How to spend 48 hours in Chamonix, France

Chamonix Mont-Blanc.
Chamonix Mont-Blanc.

How to spend 48 hours in Chamonix, France

by Anna Leigh Bagiackas
Stripes Europe

The alpine resort town of Chamonix, France has become an epicenter for climbers, skiers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. With glaciers, trails, ice tunnels and awe-inspiring peaks, you don’t need a week to check off some of these bucket-list items.

What to see

Whether you’re a thrill-seeking skier or prefer to catch views closer to solid ground, Chamonix has lots to offer you. Home to the very first winter Olympics in 1924, this French destination continues to welcome skiers, snowboarders, hikers, climbers and tourists from all over the world. While you could spend a weeklong vacation exploring via a pair of skis or a snowboard, the many public transportation options allow you to see the best of the area in just 48 hours.

For those coming for the views, your first adventure should be the gondola ride up to the 3,842-meter Aiguille du Midi peak. This is Europe’s highest lift station and offers a close-up of Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest peak. While there, check out “Step Into The Void,” a glass room with 1,000 meters of free air below for a safe, yet heart-pumping experience. From there, you can hike to the Montenvers Train Station and the 7-kilometer Mer de Glace, France’s longest glacier. If a hike isn’t up your alley, you can also take a train ride to the glacier where you can walk through ice tunnels followed by a bite to eat at Restaurant Le Panoramique Mer de Glace. As the glacier decreases in size each year, it is hard to avoid contemplating the environment around you. For another bucket-list gondola ride, take the Skyway Monte Bianco cable car trip that crosses the border into Italy, landing at Helbronner Point. Other unique rides include the cog rail Tramway du Mont-Blanc and Le Brevent Gondola for the best views of Mont Blanc, where you can also dine with amazing scenery at the mountain restaurant.

For the best visuals, get up early and catch one of the first cable cars to avoid the clouds rolling in, typical in the afternoon. In the non-winter months, catch some speed (or go for the slower, more leisurely ride) down the Chamonix Luge Alpine Coaster and watch paragliders take flight in this hub of mountain flying. For those wanting to enjoy views from below, you can walk or hike along the Arve River between Chamonix and Les Praz.

Must-try food and drinks

While you might think that the mountainous views are what it’s all about in Chamonix, you are still in France, therefore food and drink are a top priority. You are in Haute-Savoie cuisine territory, meaning meals are heartier and more reminiscent of what you’d find in Switzerland than in Paris. You will find various combinations of delicious melted French cheeses, potatoes and cured meats, such as fondue, raclette and “tartiflette,” which is made up of potatoes bacon and cheese. These are popular choices after a day on the slopes and these dishes will warm you from the inside out, as well as a glass of French wine. Try the “Fendant,” a local wine made from the region’s Chasselas grapes.

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