Chamonix is surely one of the most beautiful places on Earth! This picturesque French Alpine town nestled at the foot of Mont Blanc’s majestic snow-capped peak is the gateway to our Tour Mont Blanc treks. And there’s so much to do here, as I found out when I joined our 8-day Tour du Mont Blanc Highlights trek earlier this month…
Chamonix is breathtaking at first sight and every angle rewards you with stunning views of sheer dramatic mountains. But it offers more than beautiful scenery and the therapeutic effects of high-altitude air. There are beautiful day walks, dozens of outdoor activities on offer, great shopping if you need to stock up on gear and clothing, atmospheric cafes where you can chill in the sunshine, and even relaxing spa resorts. The centre of Chamonix is car-free, making it perfect for exploring by foot.
Getting to Chamonix
Chamonix is an easy 80-minute bus ride from Geneva Airport. We recommend Mountain Drop-offs – they run regular and well-priced bus transfers from the airport to your hotel. To lock in a shared price use the code RAWTR when booking on their website. The buses are clean, the service is direct, and the drivers are friendly and experienced making this an easy way to arrive and depart from Chamonix.
Getting around Chamonix
The Chamonix Valley has several options for exploring, including buses, trains, chairlifts and walking options. Thanks to the Carte d’Hôte (Guest Card) RAW Travel clients get FREE travel on certain bus and train services. The Guest Card will be given to you on your arrival by your accommodation provider.
Where to eat
Chamonix has an energetic hub of cafes and restaurants offering a wonderful variety of food. La Bartavel has a great atmosphere and lots of outdoor seating to watch the world go by. Their extensive menu includes delicious salads and authentic pizzas.
In the heart of Chamonix is Brasserie L’M where you grab a spot on the large terrace to enjoy European cuisine made with fresh and local produce while enjoying the stunning views of Mont Blanc.
La Ferme is a relaxed and delicious place to savour local sweet or savoury crepes.
If you want to try the local specialities of fondue or raclette then La Moraine is a great option. This is a traditional Savoyard restaurant but also has a modern flavour and offers many delicious options for dinner such as the tartiflette or the pierre chaude (three meats cooked on a hot stone). We also love Restaurant Josephine, a modern brasserie next to the river with fast service.
La Fournil is a local bakery with great baguettes to grab for lunch, along with a divine selection of traditional French pastries.
What to see
A visit to the Mer de Glace is a must while in Chamonix. This is the largest glacier in France, stretching 7km long and 200m deep. It is a lovely journey up here via the Montenvers funicular railway, which opened in 1908. The ice cave is dug out every summer into the living glacier where you can see ice sculptures and appreciate the depth and vastness of this glacier. Stop for lunch or a coffee at the Grand Hotel du Montenvers and soak up this scenic location.
Take the cable car up to the top of Aiguille du Midi at the incredible height of 3842m. This offers you an uninterrupted view of Mont Blanc and over the French, Italian and Swiss Alps. You can even step out onto the glass cage over a 1000m precipice.
Where to walk
The day walks around Chamonix are stunning and a great warm-up for your tour Mont Blanc trek. We loved walking up to Glacier des Bossons, which is a moderate 2-hour walk. Having lunch at the picturesque cafe Cabane du Cerro was a real highlight; our delicious lunch was made using produce from their garden, and you can watch the paragliders over the valley through the pine trees.
We also loved the 2¼ hour walk (one way) from Plan de L’Aiguille du Midi (at the end of the first cable car up to Aiguille du Midi) across to Montenvers. This walk offers stunning views across the valley through the dramatic rocky alpine scenery.
What to buy
Chamonix is a great place to buy trekking gear and sports attire. You might have brought gloves with you for your trek that are not windproof (I found this out the hard way!). Pop into Technique Extreme for great-value gear. We also found a good selection and reasonable prices a few doors down at Quechua.
For adventure seekers
Chamonix is a paradise for lovers of adventure. Hiking, rafting, skydiving, luge riding, paragliding, sightseeing at altitude, mountain biking, trail running and more!
If you want a place to relax in Chamonix or are looking for the perfect post-trek recovery spot then Le Refuge des Aiglons is for you. The lunch and spa special is excellent value at €25. You can enjoy a delicious 2-course lunch followed by 2 hours entry into the pool area. Enjoy a swim in the 29-degree pool or soothe yourself in the spa, sauna or hammam. Even chilling out in the tea room is included in the price. We loved lazing by the pool and admire the mountains all around us.