We are spoiled with plentiful nature and culture here au Pays du Mont-Blanc – there are just so many wonderful options for family activities!
But even with so many rich options, sometimes we might get valley fever (yes, this is a THING!), or we may feel the need to escape ☔️ bad weather . . . and that’s when a day trip away comes in handy!
In the Pays du Mont-Blanc, we’re at the crossroads with 🇨🇭 Switzerland and 🇮🇹 Italy, and so there are plenty of superb options for day trips just across the border! And, there are many more options in nearby 🇫🇷 Haute-Savoie and 🇫🇷 Savoie too . . .
Remember that for travel on the 🇨🇭 Swiss autoroute, you’ll need a VIGNETTE (available to buy at the Douanes (Customs) and, though the aller-retour journey through the 🇮🇹 Mont-Blanc Tunnel is VERY expensive, you can get a 10-trip card (to be used within the year), which will reduce the cost considerably (and there are cheaper options available also for gens de pays)!
Pays du Mont-Blanc
🇫🇷 Further France
Any of the following day trip options could also extend into a weekend away, BUT . . .
[ ⇒ for plenty more ideas for WEEKENDS or LONG WEEKENDS AWAY, then see separate MBFF article here (just polishing this article for you ! ]
For a day trip, I consider 1,5h to 2h our maximum drive (for example, Lyon is absolutely feasible for a day trip, but – for me – I feel it’s more of a comfortable weekend visit).
Au Pays du Mont-Blanc, there are lots of options for day trips within this 1,5h to 2h time-frame, in 🇫🇷 nearby France, 🇨🇭 Switzerland and 🇮🇹 Italy too!
🇫🇷 NEARBY FRANCE
🇫🇷 ANNECY or LAC d’ANNECY
The 💦 lovely lakeside town of Annecy makes for a relatively quick escape from the mountains and valleys of the 🏔 Pays du Mont-Blanc, and 🏔 Pays du Mont-Blanc residents regularly enjoy day trips here to experience a change of scenery throughout the year:
- you can stroll through the Old Town and visit the 🏰 Château d’Annecy or the 🏰 Palais de l’Ile (good family packs available);
- you can walk through the lakeside 🌳 Jardins de l’Europe and head to its various playgrounds (also the perfect terrain for draisiennes);
- you can go for 🚵♂️ a longer bike ride along the Piste Verte (do be careful with young children, as there are some seriously fast riders on this piste!);
- in summertime, you can rent out pedalos or 🚤 a motorboat;
You could also head to Annecy to experience the Carnaval Vénitien (April) or the amazing Annecy Paysages (July to September) outdoor exhibition . . .
. . . and in Cran-Gévrier, there is La Turbine, with its interactive exhibitions for children (these change regularly).
You could also visit for the day the ⛵️ villages of Talloires, with its photogenic natural bay (you also have the accrobranches up above) or Menthon-Saint-Bernard, with its beautiful fairytale castle . . .
As well as these easier flat strolls around Lac d’Annecy, you also have some great family hiking options) : Roc de Chère, Cascade d’Angon . . .
[ ⇒ see MBFF article here for some family hiking options around Lac d’Annecy ]
Not far from Annecy, you’ll also find the Château de Montrottier, the Gorges du Fier and the Jardins Secrets. . .
🇫🇷 CLUSES ARVE & MONTAGNES
Just past Sallanches and Magland, you get to Cluses, and though you’re unlikely to spend time exploring the town itself, Cluses Arve & Montagnes is a dynamic tourist office and covers many of the pretty villages on the hillside around Cluses. In Cluses itself, the Musée de l’Horlogerie et du Décolletage is well worth a visit – here you’ll learn about the rich history of clock and watchmaking and then décolletage (fine parts) in the Arve Valley.
- Châtillon-sur-Cluses – there are the ruins of a castle here, and you can do a fabulous jeux de piste from Cluses to reach the village; see here;
- Le Reposoir – read about MBFF’s visit to this pretty mountain village here;
- Mont-Saxonnex – learn about watch-making history in this village (there is a jeux de piste available; see here), or hike to Lac Bénit;
- jeux de pistes – Cluses Arve & Montagnes has created a series of jeux de pistes, which are just AMAZING! / see here for more details;
🇫🇷 VALLÉE du GIFFRE & VALLÉE des AULPS
From Sallanches, it is a 45mins to 1h drive to the Vallée du Giffre, and though you’re still in mountain terrain, you can visit some delightful villages, and do some wonderful hikes.
Here are some options for a day trip:
- ⛪️ Chartreuse de Mélan (Taninges) and its artwork;
- 🚵♂️ a bike ride along the Giffre river;
- 🌺 Samoëns and its botanical gardens;
- 🥾 a hike in the beautiful Anciennes Gorges des Tines;
- 🗻 Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval – visit the pretty village or do some fabulous hikes in the Cirque du Sixt-Fer-à-Cheval, one of the prettiest places to visit in our nearby mountains;
- 💦 Cascade de Rouget – this waterfall is also known as the Dame des Alpes / see MBFF article here;
- 💦 Lac de Montriond – the largest of our natural mountain lakes, you can head here for hikes or watersports!
- 🐏 Les Lindarets – this pretty hamlet is filled with freely wandering goats over the summer months!
🇫🇷 LA ROCHE-sur-FORON & PLATEAU des GLIÈRES (Le Grand Bornand)
La Roche-sur-Foron is a fortified medieval town in the Alps, historically important due to its strategic location at the junction Annecy – Geneva– Chamonix . . .
The Plateau des Glières (1440m), located in the massif des Bornes and a beautiful plateau, was an important site for the Résistance during WWII. From January until March 1944, 500 men under the orders of Lieutenant Tom Morel and then Capitaine Anjot, hid here to receive parachutes of ammunition for the maquis de Haute-Savoie.
You can follow the Sentier Historique, which gives a glimpse into everyday life during the bataillon des Glières , which took place over the winter of 1944. Allow 2h to 3h to walk this historical path comfortably, and read all the panels.
The survivors of the Glières initiated the building of Monument des Glières, which was built in 1973 by Emile Gilioli. It symbolises resistance and hope.
[ ⇒ for more information the Plateau des Glières, see website / MBFF article to come ! ]
🇫🇷 LAC LÉMAN : Evian, Thonon-les-Bains, Yvoire & Nernier
From Sallanches, you can get to the French side of 💦 Lac Léman in about 1h30, so that is perfect for a day visit.
The 💦 historical thermal water lakeside town of Évian makes for a lovely day out en famille . . . you could :
- 🖼 visit the Palais Lumière – see here;
- 🚃 or ride the historic funicular for splendid views of Lac Léman;
- 🗺 explore the main sights, like the Source Cachat (currently being renovated) / Evian Tourisme has a fabulous map available, with detailed information;
- 🌸 visit to the Pré Curieux gardens (open from later springtime, and accessible by BOAT!).
In wintertime, there is the Fabuleux Village ou la Légende des Flottins – a story of driftwood and magic!
Thonon-les-Bains is another thermal water town, and interesting to visit. The Château et Forêt de Ripaille are worth a visit, and it is a nice stroll down to the port.
Between Thonon and Evian is the nature reserve of the Delta de la Dranse, known for 🐦bird-spotting.
Alternatively, before arriving in Thonon and Evian, there is the lovely medieval lakeside village of Yvoire (one of the listed Plus Beaux Villages de la France / see here) and its Jardins des 5 Sens.
[ ⇒ for more ideas for a family visit to Yvoire, see separate MBFF article here ]
The lesser known lakeside village of Nernier is also well worth a visit . . .
In summertime, the sandy beaches of Excenevex are a huge draw . . .
🇫🇷 LAC du BOURGET : Chambéry, Aix-les-Bains & Chanaz
Lac du Bourget, though not far away from the Pays du Mont-Blanc, gives one a total sense of dépaysement once there. It is the largest and deepest glacial lake located entirely in France: 18km long, 1,6km to 3,5km wide, an average of 85m deep (145m at its deepest!) and an area of 44,5km2.
Legend has it that Lac du Bourget was formed by the tears of an angel, when God told it to leave the Alps.
There are plenty of great beaches for family swimming – 9 official beaches (see here for some recommended beaches), and some lovely strolls (for example Au Fil de l’Eau down to the Jardin Vagabond in Aix -les-Bains), and hikes too (the iconic Dent du Chat looks over the lake)!
Aix-les-Bains is 💦 a lakeside thermal water town, and as well as beaches for swimming, there are some museums to visit:
Chambéry is also an interesting town to visit. I had a night alone in Chambéry last summertime, and I was charmed by the « cité des ducs », old capital of Savoie (until it was transferred to Turin): the town centre with its arches, the les traboules, the Fontaine des Eléphants, its museums, the house of Jean-Jacques Rousseau . . . Children can do a jeu de piste through town, following the elephants . . .
[ ⇒ for more information about Chambéry, see Chambéry Montagnes website here ]
Chanaz is a pretty village located or the north-western tip of 💦 Lac du Bourget and 💦the Canal de Savière links 💦 the Rhône river and the village to the lake . . . there is so much to do here, that I’d recommend a weekend visit – see separate article Weekend Trips from the Pays du Mont-Blanc (I’m just finishing this article!).
🇨🇭 Zoo des Marécottes & Martigny (Valais, Switzerland)
From 🏔 Chamonix, it is a short 45 minute drive or train ride to 🇨🇭 Les Marécottes or Martigny in Switzerland . . .
The Zoo des Marécottes is the highest located zoo in Europe, and children will really enjoy a visit. In summertime, you can swim in 💦 the rock pool located next to 🐻 the black bears!
In Martigny, you’ll have a true feeling of dépaysement, with:
- a lovely town centre;
- 🏟 Roman ruins (an amphitheatre and more . . .);
- 🕍 Château de la Batiaz – ;
- the wonderful 🎨 Fondation Pierre Gianadda for art exhibitions, photos, vintage cars and sculpture garden with Roman ruins / ⇒ see MBFF article here or website;
- and the equally lovely 🐶 Barryland – Musée et Chiens du Saint-Bernard / ⇒ see MBFF article here or website;
Other options in Valais include :
- the pretty perched village and 💦 thermal baths of Saillon (note: currently SHUT for renovation after a huge fire!);
- 💦 Les Bains de Lavey thermal baths;
- 🐶 Grand-Bernard pass – with the famous Saint-Bernard dogs present in summertime;
- 🌈 leisure parks: Happyland, Labyrinthe, Western City . . .
- 🌊 Alaia surfing centre;
🇨🇭 Geneva (Switzerland)
Geneva is not far from the 🏔 Pays du Mont-Blanc, but you do get a little distance from the snowy peaks . . .
Here are some ideas:
- you can enjoy a wander through the 🏛 Old Town (where you could head up the towers of the ⛪️ Cathédrale St Pierre or visit its crypt);
- you can a stroll down to 💦 Lac Léman to visit the Jet d’Eau (or play at the beach or take a boat ride);
- visit the 🌳 Parc des Bastions and the Reformation Memorial;
- head to the 🌸 CJBG botanical Gardens (see here), 🌳 the Parc de la Grange or 🌳 the Parc de la Batie, with its animal park and super new playground;
You could also visit 🖼 an exhibition or museum . . . Geneva has some fabulous museums, and on the first Sunday of the month many of the exhibitions are FREE!
[ ⇒ see separate article here for a list of museums & exhibitions in nearby Switzerland ]
Alternatively, you could visit the quaint Carouge, with its lovely cafés and restaurants and unique boutiques . . .
🇨🇭 LAC LÉMAN : Lausanne and beyond (Vaud, Switzerland)
Facing 🇫🇷 Evian (which is located on the opposite side of the lake), 🇨🇭 Lausanne is a lovely town to visit, sprawling from the ⛪️ Old Town and its cathedral at the summit of the town’s hill, down through the shopping centre, the train station and then down to Ouchy on the lakefront (where you will find the Olympic Museum).
There are plenty of 🖼 other museums to visit (again, see Museums & Exhibitions in nearby Switzerland article) and the fabulous 🐟 aquarium-vivarium Aquatis (read about our visit here). Over the Christmas holidays, there is a holiday market and Lausanne Lumières.
Other day trips on the 🇨🇭 Swiss side of Lac Léman could include: Montreux, Vevey, Nyon (castle and Roman ruins and museum!), Morges (tulip festival in April and May), the Parc Pré Vert at Signal de Bougy (see MBFF playground article here) . . .
If you have a weekend in Lausanne, you could also combine trips to Gruyères and the Château de Chillon.
Another highly, highly recommended visit is to the 🇨🇭 Château & Domaine de Vullierens . . . famed for its irises, these gardens are just magical . . .
[ ⇒ for more information about these gardens, see separate MBFF article here ]
🇮🇹 Aosta Valley & Aosta (Italy)
From Chamonix, it is a short drive through the 🚇 Mont-Blanc Tunnel to 🇮🇹 Courmayeur . . . the cobble-stoned Old Town is atmospheric and there is a super park at the entrance to town called Parco Bollino. For a day trip, you could also include the fabulous 🚠 Skyway Monte-Bianco or a trip into 🏞 Val Ferret or Val Veny . . . or a trip to the lovely Termes de Pré St Didier.
Further down the Aosta Valley, you’ll get to 🇮🇹 Aosta, which makes for a lovely stop: a pretty town centre, 🏟 Roman ruins, museums, and lovely 🍕 restaurants.
A visit to the 🏰 Forte di Bard is certainly possible for a day visit – see separate MBFF article here.
Kids will love the Parc Animalier d’Introd . . .
With a weekend in the Aosta Valley, there is plenty more to see and do: more castles, hikes . . .