A budget and blowout guide to Chamonix
If you can brave the teeth-chatteringly quick cable-car ride, the views from Aiguille du Midi are spectacular. (BBC)
Chamonix’s restaurants are about so much more than raclette and fondue. Huddled beneath majestic Mont Blanc in the Haute-Savoie region, the town is home to the only two Michelin-starred restaurant in the French Alps, Restaurant Albert 1er.
Look out for little-known Savoy wines, cured saucissons and famous cheeses, such as gruyère de montagne and tomme de savoie.
Budget: Expect a warm welcome at La Petite Kitchen, an intimate café that serves hearty, seasonal home cooking made with locally sourced ingredients. Try the caramelised onion tarte Tatin, €10.50, followed by the vanilla panna cotta, €6.50.
For a light lunch and a spot of people-watching, Aux Petits Gourmands pâtissèrie on the main street, is just the place. Grab a seat outside – and one of the café’s faux-fur blankets – and watch the world go by while eating a croissant filled with reblochon, chicken and black olives, €2.70, and a café noisette, €1.70. (0033 450 530 159)
Blowout: Restaurant Albert 1er is the only restaurant in this area with two Michelin stars. Its wine lunches, from €88, follow tutored tastings from local winemakers with menus that put a contemporary spin on classic Haute-Savoie cooking.
Budget: The dining room at Hotel Eden, in the neighbouring village of Les Praz, has a contemporary menu, impeccable service and a magical forest setting. The set menu costs €23 for three courses.
It might be owned by the people behind Restaurant Albert 1er and set in the same hotel, Le Hameau Albert 1er, but La Maison Carrier offers a very different experience. Within its farmhouse-style decor, the emphasis is on authentic Savoyard cuisine. The set menu is great value at €29 for three courses plus coffee.
Blowout: The main challenge when dining at La Cabane des Praz is keeping your eyes on your plate as the stunning views of Mont Blanc vie for your attention. Dishes include marinated salmon carpaccio, €12, and rack of lamb, €28.
Budget: The friendly atmosphere and homebrewed ales make brewpub Micro Brasserie de Chamonix a favourite with locals. Each season, a unique ‘seasonal brew’, €5, is developed by the master brewer. Or play it safe and order the house favourite, Blonde de Chamonix, €5, while soaking up the live music.
The town’s newest bar is Le Bistrot Gourmand. Owner Gerard is happy to make recommendations from the 150-strong list, but chingin-berjeron, €3.50, a full-bodied, fruity white, goes brilliantly with a plate of meats, cheeses and bread, €5. (0033 666 524 473)
Blowout: An elegant wine bar, Chachacha combines a candlelit terrace with staff who really know their stuff (it’s owned by the Picards, a French wine-making family). Toast the day’s skiing with a glass of champagne, €7.
Budget: With a quiet but central location and a private courtyard, it’s amazing that the Hotel Crêtes Blanches is still such a secret. The building is around 100 years old and packed with character, from its wooden shutters to its traditional balconies, complete with views of Mont Blanc. Doubles from €66.
Home to the La Cabane des Praz restaurant, Hotel Labrador is a traditional log cabin ideally situated for access to the Flégère cable car. Nab the Mont-Blanc Room for spectacular sunsets over the white mountain. Doubles from €107.
Blowout: A sister to London and New York members’ club, Milk & Honey, The Clubhouse is a converted mansion specialising in cocktails and post-skiing pampering. You don’t have to be a member to book. Doubles from €865 for three nights.
Budget: Avoid paying over the odds for lunch on the mountain by packing a picnic instead. The best bread in Chamonix comes from Au Pain d’Antan. Its artisan loaves packed with olives and chorizo are often still warm from the oven, from €1.10 per loaf. (0033 450 534 088).
Take the Train du Montenvers, which winds its way up to 1,913m. At the top there are panoramic views of the Mer de Glace, Drus and Grandes Jorasses peaks. After wandering through the beautiful ice caves, stop for a shot of chartreuse, €6, at Hotel du Montenvers. Return train ticket, €25. ()
Blowout: If you can brave the teeth-chatteringly quick cable-car ride, the views from the highest summit in Europe, Aiguille du Midi, are spectacular, over the peaks of the Mont Blanc Massif. Return tickets €42.50.