Planning your next (or even first) winter excursion and striving to choose a place? Look no further than Chamonix in the French Alps. This winter resort is ideal for snow and ski lovers. The itinerary below features a little bit of everything from sightseeing to skiing. It is three days long, and you can easily append more days for skiing in the end if you want to.
This itinerary is based on my first visit to Chamonix which doubles as my first winter excursion abroad and my first trip involving skiing.
3 Days in Chamonix: Itinerary Overview
Below, there is some useful information to plan your trip. Skip to itinerary by clicking here.
When to visit?
This depends on the amount of skiing you want to do. If you really want to practise, then consider going in January of February as high season in Chamonix (which usually means more snow) starts in late December. If you are a beginner, then I recommend visiting a week before the high season, which is called “first snow season” (usually mid-December). This can be risky as snow is not guaranteed, but if there is snow, the pistes (at least the ones which are open) will be less crowded. The only disadvantage for visiting outside high season is that some of the attractions mentioned below may be closed.
When we visited, we booked our flights for mid-December because these days were convenient for us, unaware of the many closures that we could encounter and ignoring the chance of finding no snow. However, we were quite lucky because it heavily snowed two days before our trip and we could enjoy amazing landscapes. For a detailed description of our experience check out my travel diary for this trip here.
How to get there?
The closest airport to Chamonix is Geneva in Switzerland, and there are frequent flights there from many European destinations. From Geneva airport take one of the shuttle buses that leave for Chamonix (Easybus and Alpybus are two of the companies that offer an affordable shuttle bus service; check their website for the latest timetables). Chamonix has a bus and a train station (Chamonix Mont Blanc) which provide connections to nearby cities.
How to move around?
It is easy to move around in Chamonix on foot, especially if you are staying in one of the hotels in the town centre. If you are staying outside Chamonix, then you may find it easier to rent a car. To follow this itinerary no use of car or public transport (apart from airport transfers) is required.
Where to stay?
Chamonix primarily relies on tourism, and hence there are many accommodation options available from budget apartments to boutique hotels. When we visited, we stayed in the Mercure Chamonix Centre Hotel [AD] (after finding a great deal online). The hotel was exceptional, and we were even given a mountain view room! Although breakfast was not included in our nightly rate, we decided to treat ourselves and paid for breakfast for one morning, and it was amazing (it even had macarons). The other days, we just went for breakfast in one of the many cafes in the town centre, a short walk away. Note that although the hotel is next to the train station, our room was not noisy at all.
What to book in advance?
I would say only your way to arrive in Chamonix (flights/buses/trains) and your accommodation. You may want to check the online prices of the various passes available, in case they are cheaper than buying them on the day. This is true for ski equipment rental as well (but make sure to get them from a shop close to the piste you are using so you don’t have to carry them for too long).
TOP TIP: Don’t forget your warm clothes and to dress in layers!
Are there any useful websites?
Day 1 – Arrival Day
Allow a morning to arrive and settled in Chamonix.
14:00 Walk around Chamonix
Walk around the town centre. Identify places to get lunch/dinner in the next few days and gear up for your winter excursion from the many shops specialising in winter sports equipment. Also, don’t forget to pass by the tourist office to get some maps of the area. Bonus: Try some delicious goodies from the small patisseries there. My favourites are Pastry House Richard for some marron glacé and Ancey Chocolatier for colourful macarons! I will put them on the map below for your convenience.
Note: The map below is for reference only. Feel free to adjust it based on where is your accommodation.
Day 2 – Enjoy the views
The day today is all about getting high up and enjoying the views. Don’t worry you won’t need to mountaineer there, all of these places are easily accessibly by a cable car.
Breakfast suggestion: Aux Petits Gourmands for some delicious croissants.
10:00 L’Aiguille du Midi
L’Aiguille du Midi is the highest point you can reach by cable car in the area at 3842 m. The route takes you via Plan de l’Aiguille to change cars. From there, you can enjoy great views over Mont Blanc (4808 m). Once at the very top, don’t miss the chance to “Step into the Void”, i.e. walk on a small platform made of glass, hanging 1000 m above the ground. You can find the cable base station at the town centre.
Find out more about L’Aiguille du Midi here.
14:00 Montevers Railway and Mer de Glace
The second stop of the day is Mer de Glace. To get there you need to take the train from Chamonix to Montevers. Don’t forget to get a window seat, because the views are absolutely breathtaking! Once you arrive there, you can find a few activities you can do. First, grasp the view of the largest glacier in France (to give you an idea it is 7 m long and 200 m deep). Then, take the gondola that takes you to an ice cave beneath the glacier. In there, you can enjoy all sorts of ice sculptures, which are recreated every year.
On the side, there is also a small museum of crystals and a Glaciorium (an exhibition about glaciers and glaciology). However, the latter is only open during the summer. Before leaving don’t forget to get something to eat either from the panoramic restaurant or the restaurant of the Grand Hotel du Montevers. Both have restricted opening hours, so you may only find open the small cafe, next to the shop by the train station.
Find out more about Mer de Glace here.
18:00 Chamonix Town Centre
After returning from Montevers, head to the town centre for dinner and for a relaxing evening.
Dinner suggestion: Restaurant La Moraine for some chestnut soup and cheese fondue.
Day 3 – Skiing Day
The last day in Chamonix is dedicated to skiing.
10:00 Les Planards
Les Planards is the closest ski piste from the town centre and it is ideal for beginners and families with young children. It has two super easy pistes, one easy and one difficult. There is also a ski school to help you brush up your skills. The highest point in the piste is at 1249 m. Lastly, during high season you can find an alpine coaster luge!
Find out more about Les Planards here.
Brévent is another popular ski piste in Chamonix, only a short walk from the town centre. It has 21 pistes for all levels accessible by 11 lifts. To get there, you need to take the gondola to Plan Praz at 2000 m, and from there the cable car to Brèvent at 2524m. It is the second-highest point in the area accessible by cable car after L’Aiguille du Midi and offers fantastic views over Mont Blanc. You can ski down from either part of the route, but if you are like me, you may prefer to skip skiing altogether and get down using the cable car.
Find out more about Brévant here.
18:00 Chamonix Town Centre
Head for an après ski drink (or for dinner) in the town centre, before heading to your accommodation to pack for your next stop.
P.S. When we visited, we spend a night in Geneva before returning to London. Here you can find how to spend 24 hours (split in two days) in Geneva!
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