Chambéry is both the gateway to some of the finest skiing in the French Alps and an irresistibly charming destination in its own right.
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Stroll around the narrow Medieval streets of its immaculate old town, and you’ll be treated to a stunning castle, impressive art galleries and family-run restaurants overflowing with character.
To explore Chambéry’s beautifully preserved old town, forget public transport – slow things down a bit and walk. The historic Ville Ancienne is pleasingly compact, with most of the sites within half a square mile (.5km2). Sightseeing as a pedestrian also means you can stroll down the narrow alleyways lined with boutique shops and charming restaurants.
The local bus system, STAC, has regular routes to the suburbs and countryside, with a range of ticket prices. Pick up a single ticket, a 24-hour pass or a pack of tickets from the STAC information kiosk in the town centre. Altibus provides regular buses to the ski resorts in the region.
Cycling is easier in summer, but if you’re looking for an active way to explore Chambéry and the Rhône-Alpes region, rent a bike. Look for the Vélostation outside the train station in the town centre and head out to the cycle routes that wind through the dramatic landscape.
Car rental outlets are available once you land at Chambéry Airport, but you may find that the efficient public transport here will be more useful for your trip.
Ville Ancienne: For history
Chambéry’s Ville Ancienne, or old town, is such an unexpected treat. The historic seat of power of the Savoy region retains much of its old-world atmosphere, yet has somehow avoided being swamped with tourists (for now!). Your first stops will be the big-hitting sights, such as the Castle of the Dukes of Savoy and the impressive Cathedral of Saint-François-de-Sales.
Part of the joy, however, is simply wandering around the streets and soaking up the atmosphere. The local university fills the streets with friendly academics, while the streets are lined with landmarks such as the town hall, the Fountain of Elephants and the Vaugelas Chapel.
Aix-Les-Bains: For relaxation
Make a beeline for Aix-Les-Bains to relax your muscles after a skiing trip or long hike. Since Roman times, the town on the edge of scenic Lac du Bourget has been famous for its healing natural springs. Book yourself into one of the many spa hotels that sit on top of thermal springs for a perfect pick-me-up any time of year. In summer, take a seat on the edge of the lake and admire the views of the surrounding mountains or take a dip in the waters to cool off.
Add to your R&R with an evening at the Casino Grand Cercle or one of the local Michelin-star restaurants.
Chignin: For wine
Surrounded by vineyards, the picturesque town of Chignin is just 20 minutes away by car from central Chambéry – but hopping on a STAC bus frees you to really explore. Expect light, dry whites and peppery reds in this protected wine-growing region. Stop by vineyards such as Domaine Gilles Berlioz and Domaine de la Chancelière to sip on fine Savoyard vintages, with views of the Roches du Guet mountain ridge in the background. Families are welcome in Chignin, too; the tourist centre even offers a brochure and app to follow an interpretive trail known as the Grappe d’Or around the vineyards.
Voltage: 230 V
Time Zone: Central European Time Zone (GMT+1)