How will Chamonix be celebrating the festive season this year? It may barely be the end of November but the Christmas lights have been put up in readiness for the big switch-on, we’ve had a massive dump of snow, and we’re feeling festive!
Christmas Lights: elves in high-vis jackets are busy stringing lights from every tree, building and lamp post in town ready for 16th December. The switch-on marks the start of Christmas and is the beginning of entertainments and festivities that last right up until the New Year.
Christmas Village: the centre of Chamonix will be full of Christmas cheer from the 16th December with wooden chalets crammed full of festive goodies. Artisan crafts, local products, unique gifts, tasty treats… During the run-up to Christmas the village will be a hub of excitement with parades, entertainments, visits from Santa, and plenty to keep the kids entranced.
Christmas Markets: swerve the crowded department stores and get your shopping done at a Christmas market; you’ll find much more unique gifts and you can have a glass of vin chaud while you’re there - so much more civilised than fighting for the last “must-have” in TK Maxx.
- 6th December 10:00-17:00, Vallorcine - local crafts and artisan products, art exhibition at Salle de la Ruche, visit from Father Christmas at 3pm.
- 12th December 10:00-17:00, Les Houches - Christmas gift and craft fair at the Espace Olca. You can even buy your Christmas tree and find some beautiful decorations to dress it.
- 12th 11:00-21:00 & 13th December 10:00-17:00, Chamonix - organised by Plantes Magiques this is not just a market but also a hands-on experience with craft workshops for kids, lessons on how to use plants and herbs, stalls full of local produce, and a special Christmas menu in the restaurant La Lucarne at the ice rink.
- 20th December 14:30-18:00, Vallorcine - spend an afternoon browsing the Christmas decorations, wood carvings, handmade crafts and locally produced jams at the Vallorcine tourist office.
Christmas Concerts: if you fancy a good sing-song to get into the Christmas spirit then you’ll find plenty of opportunity at the following places:
- 19th Decembre 20:30, Les Houches - choral concert by the Harmonie Municipale des Houches at Espace Olca. Free entry.
- 19th December 20:15, Les Houches - following mass at the church of Saint Jean-Baptiste, the Chorale des Houches will perform their favourite Christmas songs. Free entry.
- 20th December 18:00, Chamonix - the Chambelles will be hosting their annual carol concert at the Eglise Reformée, with all proceeds going to charity. Festive cheer, santa hats and all the Christmas classics with the lovely ladies of the Chambelles choir.
Father Christmas: don’t miss your chance to meet the big man and let him know what you’d like in your stocking! He’ll be making a special trip to the Alps, you can find him in the following places:
- Mer de Glace - all aboard the Christmas train! Each weekend in December a special train will be running from Montenvers up to Santa’s workshop at the Mer de Glace. Find further details and prices on our Chamonix Events Calendar.
- 24th December, Chamonix - Santa makes a spectacular entrance each year with a parade through the centre of Chamonix, finishing in Place du Mont Blanc at 6pm. There’ll be music, lights, entertainment and plenty of festive cheer.
- 24th December, Les Houches - Santa will be roaming the centre of Les Houches all afternoon, giving out sweets and gifts as he goes. Hot drinks and a warm welcome await you in the square outside the tourist office from 6pm.
- 24th December, Vallorcine - due to the magic of Christmas, Santa will also be in Vallorcine at the same time. Accompanied by the ski instructors, he’ll be dishing out sweets to all the good boys and girls from 5:30pm - warm up with hot apple juice or mulled wine at the bottom of the Vallorcine gondola.
Torchlit Descents: a particular ski resort tradition is the torchlit descent - a magical spectacle where dozens of twinkling flames shimmy down the ski slopes, held by the ski instructors of ESF Chamonix. You’ll have a number of opportunities to join the fun this Christmas; 24th and 31st December from 5:30pm at Le Tourchet slope in Les Houches, or 23th and 30th December from 5pm at Les Planards in Chamonix.
Russian Christmas: here in Chamonix we celebrate Christmas as many times as possible, even spilling over into January for Russian Orthodox Christmas. On 6th January from 4pm there will be a special Russian celebration at the outdoor ice skating rink in Vallorcine. Enjoy music, entertainments, mulled wine and fireworks with face-painting and sweets for the children.
Christmas Parties: there are far too many to mention but many of the bars and restaurants in Chamonix will be hosting special events - live music, Christmas menus, themed parties, etc - have a look at our What’s On in Chamonix guide to find out what’s happening where.
Christmas Dinner: don’t miss out on all the trimmings just because you’re on holiday - many restaurants in Chamonix will be serving a special Christmas menu. If you want to experience "Noël comme les Français" then you’ll find that the French usually hold the main feast on Christmas Eve; instead of turkey and sprouts they prefer goose or duck, with seafood such as oysters and salmon being served as a starter. L’Atmosphere and La Caleche are both great places to get a taste of a typical French Christmas menu. If you prefer a traditional British roast lunch then give Monkey or Le Vert a try. Wherever you go, we strongly recommend booking in advance, you can find contact details on our Chamonix Restaurants page.
New Year's Eve: the traditional Chamonix experience is to start out on a bar crawl straight from the slopes, with everywhere getting busier and noisier as the night progresses. The area around the train station is usually a good place to start with Chambre Neuf, Elevation and MOO Bar all packing in the party-goers for the last apres-ski of 2015 before heading into the centre of town. The ground will be icy so fancy shoes are not an option and unless you are dining in a swanky establishment, thermals and ski jackets are perfectly acceptable attire. By midnight everyone will have lost their friends, found new friends, lost their beanie, found themselves wearing someone else's scarf, and will somehow have gravitated towards Place Balmat where highly excitable Italians will be letting off bangers and champagne corks at alarmingly close range. At midnight we will watch fireworks light up the night sky and hug random strangers.
The biggest party will be going on in Les Houches, where the Gorillaz Sound System will be playing alongside special guest DJs at the Espace Olca from 10pm to 6am. Tickets are 45€ each, over 18's only, looks like it's going to be a massive night so book in advance - it's sure to sell out!
Most bars have a late license for tonight and many will be hosting parties - mostly free to enter but a few may require tickets - check out our Events Calendar for ideas. If you're looking for something a little more chic then Les Caves on the Rue des Moulins usually hosts a very classy affair (reservation recommended) and many of Chamonix's gourmet restaurants will be offering a special menu to usher in the New Year with champagne and a bit of class.
The Morning After: if you’ve gone a bit overboard on the mulled wine and festive spirits then you’ll need a good brekkie to sort you out and get you back on the slopes. We recommend Bighorn Bistro for their American pancakes and “Silver Spoon” breakfast of grilled potatoes, sausage, egg, peppers and onions. La Terrasse does a full English that will hit the spot, and MBC are worth an honourable mention for their eggs benedict.
All of the above events and a few more besides can be found on our Chamonix Events Calendar, we'll be constantly adding to it over the next few weeks so keep checking back for updates.