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Chamonix is undoubtedly one of the most famous ski resorts in the world, it holds a bundle of world records including longest run (Vallee Blanche, 22km), biggest lift-accessible vertical drop (2807m) and it also played host to the first ever 1924 Winter Olympics. And of course, is home to the tallest mountain in Europe - the magnificent Mont Blanc. The area attracts extreme sports enthusiasts from all over the world and the atmosphere down in resort is very cool – a lot of the pros spend a good portion of their winter here.
Possibly more than any other resort, Chamonix has something for everyone. For the hardcore skier there is an endless array of couloirs and steep descents. For the occasional skier there is enough play with without getting too serious. And for those with only a passing interest in the slopes, there are hundreds of shops and bars to provide more than a minor distraction. Night life in Cham is fantastic!
The town is a year-round resort and the HQ of everything mountaineering. Situated in the base of the valley, the main town is overlooked imperiously by huge mountain ranges on either side. The tallest mountain in Europe, Mont Blanc, can be reached from the town centre by the Aiguille du Midi cable car and this is a spectacular trip even if you aren’t planning on skiing from the top down the famous Vallee Blanche.
There are no limits to good options here as the French do enjoy their own cuisine.
For fantastic value the Bivouac on the main pedestrian zone is great for lunch or dinner. The Tomato Fondue is a local speciality and well worth a try.
The serious foodie can take heart in the fact that Chamonix has three Michelin starred restaurants, Le Bistrot and the Auberge du Bois Prin have one each and Albert 1er has two stars. Many more are recommended in the guide and deservedly so. We cannot recommend highly enough Le Bistrot's four-course €19 Plat Du Jour lunch, it is not to be missed.
L'Atmosphere and Caleche (pictured below) do the classic dishes well and their service and ambiance ensure a first-class dining experience. They are great options for large groups. You’ll find the famous dishes of fondue, côte de boeuf, foie gras, raclette and pierrade.
La Maison Carrier bistro has superb dishes and oozes old-fashioned style.
Further up the valley there are two notable recommendations, La Cabane and La Remise. The first offers an incredible dining experience which would not be out of place in any of the major resorts in the world. The second is worth seeking out for modern French classics.
For some reason Chamonix is the burger capital of the Alps. There is a fierce competition and strong loyalties to the many burger joints in Cham.
Nominees for the top award include:
Belouga - burgers toasted like a panini and a wide range of sauces.
Midnight Express - chips included in the bun. Strategically located between many bars for convenient snacking.
Poco Loco - indoor seating area and beer.
MOÖ - a gourmet burger joint, new in town, that has quickly become a favourite with the locals. Excellent range of burgers and a great atmosphere.
This is another strong category in Chamonix that brings out the best in its competitors.
Casa Valerio and Bartavel Pizzeria produce some amazing pizzas. Pizzeria Neapolis has many local supporters and Paradisio Pizza does a roaring take-away trade.
Chamonix has a surprising number of different cuisines from around the world. Noodles, curries, sushi, it’s all here.
Satsuki is our Japanese haunt and it is top notch.The Annapurna is the best choice if you fancy a curry night.
After the challenging slopes of Chamonix you’ll need more than a sniff a drink at the end of the day, and Chamonix can certainly provide! There’s a good choice of bars and clubs to slake your thirst. Things do tend to liven up very quickly around here, and all you have to do is weigh up how much of your skiing you are willing sacrifice the next day!
Chambre 9 - between 5pm and 7pm the local band ‘The Balboas’ rock this well known après ski bar. Very busy so get there as soon as you can.
The Vagabond - warm up in front of a roaring logfire or the sun terrace looking up at Mont Blanc. Happy hour between 4.30 and 6.30pm.
La Terrasse - in a sunny spot with cocktails served upstairs and cheap drinks between 4 and 6 and live music throughout the week.
South Bar - very popular with the Scandinavian contingent – and their subsequent admirers. DJs spin the decks until 2am.
Le Privilege - tends to attract a slightly more mature crowd, especially those who are a happy to spend a bit more cash on a night out. However, your investment does go quite a long way here, as there are regular live sets playing, either acoustic duos or house DJs who manage to get one of the best atmospheres going in town.
Le Lapin Agile - great little wine bar that offers a huge selection of wines from around the world, and also serves Italian-styled food and an assortment of salads. It is a great alternative to the boisterous bars, for those looking to have a quieter evening.
Bar’d Up - small and relaxed hang-out on the Rue de Moulins. They regularly screen English football matches, and when there’s no sport on the TV, you can while away the hours with a game of pool or table football.
The Pub - friendly British feel and a nicely heated terrace. The bars big screen ensures that it has one of the best atmospheres in town during big sporting events.
MIX Bar - this DJ bar has a cool vibe, with a modern and funky interior, and groovy tunes to sway to.
O'Byrne's - this bar is definitely relaxed compared to most others in town - it is unlikely to get rowdy - with the theme of the music being jazz and blues classics. Typically the place is enjoyed by a slightly older clientele wanting a centre of town location to spend a while with friends.
La Cantina - this club has a reputation for organising some of Chamonix's best dance nights, its success frequently attributed to the energy of the bar staff. As 'the' home of Chamonix's underground music scene (and quite literally underground!), it's situated in a narrow side street just past Super U. La Cantina regularly brings in DJ's from around the world, as well as several local bands, throwing into the mix a loud selection of hip-hop, drum n bass, groove, and dub, making the small but highly-charged club go off until the early hours.
Le Garage - it is Chamonix's largest nightclub and melting pot for all the late night (sometimes all-night) party-goers. Situated on the outskirts of Chamonix Sud, the club is very popular with the French, Scandinavians and British from all over town.
Throughout the week Le Garage plays host to a number of theme nights with internationally recognised DJ's, and some scantily-clad and highly-talented 'dancers', usually on Thursday nights.
No Escape - step into the cosmopolitan lounge bar and you could easily be entering a hip London night spot. Cool lighting, contemporary styling and attention to detail are in abundance here.
Whether you choose to make yourself at home at the luminescent bar or sink into one of the comfy sofas with their abundant faux fur cushions, the glamorous staff will bring your drinks to you while the resident DJ heats things up on the dance floor with the latest club beats and tunes.
Le Choucas - don’t let the outside chalet-style building fool you into thinking this is some sweet traditional Savoyarde coffee house. With a happy hour from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, and a party that lasts until 4:00 am, Le Choucas is one of Chamonix’s late night institutions. The fabled pink neon lights draw you into this popular bar, where guest DJ’s will have you spinning on the dance floor to classic cheesy tunes until closing time. Le Choucas also hosts many of the big event after parties such as the Rip Curl Girls Tour & the Nissan Outdoor Games, when the crowd and the vibe gets infinitely cooler.
The Vallee Blanche is a once in a lifetime experience. This run drops 23km from the Aiguille du Midi to Chamonix. The scenery is breathtaking! Expect cascading glaciers and towering peaks of the Mont Blanc massif. This unforgettable run is considered one of the greatest panorama of high mountains in the world. This adventure trip is accessible to most intermediate skiers, however, it is not on piste and having a ski guide on the way onto and down the glacier is a must.
Why not visit the local market before the day’s skiing? It is on every Saturday morning from 8am. The local cheeses, meats, fresh breads, fruit, vegetables and other local delicacies are the best you can find in the Alps.
Most lift pass options will cover you for a day’s skiing in Courmayeur - Italy. It is a great day out and you can easily take the bus through the Mont-Blanc tunnel from Chamonix centre.
Ski off the back of the top lift at the Grand Montets to the Glacier d’Argentiere for one of the greatest off-piste routes in the Alps.
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