.
In just over two hours by car you can reach the French gastronomic capital, Lyon, where you can taste the best French cuisine and admire wonderful art museums.
The Mont Blanc Tour, the best things to do in Chamonix
Finally, if adventure is your thing, we believe there is no better way to get to know this alpine area than by doing a Mont Blanc Tour. It is a 170-kilometer route that takes several days (7 to 10) to complete and passes through France, Italy and Switzerland. Almost nothing! It is considered one of the most beautiful hiking routes in Europe.
Basically what it does is to go around the Mont Blanc massif on beautiful trails. If you intend to do it, we advise you to book accommodations in advance because they are limited and the route is very touristy. You should be prepared as you will have to climb over 10,000 meters in altitude.
Where to stay in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc for tourism
The best place to stay in Chamonix is as close as possible to the center of the picturesque mountain village. From here, visitors have easy access to fantastic restaurants, cafes and stores, as well as the Aiguille du Midi cable car and the Brévent cable car.Find accommodation to stay in Chamonix