Had you noticed that 🇫🇷 France has A LOT of bank holidays? No sooner are the spring holidays over, then along comes the Pont de l’Ascension and Pentecôte in May and June !
These weekends are the ideal escape – though do be warned that if you head to the 🇫🇷 South of France on a bank holiday weekend, then you’ll be doing so with many French families! My advice is to book ahead to avoid disappointment, and to be ready for some LONG traffic jams on your return journey!
From the Pays du Mont-Blanc, being at the crossroads with 🇨🇭 Switzerland and 🇮🇹 Italy, there are plenty of superb options for weekends or long weekends away! And, there are more options nearby in 🇫🇷 France 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 also for gens de pays).
Pays du Mont-Blanc
This article concentrates on WEEKENDS (or long weekends) away from the Pays du Mont-Blanc.
For more information about DAY TRIP options – for me, that is a 1,5h to 2h our maximum drive – then see separate MBFF article here. Of course, day trip options can also extend into weekend options, so don’t hesitate to head over to that article for some ideas!
For me, a 3h drive is my limit for a weekend away; any longer car journey turns into a long weekend (3 to 5 days) or a week . . .
The below suggestions are some (mostly) tried and tested weekends away that the MBFF family has had, or they are on our list of places to go!
WEEKENDS AWAY really near the Pays du Mont-Blanc
🇫🇷 Lac d’Annecy (Haute-Savoie)
The 💦 lovely lakeside town of Annecy makes for a relatively quick escape from the mountains and valleys of the 🏔 Pays du Mont-Blanc! 🏔 Pays du Mont-Blanc residents enjoy day trips here to experience the change of scenery throughout the year . . .
[ ⇒ for more information about activities for families in Annecy and around 💦 Lac d’Annecy (Talloires, Menthon Saint-Bernard, Saint-Jorioz, Doussard, Réserve Naturelle du Bout-du-Lac, Réserve Naturelle du Roc de Chère, Cascade d’Angon) . . . see separate article here ]
The ⛺️ campsites around Lac d’Annecy are also fabulous for a weekend away, or a week over the summer holidays / ⇒ see article 💦 LAKES & WATERSPORTS au Pays du Mont-Blanc (and beyond) for some ideas.
🇫🇷 Massif des Bauges (Haute-Savoie & Savoie)
The Massif des Bauges is so close, and yet we only visited for the first time a couple of summers ago . . . France was just coming out of the first confinement, and I wanted to plan a memorable Father’s Day visit. We only skimmed the surface of this beautiful area, but we enjoyed our visit so much!
If you are visiting Lac d’Annecy over a long weekend or for a week, then you can easily head into Les Bauges. . . or a visit just to Les Bauges is perfect for a weekend.
Les Bauges differ from the Pays du Mont-Blanc as it is a moyenne montagne landscape (a parc naturel), with interesting rock formations, a very present and visible agriculture (cheese production is everywhere!), and pretty traditional villages.
Where to stay? You could camp . . . a great option is the Camping de l’Île du Chéran, where in the summer you can enjoy the lake and watersports on offer. We stayed in a yurt, at the lovely Refuge de Garins – this is a great location for some hiking, and breakfast with the donkeys is a treat.
We did a lovely (flat) hike, which took us to the Cascade du Pissieu and then to the pretty lakes of the l’Île du Chéran. Part of this hike you can do with a buggy! You can visit the chèvrerie on this hike, and get some delicious vanilla ice cream!
Les Bauges is also known for its chocolate production, though we didn’t manage to taste any! You could make a stop at the Chocolaterie des Bauges.
Other visits could include:
- Alby-sur-Chéran – a pretty village, with a medieval festival in mid-May;
- Lescheraines – another pretty village;
- Pont de l’Abîme – a suspended metal bridge built back in 1887, with a dramatic view of the Gorges du Chéran, and a view of the Tours Saint-Jacques (a geological curiosity; what remains of an enormous block that detached from the cliff of Fontenil, under the Semnoz mountains);
- Grotte de Prérouge – if you fancy a spot of spéléologie en famille, then these caves are accessible with a guide . . .
🇫🇷 Lac du Bourget : Chanaz & Canal de Savière and Aix-les-Bains (Savoie)
We spent Easter weekend 2021 in the pretty village of Chanaz, and I absolutely loved exploring!
We stayed at the municipal campsite, at the most incredible accommodation overlooking the water : Les Ilots de Chanaz.
We hired a boat (you don’t need a licence), and Daddy MBFF picked us up from our holiday home directly! We then travelled down the Canal de Savière, which links the mighty Rhône river to Lac du Bourget. You could also kayak or take a paddle board!
The following day, we did a hike along Lac du Bourget – Au Fil de l’Eau took us down to Aix-les-Bains. The Jardin Vagabond is well worth a visit at the end of the walk . . .
Other visits around Lac du Bourget and Chanaz could include:
- a bike ride along the ViaRhôna;
- a visit to the beaches of Conjux or Chindrieux;
- a visit to the Château Thomas II ruins;
- a visit to the Abbaye de Hautecombe;
- Aix-les-Bains and the Musée Faure or Aqualis; https://www.madame-oreille.com/week-end-en-famille-autour-daix-les-bains/
- a hike up the Dent du Chat or the circuit de Rochetaillée;
🇫🇷 Chambéry, Passerelle du Révard & Croix de Nivolet (Savoie)
I had a night alone in Chambéry, 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 ]
The following day, my friend came to join me, and we did a fabulous hike to the la Croix de Nivollet, through the forest and with superb views over Lac du Bourget.
Another great spot to head for views over Lac du Bourget is the Belvédère du Revard.
🇫🇷🇨🇭 LAC LÉMAN – French and Swiss sides
From Sallanches, you can get to the 🇫🇷 French or 🇨🇭 Swiss side of 💦 Lac Léman in about 1h30, so that is perfect for a day visit, but there are some great places to visit around the lake, and some super campsites, so a weekend visit is also a great idea !
[ ⇒ for more ideas for a family visit to 💦 Lac Léman, see separate MBFF article about DAY TRIPS here ]
If staying the weekend on the 🇫🇷 French side of Lac Léman, you might think about visiting more sites within the UNESCO labelled Géoparc du Chablais (this is a protected zone of recognised geological and cultural value) . . . here are some ideas:
- 💦 Gorges du Pont du Diable – a beautiful gorge with passerelles / see website;
- les Aigles du Léman – birds of prey (summer months only) / see website;
- Châteaux des Allinges – the ruins of the Château-Neuf and the Château-Vieux, (and also the 11th century Romanesque chapel of the Château Neuf, strategically located on a hilltop / see website;
Close by is also the 🇨🇭 Aquaparc Le Bouveret.
🇮🇹 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 or weekend 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.
Though there are many places to head for an enjoyable day trip, there is so much to do in the Aosta Valley that a weekend is also a brilliant option!
Had you noticed how many 🏰 castles overlook the Aosta Valley (there are many, many castles watching over the Aosta Valley!) ? Many of these castle you can visit, independently or with a guide.
Some of the 🏰 main castles to visit (starting with those closest to the tunnel):
- 🏰 Castello di Sarriod de la Tour – set among orchards, this castle overlooks the Dora Baltea river;
- 🏰 Castello di Aymavilles – a newly restored castle;
- 🏰 Castello Reale di Sarre – King Victor Emanuel II of Italy bought and renovated this castle, and used it for hunting trips to the Aosta Valley. Victor Emmanuel’s successor, Umberto, also used this castle for hunting trips and decorated one room with ibex and chamois trophies;
- 🏰 Castello di Fénis – one of the most famous of the Aosta Valley castles;
- 🏰 Forte di Bard – a 19th century fortress, now a cultural centre and hotel (more information below);
- 🏰 Castello di Savoia (Gressoney-Saint-Jean) – Margarita of Savoy spent summers here;
[ ⇒ for more information about 🏰 the Aosta Valley castles, including history, see Aosta Tourisme here ]
A visit to the 🏰 Forte di Bard is always a highlight for us / ⇒ see separate MBFF article here;
A visit to the 🏰 Castello Gamba (Châtillon) is also recommended. Here, you have a modern art museum, with pretty gardens . . . the town of Châtillon is also worth visiting / ⇒ see separate MBFF article here;
Among the many pretty towns and villages in the mountains of the Aosta Valley is Cogne. This quaint cobble-stoned village is a 1h30 drive from Chamonix, through the Mont-Blanc tunnel and a bit further. While you have plenty of hiking possibilites in summer, in wintertime you have skiing, cross-country skiing, ice-climbing, lots of hotels with spas . . . Both of our visits have been in autumn, which has also been lovely!
Near Cogne, you have the Parc Animalier d’Introd, which kids will love.
Daddy MBFF and I also had a summer weekend in La Thuile, with beautiful hikes to the Cascate de Rutor and Lago di Verney . . .
WEEKENDS & LONG WEEKENDS AWAY further from the Pays du Mont-Blanc
🇫🇷 FRANCE CITY VISITS
🏙 City visits are perfect for weekends and long weekends away . . . and you have plenty of fabulous cities to visit from 2h up to 6h from the Pays du Mont-Blanc : Lyon (2h), Marseille (5h), Paris (6h) . . .
The below suggestions are some (mostly) tried and tested weekends away that the MBFF family has had, or they are on our list of places to go, starting with city visits . . .
I never tire of Lyon – there is so much to do in this beautiful city: a stroll through the Old Town, 🖼 plentiful museums and exhibitions (don’t miss the fabulous Musée des Confluences!), the wonderful 🌳 Parc de la Tête d’Or and zoo & new greenhouses . . . and gastronomic delights (both regional and international) of course!
If you have a long weekend in Lyon, you might like to visit the medieval village of Pérouges or the 🦇 Grottes de Balme or the 🦇 Grottes du Cerdon.
MBFF has visited Marseille twice en famille – once with a 3 year old (with chickenpox!) and a baby in a buggy, and once with older boys.
We LOVE Marseille. The second largest city in France is steeped in ancient history – settled in 600BC by Greeks from Phocea, it has a fabulous Mediterranean location, and there are many places to explore en famille:
- the Vieux Port (old port) – see the fishing and pleasure boats;
- Notre Dame de la Garde – the iconic hilltop church looks down onto the old port and the surrounding islands . . . it’s a great place to start your tour of Marseille because of the super views!
- the old Fort de Saint-Jean – this is free to visit! / next to the fort is the cathédrale Sainte-Marie-Majeure and the MUCEM (Musée des Civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée);
- street art in the pretty old quarter of Le Panier / Le Préau des Accoules is a museum FOR children in Le Panier;
- Corbusier’s incredible UNESCO protected Cité Radieuse / L’Unité d’Habitation (there is even a café and hotel here!);
- a boat trip to visit les îles du Frioul (with the Château d’If – the famous prison that housed Alexandre Dumas’ famous characterle comte de Monte Christo) or to the pretty calanques;
- head to some nearby beaches: plages des Catalans, du Prado or l’Huveaune;
[ ⇒ for more museum ideas in Marseille, see website Musées de Marseille here ]
MBFF only just visited Paris en famille this February 2022 ! But it was worth the wait – the boys being 11 and 7 at the time, we were able to walk much further, and walking is the best way to see this beautiful capital city!
I have both lived and worked in Paris (and as a tour leader, no less!) so I know the city pretty well . . . and over confinement I put together an article about teaching your youngsters about Paris – you may find this helpful before a family visit (you’ll find the article here). Perhaps because of my stories, my boys had a good idea of the sights they wanted to see on their first visit – I mostly let them choose the sights, and I figured out the walking and métro!
[ ⇒ for some suggestions of 🇮🇹 city breaks in nearby Italy (Turin, Milan), see below . . . ]
Moving on from city breaks, here are some weekend and long weekend escapes that will give you a dose of nature in France (and also culture!) . . .
Here is a map of the regions in France. There are now 18 regions in France (13 in mainland France and 5 outre-mer) – prior to this, there were 22, but there was a re-grouping of French regions in 2016, and this brought us the large Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (ARA) – this is a varied terrain (mountains, lakes, rivers), made up of12 départements, and all accessible within 4 hours by car from the Pays du Mont-Blanc . . .
Haute-Savoie is located in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (ARA), and there are many escapes just on our doorstep!
🇫🇷 La Dombes (l’Ain)
This wetland area, located just north of Lyon and covering an area of 1500 km2, is known as the ” terre aux milles étangs “. An important fishing area (fishing was established here in the Middle Ages), and a paradise for bird spotting (look out for the héron cendré!), La Dombes is known for its famous Parc des Oiseaux fishing (fishing was established here in the Middle Ages). This is a great destination for animal spotting, walking and biking . . .
[ ⇒ for more information about La Dombes, see La Dombes Tourisme here ]
Also in the département de l’Ain (01), in nearby Pays du Gex, you have the imposing, cliff-hugging Fort de l’Ecluse and nearby the Château de Voltaire . . .
Further on, towards Lyon, you’ll find the new Dinoplagne, with its ” plus longue piste de titanosaure au monde ” . . .
[ ⇒ for more information about l’Ain, see l’Ain Tourisme here ]
🇫🇷 Les Volcans d’Auvergne : Volvic, Vulcania & Puy-de-Dôme (Puy-de-Dôme)
The Volcans d’Auvergne is another one on our list! Did you know that the source of Volvic mineral water is here?
The Chaîne des Puys is another UNESCO-protected site. The Panoramique des Dômes is a train à crémaillère that will take you up the highest of the volcanoes, the Puy de Dôme.
Many of our local schools take the children for their classe découverte to the Vulcania museum and the surrounding volcanos . . .
[ ⇒ for more information about the Volcans d’Auvergne, see here ]
🇫🇷 Lac d’Aiguebelette (Savoie)
We’ve not yet been to this natural and well-preserved lake, but it is on our list ! Around the lake are great opportunitites for watersports and camping.
[ ⇒ for more information about what to do en famille in the Pays du Lac d’Aiguebelette and around the lake, see here ]
🇫🇷 Massif de la Chartreuse and Lac de Paladru (Isère & Savoie)
Not far from the Pays du Mont-Blanc is another mountain range : the Parc Naturel Régional de Chartreuse, is in the Préalpes, and there are lots of hiking possibilies.
One of the most popular hikes is to the Cascades du Cirque de St Même . . .
On our way down to the Drôme a couple of summers ago, we stopped for lunch at Charavines, on Lac de Paladru . . . I was enchanted by this lake! As well as watersports, there are hiking and biking opportunities!
[ ⇒ for more information about Lac Paladru, see here ]
🇫🇷 Parc National de la Vanoire (Savoie)
The Parc National de la Vanoise has some superb hiking opportunities, as well as great refuges for mountain sleeps . . . It is also home to one of the Plus Beaux Villages de la France : Bonneval-sur-Arc – this is a much photographed, pretty mountain village;
[ ⇒ for more information about the Parc National de la Vanoise, see here ]
🇫🇷 Massif du Vercors (Isère & la Drôme)
We’ve spent a couple of separate weekends in the Vercors, and I was charmed by this high plateau to the east of Grenoble, part of the pre-Alps. To get up onto the plateau, you have a windy drive, and there are some incredible rock formations on some of the routes up.
Up on the plateau, you’ll be treated to great hiking, mountain biking, caves, super campsites . . .
[ ⇒ for more information about what to do en famille in the Vercors, see here ]
Just to the west of the Vercors, at the junction of the departments of Isère and la Drôme, you also have a great area to visit, la Drôme des Collines : you’d be well rewarded with a visit to the riverside village of Pont-en-Royans, the beautiful Jardin des Fontaines Pétrifiantes, the town of Saint-Antoine-l’Abbaye (with its impressive abbey) and the unique Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval – here you’ll see an incredible work of naif architecture, the result of 32 years of toil by one man, postman Joseph Ferdinand Cheval!
🇫🇷 La Drôme (La Drôme)
It takes 3h30 to 4h to drive to La Drôme (depending on which area of La Drôme you head to!), so this would be more of a long weekend option.
One of my best buddies lives in La Drôme, and so we’ve made several visits to this stunning region in all seasons (and weather!). You’ll find beautiful countryside and forests, perched villages and ruins (stunning Soyans), some of the Plus Beaux Villages de la France (see website) – Mirmande, Le Poët-Laval . . . , 🏰 Le Château des Adhémar in Montélimar, La Tour de Crest and the castles of Suze-la-Rousse and Grignan, the forest of Saou, 🐊 La Ferme aux Crocodiles (see website) – a winner with kids, the truly unique Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval (see above) . . .
Further south, nearly in Provence in terrain and temperature, you have the Parc National des Baronnies – here you’ll get to see some stunning lavender fields in May and June!
[ ⇒ for more information about La Drôme en famille, see here ]
We’ve enjoyed kayaking down the Drôme, and visits to Nyons and Dieulefit.
🇫🇷 l’Ardèche (l’Ardèche)
A four hour drive from the Pays du Mont-Blanc, the Ardèche would suit a long weekend. This region, with its wild and sinuous river, is hugely popular with tourists in the summertime, and rightly so : the river has pockets that are perfect for swimming and there are kayaking opportunities everywhere . . . you’ll also find super campsites, hilltop villages, castles and caves (the incredible Chauvet II . . .), biking along the Via Ardèche or the ViaRhôna.
It is also great to visit he Ardèche out of season – though you might find it too cold for swimming, at least you’ll have lots of the sights to yourself!
[ ⇒ for more information about l’Ardèche en famille, see here ]
🇫🇷 Cèze river (le Gard)
We spent a long June weekend at a campsite overlooking the Cèze river and had some beautiful outings to the nearby Cascades du Sautadet and one of the plus beau village de la France La Roque-sur-Cèze.
good to know: we kayaked down the Cèze on our trip to the Ardèche. The Ardèche does not allow kids under 7 years to rent kayaks, and as the Cèze is a gentler river, we could kayak there with our then 5 year old.
🇫🇷 PROVENCE-ALPES-CÔTE d’AZUR
🇫🇷 ROMAN PROVENCE : Avignon, Nimes, Arles, Orange & le Pont du Gard (Vaucluse & Bouches-du-Rhône)
When I was a tour guide, our French trips often stopped in this area of Provence, which is rich in Roman and Medieval history.
You have pretty Avignon, with its Pont d’Avignon and the Palais des Papes (yes, the antipopes had their own palace here, away from Rome!). . .
You have Roman arenas in Nîmes and Arles, and also in Arles, a Roman theatre (and one in Orange) . . . and, off course, the fabulous aqueduct the Pont du Gard (you can rent kayaks and paddle past this 2000 year old Roman bridge!) . . . add to this the Musée de la Romanité in Nîmes.
You can also retrace Van Gogh’s footsteps in Arles, or visit the LUMA Arles (a cultural centre audaciously designed by architect Frank Gehry) . . .
Nearby, the hilltop village of Les Baux-de-Provence (another of the Plus Beaux Villages de France) is also worth a visit, as well as the Carrières des Lumières, where artwork is projected onto the walls of old limestone quarries . . .
🇫🇷 La Camargue (Bouches-du-Rhône)
A little further south, and you get to La Camargue, a beautiful area of white horses, black bulls and flamingos, wild rice and salt plains . . . here the mighty Rhône meets the Mediterranean, and you can find gypsy history in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, and medieval history in the once bustling port town of Aigues-Mortes.
Highlights for us on our trip : a sunset horse-ride near Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer . . . time amongst the beautiful white horses, spotting flamingos, time on the wild beaches . . .
[ ⇒ for more information about la Réserve Naturelle de la Camargue, see here ]
🇫🇷 Cassis, La Ciotat & les Calanques (Bouches-du-Rhône)
I had only ever glimpsed the Calanques from a boat tour from Marseille, and I had never explored on foot, so MBFF took advantage of some poor weather au Pays du Mont-Blanc over the Christmas holidays 2021, saw that the weather down south was clement, and off we went for some hiking (and winter dips!) in the stunning Calanques.
The Calanques, being so close to Marseille, are a popular day trip option for locals, so my advice would be to avoid bank holidays when it’s very busy (and also the summer, when it is very, very hot!).
Highlights for us:
- staying in La Ciotat, more low-key than neighbouring Cassis;
- the hike from the Calanque de Morgiou to the Calanque de Sugiton, which involved some scrambling (the boys loved this);
- the hike to the Calanque d’en Vau – considered as one of the most beautiful calanques, this is also one of the more strenuous hikes (not for little ones!);
[ ⇒ for more information about Parc National des Calanques, see here ]
Le Lubéron (le Vaucluse)
MBFF spent a lovely – albeit sooo very HOT summer holiday (I think spring or autumn would suit me better for sight-seeing!) – in the Lubéron when the boys were small.
I was thrilled to discover this delightful corner of Provence, where Plus Beaux Villages de France (Gordes, Ménerbes, Roussillon) are plentiful and lavender fields too! Don’t miss the stunning Sentier des Ocres in Roussillon. We also really enjoyed our visit to Oppède-le-Vieux, a deserted village.
[ ⇒ for more information about Le Lubéron, see here ]
🇫🇷 Hyères & Presqu’île de Giens (Le Var)
MBFF discovered Hyères and the Presqu’île de Giens quite by accident last Ascension bank holiday . . . Confinement had just lifted, and as a result most holiday lettings were already booked by the time we decided to head south (like most of France!) . . . we found ourselves in a tiny kite-surfing crash-pad on the Presqu’Ile de Giens, and it was just perfect.
The pretty island of Porquerolles is accessible, and the peninsula itself is great for hiking and watersports and Hyères town is worth exploring . . . you’ll find a couple of campsites on the presqu’ile.
[ ⇒ for more information about Hyères and the Presqu’île de Giens, see here ]
🇫🇷 Les Gorges du Verdon (le Var)
A 25km long gorge, at times 700m deep, the Gorges du Verdon are just stunning.
You’ll find great opportunities for kayaking and paddleboarding, swimming in the Lac Sainte-Croix, hiking too . . . also, beautiful villages to visit like Moustiers Sainte-Marie . . .
🇫🇷 BOURGOGNE FRANCHE-COMTÉ
A beautiful wedding took us to Burgundy a few years ago, and we managed to explore the surface of this beautiful region, once an important duchy (and ally of the English and enemy of the French at a time during the Hundred Years’ War!).
Shiny yellow mustard fields await you, as well as pretty villages like Avallon (Yonne) or Beaune (la Côte-d’Or), with its famous tiles. Dijon, capitale des ducs de Bourgogne, is also a pretty city to visit, and don’t forget to visit the vineyards and their labyrinthine caves for the grands crus wines.
You might also enjoy a visit to the Parc naturel régional du Morvan, where you’ll find forest, lakes and hills.
[ ⇒ for more information about Burgundy, see here ]
The Pays du Mont-Blanc, and the Chamonix Valley especially, are right next to 🇮🇹 Italy, which makes it a great destination for a weekend or long weekend.
Each region of Italy is disctinct, with the neighbouring Aosta Valley (see information above), still mountainous and dotted with strategic castles, Piemonte a region of undulating hills, pretty towns and villages and wonderful wines, the lakes of Lombardy, the coast in Ligura . . . and Toscana – a bit further away, this you’ll probably need to leave for a longer holiday!
🇮🇹 PIEMONTE: Turin, Biella and more delights . . .
We have friends that live in Biella, and so we have discovered lots of charming spots nearby. One weekend took us on an incredible voyage of discovery, to the pretty town of Varallo and its fascinating pilgrimage site Sacro Monte. The village of Candelo is also pretty.
Turin is the capital of Piemonte, and was once the capital of the royal kingdom of Piemonte, Savoie, Sardina & Sicily (and even of the royal kingdom of Italy from 1861 ⇒ 1865). It is a fascinating city to visit . . . with its :
- royal history (and palaces to visit);
- the amazing Egyptian museum;
- the automobile museum (Turin was the headquarters of Fiat, in its heyday);
- the cinema museum (cinema was introduced to Italy from Turin) . . .
Beyond Turin, for a longer weekend, you can head further into Piemonte – you’ll find the gorgeous rolling hills, hilltop villages like Barolo, Monforte d’Alba, the Langhe region with Nieve and the rose village of Bossolasco, the thermal bath town of Aqua Terme . . . or bigger towns like Albi and Asta . . . don’t forget to drink some red wine and taste the local specialities like truffle.
Lago di Viverone
We went to a wedding on Lago di Viverone (the first lake that you pass after the Aosta Valley) a few years ago, and we were enchanted by this lake, popular with local Italians! You have great restaurants, and there are plenty of hotels, or the fun looking campsite Albaluce Village Viverone, with its colourful mobile homes.
[ ⇒ for more information about Lago di Viverone, see here ]
🇮🇹 Italian lakes : Lago di Orta & Lago Maggiore
Driving from Chamonix, the western-most Italian lakes are easily accessible in about 3 hours . . . and they make a great weekend escape . . .
Lago di Orta is still in Piemonte, and Lago di Maggiore straddles both Piemonte and Lomardia.
We’ve spent time both around the charming Lago di Orta . . .
. . . and Lago di Maggiore – here we visited the animal park of Parco Villa Pallavicino and the Isole Borromee . . .
🇮🇹 Milan, Lago di Como & Bergamo
Milan is a 3h30 hour drive from Chamonix . . . you’ll find lots to see in the city of fashion, with its beautiful Duomo and arcades . . .
[ ⇒ for more information about Milan, see here ]
If you have a bit more time, then you could head to Lago di Como, with its sumptuous villas, or the pretty hilltop city of Bergamo . . .
Our closest coastline from the Pays du Mont-Blanc is actually in Italy, rather than in France. A 3 hour drive will get you to the Ligurian coast from Chamonix.
You have lots of fabulous options for a weekend visit in Liguria: on the coast, you could visit the fascinating old town in Genova, or its (expensive) aquarium . . .
Or you could visit a pretty seaside village. Finale de Ligure is popular with Chamonix residents – here you’ll find good climbing and mountain biking. Other great options are Borgo Verezzi, Noli, Varigotti, Arenzano (here there is a great cycle path along the coast to Cogoleto, taking you through a tunnel!), Alassio . . .
. . . or further south: Camogli, Portofino, Rapallo, Sestri Levante (love them all!) or La Spezia & the photogenic Cinque Terre . . .
Inland, you could visit Dolceaqua, immortalised in a painting by Monet, who stayed nearby in in Bordighera in 1884. Monet was charmed by this pretty little village close to the French border, with the Nervia river running through.