For families who want a cool holiday together, Chamonix in southeast France is a fantastic ski destination – a ski resort where you can spend amazing times on the slopes or off them. Chamonix is one of the oldest ski resorts in France, but things to do in Chamonix certainly don’t only gravitate around skiing and it offers a bag full of other exciting activities throughout the year.
There are live concerts, art exhibitions, museums, ice hockey matches, theater, village markets and fetes and much more and whatever time you visit really, there are always things to do in Chamonix, France to delight every age group.
Top Things to Do in Chamonix, France
The Best Times to Visit Chamonix
The busiest month for tourists visiting Chamonix is June and then prices for flights and hotels are at their highest.
Chamonix nestles at the foot of 4810m high Mont Blanc, in the department of Haute-Savoie in the northern French Alps and is known for its most exhilarating skiing. In fact, Winter is perfect for snowboarding and skiing while summer is perfect for hiking, rafting, canyoning and swimming in the lakes.
If skiing is what you’ve set your heart on, the best snow conditions in Chamonix are mid-January to the end of March.
The opening dates for the ski areas aren’t set in stone and much depend on the snow conditions at the time the season starts. If enough snow has fallen, the highest ski area – Les Grans Montets – opens in November or December, with all ski areas generally being open at the beginning of December. The ski season runs from mid-December to the middle of April.
You need to bear in mind that the Aiguille du Midi cable car goes under maintenance from mid-November to the middle of December. It needs to be serviced, as Mont Blanc doesn’t only have one of Europes biggest glaciers, the Sea of Ice, it has one of the world’s highest cable cars – the Aiguille du Midi car climbs to at 3810 meters.
If you’re coming to the area to enjoy biking, hiking and mountaineering, the summer months are between June and September.
Getting to Chamonix
Whether you’re headed to Chamonix in the winter or summer, most people can’t wait to reach this fun-filled destination and they want to know the quickest way to get to the beautiful Mont-Blanc Valley. Also, they want to know the cheapest ways to get to Chamonix seeing that in all likelihood they’ll be traveling with equipment such as skis, bikes and snowboards.
France has good air connections and the country is serviced by a number of international airlines. Geneva is the nearest airport to Chamonix – 88 kilometers away – and offers different transport solutions – bus, train or car – to Chamonix. Going by train is cheap and relaxing to get to Chamonix, although it does take a bit longer than the other transportation options.
Your choice ultimately depends on your budget as well as comfort. Hire cars are a popular way to travel to Chamonix from Geneva Airport. You just have to be aware of toll charges on the Autostrada as well as at the entrance to the Mont-Blanc tunnel. There are also taxi- and shuttle services. Shuttle bus services are a popular choice and take about 75 mins to get to Chamonix. You can book online and at the Geneva airport’s arrivals desk you can find out how to get to your minibus.
There are also several ways to get to Chamonix from Italy – by train, bus and car. The distance between Milan, Italy and Chamonix is 240km. The bus reaches the destination in 6.5 hours while hiring a taxi or renting a car will get you there in about 2 to 3 hours. SAVDA for instance, is a public transportation provider that operates bus routes and they offer a daily service from Milan to Chamonix.
Accommodation in the French Alps
Things to do in Chamonix will require you looking for cool holiday accommodation that will give you breathtaking views of the towering mountains. You have to book early because there are always exciting events in Chamonix that bring in lots of tourists. The grueling Tour Du Mont Blanc is a one-day cycling event that takes cyclists over 335km of alpine countryside. Then most of the guesthouses and hotels are brimming with riders and fans.
There are also a good number of Chamonix chalet rentals too for a taste of the alpine life. You can enjoy a home-from-home stay in a cozy self-catering chalet or apartment while enjoying all your home comforts. An example of this is the attractive chalet-style Studio Les Drus in Chamonix town center that is close to Brévent cable car and great for guests wanting to participate in all the winter sports.
Things to do in Chamonix
A whirlwind of fun activities
Many people accompanying skiers and snowboarders to Chamonix wonder what’s in it for them. The most popular things to do in Chamonix include skiing and snowboarding. These sports are big in Chamonix, but there is a whirlwind of other fun activities waiting for everyone in this ski resort that held the first Winter Olympics in 1924.
An excellent ski-vacation-resort like Chamonix isn’t just about the slopes – it is also about the activities and partying once skiing is done for the day. This ski resort knows how to entertain and its apres-ski scene for skiers and non-skiers is huge.
Apres ski activities – restaurants and bars
It’s a super place for great apres-ski activities which start early – at about 3.30 pm. There’s a lot of music, singing, dancing, drinking, clapping hands and even dancing on the bar tables with your ski boots still on. If you’re looking for the best resorts for great aspres-ski vibes, then Chamonix has it.
Speaking of bars and restaurants, there are quite a few that hold regular apres-ski activities and summer evening BBQ’s.
The Micro Brasserie de Chamonix is referred to as MBC and is a lively bar and restaurant with great pub food. Because it is run by Canadians, you’ll also find your burgers as well as pub-food classics like the popular nachos. MBC also offers endless jugs of frothy beer and a vibey crowd ready for après-ski fun. In fact snacks are served from 4 pm. It’s a popular place and booking is essential.
Elevation 1904 is the aspres-ski bar that has everything you want – a lively, upbeat vibe to it, live music, dj’s, super food and drinks. The restaurant is situated across from the train station in central Chamonix. It’s open all day and into the night and offers amazing views when you chill outside on the terrace.
One of the most amazing things to do in Chamonix has to be hitching a cable car ride to experience the ultimate dining at the summit of Mt Aiguille du Midi. Restaurant Le 3842 is one of Europe’s highest restaurants at 3,842 meters above sea level and doesn’t only offer fabulous food but also spectacular panoramic views.
If you’re a night owl, there are nightclubs that are open every night from 12 till 6 or 7 in the morning, and a night out at a club such as Amnesia is guaranteed to satisfy your ‘out on the town’ or ‘painting the town red’ needs.
Hiking – go walkabout in Chamonix
Things to do in Chamonix will always include hikes, and there are some spectacular hikes in and around Chamonix. There are currently in the region of more than 200 hikes all around Chamonix so there are plenty of options for all kinds of fitness levels. Of these, there are about 30 long-distance, overnight hiking trails.
Some of the best hikes in the French alps are to be found on the north side of Mont Blanc. If you don’t intend scaling Mont Blanc, there are some epic trails you can do that will give you magnificent views of the alps.
One of these is the Grand Balcan trail, and more specifically the Grand Balcon Nord hike which takes in the high point of Forbes Signal, allowing you to gaze down at the Mer de Glace glacier. In fact, quite a few people combine it with the Lac Blanc trail which is close to the Grand Balcan trail.
The awe-inspiring hike goes through some rocky areas to the Plan de l’Aiguille, continuing along a well-marked path, twisting and turning before once again joining the main Grand Balcon Nord hiking trail. This alpine hiking trail is wonderful and the final part includes a bit of an uphill climb to the Plan de l’Aiguille lift station.
A helicopter tour of the Mont Blanc Massif is guaranteed to be a thrilling experience as you take in breathtaking views of the alps. You can choose how long you want your adventure -flight to last, with flight times ranging from 10 to 30 minutes, weather permitting.
You can also choose different flight paths of interest but the Mont Blanc massif route is the one that covers all the highlights. You’ll be blown away by the sheer experience of flying over snowy mountains and glaciers.
Swimming in Lakes
Lac de Passy is the lake closest to Chamonix and offers heaps of watersports on the lake. It is also the biggest lake for just chilling and enjoying a swim in the crisp, cool waters. The wonderful views of Mont Blanc give you a sense of freedom and getting back to nature. There is also a sandy beach with a dedicated swimming area and there are also restaurants around the lake
Paragliding-skiing Chamonix Valley
Things to do in Chamonix have to include some adrenaline-pumping activities. If you want to experience something unique and exhilarating but are just too nervous to take on a tandem paragliding flight with a qualified pilot, you can do some speed riding – a mix of skiing and paragliding where you literally fly over the slopes at such speeds it’ll take your breath away.
While you’re holidaying in Chamonix you can sign up for a short course of 1 or 2 days to get the hang of this speed riding.
Pops of color and heaps of awesome entertainment await you when you go shopping in Chamonix with its pedestrianized town center. When it comes to seriously good food and a glass of good wine in between shopping, you’ll love Le Fournil Chamoniard, a tantalizingly tempting bakery and confectionery shop with cakes and tarts made according to traditional recipes.
Chamonix also boasts some of the best hotspot shops where you can shop the brands you love. There are luxury boutiques, rental equipment shops, art galleries, home décor shops, gift shops, book shops, restaurants, food shops, sports shops such as Patagonia, Peak Performance, Snell Sport and others as well as fashion shops such as Chanel and Lacoste that will allow you to make a chic statement.
There is also a Saturday morning market on Place du Mont Blanc, where you can buy some local produce such as cheese, fish, roast chicken, honey and flowers.
Things to do in Chamonix are often found amid the dizzy peaks of Mont Blanc, and after a day of skiing in the snowy paradise, it becomes an oasis of tranquility for those wanting to soothe aching muscles. The ski resort also meets the needs of those who long to rid themselves of their worn-out, stressed bodies and to emerge rejuvenated and re-energized.
The wellness spas in Chamonix keep abreast with technology and advancements to ensure that clients are always at the receiving end of the very best treatments. Just a short distance from Chamonix you get the thermal baths of Saint Gervais with waters that have purifying properties from the high mineral content.
They offer a complete range of treatments – body therapies, thalosstherapies with seawater and seaweed as well as a facial, foot and hand treatments for men and women. The range of treatments are designed to relax, cleanse, balance and rejuvenate body, mind and spirit from an experienced team of therapists.
Each wellness spa in the ski resort has a calming and relaxing environment, and they invite you to take the plunge … get rid of that tired and faded look and exchange it for something new, youthful and invigorating!
There’s a fairly new wellness spa in Chamonix – QC Terme – which unbelievably offers no less than 30 wellness practices for a wonderful sensory experience. There are steam baths, heated pools, relaxation rooms, saunas, waterfalls and hydro and the wonderful opportunity to swim in snow- or green meadow settings.
With Chamonix, you can discover a treasure trove of beauty, restaurants, accommodation and heaps of captivating ports of call for amazing activities.
Hospitality and fun has been taken to great heights by the Chamonix community, and whether you visit for a weekend or for a month, there is nothing else like Chamonix in all of the French Alps.
There’s a world of contrasting landscapes to be admired, sweeping from the highest peaks to the secluded valley where a modern alpine town lies that epitomizes wonderful alpine living with some old-world charm thrown in.