Our TOP 6 things to do as a family in CHAMONIX in the summer
This year we decided to escape the heat, stay local and take our mountain girls to Chamonix on holiday.
Chamonix really is a special place…It’s exhilaratingly beautiful and evokes a semi-permanent sense of awe…from its snow peaked summits, glaciers, its meadows filled with wild flowers to its energy filled town centre.
Chamonix is the mountaineering capital of Europe and offers some of the most technical and challenging terrain in the world, yet it is PERFECT for an active family holiday.
I myself was taken to Chamonix on holiday several times as a child (doing the famous Tour du Mont Blanc as a family when I was 10 yo – these holidays have fuelled my lifelong passion for the mountains) and as an adult I have returned several times to ski the Vallée Blanche, climb the aerial Arête des Cosmiques… These memories reinforce my love for the place. I hope our children will enjoy Chamonix as much as I do.
A week really wasn’t long enough to do everything we wanted to do…We will be back, but here are our favourite 6 things we did this week.
1: Montenvers, the Mer de Glace & a hike back down to Chamonix via le buvette des Mottets
Our girls loved taking the little red historic cog-railway Montenvers Train up to the bottom of the Mer de Glace. The train leaves from Chamonix town centre and takes approx. 20 mins to climb up into the mountains.
Upon arrival you are greeted with the most stunning views over the Mer de Glace (or Sea of Ice). You can also take a cable car down to explore inside the ice cave.
This is also the starting point of some fabulous walks.
We opted for a walk back down to Chamonix via the Buvette des Mottets. The buvette has a lovely terrace with the most spectacular views and a little pond with some gorgeous dragon flys. (They also offer nights sleeping in pods overlooking the mountains). Our little chamois loved the walk and so did we. Our youngest even managed to walk the full 1000m descent.
On a practical note: We made this a half day activity and set off at 14h. To our surprise there were no queues and we didn’t have to wait for anything. The walk was varied in terrain – rocks, ladders etc. (proper walking shoes needed & special attention to little ones until the buvette as there are several impressive drops to be avoided). The walk took us 3 hours (2 hours without young kids and refreshment stops 😉). Be warned you arrive at the Parc des Loisirs…it took a bit of persuasion to pull the girls away from here to get home for dinner 😉
2: Breakfast on top of the world: Aiguille du Midi
The Aiguille du Midi is I’m sure, the most popular attraction in Chamonix and it is easy to see why. It’s the closest you will get to Mont Blanc without putting on a pair of crampons
Within 20 mins, the two stage cable cars, transport you from Chamonix at 1035m to the Plan de l’Aiguille (2317m), then to another world, the world of mountaineering at 3842m at the Aiguille du Midi . You literally feel the power of the mountains. You feel like you are on top of the world. You are treated to spectacular views of the Mont Blanc, the Drus, the Aiguilles du Chamonix…. Our girls loved this.
Don’t look down 😉!
We went straight to the latest feature –”Step into the Void”, opened since 2013 and free with a lift pass to Chamonix – Aiguille du Midi. “Step into the Void” is essentially a reinforced glass room with a glass floor, situated off the highest terrace of the Aiguille du Midi at an altitude of 3842 metres, enabling a unique experience of stepping out above a 1000m precipice in complete safety! A product of modern architectural and technical prowess. (We were very lucky & only waited 15 mins to do this)
We then absorbed the views from the different terraces before having breakfast overlooking the Mont Blanc in the cafeteria 😉
On a practical note – following advice from Mont Blanc Natural Resorts (given the pre-reserved slots were fully booked days in advance), we got up at 6am to avoid the queues. We were allotted a cable car for 7h30. This worked perfectly for us and when we came back down at 10h30 – the queues were huge. Ensure you wear warm clothing. The trip isn’t recommended for under 5’s…we left our youngest mountains girl down the valley! (Meaning we’ll have to come back again 😉)
3: Hiking with friends from La Flègere – Le Brevent
After the success of our first walk we decided to go to the opposite side of the valley & did a brilliant little balcony walk from La Flégère to Planpraz with friends.
Our group of 12 ranging in age from 3 – 78 took this 6km walk in their stride. We took the La Flégère cable car first thing & walked over to Planpraz, where after refreshments we took the cable car back down to Chamonix.
The walk took us approximately 3 hours (2 hours normally).
We had a wonderful pic nic overlooking Mont Blanc & the glacier des Bossons – whilst the little ones hunted butterflies amongst the wild flowers!
The views were spectacular in every direction and it was great to show the kids where we had been the day before!
On a practical note – make sure you take lots of water (there is nowhere to refill en route), little ones (& big ones) need decent hiking shoes & supervision on certain stretches where the path is slightly eroded & there are steepish drops down the valley. With under 3’s I’d strongly recommend a baby carrier…our daughter who is 3,5 yo spent the majority of the walk in ours 😉
Located a few kilometres from the village of Les Houches, the Parc du Merlet is an animal park with a difference…The concept is great…20 hectares where the mountain animals run freely, and you can watch them following a choice of two walking circuits round the park. There are two paths indicated – one is classed as “tranquille” & even accessible by pushchairs the other “en forme” and takes approx 2 hours (we did this one).
My girls loved it & saw : marmottes, deer, chamois, lamas, ibex, deer, mouflon & rabbits. We’ve visited several times over the years and it never fails us. My girls LOVE all the animals & the location at 1500m opposite the Mont Blanc is just to die for – even when the weather is mixed, it’s magical.
Please note – Parking can be tricky – either get there early or drop young kids off at the top & go back down to park. If you plan a pic-nic there are lots of tables at the entrance.
5: A day out in Italy
A quick drive under the Mont Blanc via the Tunnel du Mont Blanc (12km) and you are in Italy. We actually went twice 😉 on two bad weather days…where a quick look at the weather revealed the sun was shining in Italy!
A quick round up of things to do:
• Lunch & shopping (The three P’s – parmesan, pasta & prosecco for the year!!!) in Aosta
• Coffee and playgrounds overlooking of the Grand Paradiso Nautral Park in Cogne – a beautiful village, in a stunning setting.
• Dinner & Multi activities at Planpincieux in Val Ferret overlooking the the stunning mountain back drop of Mont Blanc from the Italian side. We ended up here on our first trip for aperos (Apérol Spritz time) & dinner to avoid a a 2.5 hour wait to drive back through the tunnel to Chamonix !!. We loved it so much we came back with friends…they have a fabulous set up for kids in the most stunning of backdrops…trampolines, mountain biking, ball pools, horse riding, kids i-ways…
Practical note: It’s much cheaper to buy a multipass through the tunnel that you can use over a few years.
6: Chilling in our chalet
We stayed at an amazing, four bedroomed, chalet owned and operated by Chamonix All Year called Chalet Union. Beautifully & tastefully decorated, within easy walking distance from Chamonix centre yet nestled in a quiet location with the MOST AMAZING views, garden & hot tub overlooking the Aiguille du Midi, Mont Blanc & the Glacier des Bossons we really enjoyed staying here – especially our leisurely breakfasts & evening meals.
Despite having a list of places recommended to go out for dinner…we didn’t go out at all in the evening, the location was so beautiful we were happier staying at home and chilling…after all you are supposed to relax a bit on holiday, aren’t you? 😉
We had Mont Blanc Multi passes from Mont Blanc Natural Resorts – Thank you. If you plan on doing lots of different things this is a great option – it avoids queuing and makes everything much more cost effective.
Just a few of the things we need to come back for: Le Paradis des Praz, beautiful walks in Vallorcine, the Parc des Loisirs, the Barryland Saint Bernard History and Breeding Centre in Martigny, Vallorcine train to the natural zoo/swimming pool des Marécottes, Le Tramway du Mont Blanc, the Glacier des Bossons, the walk from the Plan du Midi to the Montenvers..…
For further info on Chamonix:
Mont Blanc Natural Resorts – Lift passes & various attractions. We had the Mont-Blanc Multi-Pass.
Chamonix Tourist Office – the site also has a great feature to help you plan walks where you can choose the itineray by filtering via various criteria subject to difficulty, location, time etc.