Chamonix is in the enchanting Haute-Savoie region in western France and it borders Switzerland and Italy. It is a charming little town that is easiest accessed by flying to Geneva and taking pre-booked car or coach transportation from Geneva to Chamonix, for a journey which is only 1 hour and 15 minutes. As Chamonix is known to be a quaint and cute town that is surrounded by mountains, including Mont Blanc, I am compelled to urge you to visit it for a few days (and not to simply do a day-tour from Geneva to Chamonix, as this is the mistake that I certainly made). There is an extensive list of things that one can do such as walking around the cobblestone streets and admiring the gorgeous scenery around you, including of course, the mountains. In this review, I am going to provide insight into some of the magic that’s sparkled all over Chamonix.
Memorable town with amazing Alpine Museum
Chamonix is a memorable town with so many surprises hidden around the streets, shops, restaurants, hotels, chalets and homes. There are some wonderful historical sites and museums including the Alpine Museum, which is housed in the former Chamonix-Palace and is based at 89 Avenue Michel Croz, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. This Museum retraces the development of Chamonix from the first tourists to the famous Olympic winter sports that were held in this jaw-dropping destination. Entrance costs for adults visiting the Museum are 4.50 EUR (4.79 USD) and anyone who is 18 or under can enter for free. The Museum opening hours vary so I would recommend checking out its website in advance.
Breathtaking Catholic Church of St. Michel
In addition to the Alpine Museum is the Chamonix Cemetery, which is a small graveyard that serves as the final resting place for the many mountaineers from around the world that faced tragic results while attempting to climb Mont Blanc. There is also the incredible Catholic Church of St. Michel which is a Baroque church, housing beautiful paintings, with crosses and bells created by local artists. The Church can feel like it is something out of a movie and the view from the archway exit of the Church to the mountains is absolutely unreal. Entrance to the Church is free and if you visit Chamonix on a rainy or cold day, then it will certainly add warmth to your exterior and your heart.
A fun-filled adventure in the Petit Chamonix Train
Whilst Chamonix can be explored by foot, it feels a little bit more special to experience it in the red and white Petit Chamonix Train. This is because you will be transported around the town whilst learning about this charming town’s history, monuments, buildings, architecture, sports, activities and the panoramic views that can be enjoyed and appreciated from any spot. The Petit Chamonix Train starts at Place Balmat, 74401 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc and stops at the Aiguille du Midi cable car (a starting point to see Mont Blanc) and the Montenvers Station (the perfect destination to see the Mer de Glacier). The Petit Chamonix Train operates from 10.00 am to 7.00 pm in May – October only and the duration of the tour is approximately 40 minutes. Tickets cost per adult are 7 EUR (7.46 USD) per person and for children it is 5 EUR (5.33 USD) per child.
Marvellous and unique sites to shop, eat and relax
Chamonix is not short of beautiful and unique shops as well as delicious places to eat. Being in the mountains, it naturally has a number of skiing shops but it also has some wonderful and unique handmade jewellery and accessory shops as well as souvenir shops.
If you want to buy some local specialities and delicatessen, such as cheese, cakes and wine, then Le Refuge Payot is an exceptional shop to visit and it is located at 166 Rue Joseph Vallot, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc.
If you’re looking for somewhere to sit back and feel warm and cosy amongst the blue skies and white capped mountains, then Chambre Neuf, within the Langley Hotel Gustavia at 272 Avenue Michel Croz, 74400 Chamonix-Mont-Blanc offers tasty and fresh French and Scandinavian dishes. During my trip, I enjoyed the goats cheese and beetroot salad with bread, which was followed by a sharp raspberry sorbet for dessert. With the Chambre Neuf being directly opposite the Central Train Station, it’s easy to locate with directions and the support of some locals if you’re struggling to find it. This exact spot also offers a marvellous view of the Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc.
The mountain magic of Mont Blanc and Aiguille du Midi
Whilst there are some fabulous attractions in the town of Chamonix itself, including the historical site, shops and restaurants, the main attraction that brings individuals to this picturesque town is Mont Blanc. Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Europe at 4,810 metres (15,780 feet) and mountain enthusiasts either visit the summit itself or enjoy a view of it from the top of the Aiguille du Midi.
However, you should be warned that if the weather conditions are such, including if there has been an avalanche, the likelihood of getting to see some of these mountains from their best position is unlikely and that is exactly what happened to me. However, on a positive note, it does give you the opportunity to try and find which cable cars are operating (as there are no safety concerns due to the weather situation). This can be eventful as you will have to travel from each cable car destination to see which ones are operating and how high up in the mountains that you can reach.
Don't miss jaw-dropping cable car opportunities
In the instance that you’re unable to visit Mont Blanc and/or the Aiguille du Midi, I would suggest that you don’t feel disheartened and rather see what other cable cars are operating as the Alps are absolutely beautiful, even if you’re not able to be on the famous Mont Blanc. During my trip, I went on the cable car called Aiguille des Grands Montets from where I was able to see Les Drus, Aiguille Verte, Aiguilles de Chamonix and the Argentiere Glacier. Now, I wouldn’t call that such a bad deal just because I wasn’t able to get to Mont Blanc! The cable car journey was brilliant as you can see the green mountains change into darker and rockier mountains as you go upwards in your cable car. You will then get to a point where all you see is the beautiful snow-cap on the mountains that are piercing into the sky. The opportunity to visually see the beautiful mountains change shapes and their appearance transform, at such speed, due to the movement of the cable car is exhilarating. The cost for the cable car is 31.50 EUR (33 USD), which includes the 5 minute ride up the mountain and the 5 minute return journey.
Embrace Aiguille des Grands Montets in the Chamonix Valley
The Aiguille des Grands Montets is a mountain in the Mont Blanc vicinity and is actually the most popular ski station in the Chamonix Valley. The altitude is that of 3,300 metres (1,082 feet) and the site is utterly breathtaking and awe inspiring. The landscape will feel majestic and the nirvana quiet mountains covered with a little bit of mist add to a mysterious and magical feel to it. The angel white mountains are splendid to see.
There is also a restaurant called Hersech where you can purchase bar snacks and enjoy the ad hoc live music that is being played to create a really positive vibe. If you want to ski or snowboard, this is one of the best spots in which to do so as there are three incredible slopes to fly down. However, if you’re anything like me and well, my first experience of snowboarding put me off the thought of ever trying it again or learning how to ski, then just take the cable car to enjoy the views and have a hot drink whilst taking a selfie.
Little Chamonix with a big history and array of activities
Little Chamonix is a French town with an enormous international reputation and is a heaven for those that love extreme sports such as skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, paragliding etc. However, I want you to know that it is also a wonderful destination where the more relaxed tourist can go and simply admire the spectacular views of the mountains and the glaciers from wandering around the quaint streets or flying high in a cable car. Having previously taken a one day tour from Geneva to Chamonix, I can confidently tell you to not do that. This is because one day is simply not enough in which to enjoy every element that Chamonix has to offer, so book yourself in at one of the hotels or chalets and appreciate the beauty for a far longer duration.
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