The outdoor capital of Europe. Base camp of Mont Blanc. Start of the famous Tour du Mont Blanc.
The outdoor capital of Europe
Chamonix is known as Europes outdoor capital. Each year, it attracts thousands of extreme mountaineers and skiers from all over the world. Via the Aiguille Midi cable car, one can access the world’s most famous off-piste run, the Vallée Blanche. The run starts at 3842 meters above sea level and ends down in the center of Chamonix. Chamonix is also the official start point of world famous long distance hiking tours such as the Tour du Mont Blanc or the Haute Route.
The Mer de Glace is the biggest glacier in France and one of the biggest in Europe. You can visit a real ice cave which is underneath the glacier. Chamonix is also the town of the first winter Olympics ever held in 1924.
In 1741, the two young English aristocrats, William Windham and Richard Pocock, visited the Mer de Glace above Chamonix. They had no idea that the recital of their visit to this small mountain village and its glaciers had such an impact on the whole of Europe. The first hotel opened in 1770 and marked the early development of the hotel trade and the first mountaineering exploits. The Mont Blanc was first climbed in 1786 by Jacques Balmat and the doctor Michel Paccard. The ascent had a great impact on Chamonix to become a popular mountaineering destination. In 1821, the Compagnie des Guides was created and tourism increased immensely. Only six years later there were already 39 hotels in Chamonix.
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is surrounded by impressive peaks. The Aiguille Rouges on the north-west side and the Mont Blanc massif with the famous Aiguille du Midi on the southeast side.
Mont Blanc is the monarch of mountains; They crown’d him long ago on a throne of rocks, in a robe of clouds, with a diadem of snow (Lord George Gordon Byron)
The town centre
Chamonix-Mont-Blanc with its busy town centre has a lot to offer. There are many different shops where you can buy everything you need. From the classic souvenir over to some real good quality mountaineering gear, there is everything available. After a day in the mountains you’ll be hungry so let’s check out the local cuisine. The choice is big. Wether you want a delicious burger with some local beer, a classy french-style dinner with some high-end French wine or a traditional local meal such as a Fondue, Chamonix has a lot to offer! Of course the night life in Chamonix is nowhere behind. There are many bars with live music or a DJ serving great cocktails in a great atmosphere. During the summer months the center is lively and there are quite a few events spread over the entire summer season.
The famous Aiguille du Midi & Mer de Glace
A stay in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc without a visit on the Aiguille du Midi is would not be complete. The Aiguille du Midi is the second highest cable car in Europe and definitely worth a visit. Starting directly from the town center of Chamonix the cable car brings you just in a few minutes on over 3800m above sea level, directly in the middle of the high alpine terrain. The views from the top are breathtaking and you can see the Mont Blanc and many other 4000m peaks. On a good day you can even see the Matterhorn far away in the distance. The Aiguille du Midi is a very popular site so it is worth to go early in the morning to avoid the big crowds.
The visit of the Aiguille du Midi is often combined with a train ride from Chamonix up to the Mer de Glace (sea of ice). The Mer de Glace is the biggest glacier in France and the views are absolute stunning. From the train station at Montenvers there is a small path leading down to the glacier where you can visit a real ice cave. On your way down you can also learn about the sad and mind-blowing facts of global warming and the retreating glacier over the last century.
Chamonix is know for the place-to-be for every extreme sport. In the last few years trail running became more and more popular so every year thousands of runners try to run the famous Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB). The over 170km long trail has been completed in around 20 hours by the top notch trail runners. It is the event of the summer and attracts many runners but also spectators as the atmosphere and spirit in town is unique.