The Alps have always fascinated me. The illusive snow-capped peaks and jagged mountains are some of the most stunning places I’ve ever seen. Winter sport enthusiasts everywhere are beckoned here to experience the extreme pistes. In the spring and summer, lush green grasses and cows donning bells echo throughout the valleys. And while all the Alpine regions in Europe are beautiful, Chamonix tops them all. Literally. Mont Blanc is the highest point in Europe at a staggering 4,807 meters (15,778 feet) tall.
This Chamonix travel guide gives you an idea of what to see and do in this “beach on ice”oasis. Whether you’re interested in exhilarating skiing or hiking, want to feast on some of the best cuisine, get a glimpse of a glacier, or just stroll around town, Chamonix is the essential escape in the French Alps.
As the host of the world’s first Winter Olympics in 1924, Chamonix is an adventure lover’s paradise. But it’s not just about the mighty Mont Blanc, the city itself is a wonderful spot to relax and enjoy the scenery.
We had the most exceptionally beautiful weather when visiting Chamonix. I’m talking about the kind of days where the PR companies are sent out on helicopters to capture the beauty. But I have a feeling rain or shine, Mont Blanc stuns.
I’ll give you a full guide to Chamonix, complete with where to stay, things to do, where to dine, and tips to make the most out of your trip. Make sure to look outside at the extraordinary mountains at night. The stars and moon cover the sky with the backdrop of the darkened mountains and the snow muted the night, and the world, around us. Chamonix is not a place I will ever forget.
Things to do in Chamonix
Chamonix is wonderfully accessible. This might be why Mont Blanc has claimed so many lives. Novice climbers come to take on the mountain without having a full understanding that you need to have proper training. But since I had no interest in that, I wasn’t scared. The first people to climb Mont Blanc were Jacques Balmat and physician Michel Paccard on August 8, 1786. This climb, initiated by Horace-Benedict de Saussure, who gave a reward for the successful ascent, traditionally marks the start of modern mountaineering.
No matter what you choose to do in Chamonix, I suggest getting the Mont Blanc Unlimited pass. For €65 per person, you get access to all Ski Areas (including those in Courmayeur in Italy and Verbier in Switzerland), Aiguille du Midi, Mer de Glace, Tramway, and so much more. I find this price to be phenomenal, considering all that’s included. This is a one-day pass that also includes all public transportation. Of course, you can also get the pass for more days if needed. We were able to do everything we wanted with the pass in a day so this was perfect for us.
Gondola Ride to Aiguille du Midi
The clouds drifted across a blue sky and cast shadows on the sparkling white snow. The granite Mont Blanc towered over the bustling city below, and as we reached the summit, it was as if we were viewing a dollhouse, complete with a train set, from high above.
The gondola has carried tourists and locals up to the 12,500 foot high Aiguille du Midi. We got there early to be some of the first on the cable car. The lift is fairly large and they pack it with skiers, snowboarders, and those that just want to go up for the views. As we rose steeply into the mountain I was awestruck by the grandeur of the Alps.
The Aiguille du Midi leaves from the center of Chamonix. You start rising sharply up the mountain and feel like you’re suspended in air, about to skim the side of the mountain. This cable car holds the world record for the highest vertical ascent! At the half-way point you’ll arrive at Plan de l’Aiguille, where you’ll see many people might start skiing from this point. Here, you’ll take a second lift to the top.