If you’d like to explore the Alps while you’re here, Chamonix’s location on the border with Italy and Switzerland gives a perfect opportunity. Here’s a few of our favourite days out.
Known as the “Venice of the Alps”, Annecy is a wonderful old granite city with a network of canals running through it. The setting is sublime, on a lake ringed with mountains. Go boating on the lake to enjoy the views, or just stroll around the romantic streets of the old town, taking in the atmosphere of a modern, living city that’s carefully preserved its stunning architectural heritage. The 12th century Palais de l’Isle, on the river, is one of France’s most unique and beautiful monuments. If you’re here in early August, it’s worth the trip to the Fete du Lac – one of the Europe’s finest firework displays
Just half an hour away via the Mont Blanc Tunnel, the elegant Italian town of Courmayeur has a beautiful old centre with wonderful shops – and most importantly, an abundance of brilliant Italian restaurants. Though it’s so close to Chamonix, the mountains divided them until the tunnel opened in 1972, and it’s packed with real Italian character. There are lovely paths all around, especially in the Val Ferret area, and it often has completely different weather to Chamonix due to Mont Blanc dividing them – if you get a rainy day, it’s always worth checking Courmayeur in case it’s sunny over there.
Pila, about an hour away, is a mountain biker’s paradise – from the hardcore downhill demon to the youngest beginner. More than this, it’s also a great family day out, with a restaurant at the top that has a swimming pool, and separate walking trails, including a Marmot trail which is always a hit with younger children. Older children will also enjoy the adventure park, and everyone can savour the marvellous Italian food.
If your glimpse of the Matterhorn from the Aiguille du Midi makes you want to see it close up, it takes around two hours to get there. The drive takes you over the dramatic Forclaz pass, through the pretty village of Trient and past the historic towering monasteries and castles of Sion, which are well worth a visit in their own right – the old town of Sion is a lovely place for lunch
Zermatt, the picturesque setting of Switzerland’s most famous peak, is accessed by rail only, so you park at Tasch and ride up. No matter how many photos you’ve seen, nothing can quite prepare you for the sight of the Matterhorn, it’s truly one of the world’s most unique and beautiful mountains. There are lovely paths all around where you can watch the light changing on the twisting granite spire, or for a more relaxing experience, take a cable car up to one of the excellent mountain restaurants
Fish in the Riffelsee, by Jeff Pang. Creative Commons licensing, used by kind permission.
Yvoire is an exquisite medieval village on the shores of Lac Leman, which has incredible displays of flowers in the summer – see their site for photos. It’s gorgeous, but can get very busy on summer weekends – try and visit midweek to appreciate the lovely setting at its best. Lake cruises are available including some in a solar powered boat which sounds amazing…