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Day trips

If you’d like to explore the Alps while you’re here, Chamonix’s location on the border with Italy and Switzerland gives a perfect opportunity. Here’s a few of our favourite days out.

Annecy (France)

Annecy in the evening
Annecy in the evening

Annecy is region’s capital – a cgraceful lakeside city with a network of canals running through it giving it the nickname “The Venice of the Alps”. The setting is sublime, on a lake ringed with mountains. Go boating on the lake to enjoy the views, or just stroll around the romantic streets of the old town, taking in the atmosphere of a modern, living city that’s carefully preserved its stunning architectural heritage. The 12th century Palais de l’Isle, on the river, is one of France’s most unique and beautiful monuments. If you’re here in early August, it’s worth the trip to the Fete du Lac – one of the Europe’s finest firework displays

The cycle path now  extends entirely around the 40 km lakeside – there are cycle hire  shops all along the way. Electric bikes make it much easier in  case of winds, and there are a few hills where the bike trail leaves the shore.  Cycle time is  about  2 hours but  it  nice  to stop for  dips,  snacks, ice-cream, lunch etc. 

On the water
“The cleanest lake  in Europe” is  one of Annecy’s glories and on a hot day it’s wonderful  to  swim, paddleboard, kayak  or  just install yourself at a  beach  for a  paddle.  Public beaches surround  Annecy, I especially like the ones at Talloires,  or on the other  side  of the lake, St  Jorioz  has a fantastic diving board. 

Some of the more developed  ones do not allow dogs  but there are plenty of  places which do. There’s a nice public  area with a jetty and good size public parking spot next to it, between the  boat  launch spot at Talloires and Les Cassines restaurant. 

Lots of walks in  the mountain surrounding the lakes     Cascade d’Angon is  a lovely shady option on a hot day, and is nice if the weather isn’t great also, since it’s spectacular rocky setting doesn’t depend on clear views.

Annecy, like Chamonix, is a  huge centre of Paragliding and to  fly  with a view of  the lake is as wonderful in  its own way as flying in Chamonix.

It has a great selection of restaurants, especially of you’re a bit done with cheese. It does have a fair few that are not so good, so always check reviews! 

In the old town, Cafe Brunet is a super traditional French bistro. If you’d like a change, Yatta does excellent  ramen (I like to get it to take away and picnic at the lakeside) ans Table d’Ébène does great African food in a lovely setting. 

Much of the enjoyment of Annecy is found in its ring of lakeside villages,  of which I like Talloires the best.
Talloires restaurants:
Bistrot de Ponton is all about being on the pontoon when the weather  is good. It’s  a nice friendly  bistro where I’ve always had  good food.
Les Cassines is very nice, quite upmarket.  La  Guinguette attached  to  the restaurant is a lower-key  place that opens all day and has good food. Both have an almost Caribbean feel on a hot day.

Petit Paradis is a classy and beautiful lakeside affair, painted in lovely soft blues with pianist and spectacular pier table.

To really push the boat out (see what I did there!), Jean Sulpice cooks his very, very high class food (2 Michelin stars) at the Pere Bise in Talloires. 

Courmayeur (Italy)

Just half an hour away via the Mont Blanc Tunnel, the elegant Italian town of Courmayeur has a beautiful old centre with wonderful shops – and most importantly, an abundance of brilliant Italian restaurants. Though it’s so close to Chamonix, the mountains divided them until the tunnel opened in 1972, and it’s packed with real Italian character. There are lovely paths all around, especially in the Val Ferret area, and it often has completely different weather to Chamonix due to Mont Blanc dividing them – if you get a rainy day, it’s always worth checking Courmayeur in case it’s sunny over there.

Streets in Courmayeur

Zermatt (Switzerland)

Matterhorn in Autumn

If your glimpse of the Matterhorn from the Aiguille du Midi makes you want to see it close up, it takes around two hours to get there. The drive takes you over the dramatic Forclaz pass, through the pretty village of Trient and past the historic towering monasteries and castles of Sion, which are well worth a visit in their own right – the old town of Sion is a lovely place for lunch

Zermatt, the picturesque setting of Switzerland’s most famous peak, is accessed by rail only, so you park at Tasch and ride up. No matter how many photos you’ve seen, nothing can quite prepare you for the sight of the Matterhorn, it’s truly one of the world’s most unique and beautiful mountains. There are lovely paths all around where you can watch the light changing on the twisting granite spire, or for a more relaxing experience, take a cable car up to one of the excellent mountain restaurants

Yvoire (France)

Paddleboarding in Yvoire

Yvoire is an exquisite medieval village on the shores of Lac Leman, which has incredible displays of flowers in the summer – see their site for photos. It’s gorgeous, but can get very busy on summer weekends – try and visit midweek to appreciate the lovely setting at its best. Lake cruises are available including some in a solar powered boat.


In all honesty not the most interesting of major cities but due to the airport you may find yourself there with time on your hands. The lakeside is nice to walk along and admire the colossal Jet d’Eau fountain. Lake cruises are lots of fun and recommended in the Belle Epoque steamers. It also has some excellent museums – the Red Cross Museum is harrowing but fascinating, and the Museum of Ethnography is an exquisitely displayed collection in a beautiful modern building.