Planning a visit or a family-friendly holiday in Chamonix – Here is an insider’s guide and top tips from our “Mummy in the Mountain” Insiders Jo & Nick, founders of Chamonix All Year and parents to gorgeous little Gemma.
So before we get started here’s a little info about Chamonix All Year and how Jo & Nick came to live in Chamonix:
Chamonix All Year is a company with two different entities. The property management reservation company helps you find some of the best accommodation in Chamonix according to your budget and needs, and their resort-based service company guarantees that you have everything you could possibly need in resort from airport transfers and babysitting, to lift passes, ski lessons and even exclusive activities in winter and summer.
The masterminds behind this company are Jo & Nick, parents to Gemma who is nearly 2 years old.
Jo set up the company in 2003, after her first ski trip to Chamonix. Unable to ski or speak French, but with an eye for an opportunity, she took the plunge and bought an apartment in Les Praz. Over the next 6 months she organised the renovation of the apartment so it would be suitable for holiday rentals.
Having made the apartment ready, Jo wanted to create a website to market it, and Chamonix All Year was born. With her background in marketing, this basic website quickly went straight to the top of the Google rankings and she took over 20 weeks of bookings in the apartment in her first year!
By 2006, Jo was burning the midnight oil driving her business forward while still working full time for a marketing agency in London, and Chamonix All Year was really taking shape. That same year Jo and Nick met in London and Nick (with his media background) started to get involved in the business, introducing some corporate trips and building on some key partnerships in Chamonix.
Having worked full time doing two jobs until now, they finally gave up the London advertising jobs in 2008 to focus 100% on the Chamonix business, and moved to Chamonix with no regrets!
So tell us a bit about Chamonix :
Chamonix, the birth place of modern alpinism, is frequently associated with extreme skiing and mountaineering but it is also a fabulous destination for families all year round.
Our valley is a little slice of heaven, naturally. Not only is it a world class ski resort but a long-established, year-round tourist town that spreads for miles in the shadow of the Mont Blanc.
You have lived in Chamonix for nearly 10 years. Tell us more about why you decided to move here permanently?
Unlike other purpose-built ski havens, Chamonix hasn’t been designed at all and has evolved naturally since the 1800s! Therein lies the authenticity, the fun, and the lasting memories that only adventure can imprint.
When you visit Chamonix, you’re immersed in the amazing history of the region in the Architecture all around, and the amazing mountain-scape beyond it. As a visitor, you get a taste for the adventure at the very soul of this town, it’s a sensation you want to surround yourself with and share with others….
The next thing you know it’s 13 years later, you have a gorgeous daughter, and a business designed to do just that; make memories and share adventure in Chamonix.
Why should parents plan a family holiday to Chamonix?
Our slice of alpine paradise is teeming with things to do for kids of all age groups #welovechamonix is our slogan and if you read on in this article, or on our website you’ll start to see why!
You live here with your daughter. Is it a good place to live/bring up children?
With the many languages and mixed nationalities of this cosmopolitan town come a wide range of personalities and outlooks. From self-assured, confident and driven, to fun-loving, relaxed and calm; together they make a whole and build balanced little multilingual beings: our children.
Experiencing the outdoors in such a landscape of environment extremes, there is also a natural awareness for the environment that is sure to serve this future generation well. While other resorts at lower altitude may suffer over years to come Chamonix will always have a place at the top, and I’m proud to imagine it will be up to our baby Chamoniards to guard its legacy.
I highly recommend Chamonix as not only a great family holiday destination, but as a town which has an amazing, positive, natural influence on children’s well-being and developing minds.
Any tips on accommodation, the best places to stay with kids? Which is the best place for family friendly accommodation in Chamonix?
I would find it hard not to say, the best place to find family friendly accommodation is with us at Chamonix All Year. And again, each family is different in their needs and preferences so we’d have to hear from them directly to make the best recommendation. As locals, we know how to find the quiet, how to find the easiest transport routes, where you’ll be in proximity to and of course to suit all budgets.
Where is your favourite place to take your daughter in Chamonix?
As a working mum, my favourite destination personally differs from the absolute best we have to offer touristically…but this little café is a life-saver for worn out mummies and daddies: La Petite Folie, Chamonix Sud. This café and soft-play jungle gym has kids’ books, colouring and play areas for babies and toddlers! There are cars outside which they can wheel around in the square in nicer weather, and often seasonal events as well as kids’ games and painting / crafts.
What are the “unmissable” things to do in Chamonix with kids?
Kids always love taking the historic cog-railway Montenevers Train which leaves Chamonix town centre and climbs up into the mountains. When they step out at the top, they’ll be looking out over the largest glacier in France – the Mer de Glace (or Sea of Ice), and there’s even a cable car to take them down to explore inside the ice cave.
Located above the village of Les Houches, the Parc du Merlet is an animal park with a difference. Kids can see the native animals of the mountain – chamois, deer and llamas among others – and enjoy the daily visit to the marmotte chalet for feeding time.
Nestled in the woods along the River Arve in Les Praz, the Paradis des Praz offers an adventure playground where kids can have fun in this shady glade away from the glare of the summer sun. There are aerial slides, dinghy boats, swings and pony rides, as well as refreshments and snacks.
If you’re willing to travel a little further afield, head to nearby Martigny where there’s the Barryland Saint Bernard History and Breeding Centre.
Where is your daughter’s favourite places in Chamonix to hang out?
In summer, she loves the Paradis des Praz (see above) while the swimming pool remains a favourite year round . Close to the swimming pool is also a playground (near the MJC) which she also adores. The Parc de Loisirs will be great as she gets older – there’s a wee ones’ play area that she already enjoys as well as plenty for her to try as she grows including trampolines, log flumes and the luge on rails.
What is the best free activity to do with kids in Chamonix in the summer?
In the summer the Paradis des Praz is free to visit with some farm animals in a gorgeous hidden forest setting. Although I do recommend taking some change for a mini-pony ride or ice-cream.
Something special…if someone is planning a special mountain treat as a family?
This summer we’re just launching some new and exclusive summer activities. Top choices for families will be a guided family-friendly hike along a forest trail to a glacier before enjoying a forest fondue, or our inline skating adventure in beautiful nearby Annecy – explore the Venice of the Alps in style!
Where is the best place to take kids in Chamonix when the weather is bad?
Kids of Gemma’s age will love sheltering from the rain at La Petite Folie or at the swimming pool. For older kids, the bowling alley is a great option, or in summer embrace the water and try one of our water activities – rafting, hydrospeed or canyoning! We’ve recently added some more rainy-day tips to our blog:
Where are your top 3 places for family-friendly meals in and around Chamonix?
Our biggest shout-out for family-friendly restaurants has to go out to the hotel Aiguille du Midi in Les Bossons. The hotel has been in the family for 6 generations and they are really kid-focused. There’s a lovely garden for older kids to run around, as well as a pool. The kids’ menu includes a great ice cream cup that you can take home to use again and again too.
The team at Bighorn Bistro are also worth a mention, and if your kids don’t mind the risk of getting messy, then they have to try the hot dogs at Cool Cats!
What about a special treat for the parents if they have only one night? Where would you recommend?
Top restaurants for parents enjoying each other’s company for the night, the team at Bizes will give you a warm welcome and serve up some delicious food. Cap Horn is another great choice for modern food with international influences. Our restaurant wouldn’t be complete without a mention to Munchie – everyone’s favourite Chamonix restaurant.
What are your tips for kids’ shops in Chamonix (clothing & toys)?
Chamonix has two great toy shops on the high street – Chamonissimo which sells kid-friendly souvenirs and the old-school A la Ville de Venise which still has its original shop front and stocks a great mix of modern and traditional toys.
Anything other services/facilities we’ve missed that could make life easier?
Just a few more miscellaneous tips on great places for pre-school age kids, from our experiences with Gemma.
Le Parc en Folie in Sallanches (30 minutes from Chamonix) – Soft play 0-12 years, great eat as much as you like Chinese next door! And a massive toy shop for kids just around the corner. The soft play is divided into age groups up to age 12 which is amazing as it means safe play for the little ones. There is also a small play pen for the babies who can’t yet walk with little toys and rocking horses etc.
Chamonix’s Reformed Church in the town centre has a playgroup run by the lovely Barbara, in return for donations for the tea and company. Thursdays from 10 – noon (excluding French holidays).
The Heliopic hotel has a nice kids’ play area where parents can even enjoy a cocktail or coffee!
Any other advice?
Bear in mind that trips to altitude are not recommended for young children. For example, only kids from 5+ years can go up to the top of Aiguille du Midi due to the high altitude and difficulty equalising as the cable car goes up. Younger kids can take some of the other cable cars though, so check at the bottom of the cable car if you’re not sure.