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Sightseeing in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is an atmospheric alpine town sitting at the foot of the highest mountain in western Europe, Mont Blanc (4808m/ 15,770 ft), called the “White Mountain” as it is always covered in snow. The town hosted the first ever Winter Olympics in 1924 and therefore some consider it the cradle of alpine skiing. It offers steep challenging runs for skiers. Its 20-kilometre (12-mile) Valley Blanche is a high off-piste run, the longest in Europe, yet the town also has some runs for the beginners.
If you don’t ski, come anyway for the stunning views and one of the highest cable cars in the world. There are also many options for hiking around Mont Blanc for all ability levels. If you’re planning to spend just 1 or 2 days in Chamonix, and wondering what to do next, I recommend the beautiful Annecy, Lyon and Geneva, all of which are in close distance. The fastest and cheapest way to travel between those towns is Ouibus (http://uk.ouibus.com/).
When in Chamonix, remember to wear warm clothes, sunscreen and sunglasses. It’s much colder up in the mountains than down in the town centre. First, take a Guest Card (Carte d'Hôte) from your hotel. Thanks to the card, you can use public transport for free.
What to see in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France?
1) The gondola lift to Plan Praz and cable cars to Brevent
From 29 Route Henriette d'Angeville take the gondola lift to Plan Praz at 1,999 m, then the red cable car in the clouds to Le Brévent at 2,525m. Round-trip adult ticket is €31,50. The views of Mont Blanc are stunning! You can also try paragliding – Plan Praz has a take-off area. In summer you can do some hiking from Plan Praz to Lake Cornu and Grand Balcon Sud.
From the top of Le Brévent, you can follow a footpath to Aiguillette des Houches via the Bel-Lachat mountain hut. Another idea is to take a trail from the Plaques du Brévent, facing Mont Blanc, just 5 minutes walk from the top of the cable car line. Or you can just sit in Le Panoramique restaurant and enjoy the fantastic views, sipping a glass of wine.
2) The cable cars to Aiguille du Midi
The first part of the ride takes you to the Plan de l’Aiguille at 2,130 m. This spot is the departure point for the Grand Balcon Nord hike to Montenvers. There’s the Refuge du Plan restaurant nearby.
The second part of the ride reaches Aiguille du Midi mountain summit at 3,777 m. You can “Step into the Void” there at an altitude of 3,842 metres. “Step into the Void” is a glass room with a glass floor, and each wall is made from three layers of thick glass. The ticket is €60 (round-trip adult ticket to Aiguille du Midi + Step into the Void).
In summer (from June to September) you can take another lift to Pointe Helbronner at 3,842 m. You can have a drink or meal in Restaurant Le 3,842.
3) Train du Montenvers / Mer de Glace
From 35 Place de la Mer de Glace take the old-fashioned red train to Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), the largest glacier in France, 7 km long and 200 m deep. Round-trip adult ticket is €31,50.
The train reaches the glacier at 1,913 m where you can admire it from the viewpoint or from the restaurant Panoramique Mer de Glace. There’s also a small Glaciorium there, an exhibition dedicated to glaciology, open in summer.
Then take the cable cars and walk (430 steps) down to the man-made Grotte de Glace, that is, Ice Cave. It’s a 100-metre-long cave that offers an inside view of the glacier with ice sculptures lit in colourful light. Because the glacier moves 70 m every year, the cave has to be dug out every year anew. The last train back is at 4.30 p.m. in winter and 5 p.m. in summer.
4) Chamonix town
In the evening you can stroll around the town. Many restaurants serve raclette and fondue which, paired with white wine, is a great idea for dinner.
Ticket prices and info (all cable cars and other attractions):