There are a lot of awesome things to do in Chamonix in the summer and I didn’t know about any of them until I got there. I never intended to spend as much time in Chamonix as I did. What was initially just supposed to be a couple days in Chamonix while I prepared to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc turned into more than a week of killing time in this adorable Alpine oasis.
I ended up with a lot of free time and absolutely no agenda other than to see what I could get up to in Chamonix (and how much Alpine cheese I could eat). And this small French village at the base of Western Europe’s tallest mountain has a lot of adventure and cool experiences (pun intended, you’ll see) up for grabs.
Chamonix in the summer
As I would learn, Chamonix, France is primarily a winter destination. It’s known worldwide for its epic skiing and various other winter sports. To me, this mostly means hot cocoa-drinking and melted cheese-eating but to you it may mean something else entirely.
I spent all my time in Chamonix in July and August. And with so many things to do in Chamonix in the summer, it’s hard for me to believe that’s actually the region’s off season.
Things to do in Chamonix for non-skiers
When you first search for what to do in Chamonix, the main things that come up involve snow, ice, and really long poles you strap to your feet. And while those may be the most popular things to do in Chamonix, I’m going to avoid all that like a scarecrow to a lit match.
This post will cover all the things to do in Chamonix for non-skiers. This is for those of us who prefer dirt and leaves over snow and ice. Those of us who prefer hiking boots to skis and sweeping, sun-soaked mountain views over, well, just the color white and literally nothing else.
Top attractions in Chamonix in the summer
I’m going to start with Chamonix’s top attractions—the few things you may have actually heard of before you arrived. These attractions are popular for a reason: they’re incredible!
1. Aiguille du Midi
The Aiguille du Midi is undoubtedly Chamonix’s most popular attraction and if you experience it you’ll see why.
Though the mountain itself is named Aiguille du Midi, when you hear this they’re actually referring to the cable car that takes you to the top and the incredible viewing platforms up there.
You’ll ride the cable car that hold the record for the world’s highest vertical ascent to the peak of the Aiguille du Midi at 12,605 feet (3,842 m) and it is magical. I mean, absolutely mind-blowing. Even in the summer. The cable car ride to the top and back is an experience in and of itself. It’s a thrill ride like none other, I tell ya.
At the summit, you’ll disembark the cable car and have free reign of:
- the viewing platforms (there are more than one)
- restaurants and cafés
- a gift shop
- snack bars
- opportunities to learn about mountaineering
- and some of the best photo ops in Chamonix.
You’ll get to see absolutely off-their-rocker individuals mountaineers working their way to the top and views for what seems like days. You’ll also get an up-close and unparalleled view of Mont Blanc itself—the tallest mountain in the Alps and all of Western Europe.
From up here, you can even take another gondola over the mountain to the Pointe Helbronner peak on the Italian side. This option is only available from June to September—yay for visiting Chamonix in the summer!
For everything else you could possibly want to know about visiting the Aiguille du Midi, check out my full guide to visiting Aiguille du Midi in the summer. It covers everything: how long it takes, what it costs, and a bunch of tips for maximizing your visit.
2. Step Into the Void
Another of the most popular things to do in Chamonix takes place at the top of Aiguille du Midi: the Step Into the Void.
At the top of Aiguille du Midi, you can step out into a [hopefully very strongly reinforced] glass box that hangs over the vast nothingness below. The price of doing this is included in the cost of visiting Aiguille du Midi, just prepare for long lines and a lot of waiting.
Personally, I opted out of this in favor of using my time to enjoy the amazing views but if I’d had more time I definitely would’ve stepped into the void (and probably peed myself a little if I’m being honest here).
3. Ride the Montenvers train
I hadn’t even heard of the Montenvers train until the man in the Aiguille du Midi ticket office told me about it. I agreed to purchase the Mont Blanc Multipass so I could go there (more on that in a minute), but still thought it was just going to be a cheesy ride on a red tourist train. As what usually happens when I prejudge something, the Montenvers train turned out to be so fun!
This little red mountain funicular began operation in 1908 and takes you from the Chamonix Valley up and around the mountains on one of the most scenic rides in the area. You get to see awesome views of the mountains, hikers on the trails, and of Chamonix way, way below you.
The ride is slow but beautiful and the trains are never packed (unless you’re on the last one back to Chamonix). The train does chug along the edge of the mountainside so if you get vertigo or motion sickness, you may want to admire the views from the other side of the train. (And if that’s the case, check out my post on the permanent motion sickness cure that changed my life, no joke.)
At the end you can eat at the restaurant, visit the souvenir shop, or check out the Mer de Glace glacier from up above if that’s all you want to do before heading back. Or, you can take another gondola down another mountain and head inside the glacier itself.
4. Explore Mer de Glace
Mer de Glace stands for Sea of Ice and isn’t that just the perfect name for a glacier? Mer de Glace is the largest glacier in France at 4.4 miles (7 km) long and 656 feet (200 m) deep.
To get to Mer de Glace, you’ll need to take the Montenvers train from Chamonix, then hop on a series of cable cars that take you down into the valley, then descend 430 steps to the mouth of the ice cave. (When you leave, you have to climb back up them so prepare yourself for a workout.)
The glacier moves about 230 feet (70 m) each year so the ice cave is carved anew each summer. Once here, you can go inside the living glacier. You get to see what a glacier looks like from the inside and it is marvelous! You’ll also learn all about glaciers as well as visit different “rooms” with many ice carvings and sculptures.
As you can see in my pictures, being inside a glacier for a short amount of time is chilly, sure, but it’s not freezing. I wore a t-shirt and Chacos and was fine.
Is it possible to visit Aiguille du Midi and Mer de Glace in the same day?
Yes, 100%. And it’s actually cheaper if you do it this way.
When purchasing my Aiguille du Midi ticket, I instead bought the 1-day Mont Blanc Multipass. With this you get access to three different Chamonix sites (plus a variety of other uses) in a single day for one reduced price. Since I thought I was just going to be passing through Chamonix I got the 1-day pass but they have everything between 1-day and 21-day versions.
With this ticket I was able to visit Aiguille du Midi, walk over to the Montenvers train, then take it over the mountain to explore Mer de Glace. All in a single day and I didn’t even have to rush (that much). The Mont Blanc Multipass costs barely more than the Aiguille du Midi ticket itself so you’re basically getting to visit the other sites for free. Highly recommend!
Best outdoor adventures in Chamonix in the summer
Regardless of what you’d consider to be the best time to visit Chamonix, this town is really an outdoor-adventurer’s paradise. You can make a pretty big dent in your Alpine bucket list here with endless activities in the air, on land, and even in water.
Here are some of the best outdoorsy things to do in Chamonix in the summer:
5. Le Brevent Cable Car
If it’s more stunning mountain views you want, make your next stop the Brévent cable car. On the side of the valley opposite Aiguille du Midi you can take a gondola lift from Chamonix to Plan Praz, then switch to the cable car that will take you across and up to Le Brévent, another incredible mountain peak at 8,284 feet (2,525 m).
Up here you’ll get views to rival even those of Aiguille du Midi, since this time you get see the Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc in all its terrifyingly immense glory.
At the top of Le Brévent there are a number of short walking trails around the top as well as much, much longer hiking trails that’ll spit you out in either Switzerland or Italy—do not confuse the two. And if you think that’s a possibility, consider springing for the travel insurance. If for no other reason than the fact that helicopter rescues are wicked expensive.
6. Merlet Animal Park
On the same side of the valley as Le Brévent and just a little further down the mountain (technically in the Les Houches, the town next door) is Merlet Animal Park.
Merlet Animal Park is a 52-acre preserve sheltering more than 80 mountain animals in their natural habitat. This site utilizes pastures, rocky outcroppings, and pine forest and the animals roam free, without fences or barriers. However, do keep your distance—this is not a petting zoo. A mouflon could ram you into next Tuesday.
What animals will you see at Merlet Animal Park?
With the exception of some llamas, the other 7 species of animals found at Merlet Animal Park are indigenous to the area. Here you’ll see:
- Ibex (bouquetin in French)
- Mouflon (a kind of wild sheep with big, curved horns)
- Fallow deer
- Sika deer
- Roe deer
- And fat little marmots.
During the summer they host several presentations on the history of Merlet and Chamonix, indigenous flora and fauna, and about the animals themselves (like how to determine the sex, age, and health of an animal by looking at its antlers/horns).
There are a couple of hiking trails around the park—some easy, others difficult. Also, there’s a snack bar on site with a cliff-side patio and the whole experience offers, you guessed it again, amazing alpine views!
What Merlet Animal Park doesn’t have is a restroom that’s any more than a fancy bucket attached to a wall. So if you visit be sure to bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
How to get to Merlet Animal Park
There are three ways to get to Merlet Animal Park from Chamonix and/or Les Houches. You can:
- Drive from either town. There are two parking lots—one is a 10-minute walk to the park entrance and the other is a 30-minute walk. You’re in Chamonix, just get used to hiking.
- Take the shuttle from the Les Houches railway station to car park #1, then walk the rest of the way. You can easily get from Chamonix to Les Houches on the #1 bus from Chamonix Sud.
- Hike there. Personally, I hiked down to Merlet Animal Park from Le Brévent but you can also hike up from both Chamonix (2 hours) and Les Houches (1.5 hours). From Chamonix, you can take the “Petit Balcon Sud” trail from a few different starting points. And from Les Houches you can follow the trail signs to Merlet Animal Park.
Given these epic surroundings, I don’t think I need to tell you that the most popular outdoor adventure in Chamonix is hiking hiking hiking! You don’t need to commit to hiking the 11-day Tour du Mont Blanc. There are actually a ton of great, nay, spectacular day hikes in and around Chamonix.
I have yet to experience even a fraction of hiking opportunities in Chamonix but I do have a couple of favorites already.
Chamonix > Le Brévent > Bellachat > Merlet Animal Park > Les Houches > Chamonix
This hike will forever be one of the top three hikes of my entire life. I learned about it by going into the Chamonix tourist office and asking the woman at the counter for cool day hikes I could take. And man did she deliver!
This hike starts at the top of Le Brévent, heads down to Refuge Bellachat where you can enjoy a lovely cliffside lunch break, then to Merlet Animal Park, and ends in Les Houches where you can follow the road back to Chamonix.
Length: 7 miles
Time: 9 hours, including the visit to Merlet Animal Park
Difficulty: On the high end of moderate. It’s not super hard, but it can get dangerous.
For all the details of this hike (like where to find the magical raspberry forest, where the most dangerous parts are, and what to actually expect) check out my post on the best day hikes in Chamonix.
Chamonix > Glacier des Bossons > Chalet des Pyramides > Chamonix
For this hike you’ll take a chairlift up from Chamonix to the base of the Bossons Glacier—that big glacier below Mont Blanc that you’ve been eyeing your entire time in Chamonix.
From there you can hike back, forth, back, forth, up, up, up until you’re right at the edge of the enormous glacier. You can keep going to La Jonction (the last rocky part of the mountain before the “kingdom of ice” and the junction of the Bossons and Taconnaz Glaciers) or simply stop at the Chalet des Pyramides for a great meal and even greater glacier views omgggg.
From there, simply hike back down the same trail you came up and take the chairlift back to the valley. To get to and from the chairlift, you can walk the hour from downtown Chamonix or take the #2 bus to the Glacier des Bossons stop. It couldn’t be easier.
Length: 6 miles
Time: 8 hours, including stops for coffee and lunch
Difficulty: Easy, by hiker standards. Probably pretty difficult if you’re a couch potato.
For all the details of this hike (like the most amazing meal I had my entire time in Chamonix, what to expect, and more) check out my upcoming post on the best day hikes in Chamonix. And for everything you need to pack for successful hiking here, check out my post on what to pack for Chamonix in the summer.
In addition to standard hiking, you can also find a number of via ferrata trails around Chamonix if you want an even more intense adrenaline rush! If you’ve never heard of a via ferrata before, check out my post on the Mürren to Gimmelwald via ferrata in Switzerland.
Hydrospeeding is pretty much as the name suggests, but it is not at all what I imagined. It’s like white water rafting… but without a raft and only your body. It sounds terrifying but looks SO FUN.
Hydrospeeding is basically body-surfing down the Arve River that runs straight through the center of Chamonix. You glide down the river on your stomach while holding onto a small raft of sorts.
There are a few hydrospeed companies in Chamonix and all include qualified guides, lessons on navigation techniques, wetsuits, helmets, and all other necessary safety equipment.
I didn’t get to try this on my last visit but I sure as hell will on my next. Every time I saw people hydrospeeding it was obvious they were having the times of their lives! Watch the below video to get an idea of hydrospeed in Chamonix.
9. River rafting
From the companies that bring you hydrospeed, you can also opt for actual river rafting if you prefer to travel downriver in a vessel instead.
River rafting in Chamonix is a class III (quite difficult) course and you can choose from a variety of courses. There are full and half day rafting trips and the same equipment you need for hydrospeed is provided here as well.
For both hydrospeed and rafting in Chamonix, the following companies have great reviews:
10. Chamonix Alpine Coaster
Located inside the Chamonix Amusement Park is the Chamonix alpine coaster—for a taste of adventure but where you’re still firmly at ground level.
The Chamonix Amusement Park is mostly for kids—a few rides here and there, games, entertainment, and, naturally, an electric fence keeping the cows in their place.
The highlight of the Chamonix Amusement Park is the alpine coaster, a 4,265-foot (1300 m) rail track that includes jumps, turns, and spins. The alpine coaster is like a sled ride (only this is summer) on a small seat that fits either one or two people with very little else.
If you spend even just one day in Chamonix you’ll already know that paragliding is one of the most popular things to do in Chamonix in the summer. Paragliders soar overhead from all angles at all times of day. Most of them you just see, but some you hear loud and clear, screaming at the top of their lungs. Those ones are my favorites.
There are a ton of paragliding companies to fly with in Chamonix and I have personal experience with zero of them. However, Fly Chamonix has nothing by 5-star reviews on Tripadvisor so I’d start there.
If you think all the other views of Chamonix I’ve mentioned so far are amazing, I can’t even imagine how incredible the ones from a glider are!
More awesome things to do in Chamonix in the summer
Though Chamonix is an outdoor adventure powerhouse, there are many more things to do in Chamonix in the summer, even on a rainy day. These range from interesting museums to beer to sports. Here are some more awesome ways to spend your days:
12. Check out the ancient chapel ruins
In Les Gaillands, at the end of the Brévent > Merlet Animal Park hike, the trail spits you out at a magical lake in the woods. And on the shore of that lake you’ll stumble upon the ruins of an ancient chapel. You can follow the steps down into the lake and check out a few different “rooms.”
Only, the ruins aren’t so much ancient. And they’re actually not those of a chapel. In fact, those ruins aren’t really ruins at all.
In reality, those “ancient chapel ruins” were put there by a quirky Scotsman named Lord Sinclair in the late 1800s. At that time he acquired the land and built a man-made lake with a man-made island, added a man-made cave, and finished it off with the fake ruins of an imagined chapel. By all accounts he wanted to recreate the mysterious lochs of his homeland.
Regardless of its fairytale authenticity, Le Lac à l’Anglais and its “ruins” are still a cool place to check out with great photo ops. Especially if you’re already in the area to climb the Gaillands climbing rock or traverse the treetop adventure course nearby.
13. See a hockey game
Chamonix, as small as it is, has its own professional hockey team, the Pionniers of Chamonix Mont-Blanc, part of the Magnus League. Throughout the months of July and August the team plays a number of summer preseason matches at their home stadium just outside the city center, Centre Sportif Richard Bozon. Tickets will run you between 11 – 14 euros (12-15 USD).
I definitely would not call myself a hockey fan, but these games are so fun! The stadium is small but the crowd energy is huge. There are cheers and excitement and figure skating between the periods. There’s a fun bar on site serving delicious Mont Blanc beers and the whole experience is a must if you want something fun to do in Chamonix.
14. Try local beers
The Micro Brasserie de Chamonix is a local craft brewery and is just across the main road from the hockey stadium. (So… a great place to hit up before and/or after the game.)
They have five signature beers and offer flights, snacks, meals, and a full bar if you bring a non-beer drinker along with you. They also do beer takeaway if you just wanna load up for the trails. The MBC is a casual little joint and a great opportunity to taste some of the local beers made with pure Mont Blanc water.
Likewise, you can also find beers from Big Mountain Brewing Co. in the center of town on the main pedestrian street. Plus, you can get beers from Brasserie du Mont Blanc just about everywhere beers are sold. These beers are made with pure glacier water and are bottled at altitude.
15. Visit the Crystal Museum
Right in the center of Chamonix is the Musee des Cristaux—the Crystal Museum. An amazing variety of crystals and minerals have been found in the mountains in and around Chamonix and you’ll see those displayed here.
I had low expectations for the Crystal Museum but, again, I was blown away by what I saw here. There are crystals of all shapes, sizes, colors, and sparkly-ness (the technical term). To think that these things came out of the earth is unreal actually.
A visit here won’t take up much of your time but there is a lot to see—and you will see some truly badass rocks.
16. Explore the Alpine Museum
Another of Chamonix’s most well-known museums is the Musée Alpin, or the Alpine Museum. It’s located in the former Chamonix Palace and explores the development of Chamonix over time. From the first visitors through Alpine explorations to the golden age of winter sports.
You’ll get to see artifacts from hiking days of yore and historical photographs and learn what it took to summit Mont Blanc way back when (in dresses, ladies!). You’ll see Chamonix artworks, antique winter sports gear, and more. (Worry not, the informational placards are in both French and English.)
17. Eat fondue and raclette
When in the Alps, you must eat Alpine food. And by that I specifically I mean stinky, melty cheese in two forms: fondue and raclette. Even in the summer in Chamonix the nights gets chilly and there’s nothing better than cozying up with some warm cheese in the Alps.
Fondue is melted cheese served in a communal dish into which you dip chunks of bread and small potatoes. But you already knew what fondue was, didn’t you?
The lesser known raclette is something a little different but extremely popular in Savoie, the region of France that encompasses Chamonix. Raclette is a large, semi-hard wheel of cheese that you shave melted slices off of. When ordering at a restaurant, you may get a chunk of the wheel or you may even get the whole wheel.
Raclette comes with a complex setup: something to hold the cheese, a heat lamp of sorts to melt the cheese, a scraper, and possibly more moving parts. It, too, is served with bread and potatoes, and also charcuterie and more.
Something to note: both fondue and raclette are stinky Swiss cheeses, but raclette is entirely stronger. And by that I mean you can smell it from a restaurant patio half a mile away. If you’re not a fan of stinky cheese, I’d stay away from both.
If this sounds up your alley, check out La Caleche on Chamonix’s main thoroughfare. They have indoor and outdoor seating, great service, and delicious food.
18. Enjoy the most scenic coffee in Chamonix
Since I haven’t mentioned incredible views in a hot minute, let’s circle back. If you like a side of stunning vistas with your morning coffee, check out the patio at Chalet du Glacier des Bossons.
To get here, refer back to the section on my favorite hikes. You’ll want to take the chairlift from Chamonix to the Bossons Glacier (in Chamonix everything starts with either a chairlift, a gondola, or a cable car, no?).
From there, the edelweiss-adorned Chalet du Glacier des Bossons is just a few steps up the mountain—you can’t miss it. Here you can enjoy a coffee or beer, snacks, crepes, tartes, and more on a sunny patio overlooking the Chamonix valley on one side, with the Bossons Glacier dangling overhead on the other.
It’s definitely the most scenic way to start a day in Chamonix. Whether or not you continue the hike up to the glacier, this is still a great place to just grab a brew with a view.
Best day trips from Chamonix in the summer
Chamonix is awesome and definitely one of my favorite places on Earth, but being at the junction of both Italy and Switzerland, you can take some pretty cool day trips. Despite its remote mountain location, it’s surprisingly easy to get around to many other cities. Here are a few of the best day trips from Chamonix:
19. Courmayeur, Italy
Courmayeur, Italy is probably the most popular day trip you can take from Chamonix. This small Italian town is just on the other side of Mont Blanc. You can get there in just 45 minutes by taking a tunnel through the mountain.
Courmayeur, like Chamonix, is a popular winter resort town but in the summer is simply charming. There are plenty of delicious eating and drinking opportunities (this is Italy after all) and Courmayeur boats some truly amazing day hikes as well.
I have a full guide to taking a day trip to Courmayeur from Chamonix and it tells you everything you need to know: how to get there, where to stay, what to see and do, where to eat, and the absolute best day hike you can’t miss.
20. Aosta, Italy
For a visit that’s more ancient Italy than Alpine Italy, take a trip to Aosta, the capital of the Aosta Valley, the smallest of Italy’s 20 regions.
Aosta is just a 2-hour bus ride from Chamonix but seems like a world away. In Aosta you’ll get to explore ancient Roman ruins, delicious food, and a unique Italian town you may otherwise never get the chance to visit.
Aosta is charming and beautiful and different in a way I just can’t pinpoint. There are enough sights to fill a couple of days and the bus ride there is truly awe-inspiring. For more on what to see, how to get there, and how to spend a day in Aosta, check out my full post!
21. Geneva, Switzerland
Chances are you began your journey to Chamonix by flying into Geneva, Switzerland. If you’re like me you just hopped on a shuttle at the airport and bypassed the Swiss city altogether. But now you know Geneva is only an hour or so away from Chamonix and that means it’s perfect for a day trip.
Shuttling back and forth between Chamonix and Geneva is fast, easy, and super affordable. Plus, Geneva has a handful of awesome sights of its own. In Geneva you can see:
- Jet d’eau: one of the tallest fountains in the world on Lake Geneva. It may sound kind of meh but up-close you can really get a sense of its power and it’s actually pretty neat. The whole Lake Geneva area is beautiful.
- The United Nations building and park
- The flower clock: a giant clock made out of flowers
- The Museum of the Red Cross
- Many art and history museums
- And you can even take free guided tours of CERN, the world’s largest particle physics lab
Now that you’ve bulked up your bucket list it’s time to get packing! Have a great time in charming Chamonix.
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