Morzine – Avoriaz
Morzine is at the heart of the Portes du Soleil, a vast ski area with statistics to dwarf other resorts. There are 650km of groomed runs – the largest linked ski area in the world – taking in 12 traditional towns and villages across both France and Switzerland. The unique selling point of the Portes du Soleil is the on-snow experience. Pistes of every orientation from high altitude powder bowls to beautiful winding tree-lined runs down into the villages; not to mention the limitless off-piste. There’s something for every ability from those learning for the very first time, through to the seasoned skier looking for the ultimate challenge. No two days are the same here, in fact, no two weeks are!
Morzine is a bustling Alpine town, full of character and atmosphere. The old streets in the village centre are still largely made up of traditional wooden chalets set against a dramatic mountain backdrop. There’s a real Savoyard charm to life here which is missing from so many ‘purpose built’ resorts.
There’s something for everyone in the town, with a wide variety of shops and boutiques from delicatessens to designer brands. There’s also a cinema showing the latest releases and a sumptuous new pool and spa complex featuring several indoor pools, hammams and saunas – all with the most fantastic views. You’ll also find a large arena, home to the Morzine-Avoriaz Penguins, a professional ice hockey team playing in France’s Elite League; it’s well worth watching a game if they’re at home whilst you’re in town.
Morzine forms part of the Portes du Soleil, one of the largest linked ski areas in the world comprising 12 interconnected ski resorts across Switzerland and France offering:
- 650km of pistes – the largest ski area in the world
- 285 slopes: 32 black, 100 red, 122 blue, 31 green
- 8m+ snowfall every season – the most in France
- 11 snowparks and border/ski-cross courses
- Endless off-piste terrain
Live Like A Local
There is a hidden door, a secret place, an untold secret. That is the essence of travel, that journey of discovery when you uncover a gem, stumble upon the unique; when you truly manage to live like the locals. If you are looking for the authentic here are a few places to start.
FOR THE BEST CROISSANTS AND BAGUETTES
Chez Céline, Rue du Bourg
At the lower end of the Rue du Bourg, just before the local Tabac, is a boulangerie pâtisserie, Chez Céline, that starts baking every morning around 3am. If you are lucky enough to find their back door (around the back of the high street close to Carrefour) you can buy croissants straight from the oven from about 4am. If you can wait until 7am they are available from Céline herself as is a delicious fresh bread baguette that looks like it has rabbit ears on one end and tastes as good as rabbits look like they should.
FOR WARM FRESH GINGER CAKE
Au Délice Chocolaté, Rue du Bourg
Walk up the hill of the Rue du Bourg and halfway, as a reward for your efforts, you will pass Au Délice Chocolaté. The family-run business makes hand made chocolates and other such delights, all of which are incredibly hard not to gobble up. But it’s the smell of their ginger cake baking that will have you running in from the street. Buy it fresh. Eat it warm. There won’t be any left by the time you get back to your chalet.
FOR MOUNTAIN SECRETS ON CHAIRLIFTS
Downloading the Swiss Wall
Use a chairlift in a different way. Take the ski lift down the Swiss Wall from the French side into Switzerland. There are moguls the size of small cars and brave warriors trying to ski them. It’s much more civilised and relaxing from above and you can spend the day skiing in Switzerland.
FOR HIGH ALTITUDE COFFEE WITH A VIEW
The Cookie Café
The Cookie Café is one of the highest altitude restaurants in the Portes du Soleil. Located at the top of the Mossettes chairlift, at over 2000 metres above sea level, you can enjoy truly panoramic views from both inside and on the terrace. Get here for first lifts and enjoy a coffee before your ski day watching the sun come up over the mountains. If you are really lucky you might find that the Cookie staff adorn really early morning coffees with fresh fruit smoothie shots and a delicious small cake. But this is an occasional treat for early risers or ski instructors who assemble here before they start work.
FOR A HIDDEN MOUNTAIN LUNCH SPOT
Le Relais Panoramique
Just off Les Crosets bowl in Switzerland is a partially hidden restaurant with grumpy staff and a llama who likes to spit. The service is begrudging. They normally make you wait. But Le Relais Panoramique make the best Swiss rostis and on a sunny day has a breathtaking view of the Swiss side of the Portes du Soleil. Ignore the service. Enjoy the food.
To get there ski towards Les Crosets from Avoriaz/Lindarets by taking the Mossettes chairlift. At the top grab a quick coffee from the Cookie Café (see above) then take the piste that passes down and around the Cookie Café. Stay on this track, ignoring the two pistes on your right that take you down into Les Crosets. Stay on this straight, narrow pass that runs along the side of the mountain and takes you towards Morgins. You’ll end up at a button lift (take it) after which you must ski for about 300 metres. Look out for a small sign on your right for Le Relais Panoramique. Ski down the small pass to the grumpy staff and delicious rostis.
FOR A COFFEE FIX WITH DELICIOUS VEGAN AND GLUTEN FREE TREATS
Satellite Coffee, Rue du Bourg
Satellite Coffee spend their summers scouring the globe sourcing the best coffee to make you (and me) before feeding us delicious vegan and gluten-free foods. They also run bi-monthly supper clubs, often in conjunction with a local artist or photographer who curates a selection of their own work. Located on the Rue du Bourg, take a window seat in the minimalist interior, and enjoy the WiFi-free ambience and cakes that seem too good to be true. This is a favourite among locals and is bursting at its seams on rainy days and during peak times.
Sample one of the owner, Chrigl’s, fantastic beers at Le Bec Jaune, a superb micro-brewery that is more Shoreditch chic that Alpine après. Brewed in-house, ask the staff for their recommendation and take a seat on one of the mismatched sofas in the window and watch the ski world pass you by.
FOR SUNSETS AT SUPER M
Super Morzine enjoys some of the most incredible views in the Portes du Soleil. Always sunny, the wide cruisy blue pistes and the tucked away forest-run off-piste offer something for everyone. It is our favourite place. Take the first cable car up for morning coffee or wait until the last cable car of the day and enjoy the sunsets. L’Passage is great if you want some music with your après (they also do incredible fruit tarts (try the Tarte aux Myrtilles). Alternatively stay high on the terrace of [name of resto] and enjoy the last run of the day after the chairlifts stop. Or ski down and sit on the terrace of La Grenouille du Marais where there is also a log fire inside if you start to feel a chill. If the cable car is cramping your style you can always drive up and park in the free car park. You’ll often find us there after pistes close enjoying an end of day randonnée through the trees.
FOR CULTURAL TRADITIONS – THE CHEESEMAKING TOUR
The Fromagerie, Route de la Plagne
Nicolas Baud has been running the Morzine fromagerie for over 20 years and his parents for twenty years before him. The shop itself is filled with incredible local produce, from dried meats, jams, preserves and digestifs, to locally made cheeses and wines. But we love it for the weekly cheese making tour that takes place in the working fromagerie underneath the shop. Completely free and starting at 9am (normally on Wednesdays and Thursdays) you can watch the entire traditional cheese making process, from milk churning, to placing the finished cheeses in the underground vaults ready for ageing. You can also see a variety of different cheeses all tucked away, ageing, until ripe for consumption. Can’t wait to enjoy the cheese? Either buy some from the shop above or book a table at their restaurant next door and enjoy a fondue to remember. The tour can sometimes be in French only, so check ahead to make sure an English speaker will be available (if needed).
THE SECRET PASSAGE FROM MORZINE TO LES GETS
Le Chardon Bleu Piste
Ski to Les Gets in super-fast time. This is especially important on powder days and in peak weeks when we take the 9am cable car up the Pleney and use the secret passage to get straight to Les Gets. To get there all you need to do is slide right out of the Pleney cable car, as if you are heading towards the Narbor and Belvedere chairlift, but keep left, with the small ESF hut on your left. You will see the Narbor ski lift down on your right but you want to ski straight, towards to the small chalet restaurant directly in front of you. Just to the right of it is a path that will take you all the way to the bottom of the Chavannette chairlift in Les Gets. At the end of this passage (Le Chardon Bleu) that winds through the forest you will need to cross over another piste. So when the path ends, and you arrive at the side of a piste, with Les Folliets chairlift down to your right, just keep skiing straight, straight across this piste, straight through the tunnel on the other side. Before you know it you will have arrived in Les Gets while your friends are still queuing for the first lift in Morzine.
Morzine is located in the Haute Savoie and is one of the most northerly of the French Alpine resorts less than one hour from Chamonix and benefiting from the Mont Blanc microclimate.
Resort altitude: 1000m
Highest lift: 2460m
Vertical drop: 1460m
Winter season: Runs from approximately 10 Dec – 30 April
Summer season: Runs from mid-June to early-September
Local population: Year round
Just over an hour away. From here there are regularly scheduled flights across Europe and internationally.
Annemasse and Annecy
Regional airports and a good option for those travelling by private jet. Both are less than an hour away.
NEAREST TRAIN STATIONS
Cluses or Thonon
Both less than 40 mins away.
Take the Eurostar from London to Paris (takes around 2 hours 20 minutes) or Lyon. Then take a high-speed TGV to either one of the two train stations that service the area, Cluses or Thonon (see above).
Off mountain there are cinemas, large swimming pools, an aquatic centre, tennis courts, climbing, horse-riding, bowling, a world class ice rink, ice hockey, ice skating, parapenting, ice diving, snowmobiling, tobogganing, snowshoeing, nature discovery tours, day trips, cheese-making tours, spas, and much, much more.
Things To Do
It is easy to forget in the midst of a ski holiday that there are other equally exciting things to experience. In reality, such is the plethora of non-ski activities, they warrant an action-packed week’s holiday of their own…
Ice hockey is a local passion. The team has seen international recognition, the French leagues are demanding, the ice rink impressive and the stakes are high. Fixtures vary throughout the winter but there should be a match on most weeks. Enjoy an early supper in your chalet then wander into town for a match in the stadium close to the Mairie. We recommend getting a drink from the bar inside and then finding a seat on the same side of the stadium behind the team benches. There are normally lots of spare seats and you can watch the players tag in and out during the match and listen to some very enthusiastic locals.
LOCAL FRENCH CINEMA
More Cinema Paradiso than giganton multiplex, why not try an authentic French cinema. Located in the centre of the village, just up from the Mairie, the local village Cinema Rex is a one screen, one movie kind of affair. The cinema offers a comfortable and modern, albeit simple interior. Brush up on your French by watching the newest French films, or perhaps a French dubbed American blockbuster; or choose a VOST (Version Originale) and watch the current hit in English. The French are not big on American-style super-sized snacks so you might want to sneak in your own bag of Maltesers or you will be restricted to small packets of pre-cooked popcorn and nonbrand fizzy drinks. After your film why not stop off for a late night chocolate chaud at La Dez Alp next door or order a crepe from one of the many mini chalet huts further up the Rue du Bourg.
The French love tenpin bowling and it offers a really nice change of pace for the whole family. Bowling really does transcend international borders so the rules are the same, the bowling alleys look the same, but occasionally you are encouraged not to drink more than three alcoholic beverages. Most lanes offer on and off-peak times and it is often worth a visit in the quieter times to lose a few hours getting your bowling skills back. Lanes are located in Avoriaz and Les Gets.
Aquariaz is on a basic level a water park located high up in the mountains in Avoriaz – a cable car or drive from Morzine. But this aquatic centre offers a lot more. Yes, there is a fun river that winds through lush tropical vegetation, a slidewinder (which is like a water halfpipe), a children’s paddling pool, a large swimming pool with surrounding climbing walls, massage benches and even an open-air spa heated to 34°C. But this is a hybrid concept of creating a water park that keeps kids entertained but also houses natural tropical vegetation from around the world. There are over 1570 different tropical plants and 183 tropical trees imported from all around the world. It also houses one of the oldest mahogany trees in the world (350 years old). Inexpensive and fun. If you can, visit during their off-peak times when everyone else is on the piste.
NIGHT SKIING, SLEDDING AND PEOPLE WATCHING
Other than in Japan where night skiing is a staple part of a ski holiday, piste-time after sundown can be the rarest of European occasions. But night skiing is something we should all enjoy. The pistes are quiet, the snow conditions are different and your senses are heightened knowing this is not normally a nocturnal affair. During winter, Morzine opens The Stade – the piste that runs directly into Morzine town once a week allowing skiers and snowboarders to re-start their ski day at 7pm until around 10pm. If you don’t fancy a ski yourself take a table at Le Tremplin and partake in the French pastime of people watching. You might spot a Parisian skiing in their jeans or witness the sledding madness that happens when the lifts finally close and families, children, and teenagers alike all run up the mountain to slide back down on whatever they have to hand.
SPA SWIM DAY
All the BC chalets have their own Bamford Spa for guests to enjoy but if you fancy trying something a little different there are local options available. You could go really local and head to the local swimming pool, which has its own wellness centre with hammams, saunas, a relaxation area and Jacuzzi. It is inexpensive with the added bonus of picking up a bit of French from the locals and the 25 metres swimming pool (50 metres in summer) is perfect for those looking to rack up the laps. The centre has been artfully constructed from natural materials allowing beautiful views of the mountains while you swim and a calm and pleasant café for a post-swim coffee.
Wednesday is local market day in Morzine where you can wander amongst the locals buying fresh produce for their weekly shop. Aside from regionally grown vegetables and meat there is also an abundance of local produce on offer from savoie cheeses and traditionally cured meats, to wild mushrooms, jams, wines and digestifs. Italian produce is sometimes available from across the border, as is a welcome vin chaud to keep you warm during your winter wandering. After the market take a walk up the Rue du Bourg where there are more artisanal shops selling locally made chocolate and cakes, patisseries and alpine-inspired interiors. Chamonix & Annecy also have wonderful weekly markets.
Morzine has in recent years experienced something of a gastronomic renaissance from a range of talented and creative chefs with diverse roots and pasts. Examples are the industrial chic of the Bec Jaune with its Asian-Fusion influences, the emerging pop-up dining experiences such as Kaiseki, The Boutique Chalet Company’s multi-course Japanese dining experience and L’Atelier, where a local French man returned to Morzine with Michelin starred experience determined to establish fine dining in his home town, effectively raising the gastronomic bar.
Le Vaffieu is a traditional Savoyard style chalet-restaurant located walking or skiing distance from the top of the Pleney cable car. With an interior dining area full of traditional exposed wooden beams and alpine paraphernalia, and a large heated indoor/outdoor terrace, you would be forgiven for turning up without a reservation. But this sunny mountain restaurant is a favourite for locals and tourists alike. The delicious regional fare is perfect after a morning skiing, as is the fine red wine. Their ‘croûte’ is the best on the mountain but if cheese is not your thing then their lamb cutlets are amazing as is the seabass. On a sunny day reserve a table on the terrace but in the depths of winter try and get the table closest to the bar where you can listen to the owners and locals in high-octane conversation as they work.
East-London-meets-Meatpacking-District this microbrewery bar is more Shoreditch-chic than mountain-cliché with an industrial interior adorned with mismatched furniture and eclectic board games. Their menu of Asian-fusion pub grub, from organic Kimchi and pulled pork burgers, to delicious Ramen bowls and the best Scotch eggs on the planet has become one of the most popular destinations for locals. All the beers are brewed in-house, the wines tend to be organic and the staff are effortlessly cool and knowledgeable. Who goes here? The local inhabitants of all nationalities, including the French, who are not quick to embrace the new. We say reserve a table in the far corner (left of the bar as you face it). It offers the best views and the calmest seats when the bar invariably gets busy. No matter what you decide to order, you must sample a scotch egg.
Chez Nannon is the mountain refuge we think we want to hike to, but probably never will. Thankfully this Morzine mountain restaurant is accessible from the Ravarettes or the Troncs Express chairlifts so just requires you to gently slide. As you approach the quaint wooden structure (that can be partially hidden on a truly snowy day) you will be greeted with the scent of bubbling pans of melted Reblochon cheese, a plume of smoke dancing up from the chalet chimney and an open fire oven on the terrace. This is a classic Savoyard mountain restaurant of the highest order and inside it feels more like a mountain hut with small windows, cosy wooden furniture and with the same family working the kitchen every year. They might be busy but they will feed you well. Book ahead to ensure you are not disappointed. We recommend reserving a table inside in either of the furthest corners to avoid the incoming and leaving foot traffic. Chez Nannon is famous for its tartiflette (Reblochon cheese, potatoes, lardons a large side salad and chunks of fresh bread) which is served in a bubbling pan to your table. The Côte de Boeuf and cheesy potatoes are also good, as are the steaks and burgers.
Behind the otherwise unassuming façade of the three-star Hotel Le Samoyède in the village centre, you’ll find L’Atelier, one of the finest dining experiences in the region. In a class of its own L’Atelier was the brainchild of local chef Alexandre Baud-Pachon who, after working in top restaurants in Geneva and Courchevel, came home in 2004 to set up on his own. The restaurant offers a fabulous fine-dining experience and is popular with people in the know (it would be easy to pass through Morzine and remain unaware of this luxurious dining experience). We recommend the Fantaisie Chablaisienne tasting menu along with the wine pairings, featuring a number of local wines. This is an eight-course feast inspired by seasonal local specialities, crafted to perfection and concluding with the best cheese trolley we have ever seen! Ask for a table in the far right corner by the window where you have a fantastic views of the staff gliding around the restaurant.
One of Morzine’s longest running restaurants and subject to a superb renovation a few years ago, and again, this autumn. The menu is extensive, the atmosphere cosy and the food delicious. Downstairs there’s a vaulted wine bar with glass front cellars which is a great place for an aperitif. La Chaudanne is a superb option for families as it is incredibly welcoming to children (being French run) whilst also delivering a dining experience that all the family will enjoy. Make a reservation because this is a firm favourite among the local population. We suggest a booth in the corner close to the bar. Ask about the plat du jour as it often includes incredible fresh fish. Alternatively, if you are feeling decadent, we love the deconstructed burger of duck, fois gras, rosti and morels.
FERME DE LA FRUITIERE
Cheese fondue is the bedrock of alpine tradition and history; it is a dish born out of the harsh realities of alpine life. One must experience an authentic cheese fondue to have truly experienced the mountain. To enjoy this most authentic of all alpine dishes we would recommend Ferme de la Fruitiere, the restaurant of one of the oldest and most celebrated cheese producers in Morzine (whose fromagerie and cheese shop are located next door, where you can watch the cheese making process on Wednesdays). Family owned, the restaurant is a beautiful wood and stone chalet structure with a cosy interior and a roaring open fire. Acknowledged in the Michelin guide as a restaurant to experience, this is the place to try local dishes and produce, specifically cheeses and fondues. Sit upstairs next to the roaring open fire (it’s the largest we think we have ever seen!) and order the fondue with morels. The portions are generous and the desserts all handmade. We advise booking ahead.
Alpine nightlife can be hit and miss. Gregarious après, repetitive music and a general sense of excess over excellence can become wearing to the discerning traveller. So what if your holiday time is too precious to waste and your palate too discerning for disappointing drinks? Here are a few of our preferred destinations for the famous aperitivo hour and beyond.
Morzine’s incredibly popular microbrewery bar that’s more Shoreditch-chic than mountain-cliché. With mismatched furniture and a menu of Asian-fusion pub grub it is the perfect post-piste destination or a great choice for a relaxed night out. Let yourself be led by the knowledgeable too cool for school staff who will happily talk you through the different craft beers on tap, (all brewed on-site) the organic wines and the ever-changing cocktail of the day. With a team passionate about offering ethical, well-sourced and quality wares it’s easy to see why this has become the destination for locals, tourists and French Morzinoise alike (who would typically have stuck to French-owned wine bars). If you are with a bunch of friends order a pitcher of beer with a side of nachos and take a seat in the mismatched sofas in the window. We would particularly recommend the owner Chrigl’s house IPA – an American-style brew that is full of flavour.
THE CHAUDANNE CAVES
The Chaudanne restaurant first opened its doors in 1979 and remains the popular choice for locals and tourists alike. In 2010 the owners Thierry & Veronica completely renovated the building. With modern clean lines, still inspired by Savoyard chalets, the restaurant now offers a large internal dining area and covered outdoor dining spaces including a raised lounge area for comfortable aperitifs. We go for the cellar bar downstairs. It can be glimpsed through the glass floor at the restaurant’s entrance and is the perfect wine cave with a vaulted stone ceiling, thousands of bottles of wine and a sommelier on hand. People cluster on soft cream leather sofas around chunky wooden tables enjoying a delicious tapas menu, but we say take a seat at the bar. On quieter nights the sommelier is always happy to talk wine and may even offer you a few recommended tasters.
Rue du Bourg
On a ski holiday, finding and connecting with the authentic local population can be near on impossible. Which is why we take our coffee and aperitifs in the Tyrolia at the bottom end of the Rue du Bourg, opposite the Mairie. French owned, run and frequented, have a morning espresso on one of the tables overlooking the river, or a lunchtime galopan (the French version of half a half pint) with the plat du jour. This is the place where people are watched, news is shared and French gossip is made. They also make an incredible house burger.
COUP DE COEUR WINE BAR
From 7am through to 1am this local wine bar is open to an ever changing array of locals and tourists alike. Pre-9am you’ll find French business owners running in for their morning espresso, some stopping long enough to enjoy the complimentary side plate of small pastries and macarons offered with every drink. From 9am it becomes more traditional, with French ladies organised in small clusters catching up on local happenings, and tourists reading newspapers, planning their day ahead. With a heated front terrace with comfortable sofas, and a large, slightly bohemian rear seating area with tables and chairs mixed up with plants and sculptures, the Coup de Coeur appeals at all times of the day. A large wine list, knowledgeable staff, and an impressive selection of spirits (including some interesting international whiskeys) makes Coup de Coeur a great choice. At night snuggle under blankets and watch the antics on the outdoor ice skating rink located opposite the rear terrace; try one of their home made pizzas, which are some of the best in town; and try their quite delicious Jeeper champagne, so called to honour the Jeep 4×4 given to producer, Armand Goutorbe, by the prefecture, so he could peruse his growing vines.
COCKTAILS FROM BERTRAND IN THE FRENCH SIDE OF THE DIXIE BAR
It is as specific as it sounds. One particular barman, in one particular section, of one sprawling bar. The Dixie Bar is actually a French-owned Irish bar, one side of which offers the very traditional experience of beer and sports. Live music is sometimes played in the far end of the bar (catch The Dixie Mix if they are in town). But the Wine Bar is our preferred destination. Enjoying its own entrance (the entrance closest to The Rhodos) its décor will leave you wanting but you’ll find French locals here enjoying the hospitality of the owner, a large man called Pascal. Pascal splits his time between Spain and France and offers his guests Spanish olives, bread and dried meats on platters all from his home in Spain. Fresh oysters are sometimes on offer and the local chocolate maker frequents this bar and often brings with him delicious handmade chocolates that are handed around the bar. We go there for Bertrand, a French barman who diligently studies the ever-changing art of cocktail making and makes delicious cocktails that easily eclipse the best of London or Manhattan. There is art and drama to his creations, such as his Smoked Old Fashioned, presented with fresh sprigs of thyme smoking on an antique wooden platter covered by a glass bell jar. It’s all about Bertrand so if he’s not there you better take a seat at the bar, order a glass of rouge and hope for some free chocolates.
Rue du Bourg
You could conceivably arrive in resort empty-handed and kit yourself out in-shop. From thermals and socks, to outerwear and goggles, to evening wear and street shoes – Slopestyle is a cornucopia of mountain style and street fashion with big brands for on and off the mountain. Their sister store, The Woods, on the opposite side of the street stocks more technical brands such as Patagonia and AK. You can also hire snowboard equipment from here, wrigglet boards for under 5s, and book snowboard lessons with Mint Snowboard School, who has an office in the corner in a little wooden hut. Both shops are also great for gift purchases. Open winter and summer.
Route du Téléphérique
If you are looking for a shopping fix that is not mountain or ski related, Rouge Chili is your destination. It offers an authentic French shopping experience and is genuinely the shop of choice for the glamorous French local population who you will occasionally spot enjoying a coffee or aperitif around town. Located at the top of the Rue du Bourg it is open year round offering womenswear and menswear as well as great accessories and shoes.
Route de la Plagne
L’Alpage is the perfect end-of-holiday stop off to buy presents for loved ones and stock up on supplies for your own kitchen. It is filled with local produce from dried meats, jams, preserves and digestifs, to locally made cheeses and wines. Much of the cheese is made in-house in the fromagerie underneath the shop, where you can also enjoy free weekly tours to watch the cheese making process. A glass floor allows you to view some of the ageing cheeses, and a wine stores offers a selection of different regional wines.
EDELWEISS & COQUELICOT
Rue du Bourg
Edelweiss & Coquelicot on the Rue du Bourg is a beautiful home interiors shop with alpine interior essentials. With interior decorations such as luxury throws, cushions, candles and rugs, to larger pieces of furniture, treat yourself and recreate your luxury mountain experience back at home. If you are buying gifts their table decorations and customised lamps are gorgeous although we’ve always got our eyes on their sheepskin and cowhide rugs!
Chamonix market is on a Saturday morning, starting about 7am. Larger than the Morzine market, with a much stronger Italian influence, you will be hard pushed to leave empty handed. Make sure you indulge in a pre-9am mulled wine from a scruffy looking French man who tends to locate himself centrally, serving from his ancient-looking le chaudron de feu (cauldron). Our other top tip, buy Italian; it’s fresh and authentic from just a few kilometres away over the border.
Annecy has three markets but we recommend the Sunday market. A large food market can be found in the old town – cobbled streets, colourful stalls, fresh produce, French locals and tourists alike, all jostling to enjoy some of the many delicious samples. An after-market ice cream is a must, as is a walk along the lake shore. Annecy is known internationally as the Venice of the Alps and is easily deserving of more than one day of your time.
There are many natural thermal spas in the Alps and they are worth a day trip to enjoy them. One of our favourites is Lavey Les Bains just across the border and is one of the hottest thermal waters in Switzerland. With two outdoor pools and an indoor swimming pool, all open year round, you can enjoy healing waters of around 32°C to 36°C as you bob about their lazy river and relax on their underwater loungers. Their pools are located in gardens with gorgeous mountain views but are even better in a snowstorm with a toasty body and cold snowy face. The pools stay open well into the evening, the outdoor pools lit up to create what feels like an illuminated fairy tale. The spas also have their own hammans, saunas of varying temperatures, and freezing plunge pools. Afterwards you can dine in their restaurant or perhaps stop off for fondue in Abondance on your way back.