The Top Ten Things to See and Do in Chamonix, France
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc. The clue is in the name here: Chamonix is defined by the surrounding mountains. And with such impressive vistas, it’s not hard to see why. Of course, the mountains are one of the main draws, but the area also has activities for those who prefer the valley floor to the peak.
Les Aiguilles de Chamonix depuis l’Aiguille du Midi | © Tangopaso/WikiCommons
L’Aiguille du Midi: the Needle of the South. First ascended in 1818, in the centuries between it’s turned into quite the tourist spot. There are two sections to the mountain: one from Chamonix to Plan de L’Aiguille at over 2000m up, and then another one to the upper station at 3,777m. There are cable cars and elevators, so you don’t need to be an expert to climb this face. It’s also home to the highest vertical ascent cable car in the world, from 1,035m to 3842m. Obviously, not for anyone scared of heights.
Step into the Void | © Neil Moralee/Flickr
Le 3842/Step Into the Void
Both perched on the summit of L’Aiguille du Midi, even getting to these sights is a spectacle in and of itself. Le 3842 is a café and restaurant serving up high-class food at even higher altitudes, whilst Step Into the Void is a glass cube where you can step out into the figurative nothingness. The balconies of the café and restaurant provide great panoramic views, but Step Into the Void adds another direction to these views: down.
Le 3842, Arete de l’Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France, +33 4 50 55 82 23
The highest peak in the Alps, and, by extension, the highest peak in Europe, this mountain has a full kilometre on l’Aiguille du Midi, at 4,809m. There are two things about Mont Blanc that are absolute must-sees: The cable car all the way to to summit, and the Mont Blanc tunnel. Take the time out to feel on top of the world, or take the tunnel under the mountain range and find yourself in the world’s deepest operational tunnel, 2480m beneath the surface.
Tunnel du Mont-Blanc, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France, +33 4 50 55 55 00
This aerial tramway runs from Chamonix to Courmeyeur in Italy, traversing across the Alps and providing spectacular 360-degree views over the mountain scenery.It doesn’t come cheap, but the experience is unlike any other cable car and the views over the glacier and valley are incredible.
Opening Hours: 9am-3pm daily
A massive spectacle that’s getting significantly less massive over time. Walk down to the glacier, enter the cave, and marvel at the different shades of blue within the ice. If you can take the 400-odd steps, you have the opportunity to go inside the glacier. The cave is man-made, and the display boards in English really add to the experience. Go, see the remnants of the plane that crashed there in the 1950s, and think about the fact that that’s not the only disaster – the glacier is receding faster than we would think. A thought-provoking sight.
A similar coaster at the Eifelpark in Germany | © Eifelpark GmbH/WikiCommons
Chamonix Luge Alpine Coaster
A ski resort five minutes from the centre of Chamonix. Technically known as Le Parc de Loisirs Chamonix, the Ski Area is average when compared to some of the other areas. The luge, however, is great fun for families or the young at heart. Control your speed with a brake as you whizz down the mountain face. Rides are reasonably priced and can be bought in batches, which is good, as repeat trips are likely!
Opening Hours: Wed, Sat-Sun: 1:30pm-6:30pm
350 Chemin du Pied du Grepon, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France, +33 4 50 53 08 97
Musee des Cristaux
A small museum with a big collection of minerals, rocks, and, yes, crystals. Centre stage is given to minerals from Mont Blanc and the surrounding areas. The crystal section is more of a gallery, but there is also a section dedicated to climbing and mountaineering, which is extremely interactive. Kids are sure to enjoy the interactive climbing wall and knot-tying.
Opening hours: 2pm-6pm daily
615 Allée Recteur Payot, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France, +33 4 50 55 53 93
Tramway Du Mont-Blanc
This tramway is useful for people looking for views and for people looking to ski. The mountain railway obviously provides glorious views of the surrounding areas, but mountaineers and hikers will be on the tram, too, as it stops at several popular mountain trails. The lines are over a century old, so the tram feels like a little journey into the past, its quaint carriages still working hard after all these years.
Opening Hours: Check their timetables
Rue du Mont Lachat, Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, France, +33 4 50 53 22 75
A little different from the other items on this list, this isn’t an attraction, but is in fact a picturesque little village. The Argentiere glacier sits to the South-East, and the village is surrounded by the mountains. The area is generally known as the Argentiere basin, which makes sense given the little nook it is situated in. Argentiere is a popular destination for skiers, snowboarders, and hikers, but it’s more than worth a visit just for its fairytale feel.
The Merlet Animal Park
Covering an area of 21 hectares, over field, rocky outcroppings, and forest. The park shelters eight wild species, most of which come from the surrounding area, such as ibex (although the llama comes from South America). In the summer, presentations are a regular occurrence to help visitors learn more about the animals and the park.
Opening Hours: May, Jun, Sep: Tue-Sun 10am-6pm, Jul-Aug 9:30am-7:30pm daily
2495 Chemin de Merlet, Houches (Les), France, +33 4 50 53 47 89
By Niall McGrade