Chamonix (1035 m) is a famous winter resort in the French Alps, with many ski pistes and other winter activities! If you visit it during summer, you still won’t be disappointed, as the area is dressed in green and the highest peaks are always covered in snow. Below I list, 5 must-do activities for anyone visiting Chamonix – Mont Blanc for the first time. However, there are even more things to do there, just make sure you allow yourself plenty of time to explore the area.
1. View from the top
The Alps are full of peaks you can climb. Below I present three popular viewpoints that are easy to reach, i.e. they are accessible via cable car. For the more adventurous, Chamonix offers many choices for mountaineering or alpinism, as it is known in the area. If you are one of those, don’t forget to consult a local guide/expert!
- Aiguille du Midi
One of the highest viewpoints (at 3842 m) in The Alps that you can reach via cable car. Once on top, you can find the space “A STEP INTO THE VOID”, a glass area (including the floor) for extraordinary views! There is a panoramic restaurant on top as well as a souvenir shop. On your way there, remember to step off at Plan de l’Aiguille and spend a few minutes there before taking the next cable car to L’Aiguille du Midi. Lastly, don’t forget to wear warm clothes and sunglasses along with sun cream. The temperatures can be freezing up there, and due to the white scenery, the reflections from the sun can be harmful to the eyes and skin.
This peak offers some great views of the mountains and freezing temperatures in winter (like the other high peaks). From Chamonix, take the cable car to Plan Praz and from there take another cable car that arrives in a few minutes at 2525 m.
- Télécabine Panoramique Mont-Blanc
Take the 50-minute long gondola ride for unforgettable views over The Alps and its many glaciers. The trip takes you up to Italy, and you can opt-in for a return or one-way trip. The cable car departs from the top of L’Aiguille du Midi from the end of spring until the beginning of autumn.
During winter, fans of ski and winter sports, in general, will find what they are looking for in this small town. There are many ski pistes for all levels ranging from complete beginners and professionals, who even can choose to ski off-piste (hors-piste) (make sure to consult a local guide/expert first).
For beginners and young kids, I suggest either Les Planards ski area or Le Savoy. Les Planards has 2 very easy ski pistes, 1 easy and 1 difficult. It also has an Alpine coaster, free with every area ski pass. Le Savoy, is at the footstep of the cable cars to Le Brévent and has a very easy piste.
Le Bvent ski area has ski pistes for all levels. Most of the easy and very easy pistes start at Plan Praz, at 2000m. For the difficult and very difficult ski pistes, you need to take the chairlift to Parsa (but first take the funicular Funi2000 from Plan Praz that takes you to the beginners’ zone and walk from there until you reach the chairlift). From there you can either ski down the slope or continue your way from there to other ski lifts. Le Flégère ski area is next to Le Brévent and has pistes for all levels.
3. Go to a Glacier
There are many glaciers in the Chamonix – Mont Blanc area. They are famous for the spectacular ice caves that are created underneath them.
What is a Glacier?
A glacier is a thick mass made of ice. Its characterised by its ability to move (slowly) in the space. A glacier takes a lot of years to form. The physical phenomena of melting and sublimation of snow are responsible for its creation. Glaciers can be found in many parts of the world, and they can vary in length from a few meters to many kilometres.
The glacier that is closest to Chamonix is Mer de Glace in Montevers. To get there, you need to take the Chamonix-Montevers train that is located behind the Chamonix train station. Montevers has a height of 1913 m and has a viewing platform for Mer de Glace, the largest and longest glacier in France. Mer de Glace is 7.5 km long and 200 m deep. From Montevers, you can take the gondola that takes you to an Ice Cave (Grotte de Glace) inside the glacier (note you will also need to descend and then ascend 480 steps). Alternatively, you can walk there via the designated footpath. Due to the movement of the glacier, the ice cave is restructured every year. In Montevers, you can also find a restaurant, a souvenir shop, a hotel (only open during summer) and an exhibition centre about the glacier and its history.
4. Walk in the city centre
Take some time to walk in the city centre. There are lovely small streets and inspiration for mountainous shopping ideas. If you’re a museum lover, then you will want to visit the small museums to learn about the area and its traditions. In Chamonix you can find the following museums:
- Alpine Museum (Musée Alpin)
A small museum about the history of Chamonix as a ski resort.
- Tairraz Centre – Crystal Museum (Musée des Cristaux – Espace Tairraz)
Another small museum about the crystals that are mined in the area.
- Exposition: Alpinism (Espace Tairraz – L’Espace Alpinisme)
This exposition shows the history of mountaineering and its equipment.
- House of Memory and Heritage Janny Couttet (Maison de la Mémoire et du Patrimoine Janny Couttet)
A renovated house about the heritage and culture of Chamonix and its Valley.
5. Relax and enjoy the view
Either season you visit I’m sure that there will be some amazing views to enjoy! So, sit back, relax and enjoy! 🙂
For more information about the Chamonix valley, visit the official website.
P.S. For the above attractions make sure you check their opening times as they vary depending on the season and the weather conditions. Also, note that some cable cars may only be open during the summer and winter high seasons.