Affiliate Disclosure: We are reader-supported. We may earn a small commission from affiliate links at no extra cost to you. All of our reviews are independently conducted.
Chamonix is a perfect location for long weekends away during the summer months. Why? Because the French Alps are absolutely stunning, for starters, and Chamonix in summer is a paradise for anyone who loves to get up into the mountains. Whether you’re a hiker, a climber, a mountain biker, a trail runner or a paraglider, you’re going to fall in love with this little mountain town.
The mountains are easy to access, thanks to the many lifts and gondolas that will get you up above the Chamonix valley in minutes, and the centre of Chamonix itself is a great place for relaxing after a day of adventure, with an abundance of great bars and restaurants. And if you’re in the market for some new outdoor gear, Chamonix has just about every kind of outdoor shop that you could imagine.
Through the ski season, Chamonix can be relatively expensive for accommodation, but in the summer months – which is classed as out of season here – there are some great deals to be found on hotels and lodges. There’s something to suit every budget too; from the luxury log cabins to the backpacker hostels.
I’ve been to Chamonix in summer a couple of times now, and it very quickly became one of my favourite places to spend a weekend. So in this guide, I’m going to give you all of the information you need for booking your own trip to Chamonix in summer and I’ll share my advice on how to pack the maximum amount of adventure into the weekend. From what to see, what to avoid, where to eat and how to get the most for your money.
Where is Chamonix and How Do I Get There?
Chamonix is in southeastern France, in the Haute-Savoie area of the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region. This small town is famous for a couple of reasons. It was home to the very first Winter Olympics back in 1924, and nowadays it’s widely regarded as one of the oldest and best ski resorts in Europe. It’s also something of a central hub for mountaineering in the region and serves as the starting point for people climbing to the summit of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps at 4,807 metres.
The nearest airport for easy travel from the UK is Geneva airport in Switzerland. A quick search on Skyscanner shows me that I could fly to Geneva from London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bournemouth, Bristol, Manchester, Belfast, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Newcastle or Leeds, and most of those flights would take less than two hours and are relatively cheap (the flights I just looked at from Birmingham to Geneva on the last weekend of July cost £95 return).
To put that in perspective, I just did a quick search for train tickets and found that it’s around £180 return from London to Fort William in Scotland, for a journey that will take over nine hours. So, basically, you could be at the foot of Mont Blanc for less time and money than you could be at the foot of Ben Nevis for. As much as I love Scotland, that’s an easy choice, right?
There are plenty of transfer options from Geneva airport to Chamonix. I used Alpy Bus on both of my trips and it was as easy as it could possibly be. Alpy Bus have a small stand inside the airport and will take you directly to your hotel, or to the central bus station in Chamonix. The journey takes around 90 minutes and I highly recommend that you try and grab a window seat. The views as you get closer to Chamonix will only add to your excitement about the trip.
What’s in Chamonix?
For a small town, Chamonix has got a big personality. Nestled in the valley, the town is towered over by huge mountains on either side. That means that there is an epic view pretty much wherever you are, and adventurers like you and me will probably spend a good amount of time looking up in awe at the snowy peaks and the glaciers that can be seen from the town. I’m not sure that there are many places in the world where you can sit and enjoy a cold beer on a hot day in a bustling town within plain sight of such impressive glaciers.
There are only around 8,000 permanent residents in Chamonix, but this is a tourist hub and there is always a hustle and bustle about the place. Chamonix is famous for its winter season, so it’s no surprise that the town is made for the Apres-Ski scene. For a relatively small town, there are loads of options for sitting in the afternoon sun and enjoying a cold beer, and after that, there are dozens of options for restaurants and bars to spend the evening in.
It might be cheap to fly to Chamonix, and accommodation costs are reasonable through summer too, but eating and drinking in the town can be pretty expensive and a night out with food and drinks will cost you a fair bit more than an average night out in the UK. That said, having a cold beer after an epic day in the mountains is definitely worth paying an extra couple of Euros for.
Alongside all of the bars and restaurants, Chamonix town is made up of a pretty impressive collection of outdoor clothes and gear shops, alongside the usual souvenir shops. Think of all of your favourite brands, all of your favourite shops and all of the hiking, skiing and mountain biking gear you could ever dream of and then put them all together in the space of a few streets and you have Chamonix. You could easily spend thousands of Euros kitting yourself out with new gear here, or you could just window shop while you wander around the town, soaking up the atmosphere.
What to See in Chamonix in Summer
If it’s your first visit to Chamonix then there are a few things that you have to see…
- Mer de Glace
- Lac Blanc
- Aiguille du Midi
I usually try to avoid the most ‘touristy’ places, but in the case of Chamonix these really are ‘must-see’ places and you can’t really spend a weekend here without ticking off at least a couple of these.
Mer de Glace
The Mer de Glace (sea of ice) is an incredible glacier. At 7km long and 200 metres deep, it’s the largest glacier in France and it can be seen snaking its way through the mountains from right down in Chamonix town.
No trip to Chamonix is complete without taking the iconic red train from Chamonix up to Montenvers. The journey itself is incredible and the Alpine views as you head up into the mountains are spectacular. When you arrive at the station you can head over to the lookout point for perfect views over the glacier and then take a cable car down into the valley where you can then walk down several hundred steps and go into the ice caves within the glacier.
It’s worth paying attention to the signs as you climb down the steps to the ice caves. At various points, the signs will show markers of where the glacier used to reach in years gone by. It really drives home the fact that the planet is warming up and that glaciers are retreating at an alarming rate.
Once you’ve visited the ice caves and taken plenty of photos of the glacier from the lookout point, you have a few options for what to do next. There are several hiking routes that begin near the Montenvers station, or if you’re looking for something less active you could stop for some food and drink at the Grand Hotel du Montenvers and enjoy the epic views while you dine. Alternatively, you could head back down into Chamonix the same way you came up, via the famous red train.
For those that are new to Alpine hiking and are looking for a bit of a taster session in the mountains, you’d be hard-pushed to find a more suitable walk than the popular Lac Blanc walk. It’s easy to follow, has spectacular views from start to finish, and can be comfortably tackled in half a day. It’s definitely one of the best walks to tackle in Chamonix on a summer day.
The trailhead for the Lac Blanc hike starts at the top of the Flégere cable car lift. La Flégere is just a couple of kilometres away from the centre of Chamonix town so we decided to walk there rather than figuring out the bus route. From Chamonix centre, we followed the gravel track along the river, upstream, for about 30 minutes. It was actually a great way to start the walk and you can easily grab a coffee from the town and take a slow wander along the river’s edge, enjoying the incredible mountain views as you make your way to the cable car station.
It costs around €25 for a return trip on the cable car; well worth the money to cut out a couple of hours of lower-level walking. Once at the top you will easily pick up signs for Lac Blanc on the fingerposts, as well as many other mountain walks. The signs will state that it’s about a two-hour walk up to Lac Blanc, but if it’s your first time up in these mountains you will probably want to add 30 minutes onto that for all of the photo stops that you’ll take along the way. At least, that was the case for me.
The route is well-worn and you shouldn’t have any problem following the trail. However, these are some serious mountains and weather and visibility can change in seconds, so having a good level of hillwalking experience and some navigation skills are recommended. There are also several sections of loose scree along the trail, so a decent pair of walking boots and shoes will help you to maintain grip and balance.
When you reach Lac Blanc at 2,352 metres, your hard work will be rewarded with stunning views over to the Mont Blanc Massif. On a still day, the mountains on the other side of the valley will be perfectly reflected in the lake. From here, you can either retrace your steps and head back into Chamonix, or pick up one of the many other hiking trails and extend your walk further.
Aiguille du Midi
One of the best things about Chamonix in summer is how accessible the mountains are. From the centre of town, you are within easy walking distance of cable cars that can take you up to either side of the valley. The most impressive of these, and the one you really have to experience, is the Aiguille du Midi cable car. In around 20 minutes, this cable car can take you from the town centre up to 3,842 metres, where you can enjoy breathtaking views across the French, Italian and Swiss Alps.
To give that some perspective, Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in the UK – is 1,345 metres. So the opportunity to be transported to a height nearly three times that can’t be missed.
As you walk around the viewing platforms, soaking up the views, you may notice that you feel very slightly light-headed or maybe even a little breathless. This is due to the altitude and you’ll begin to understand how the climbers feel as they make their ascent to the summit of Mont Blanc, almost 1000 metres above you. Don’t worry, you’ll soon get used to it.
For experienced mountaineers with the relevant equipment, this can serve as a starting location for adventures to Mont Blanc and the surrounding peaks. For everyone else, there are a few things to do here other than stare in awe at the incredible surroundings. There is a cafe and gift shop within the complex, and there is also the famous glass box which you can step into and be suspended over a sheer drop of 1000 metres.
Where to Stay in Chamonix in Summer
Through the winter months, accommodation is in high demand in Chamonix. The world-class ski slopes ensure a steady stream of tourists heading to Chamonix for a winter break. It’s this demand that keeps the prices quite high through the snowy months. Chamonix in summer is a different story. Although Chamonix is not quiet through the warmer months, there isn’t quite as much demand for beds and that means that there are some great deals to be found on hotels and Airbnbs.
There’s something to suit most budgets too; from large, luxury cabins at the foot of the mountains, to cheap and cheerful hostels for backpackers, and everything in between.
On my last trip, I stayed in a two-bedroom apartment right in the centre of town and I wrote a review about it which you can read here…
More Accommodation in Chamonix
Where to Eat and Drink in Chamonix
As you’d expect from a French tourist town like Chamonix, there is an abundance of options for eating out. From Michelin-starred restaurants to McDonalds, there is something to suit everyone. Surprisingly, there seemed to be more Italian-themed pizza and pasta restaurants than local cuisine, or maybe my eyes and nose were just drawn to the sights and smells of carbs after a day in the mountains.
If you’re looking for somewhere to sit with a cold beer and watch the world go by, you can’t go wrong with Brasserie de L’M. It’s located right in the centre of town, has loads of outdoor seating, and there are often street performers nearby to provide a great soundtrack and sense of atmosphere. And if you’re looking for a quick bite after a day of exploring, there’s a quirky little place by the river called Cool Cats and they sell the best hot dogs I’ve ever tasted.
What’s the Weather Like in Chamonix in Summer?
Like most mountainous regions, the weather in Chamonix can be unpredictable. I’ve been to Chamonix twice, both times during the first week of September. The first time, it was baking hot, and in the high twenties every day. I hiked up to Lac Blanc in shorts and a t-shirt and had some worries that I hadn’t packed enough water. Exactly a year later, I was back in Chamonix and it was snowing. I took a cable car up to Planpraz and spent a full day hiking in the snow, with zero visibility over the Chamonix valley.
That snow was unseasonably early, and in general, the weather is pretty great through the summer months. But it always makes sense to pack some warmer clothing too, and some waterproofs, of course.
June, July and August are the warmest months to visit, with the average temperature being between 18-21 degrees. September is slightly cooler but has less average rainfall for the month, which is why I have chosen that month to go both times (plus it’s quieter and cheaper than the main summer months).
Mont Blanc Walks
This guidebook presents 50 day walks in the Mont Blanc region, along with outlines of 4 multi-day treks. From easy summits and valley walks to high-level routes and via ferrata, these routes showcase the best mountain walking on the French and Italian sides of the Mont Blanc massif.
Ranging from 2–13 miles (3–20km) in length, day walks include high-level routes, easy summits, mountain huts, viewpoints, mountain lakes and via ferratas, as well as less strenuous valley walks
Summer Adventures in Chamonix
But that’s enough talk of hotels and restaurants, it’s the mountains that you’re interested in. This really is a paradise for hikers, mountain bikers, climbers and trail runners. I was blown away by just how special this place is and you could easily spend a month here and find a new trail to explore every day. But if you’ve only got a long weekend then here are just a few of the adventurous things you could get up to…
Chamonix is world-renowned for its hiking routes and you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to picking a trail to follow. If you’ve got the time, the Tour du Mont Blanc is a 170km, hut to hut hike that takes in the very best of the region. To make the very most of that trip you probably need about 11 days, so for many, myself included, that’s one for the bucket list. However, there are plenty of amazing day hikes to tackle, here are a few of the best…
We’ve already talked about it. The views are great and the trail is easy to follow. A must-do. It’s easy to follow, has spectacular views from start to finish, and can be comfortably tackled in half a day. It’s definitely one of the best walks to tackle in Chamonix on a summer day.
Grand Balcon Nord
This hike starts at the Montenvers station near the viewpoint over the Mer de Glace and it follows a meandering mountain trail over to the midway station of the Aiguille du Midi cable car, where you can ride back down to the town. Expect mind-blowing views over glaciers, jagged peaks and pristine valleys. You can walk this route in reverse if you prefer, but I think Montenvers to Plan d’Aiguille is the best way to walk this as you’ll have views up towards Mont Blanc as you walk.
Grand Balcon Sud
On the opposite side of the valley is the Grand Balcon Sud hike. This hike begins at the mid-station of the Flégère cable car (the same starting point as the Lac Blanc hike). This trail wanders through woodland, Alpine meadows and rocky plateaus as you make your way towards Planpraz. I’m running out of ways to tell you how spectacular the views are across the valley towards Mont Blanc, but this hike is pretty special. Once at Planpraz, you can take another short cable car journey up to the summit of Brévent before walking back down to Chamonix.
Mountain Biking in Chamonix
As you’d expect, the mountain bike trails here are incredibly good. There are plenty of options too. For the advanced riders, there are some seriously steep and technical descents to tackle and the cable cars ensure that you can get up to a high altitude to start your ride. For those looking for something slightly less demanding, there are a range of flowing singletrack routes that you enjoy while admiring the views. There are plenty of places in Chamonix town where you can hire bikes, and there are several options for guided rides too if you want to take the stress out of planning your day and have the local experts show you all of the very best bits.
Here are just a few of the best areas to go mountain biking in Chamonix…
Le Tour, at the end of the valley, has some of the more natural, flowing trails for you to enjoy. It’s a little bit more on the mellow side than some of the other mountain biking areas in Chamonix, but that’s not to say that it’s without its challenges, and it has more than enough to keep even the most competent of riders entertained. If you take your passport with you, you can even nip over the border into Switzerland to ride a few of their trails while you’re there.
Grands Montets is an area well known for skiing in the winter season, but when the snow is gone it’s a perfect place for mountain biking. Expect fast descents, tricky corners and bone-rattling rocks. Best suited to intermediate to advanced riders, the route down from the top of the Lognan cable car down to the village of Lavancher is an epic ride.
Les Houches has more of a bike park feel to it than the other areas, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Here you can expect man-made, purpose-built trails with endless flow. And the best bit about it: when you finally reach the bottom you can just jump straight back in the cable car and do it again.
Trail Running in Chamonix
Of course, wherever there are mountain trails there are trail runners, and Chamonix is a dream location. I have to admit that I didn’t do any running on either of my trips to Chamonix in the summer, I was more interested in hiking and exploring. It’s on my list for my next visit though. If trail running is your main focus then there is a Chamonix trail running guide available on Amazon that features over 40 routes, so it is probably worth grabbing a copy so you can plan your runs in advance.
If you’re looking for a bucket list kind of adventure, paragliding over the Chamonix valley has to be one of the best ways to see the mountains. If the weather is good, you’ll see paragliders floating over the town all day long. If you fancy giving it a go, there are plenty of places in town where you can book a tandem flight.
White Water Rafting in Chamonix
If you’re looking for a rainy day activity in Chamonix then white water rafting might be just the thing. There are several options for rafting trips, from two-hour taster sessions right through to full-day expeditions. If you’re looking for thrills, then rafting is best done just when the snow is melting and causing the rivers to flow at their fastest.
Via Ferrata in Chamonix
Via Ferrata is a great way to sample the thrills of climbing. Italian for Iron Road, Via Ferrata is a series of metal cables and iron footholds in the mountains that you can clip into and enjoy a climb in safety.
In Chamonix, the Via Ferrate route ‘La Via des Evettes’ begins about a 20-minute walk away from the Flègère chairlift. The route takes roughly 2 hours, but as you can only move as quickly as the people in front of you, it can take longer in the summer months when many families are taking part.
Chamonix is world-famous for its climbing routes and the town is steeped with Alpine history and the stories of the many first attempts that have taken place here. There are 27 peaks above 4,000 metres within the Mont Blanc Massif, so you could spend an entire summer here and never run out of new places to climb.
There are plenty of local guides who can take you climbing, but if you’re experienced enough to tackle the routes yourself, there are guidebooks available on Amazon that describe all of the climbs in detail.
Book Your Trip to Chamonix this Summer
So what are you waiting for? Chamonix is one of the best places in Europe for a weekend of summer adventure. The flights are cheap, the accommodation is plentiful and the adventure activities are endless.