Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ambling around Chamonix (France)

guest post by Isabella Rose of

Home to the French Alps tallest peak, Chamonix taunts snow-sports enthusiasts with slopes just begging to be tarnished by the touch of skis. However, with the overshadowing call of the wily temptress, aka Mont Blanc, and the idyllic Chamonix weather, many have overlooked the effervescent town that sits at the base of her tumbling snowfall.

Unlike other French purpose-built ski resorts, naming no names of course (cough Courchevel cough), Chamonix is an authentic town whose vibrant streets buzz with the sounds of daily life. With historical sights and cultural attractions lining the town’s pedestrianized streets there are countless opportunities for ambling.

I feel I should take a short moment here to bask in the definition of ‘ambling’. Defined as ‘an unhurried or leisurely walk’, speed demons and adrenalin junkies who live to hurtle down mountains, jump out of airplanes and throw themselves of cliffs should really take note here. For my fellow ambling friends however, who similarly rejoice in the simple pleasure of a pleasant stroll, here are some of the best opportunities for ambling around in Chamonix.

Guided Heritage Tour

Run by Chamonix’s local tourist office, a guided heritage walk around the town is an ambler’s dream. Beginning at Le Triangle de L’AmitiĆ©, home to the Mairie, Chamonix’s triumphant town hall, the tour continues on to explore Chamonix’s historic buildings and churches laced with the baroque and art deco style. On your way you will witness small pockets of hamlets and villages pervading the town, a testament to Chamonix’s diversity of life. With an abundance of cafes, restaurants and bars there is plenty of opportunity to refuel along the way. My ambling advice: check out the Chalet le Cerro, a quaint alpine chalet serving traditional French cuisine. The three-cheese fondue is worth the indulgence, just be warned your feet may feel a little heavier after this hearty feast!

Open Air Markets

Chamonix’s open air markets thrive with the hustle and bustle of local trade, providing ample opportunity for ambling. Authentic Savoyard aromas float through the air tempting you with delicious French flavours. With home-grown produce and local dairy such as the Tomme and reblochon cheese, those who enjoy the finer things in life can bask in Chamonix’s rich culinary culture and the slower pace of European life. For those who prefer a seasonal market however, the Christmas Market Argentiere held at the local town hall is ideal for a winter’s stroll. Full of festive cheer, market stalls selling traditional decorations and wooden arts and crafts are offered up here for your leisurely perusal.

Chamonix Alpine Museum

If ever there is a place where an ambler is truly at home it’s in a museum. Rich in visual history, Chamonix has several museum and gallery hot-spots. Tracing the history of the town’s origins, the Alpine Museum is a great place to start. From humble beginnings to a thriving ski resort proudly hosting the first Winter Olympics, the museum explores Chamonix’s rising success. With numerous prints, sketches and photographs to survey, art-amblers are bound to be busy for hours.

After a leisurely day of bumbling along Chamonix’s streets, you may find your legs a little shaky and your feet a little achy. Fear not! Hotels in Chamonix are a great place for expert-amblers to retire after a long day of exploration. From alpine lodges to catered chalets, swimming pools and Jacuzzi’s are on hand to provide a soothing soak at the end of the day.

For a more information on Chamonix peruse the pages of My Destination Chamonix, one of the best comprehensive guides on the area.

Photo Credits: reflection, flags, spice market


Heather on her travels said...

I was in Chamonix last autumn to walk a bit of the tour de mont blanc - Chamonix has a really vibrant atmosphere in summer as well as winter, but beware as it tends to be pretty pricy. Having said that there's loads to do in the mountains around if you like walking.

Mark H said...

@heather: I really enjoyed your series on walking in Chamonix and the accompanying videos. I adore the mountain vistas of this spectauclr European location.

sgabraki23 said...

From what I can see of the images, Chamonix reminds me a lot of Interlaken Switzerland. They do share the same alps after all. However, as much as I adored the quietness and breathtaking scenery in Interlaken, Chamonix seems much more rich with culture and activity. And the open market sounds wonderful, I can smell the fresh open-air and fragrant spices now! The spices remind me of Morocco!

Mark H said...

@sgabraki23: I think the region is similar (after all they aren't that far apart). I agree that Chamonix has a little more to offer in culture and activities though the scenery in Interlaken is also stunning.

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