French Alps Travel Guide

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French Alps

The French Alps © Nicolas Sanchez

The deep valleys and soaring snow-covered peaks of the Alps border France, Switzerland and Italy in dramatic splendour, delighting walkers and climbers in summer and offering a challenge to skiers and snowboarders in the winter months.

Downhill skiing was established here towards the end of the 19th century by the English. Since then an increasing number of French and international skiers (and more recently snowboarders) have been attracted to the first-rate resorts. French resorts may not be as quite as picturesque as those in Switzerland and Austria but they are some of the most extensive and best. By European standards they are high, mostly between 6,562 and 9,843 feet (2,000m and 3,000m), and have reliable snow. The ski season runs from late November to April and is busiest during the Christmas and Easter holidays.

Climbers and hikers head for the Alps between July and September, when the weather is more predictable and the snow above 6,562 feet (2,000m) has melted. There are a number of national parks with round-the-park trails requiring one or two weeks walking. There are also longer trans-alpine routes, which should only be attempted by experienced walkers. Local tourist offices supply detailed maps of their area. The towns of Grenoble, Annecy and Chambéry are good bases for hiking. Climbers tend to head to the Chamonix-Mont Blanc area.



Resorts

See our separate guides to the following French Alps holiday resorts: Megeve, Val dIsere, La Plagne, Les Arcs, Courchevel, Meribel, Val Thorens, Chamonix, Tignes, Morzine, Flaine, Serre-Chevalier and Samoens


Attractions

Abbaye d'Hautecombe © Mathis73

Aix-les-Bains

Aix-les-Bains is a popular and fashionable family holiday resort and spa town located on the eastern side of Lac du Bourget, the largest natural freshwater lake in France. Although the lake is icy cold, visitors can sail, fish, play golf and tennis, or...  see full details



Lake Annecy © Guilhem Vellut

Annecy

Situated 80 miles (129km) east of Lyon, the holiday destination of Annecy has a magical setting on the shore of Lake Annecy, at the foot of the French Alps. It has been called the 'Venice of the Alps' because of the web of...  see full details



Briancon © Raffaele Sergi

Briançon

Perched among the French Alps, Briançon is the highest town in Europe. The town is divided into the lower town, where the Durance and Guisane rivers meet and much of the modern amenities lie; and the walled and fortified upper town, which was...  see full details



Evian-les-Bains © Cristian Bortes

Evian-les-Bains

Evian-les-Bains, on the southern end of Lake Geneva, is famous for its mineral water, which has been bottled since the early 18th century, when tests revealed that the water has astonishing curative qualities and it began to be used for medicinal purposes. Evian is...  see full details



Grenoble © Guillaume Piolle

Grenoble

The beautiful university town of Grenoble, known in France as the 'Capital of the Alps', is situated on the Drac and Isère Rivers, and is surrounded by proud mountains, dramatic gorges and hidden valleys. The city's history goes back 2,000 years and visitors can...  see full details



Talloires © Scott Williams

Talloires

The small village of Talloires has fashioned a booming tourist industry from the very best in raw ingredients: medieval architecture, charming locals, and picturesque surroundings ripe with opportunity for both summer and winter sports. Lake Annecy is filled with holidaymakers swimming, sailing and waterskiing...  see full details


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