Word of Mouth: Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley
Word of Mouth: Chamonix Mont-Blanc Valley
A look at the conveniently located Alpine getaway's more refined, off-snow offerings
by Leora Novick
Strategically situated at the fork of Italy, France and Switzerland, Chamonix is no ordinary Alpine retreat. Home to the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924 and situated at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Western Europe, Chamonix quickly established itself as a must-visit destination. From world class skiing to indulgent beauty treatments, this mountainous region brings a certifiable French attitude to the alpine experience. A one hour drive to Geneva and a convenient overnight train ride from Paris, Chamonix is more accessible than ever, proving its worth among the more well-known ski regions in the Alps.
Here are our picks for where to eat, drink, sleep and shop during your next visit to the alpine town of Chamonix.
The Heliopic Sweet and Spa
After a long day of skiing, climbing, photography or simply riding the Aiguille du Midi cable car, there are few things more appealing than a hot stone massage and long steam. The Heliopic Sweet and Spa features an in house spa by Nuxe Paris, complete with a labyrinth of saunas, steam rooms, a polar pool, hot tub, relaxation chamber and more. The ideal spot to end your night on a luxurious note, or as a full day of pampering, The Heliopic Hotel offers an option for a range of tastes. Located at the base of the Aiguille du Midi and in the center of town, you won’t have to travel far from the chalet to relax.
La Calèche, La Terasse, and Hotel du Montenvers
The triple cheese fondue at La Calèche may be the highlight of your meal, but you’ll stay for the warm ski chalet atmosphere. From cooking strips of sirloin on a hot stone to sharing a cherry red pot of fromage, meals at this intimate, cabin-style bistro are interactive, lively and a welcome haven from the chill outside.
If you can muster the energy for a nightcap, an evening visit to La Terasse is a must. A bubblegum pink confection by day, and a gleaming beacon of warmth by night, this local watering hole serves a nightly Happy Hour special, and continues well into the night. Warm up with a mugful of hot chocolate and generously served Baileys while you take in a postcard view of Mont Blanc in all its nighttime glory.
The town of Chamonix might be easily navigable, but there are some culinary options for those with a more adventurous spirit. Take a ride on the scenic Montenvers train and stop at Hotel du Montenvers, the historic 19th century hotel, for a warm meal amongst all the ice. This legendary eatery was established for the first wave of adventurers that flocked to Chamonix, and its floor to ceiling windows offer staggering views of the surrounding mountain range. Gaze out on the legendary “blue” glacier that gave Chamonix its first mark as a tourist destination or defrost by the cheery stone fireplace. Leave the schedule at home and let the helpful staff alert you when the train is preparing to depart down the mountain.
Quechua Alpine Apparel
If you’re looking to source locally made winter wear, Quechua (based just down the valley in Domacy)'s storefront is a must-visit. Nestled at the base of the Mont Blanc, this brand puts the consumer at the center of everything it does and dedicates itself to creating quality, French-made winter gear. Quechua has been creating quality apparel for the highlands since 1997 and their focus on warm, yet breathable layers make outfitting options simple. Let the locals on staff suggest the perfect items for your visit, and forget the sensation of a bulky, yet chilly afternoon.
Le Refuge Payot Gourmet Goods
Le Refuge Payot is a must visit for gourmands and travelers looking for the perfect gift. Perfumed with the intoxicating aroma of aged cheese and hanging sausage, this alpine gourmet boutique holds a curated collection of picnic options, tinned souvenirs, locally sourced beverages and a wine cave that commands an entire floor. If you’re looking for that perfect party favor to bring home, we suggest the La Chèvre mousse d’exception with white rum. One spritz and you’ll forget all about that alpine chill.
Heliopic Spa and Quechua images courtesy of respective companies; all other images by Leora Novick