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France Outdoors

Best Places to Visit in the French Alps in the Summer

04/07/2021

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French Alps Summer Holidays

If you love nature and wide-open spaces, the French Alps in the summer are a great destination for you to visit. Mountains, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and much more await you in this small peaceful land located in Eastern France.

Whether you are visiting France for the first time or planning dedicated French Alps summer holidays, there are so many incredible places to visit and great experiences to live in this unique mountain range! From hiking to mountaineering or paragliding, there’s good reason the French Alps in the summer lure millions of visitors each year.  

The Alps in France also have beautiful historical heritage, which you will discover as you stroll through the alleys of Vieux-Annecy 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 are some of the most beautiful places to visit in the French Alps in the summer.

Chamonix - French Alps

Where to Stay in the French Alps

Annecy, Chambéry, and Briançon are good bases to explore most of the best places shown on our French Alps map.

Annecy

Chambéry

Briançon

How to Get to and around the French Alps

By Plane

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

By Train

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

Getting Around by Car

The best way to explore the French Alps is by car. With a car, some good tunes, and the best company, you are set for a memorable summer adventure in the French Alps!

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, and we recommend Rental Cars. Rental Cars compares 900 companies at over 53,000 locations to guarantee you the best price!

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Best Places in the French Alps Map

Best Places in the French Alps Map by Google My Maps

Click here to view the French Alps Map on Google My Maps

Aiguille du Midi

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 a great 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 the Mont Blanc throughout history.

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 include La Tournette, Le Parmelan, and Le Mont Veyrier and provide the town’s wonderful scenery.

Annecy is a great destination for sightseeing. You can also tour around the lake by bike or spend a relaxing day on one of the beaches. Annecy Lake is one of the world’s favorite locations for paragliding, and a number of competitions have been held there.

Briançon

Briançon is a garrison town in the Alps in France, fortified by Vauban in the 18th century. Located in the Hautes-Alpes department at an altitude of 1,326 meters, Briançon is the highest town in the European Union. Since 2008, Briançon is listed 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. There, you can admire other historical monuments such as 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 your next French Alps summer holidays. It allows you to practice many outdoor sports such as 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.

Chambéry

Chambéry - France

Chambéry is Savoie’s capital, a mid-size and pleasant city in the Alps great for sightseeing and tasting great Savoie region 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) 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 do in Chambéry includes the Medieval Castle of the Dukes of Savoy (the first counts of Savoy settled here in 1285), the Chambéry Cathedral, the intriguing Elephant Fountain, and more.

Chamonix

Chamonix is a world-known ski resort, which first became famous in 1924 for hosting the Winter Olympics. Nestled in the Arve Valley at the foot of Mont-Blanc, Chamonix is made up of 16 charming villages and hamlets including Argentière, Le Tour, or Montroc.

But Chamonix is a good place to visit in the 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, easy to visit by cable car (30 min) from the center of Chamonix. You can also take Chamonix’s Montenvers railway train through forests, tunnels, and over viaducts to the famous Mer de Glace glacier (1,913m), the largest glacier in France.

Other fun activities in Chamonix are the Ice cave, the summer luge (Chamonix roller coaster in the mountains!), or stroll along the pretty alleys of its lively city center lined up with shops and galleries.

Lac du Bourget & Hautecombe Abbey

Hautecombe Abbey - Lac Bourget

Lac du Bourget, in the department of Savoie, 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.

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 the visit to the abbey.

Mont Aiguille, Massif du Vercors

Mont Aiguille, in the heart of the Massif du Vercors, is a wonderful place to explore. This atypical shape will make a sumptuous décor during your hikes in this natural park. Amongst the beautiful hikes that explore this area, we recommend the Tête Chevalière hike.

A mountainous massif in the Prealps, 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, with rich flora and fauna, the park offers a wide range of summer activities, like hiking, climbing, canyoning or paragliding.

Parc National Mercantour

If you are looking for magnificent landscapes to explore during your French Alps holidays, head to the Alps’ national parks. Parc National du Mercantour extends over a vast area along the Italian border, between the departments of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes Maritimes. Mercantour is one of the most wild and varied national parks in France, mixing Alpine and Mediterranean influences, forming an incredible mosaic of natural environments.

Parc National du Mercantour is home to more than 3,000 animal and plant species have been identified there – 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.

Parc National du Mercantour is also home to some of the splendid villages in the French Alps, like medieval Tende – once a trading town on the salt road -, Saorge or Saint-Martin-Vésubie.

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.

Hikers will find in Parc National des Ecrins a paradise, with more than 740 km of marked trails, including the GR54, which circles the Oisans. The park is also home to a huge animal and plant biodiversity, with more than 4,000 recorded species. In this park, it is also possible to find the purple saxifrage, the plant species growing at the highest altitude in France (4070m!).

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 to protect the Dauphiné against Savoyard or Provençal incursions. The fortress 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 visit. After crossing the drawbridge, explore an inextricable maze of passages, stairs, castmates, and bastions, constructed between the 12th to the 19th century. This is an ideal half-day family trip.

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 one of the most beautiful mountain villages in the French Alps, ‘where roosters peck at the stars.’

Saint-Véran is a wonderful place in the Alps in France to explore. It has magnificent 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 way-marked 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.

Ubaye Valley

Marking the limit between Dauphiné and Provence, this glacial valley in the Alpes-Haute-Provence department is a wonderful place 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, or tourtons.

Yvoire

Yvoire is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the French Alps in the summer. This picturesque medieval village located on the French shore of the Lac Léman 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 5 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 in one of the terraces by the lake.

And there you have it, the list of best places to visit in the French Alps in the summer. Which one tempts you most for your French Alps summer holidays?

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