Summer in Chamonix

World class four-season destination

Chamonix is infectiously cosmopolitan. The 11.6km Tunnel du Mont-Blanc offers swift access to and from Italy’s Aosta Valley, while at the head of Chamonix’s own valley you can slip seamlessly via the celebrated Col du Forclaz into Switzerland. Road access is straightforward via Geneva, with non-autoroute option from Lyon via Chambéry and Albertville.

Despite its winter sports image, in summer everything but the snow-capped summit of Mont-Blanc and the slowly-retreating glaciers becomes a paradise for Alpine wildlife and a host of outdoor activities.

View of summer flower displays in heart of Chamonix

The village

It's grown over the years to town-sized proportions, but somehow the village feel is alive and well in the predominantly locally-owned businesses. Yes, the big-brand boutiques are there too (along with a slightly incongruous casino), but there's also a tangible pride in being a part of this remarkable place. Chamonix is like nowhere else.
It also continues to edge ever further upmarket. Property values climb relentlessly as premium apartment developers and individual chalet constructors snap up some of the most desirable plots around. Ultimately, though, the driving force behind the whole phenomenon remains the incomparable setting among some of the most astonishing mountain landscapes the Alps have to offer.

Staying There

Value for Money Accommodation Dining Out Nightlife Village Charm

See our Recommendations below for suggestions.

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High view of visitors looking at Mont Blanc from observation deck of Aiguille du Midi, high above Chamonix

Summer Activities

For all the glitz and glamour, Chamonix remains above all the spiritual home of mountain activities, with something for everyone, at all levels and whatever the season.

There are a few things that should be on everyone's "to do" list when they come to Chamonix, whether in summer or winter. Ascending to the Aiguille du Midi on a fine day, experiencing the altitude and gazing at the views and toward the summit of Mont Blanc is a spectacular trip. With the added thrill of stepping into the void, this is a once in a lifetime experience.

Buy a Mont-Blanc Multipass and you'll also want to take the train up to the glacier where you can go down hundreds of steps to enter the ice cave. Remember you have to climb back up so you need to be relatively fit - and take warm clothing, it's (literally) freezing up there! However, the legendary Hotel du Montenvers, now renamed Terminal Neige-Refuge du Montenvers will re-open in June 2017, at the same time as the hotel, after some major work. Guests will be able to enjoy traditional local cuisine in the cosy dining room or on the beautiful terrace. The Bar des Glaciers, located at the Montenvers train station, has also been refurbished and will serve snacks all day.

Golf, cycling, walking, watersports, parascending, mountaineering - it's all on offer somewhere in the Chamonix valley. And it doesn't have to be hard core. There are pleasant walks along "Les Balcons" - relative easy valleyside footpaths with the added bonus of occasional "cremeries", cafés which traditionally provided walkers with refreshment from their herd of cows grazing on the mountain pastures. And there are sufficient lifts open throughout so you don't need to climb to gain those spectacular views.

During our visit, we took the Mont-Blanc Tramway from Saint-Gervais up to the Nid d'Aigle above Les Houches. Spectacular scenery, and enough time to have lunch and a walk before your return trip.

Activities There

Attractions Walking Cycling Activities

Activities Information

Tourist Office

Chamonix Tourist Office

85 pl du Triangle de l'Amitié
74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc
Tel: +33 (0)4 50 53 00 24
www.chamonix.com


Places to visit

Tried and testedAiguille du Midi

100, Place de l’Aiguille du Midi
74400 Chamonix

Wide view of visitors on Aiguille du Midi observation deck above Chamonix with Mont-Blanc

Summer tarif 55€ return or included on the Mont-Blanc Multipass.

Ride the world’s greatest cable-car for a sensational two-stage haul at 10m/sec (12.5m/sec for the 2nd stage) all the way up to 3842m. When you get there you’ll step into a different world, and gain a healthy respect for the people who work on the high mountain. In summer or winter you’ll be gazing in awe at the snow-covered summit of nearby Mont Blanc — there’s also a panoramic bar/restaurant, souvenir shop and a display of archive photographs celebrating the lift.


Musée Alpin

La résidence,
89 avenue Michel Croz
74400 Chamonix
Tel: +33(0)4 50 53 25 93

This excellent museum’s collections retrace the development of Chamonix, from the arrival of the very first tourists, including a celebration of the Alpine activities which have made the town world-famous. Entry 5€.


Things to do

Tried and testedMontenvers Mer de Glace

35, Place de la mer de glace
74400 Chamonix
Summer tarif 29.50€ return or included on the Mont-Blanc Multipass.

View from carriage of Montenvers Mer de Glace Tramway above Chamonix

This classic rack railway begins beside the Gare SNCF de Chamonix and winds its way up to the celebrated Mer de Glace, where you can walk on (and even under) the glacier. These days getting down onto it requires a gondola lift descent, followed by a series of steel stairways fixed to the rocks. It’s an adventure, after which you can browse for souvenirs or revive your energy levels with drinks and snacks while awaiting the return tram.


80, Avenue de la Gare
74190 Le Fayet or
571, Rue du Mont-Lachat
74170 Saint-Gervais

Le Fayet - Nid d’Aigle (summer only) 35€ return or included on the Mont-Blanc Multipass

Visitors at high mountain viewpoint beside the Tramway du Mont-Blanc

Ride this historic tramway (France's highest mountain railway) from Le Fayet or Saint Gervais up to the Col de Voza, and higher still to the 2380m Nid de l’Aigle. During the 75min ride you’ll be dazzled by the landscapes along the way, whiile pondering what this must have felt like to the early travellers who rode the line when it completed back in 1913. There are opportunities for mountain walks above Les Houches from the Col and the Nid d’Aigle.


Via Ferrata

Chamonix Mont Blanc is opening its first via ferrata in summer 2017. Beginning next to the top of the Flégère cable car, the via ferrata Via des Evettes has two parts: first, a via ferrata (with a steel cable), followed by a via cordata. A via cordata is a mixture of hiking, rock climbing and mountaineering, and is the perfect initiation for people who want to get into climbing.


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icon-smileyYes please...

  • Free bus and rail transport with Carte d’Hôte pass.
  • Walking itineraries close to town and in the high mountain.
  • Plenty of things to do for families.
  • Choice of accommodation to suit most budgets.
  • Numerous chairlifts and cable-cars open.
  • Shops and restaurants galore.
  • Easy to access.

icon-frowneyYes but...

  • Chamonix is a premium destination, so expect premium prices.
  • Although well-connected, the valley covers a large area, something to bear in mind when choosing your accommodation.

icon-winkingOur Tips

  • Use your Carte d’Hôtes (available at your accommodation) to enjoy excellent free public transport to access sites throughout the Chamonix Valley.
  • To avoid disappointment, visit the Aiguille du Midi on a fine, clear day — and book your visit in advance to avoid queues.
  • Visit the Tourist Office to pick up useful guides for walkers, places to visit and transport timetables.
  • You’ll find free parking in the Planards car park, near the Montenvers Tramway station.
Jump to Insight

Jump to Insight


Practical Information

Getting there

By car
From the north, follow signs for Geneva, then take the A40 l'Autoroute Blanche to Chamonix.

For Dover-Calais ferry travel, other cross-channel routes, offers and bookings visit P&O Ferries

By air
The nearest airport is Geneva (1 hour). For bus connections see SAT Bus Company which provides daily services between the airport and Chamonix.

By train
This couldn't be easier - travel by TGV direct from Paris to St Gervais-le Fayet (20km) then either take the Mont Blanc Express train which serves all the villages as far as Martigny (Switzerland). Alternatively, local taxi services and buses are available.

Book your TGV fast train from Paris or Eurostar's direct ski train to the French Alps with Voyages Sncf UK.


Where to stay

Tried and testedLes Balcons du Savoy

179 rue Mummery
74400 Chamonix Mont Blanc

Balcons du Savoy, Chamonix

Les Balcons du Savoy occupy a commanding position 5-10 minutes walk to the north of Chamonix town centre. The location, with an open meadow in front of the residence (a beginners ski area in the winter months) offers magnificent views across Chamonix and a panorama of the mountains to the Aiguille du Midi.
We stayed in a one bedroom apartment with a generous sized master bedroom which also had a full panoramic view and balcony access. There’s a separate kitchen with microwave, hob and dishwasher and adequate pans and crockery. The lounge has a sofa bed, TV and DVD player (English channels available), access onto the balcony equipped with table & chairs.
There's a separate toilet and bathroom with bath and overhead shower. Free WiFi access is available throughout the Residence.
If you wish, you can order a buffet breakfast, served in the bar next to reception, cost 12€ per person, 8€ child.
Massage and beauty treatments are available in the spa and pool area, plus hammam.
It’s only a 5 minute walk to the supermarket, and there’s an excellent bakers a couple of minutes’ walk away. Chamonix town centre is just a short walk but there are nearby bus stops for the shuttle service and other buses.
Underground parking costs 12€ per night with lift access to all apartments.

Enquiries and bookings:

0844 576 0170 (UK) or +44 23 9283 9310
reservations@peakretreats.co.uk


Tried and testedRésidences CGH
Le Hameau de Pierre Blanche

127 Allée des Diligences
74310 Les Houches

CGH Hameau Pierre Blanche, Les Houches

Comfortable and spacious apartments within six attractive chalets set in a quiet location bounded by forests and close to the Prarion gondola lift, with stunning mountain views. Facilities include heated indoor swimming pool with solarium, Jacuzzi, hammam, fitness suite, ski-lockers, secure underground parking, launderette and boulangerie service.
Free WiFi iin the apartments. Also on site is an Ô des Cimes Spa and Beauty Care Centre (payable).
Frequent buses during the day from next to the Prarion lift are useful to access the main village of Les Houches for food shopping, post office, Tourism Office and a range of restaurants and bars.

Enquiries and bookings:

Peak Retreats
0844 576 0170 (UK) or +44 23 9283 9310
reservations@peakretreats.co.uk


Food and Drink

Prices

Whatever your holiday budget, there are plenty of restaurants and bars where you can enjoy great hospitality, food and drink. As a rough guide, here are some prices we noted on our trip in summer 2013. A midday menu in Chamonix costs from around 17€, sandwiches around 5€. On mountain, espresso coffees cost around 1.80€ to 2€ though prices are much lower in villages e.g. a large café au lait in Vallorcine was 2.60€. A small beer in Argentière village costs around 2.50€, compared with 4€ or so on mountain.


Tried and testedChalet de la Floria (1350m)

le petit balcon sud
74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc

Chalet de la Floria, Chamonix

Accessible from the Petit Balcon Sud walk above Chamonix, la Floria rewards your efforts with amazing views and the most extravagant and colourful display of summer flowers. Welcoming hosts, a good choice of drinks and snacks in charming surroundings.


Tried and testedCrèmerie de la Cascade de Bérard

la Cascade de Bérard
74660 Vallorcine
Tel: +33(0)6 11 42 37 42

Cremerie de la Cascade de Berard, Vallorcine

Just before you reach Vallorcine (there is a car park and a bus stop), you'll see signs to the Cascade de Bérard. The walk is gently uphill for 30 minutes or so. After negotiating the viewing platform and steps to get exhilarating views of the cascade (you'll need a head for heights), continue a few steps to cross a bridge and relax with some refreshments at this authentic café bar with tables overlooking the falls.


Tried and testedLa Calèche

Chamonix Mont Blanc

For once the 'authentic Alpine style' description has real meaning — this renowned restaurant has been owned by the same family since it opened in 1946. The food and the service are exemplary, and the cosy decor features a museum-like collection of Alpine ephemera from a bygone age. We loved it.


Tried and testedCasa Valerio

88 rue du Lyret
74400 Chamonix Mont Blanc
Tel: +33 (0)4 50 55 93 40

Great atmosphere, superb service and award-winning pizzas at this authentic Italian restaurant (they have an Italian deli next door which is worth a visit). Reserve a table to avoid disappointment.



Insight: Chamonix-Mont-Blanc

Mountain restaurant terrace with diners high above Chamonix

Summer in Chamonix

Chances are, anyone who has ever been here to ski or snowboard will have got to know Chamonix and its long, straggling valley rather well. In contrast to purpose-built ski villages, things here feel much more spread out, with many of the most tempting options lying at the end of a meaningful bus (or train) ride. It all adds to the sense of adventure, of course, with wondrous snowy magnificence at every turn.

Coming here in summer, on the other hand, reveals a totally unexpected side to the character of this small but beautifully-formed corner of the French Alps. If you arrive, as we do, in bright sunshine, your first reaction to setting eyes on it in summer mode for the first time is likely to be much the same as ours: “ Why didn’t we do this before?” One thing we have been expecting is our accommodation, a few km out of town in Les Houches.

Le Hameau de Pierre-Blanche had looked like a tempting option when we spotted it during one of our previous ski visits, and when we finally get to stay there it doesn’t disappoint — not least since it offers a terrace with stirring views of the Aiguille du Midi.

“In summer Le Brevent is a gateway to serious walking territory, plus advanced-level mountain-biking descents. We content ourselves with what we came for — uplifting overviews of the valley and across to the Aiguille du Midi, plus the eternally snow-capped summit of Mont-Blanc…”
Side view of Brevent cable car with mountains in background above Chamonix
Side view of parapente experience with mountain backdrop above Chamonix

Le Brevent

Our first day begins overcast, with dull drizzle, so we decide to explore the marked forest trails from Les Houches and which eventually lead down to a small halt at Vaudagne for local rail services (free to holders of Carte d’Hôtes accommodation travel passes). Happily for us, the point at which the track becomes steeper coincides with a marked improvement in the weather, so we make our way back and this time head off to the Planpraz gondola lift just above Chamonix. The entire lift has been replaced since our previous visit, and now feels smoother and faster than its aged predecessor, with much roomier cabins. The haul is as steep as we remembered it, but much quicker, and minutes later we’re at the 1999m top station.

When we step from the gondola conditions are clear, so we waste no time heading even higher for the classic overview of the valley, which means transferring to the nearby Téléphérique du Brevent cable-car. Still one of the essential mountain experiences to be had around the valley, the celebrated link was inaugurated back in 1930. Back then the cabins were primitive, with little or no comforts, but passengers were transfixed by the breathtaking sensation of crossing some 1350m in an audacious single span.Today the cars are much bigger and smoother, but the drama of the traverse remains, particularly as we approach the top station, at the end of a 504m climb.

Floating free

The 2525m summit is home to a panoramic restaurant, but otherwise it all feels rugged, exposed and far removed from more earthly preoccupations down on the valley floor. In winter Le Brevent is the departure point for some demanding Black-graded ski terrain (which feeds onto the more benign slopes lower down) but in summer it’s a gateway to serious walking territory, plus advanced-level mountain-biking descents. Being equipped for none of the above, we content ourselves with what we came for — uplifting overviews of the valley and across to the Aiguille du Midi (3842m), plus the eternally snow-capped summit of Mont-Blanc (4810m).

The entertainment value of the return cable-car run to Planpraz is boosted by a group of weekend parapente flyers wheeling silently around us in search of thermals rising from the valley, and by the time we step back onto terra-firma the numbers launching themselves from Brevent are increasing steadily. Conditions like these are obviously irresistible, both to solo flyers and visitors taking tandem ‘baptême’ flights to discover for themselves just how it feels.

View of signed forest footpath trail above Chamonix
View of family on the terrace f the Chalet de La Floria above Chamonix

On mountain footpaths

Not that everyone comes to Chamonix to put their nerve to the test. One of the reasons we’ve wanted to return and see the valley in summer is to get physical on the marked footpaths — sentiers de randonnées — which wind their way up the sides of the valley. The choice is wide, and they’re graded on the map in a similar way to ski runs, beginning with Blue for medium difficulty/fitness requirements. Next comes Orange, denoting panoramic trails above the valley floor. The toughest routes, involving significant climbs, are graded Red.

One route in the Brévent Flégère area has caught our eye, since it passes a Le Chalet la Floria, one of many crèmeries in the Chamonix valley. So-called because they were usually situated on or near transhumance routes between the valley floor and the high alpage and refreshment would have been direct from the cows. The only slight problem for new arrivals like us is that the route is graded Red, although it looks a safe bet as long as we stick to the lower section up to the café. There are several departure points between the Planpraz and Flégère lifts, but it makes most sense for us to set off from the former. The climb feels quite steep, but in reality is as nothing compared to what lies in wait for those who venture higher up the mountain (but who then have the option of a lift descent). We also slip almost immediately into the forest, with only the hum of the town below to remind us that this is only the start of what could be a long and challenging climb into full-on nature.

For now, though, it’s not exactly relentless, and things flatten a little, and allows us to catch our breath before the next climb. From time to time we pass waymarkers where paths intersect, and it’s already clear that you could easily spend a lot of time exploring all the variations in this sector alone, let alone the multitude of options further up the valley.

Efforts rewarded

Eventually, though, the path becomes steeper, narrower and more winding. Fortunately, signs to the Chalet la Floria tell us that our tenacity in maintaining our pace onwards and upwards will be rewarded. Other walkers descending obviously know how it feels, and greet us with a sympathetic smile and an encouraging “Not long now!”

Sure enough, a few minutes later we round the final bend and catch sight of the chalet. It looks a picture, with most of the old stone facade being covered by billowing vibrant displays of geraniums — but we find it hard to believe the sign which tells us that we’ve climbed little more than 300m since leaving Chamonix. After taking a seat at one of the brightly-painted tables placed around the chalet terrace we order drinks and home-made tarte aux myrtilles and begin to take in the kind of hypnotic mountain views which seem to agree with us. We’re still thinking as skiers, of course, to whom 300m of vertical sounds like peanuts, but to anyone heading up not down, the modest-sounding figure feels very different.

On the other hand, the historic chalet is merely a popular stop along a path which continues all the way up to the 1894m top station of the La Flégère cable car — or if you have truly boundless energy, onwards to the top of the Index chairlift (2396m). Somehow we don’t see ourselves ever doing that in a single slog, however much the idea appeals. Plenty of people do, however, a thought which we ponder in awestruck amazement on the return walk down to Chamonix. Maybe that’s why we manage to miss the path down to the base of the Planpraz gondola lift and emerge onto tarmac instead of where we’d left the car a couple of hours before. Happily, a near-level 10-minute walk gets us back to where we began, with a glow of achievement and a resolve to explore more of the Chamonix valley’s justly-celebrated network of mountain paths.

Chamonix
Underview of Brevent gondola lift cabins, with mountainside in Chamonix valley

Going up, in style

During our time in the valley we get to realise more of our longstanding ambitions, including seeing how it feels to step deep inside a glacier. We’ll be describing this and other experiences on dedicated pages celebrating Chamonix’s legendary Mer de Glace Mountain Railway, riding the sensational Aiguille du Midi Cable Car, and taking the historic Tramway du Mont-Blanc from nearby Le Fayet all the way up to the wild, remote Nid d’Aigle (2380m) high above the ski resort of Les Houches. MountainPassions heart icon

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