Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
French Alps Summer Holidays
If you love nature and wide-open spaces, the French Alps are among the best places to visit in France in summer. Mountains, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and more await you in this small peaceful land located in Eastern France.
Whether you are visiting on a weekend getaway or planning dedicated French Alps summer holidays, there are many incredible places to see and great experiences to live in this unique mountain range! From hiking to mountaineering or paragliding, there’s a good reason the French Alps in summer lure millions of visitors each year.
The Alps in France also have a beautiful historical heritage, which you will discover as you stroll through the alleys of Vieux-Annecy, Chambéry, or the upper town of Briançon.
Fancy some wine, great cheese, or even better, a fondue? Then the French Alps will amaze you with its culinary choices too.
From the most beautiful towns in the French Alps to national parks and iconic alpine landscapes, here’s a quick guide to the French Alps in Summer, with the best places to visit and things to do, and our top planning tips.
How to Get to & Around the French Alps in the Summer
Numerous low-cost airlines offer affordable flights from Europe to the airports of Lyon, Grenoble, and Chambéry – Click here to buy your flight tickets to the French Alps
From Paris, you can travel to the French Alps by TGV or SNCF trains to Lyon, Chamonix, Annecy, Chambéry, or Briançon – Click here to buy your train tickets to the French Alps
The best way to get around the French Alps in the summer is by car. If you don’t have a car in France, you can rent one in places like Annecy, Grenoble, or Chambéry. When we need to hire a car, we use Discover Cars. Discover Cars compares 900 companies at over 53,000 locations to guarantee you the best price! – Click here to rent your car in France
Don’t leave for the French Alps without travel insurance!
HeyMondo offers travelers insurance that combines medical and travel-related coverage for single trips (with the possibility to include coverage for numerous adventure sports), annual multi-trip, and extended stays (with Covid-19 coverage included). Use this link to get a 5% off.
Best Places to Visit in French Alps in Summer
TIP: If you want to combine some of these places during your French Alps summer holidays, this French Alps summer itinerary by car is perfect for you!
Things to Do & Best French Alps Towns in Summer
Where to go in the French Alps in Summer? Here is the list of the best things to do in the French Alps and the best places to visit for a fun summer in the French Alps.
1. Aiguille du Midi (Mont Blanc)
L’Aiguille du Midi (3,842 m) is a mountain in the Mont Blanc Massif, accessible by cable car. This is the highest attraction in Europe, offering the visitor a unique panorama that embraces the highest peaks of Western Europe. It is also an excellent opportunity to get a closer view of Mont Blanc (4,808 m), the highest mountain in the Alps and Western Europe.
We have listed the Aiguille du Midi as one of the top things to do in France! Don’t miss The Vertical Space, a museum dedicated to the adventure of ascending Mont Blanc throughout history.
In just 20 minutes, the Aiguille du Midi cable car will take you from the center of Chamonix to the high mountains. The total visit lasts 2 to 3 hours on average. Children under 3 years old are not accepted (not recommended for children under 5 years old).
2. Annecy and its Lake
Annecy is one of the loveliest cities in the French Alps, and we are sure it will steal your heart too. Located on the north side of Lake Annecy, in the Haute-Savoye department, Annecy is one of the most beautiful cities in France, with many things to do in and around.
Annecy has a pretty medieval center, with landmarks like the castle Palais de l’Isle, which is now a history museum, and the Château d’Annecy. The surrounding wooded mountains provide the town’s wonderful scenery.
Annecy is a great destination for a relaxing weekend getaway (check out our Annecy 2-day itinerary) and also for an adventurous summer in the French Alps. You can tour around the Lake by bike, take a boat trip, rent a stand-up paddle, or spend a relaxing day on one of the beaches. Annecy Lake is one of the world’s favorite locations for paragliding, and several competitions have been held there.
- Tandem paragliding flight over Lake Annecy
- Canyon of Angon near Lake Annecy
- Stand-up paddle rental on Lake Annecy
- Electric bike rental on Lake Annecy
- Rent a boat, with or without a skipper, in Annecy
Briançon is one of the best French Alps towns in summer to visit. Located in the Hautes-Alpes department at an altitude of 1,326 meters, Briançon is the highest town in the European Union.
A garrison town fortified by Vauban in the 18th century, Briançon is listed since 2008 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with other Vauban sites in France.
The Citadel of Vauban, at the foot of the castle, is Briançon’s beating heart. Here, you can admire other historical monuments such as the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame, the Church of the Cordeliers, the colorful old houses, Place d’Armes, or the fountains and sundials that decorate the alleys.
The exceptional natural environment of Briançon is perfect for a Summer in French Alps. The list of Briançon outdoor activities includes hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, paragliding, canoeing, and rafting. From Briançon, you can also discover other tourist destinations such as Le Monêtier-les-Bains, Saint-Chaffrey, Montgenèvre, and the Queyras Regional Natural Park.
- Tandem Paragliding in Briançon – Serre Chevalier
- Rafting down the Guisane River in Serre Chevalier – Briançon
- Canyon des Acles in Serre Chevalier – Briançon
- Bungee jump from Asfeld Bridge (60 m) in Briançon
Chambéry is Savoie’s capital, one of the best cities in the French Alps for sightseeing and tasting regional food and wines.
In wintertime, some of the best ski resorts in the Alps are within an hour’s drive from Chambéry, while in the Summer, it is the perfect base for hiking (Massif de Bauges, Massif de Chartreuse), canyoning, or a day trip to Aiguabelette Lake.
Chambéry is easy to explore, and it has a pretty Old Town. The list of fun things to see in Chambéry includes the Medieval Castle of the Dukes of Savoy (where the first counts of Savoy settled in 1285), the Chambéry Cathedral, the intriguing Elephant Fountain, and more.
Chamonix is a world-known ski resort that first became famous in 1924 for hosting the Winter Olympics. Nestled in the Arve Valley at the foot of Mont-Blanc, Chamonix comprises 16 charming villages and hamlets, including Argentière, Le Tour, and Montroc.
But Chamonix is one of the best places to visit in French Alps in summer too! The natural scenery, so picturesque under the snow, is equally beautiful in the summer and best explored by following one of the surrounding trails.
Chamonix’s main tourist attraction is l’Aiguille du Midi, which is easy to visit by cable car (20 min) from the center of Chamonix. You can also take Chamonix’s Montenvers railway train through forests, tunnels, and viaducts to the famous Mer de Glace glacier (1,913m), the largest glacier in France.
The list of fun activities in Chamonix Mont-Blanc includes the Ice Cave, the summer luge (Chamonix roller coaster in the mountains!), or a stroll along the pretty alleys of its lively city center lined up with shops and galleries.
6. Lac du Bourget & Hautecombe Abbey
In the department of Savoie, Lac du Bourget is the largest natural lake in France (18 km long). This beautiful lake that borders the world-famous spa city of Aix-les-Bains is surrounded by the Massif de l’Epine, Mont du Chat, Chambotte, Mont Revard, and Les Bauges.
Lac du Bourget is great for a relaxing stroll or a bike ride. It is also the ideal place for a bath (the water can reach 26C in summer) or water activities like kayak, canoeing, fishing, or sailing.
TIP: This road trip itinerary from Lyon to Annecy visits the Lac du Bourget, the Abbey of Hautecombe, Aix-les-Bains, and more!
If you are looking for cultural things to do in the French Alps, the Abbey of Hautecombe, on the lake’s wild shore, is a very good option. This 12th-century Cistercian Abbey and majestic necropolis of the House of Savoy is built in an exuberant Gothic style. From Aix-les-Bains, it is a 35-minute drive to the Abbey of Hautecombe, but you can also take a boat cruise at Aix, which includes a visit to the Abbey.
- Paragliding flight over Lake Bourget
- Hiking and Packrafting expedition on the Lake Bourget
- Rent a boat, with or without a skipper, in Aix-les-Bains
7. Mont Aiguille (Massif du Vercors)
In the heart of the Massif du Vercors, Mont Aiguille is a wonderful place to explore and a sumptuous décor during your hikes in this natural park.
A mountainous massif in the Pre-Alps, between the departments of Isère and Drôme, the Massif du Vercors is a rugged and complex relief of cliffs, ridges, and gorges that culminates in the Grand Veymont (2,341 m).
To admire and make the most of this extraordinary countryside, the park offers a wide range of summer activities, like hiking, climbing, canyoning, or paragliding.
8. Parc National Mercantour
If you are looking for magnificent landscapes to explore in the French Alps in the summer, head to Parc National du Mercantour. Covering a vast area along the Italian border between the departments of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes Maritimes, Parc National du Mercantour is one of France’s wildest and most varied national parks, mixing Alpine and Mediterranean influences and forming an incredible mosaic of natural environments.
Parc National du Mercantour is home to more than 3,000 animal and plant species – the greatest biodiversity in France! It is also a true paradise for hiking, with its 600 kilometers of marked trails, including part of the GR5 and the long-distance itineraries Grande Traversée du Mercantour and the Alpi Marittime.
Last but not least, Parc National du Mercantour is home to some of the prettiest French Alps villages, like medieval Tende – once a trading town on the salt road –, Saorge or Saint-Martin-Vésubie.
- Trekking under the stars in the Mercantour National Park
- Mercantour wildlife hike from Allos
- Hiking of the Grand Cheval de Bois in the Mercantour
9. Parc National des Ecrins
Parc National des Ecrins, located between the departments of Isère and Hautes-Alpes, is one of the largest protected mountain areas in France, comprising more than forty glaciers and one hundred peaks. Some of these peaks are more than 3,000 m high, including the famous Barre des Ecrins with its 4,102 m.
This is another of the great places to visit in French Alps in summer for hikers, with more than 740 km of marked trails, including the GR54, which circles the Oisans. The park is also home to a vast animal and plant biodiversity, with more than 4,000 recorded species.
In Parc National des Ecrins, it is also possible to find the purple saxifrage, the plant species growing at the highest altitude in France (4,070 m!).
10. Fort Queyras
Fort Queyras is one of the best places to visit in the French Alps for history lovers. This 12th-century fortress in the Hautes-Alpes department is built on a hill at a narrowing in a glacial valley overlooking the Gorges du Guil.
This impressive fortress housed soldiers in charge of protecting the Dauphiné against Savoyard or Provençal incursions, but in the end, it was only used twice in the wars between the Protestants and Catholics. In the 1700s, the military architect Vauban launched a restoration project in the fort to make it impregnable, and more constructions were added.
Today, Fort Queyras is in private hands but open to the public for visits. After crossing the drawbridge, explore an inextricable maze of passages, stairs, castmates, and bastions, constructed between the 12th and 19th centuries. This is an ideal half-day family excursion to add to your French Alps summer itinerary.
11. Saint-Véran and Queyras Regional Natural Park
Saint-Véran, in the heart of the Queyras Regional Natural Park, is the highest municipality in Europe, located at 2,042 meters above sea level. With a population of just over 200 inhabitants, Saint-Véran is one of the most beautiful mountain villages in the French Alps, “where roosters peck at the stars.”
Saint-Véran has beautiful traditional architecture with stone houses, log cabins, larch wood fountains, and sundials. Don’t miss the interesting Soum Museum, which shows the organization of a 17th-century farmhouse in total autarky during the long winter months.
As for the Queyras Regional Natural Park, it will delight hikers of all kinds. In summer, there’s mountain biking, horse-riding, tree-top trails, paragliding, and Via Ferrata. Along the GR58 trail (Tour du Queyras), there are about thirty lakes, twenty passes (cols), and twenty peaks to climb. There are other picturesque villages to explore, like Arvieux, Abriès, Aiguilles, Ceillac, Château-Ville-Vieille, or Molines-en-Queyras.
12. Ubaye Valley
Marking the limit between the Dauphiné and Provence, this glacial valley in the Alpes-Haute-Provence department is wonderful to explore. The Ubaye Valley is bisected by the river of the same name, which is famous among rafting and kayaking enthusiasts. There are beautiful hikes, too, that explore numerous torrents, vast forests, and pristine lakes.
The Ubaye Valley is also famous for its rich local cuisine, mixing Alpine, Mediterranean, and Italian influences. You can taste excellent local products such as génépi liqueur (a plant that grows in the Alps), tomme cheese from the valley, and tourtons.
Yvoire is one of the best places to visit in French Alps in summer. This picturesque medieval village located on the French shore of the Lac Léman (Lac Genève in Switzerland) is listed as one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France.
Yvoire is the most isolated place on our map of the French Alps, but it is well worth the detour! One of the best medieval towns in France, Yvoire has more than 700 years of history, and we are sure you will enjoy visiting its ramparts, medieval castle, fortified gates, and cobbled streets.
Don’t miss the Jardin des Cinq Sens, in the heart of the village, listed as a remarkable garden by the Ministry of Culture. There are many pretty shops to buy souvenirs and regional products too. In the afternoon, enjoy a drink or dinner on one of the terraces by the lake.
Where to Stay in the French Alps in Summer
Where to stay in French Alps in Summer, near the mountains and the best outdoor activities? Annecy, Aix-les-Bains, and Chamonix are good bases to explore most of the places described in this article.
And there you have it, the list of the best things to do in the French Alps for a relaxing or adventurous summer trip. Which one tempts you most for your French Alps summer holidays?