Chamonix arguably has the best apres-ski scene in France. There are plenty of lively bars for party goers, more sophisticated lounges for a quieter soiree, and everything else in-between.
Recommended venues include The Mix bar Located in the main party area of the town of Chamonix (tel: +33 611 149 671), which is open until 0200 nightly, and Les Caves du Pèle (tel: +33 450 218 080; www.caphorn-chamonix.com) where live DJs get the crowd going most evenings.
The newly-opened Quartz bar within the luxurious Hameau Albert 1er hotel (tel: +33 450 530 509; www.hameaualbert.fr/le-quartz-bar) has interior décor entirely inspired by crystals and glaciers and is a favourite amongst Chamonix's well-heeled crowd.
Chamonix may be most famous for its mountains but the foodie scene is phenomenal with nearly 200 establishments catering to all tastes and budgets.
For an authentic mountain town ambience, try Le Bistrot (tel +33 450 535 764; www.lebistrotchamonix.com) on avenue Aiguille du Midi, known for its quality fare that's been rewarded with a Michelin star.
Some of the best-value traditional Savoyard fare is found at La P'tite Verte (tel: +33 450 530 065) on Charlet Straton, in Argentière. The local dish 'farcon', a speciality made with grated potatoes, bacon, prunes, raisins, eggs and cream is not to be missed.
If you ever get tired of the heavy Savoyard cuisine then numerous international eateries are available in abundance, including Hibou (tel: +33 450 966 513; www.hibou-chamonix.com), one of the most popular businesses in town, that serves light, fresh cuisine inspired by flavours from across the globe.
Beyond the slopes
As befits a large, year-round tourist town, Chamonix has a wide range of activities and cultural attractions to keep skiers and non-skiers of all ages entertained.
Outdoor activities include: snowshoeing, tobogganing, dog sledding, skijoring (being towed behind a pony on your skis) and ice climbing.
In the centre of town, there's a well-equipped sports complex that has an indoor ice rink and climbing wall. For the less active – or for those who want to rest their weary post-ski muscles – there's a cinema, bowling rink, alpine museum, exhibition centre and a unique rock crystal museum.
The excellent Richard Bozon sports centre (tel: +33 450 532 370; www.cc-valleedechamonixmontblanc.fr) features a 25m (82ft) swimming pool, solarium, hot tub, hamam and sauna. There are at least 10 other spa centres in the town, many of them housed within the larger hotels, though still open to non-residents.
One of the most popular ski schools for youngsters is the Evo2 Panda Club (tel: +33 450 555 357; www.evolution2-chamonix.com/ski-school/children) in Argentière near the base of the Grands Montets cable car, which takes children from the age of three. The ESF Piou-Piou Club (tel: +33 450 532 257; www.esfchamonix.com) in Chamonix also has great facilities for children above the same age.
With options such as tobogganing and ice skating, it's easy to keep younger children occupied. Older non-skiing children with a head for heights will love the two-stage Aiguille du Midi cable car ride from the edge of town outside the morning rush hour, from 0900 until 1000.
There's a great range of shops in the pedestrianised town centre, including a selection of top-end ski gear retailers, such as Patagonia and Peak Performance (249 and 231 rue Paccard respectively); while for ski hardware, try ChamSport (432 rue Joseph Vallot). Just down the road is Chanel (101 rue Paccard), one of many well-known boutiques in Chamonix. There's also a wide range of souvenir shops that feature many local products, from cheese and wine to traditional woodcarvings.
The Vallée Blanche, the world's longest lift-served ski run, can be tackled by strong intermediate skiers, and above.
Aside from a strong skiing ability, those willing to take on the run will need a head for heights, especially when shuffling down a snowy ridge with a near 3,000m (9,843ft) sheer vertical drop on one side and a large descent on the other, from the Aiguille du Midi to start of the ski run. After that feat, skiers will then need enough strength in their legs to climb the 200 or so metal steps up from the glacier to the lift at the bottom – but it's well worth the effort.
Skiers will definitely need the services of a guide to descend the glacier safely, One of the best choices is the Compagnie des Guides (tel: +33 450 530 088; www.chamonix-guides.com), based at the Maison de la Montagne in the centre of town.
This bustling resort has plenty of hotels set within beautiful old buildings flanking the village's cobbled streets. As befits a resort of its stature, there is a wide range of accommodation in Chamonix, including chalets (both catered and self-catering), numerous hotels, and lots of apartments – especially in Chamonix Sud.
Hameau Albert 1er
This well-placed luxury 5-star Relais & Chàteaux hotel has a mix of contemporary and traditional rooms, and is home to the extravagant, Michelin 2-starred Albert 1er gastronomic restaurant.Address: , 38 Route du Bouchet, 74400 Chamonix, F 74400
Telephone: +33 450 530 509
Hotel Le Morgane
This eco-friendly 4-star hotel is ideally located just footsteps from the Aiguille du Midi cable car and Chamonix town centre. All rooms have balconies with mountain views of either Mont Blanc or Brévent. The hotel also boasts a spa and Michelin-starred restaurant.Address: , 145 Avenue de l'Aiguille du Midi, 74400 Chamonix, F 74400
Telephone: +33 450 535 715
A friendly, traditional 4-star chalet hotel that is ideally placed for skiing above Argentière; Hotel Montana houses a Jacuzzi, sauna and games room.Address: , 24 Clos du Montana, 74400 Chamonix, F 74400
Telephone: +33 450 541 499
Hotel Les Aiglons
Complete with an outdoor spa and restaurant with panoramic views, the chic Hotel Les Aiglons is just 100m (328ft) from the Aiguille du Midi cable car station and a short walk to the resort centre.Address: , 270 Avenue de Courmayeur, 74400 Chamonix, F 74400
Telephone: +33 450 559 093
Auberge de Jeunesse Chamonix Mont-Blanc
Chamonix's official youth hostel, located just 500m (1,640ft) from the resort, houses dormitory accommodation for 2-5 people. Hot meals are available, alongside facilities including a laundrette and lounge with TV.Address: , 127 Montée Jacques Balmat, 74400 Chamonix, F 74400
Telephone: +33 450 531 452
Something of a local legend, La Vagabond, a former stagecoach stopover, is now a bustling bar and bunkhouse, offering cheap accommodation. The hostel is located roughly 15 minutes' walk from the nearest ski lift and breakfast is included in the nightly fare.Address: , 365 Avenue Ravanel le Rouge, 74400 Chamonix, F 74400
Telephone: +33 450 531 453
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