When I was seven years old, my family traveled to Paris where we stayed with our Parisian friends. The parents, who have four children, asked me what I wanted to do in Paris. I said I wanted to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. They looked baffled. None of them had ever been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, despite living within eyesight of it; but, they indulged me. We went. It was breathtakingly incredible. It was the first (and I assume, last) time they had been up there. It’s not a très cool Parisian thing to do, but I still thought it was so strange that someone could live near a world-famous site without taking the time to see it up close.
That is, until I went four years living in the shadow of Mont Blanc without visiting. Oops!
I’ve seen Mont Blanc from every angle. I’ve skied in Mont Blanc’s backyard, but I’ve never actually bought the ticket and taken the two gondolas and one elevator up to the highest peak in Europe until my friend Betsy came to town last week.
I don’t know why I waited. It was breathtakingly incredible.
There are many different ways to get to the top — ways that include ice picks, skis and Mission Impossible-style gear– but the fastest route is to take the Aguille de Midi from downtown Chamonix. Now that I’ve done it, here are my recommendations.
Bring your credit card. Round-trip tickets run about 60 euros a piece. Children between the ages of five and 14 years old cost about 50 euros. Children younger than five are free, although it’s not recommended. Children under three are not allowed. There is a family of four pass for 200 euros. The ticket office opens at 6:30am and the last gondola up is at 4:30pm. Book online if you can.
Block three hours of time. Buying tickets, waiting in line and taking two gondolas up 2,700 meters takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Once you reach the top, you will receive a ticket with a time to return to Chamonix. I was shocked to discover that we weren’t allowed to board our return gondola for another hour and a half, but seeing everything the Aguille de Midi has to offer actually takes about that much time. The whole trip took nearly four hours, but we visited at the peak of the season and at the busiest time of day. Next time, I’ll go in the morning.
Pack wisely. It’s a good 20 degrees colder on the mountain, so do pack a jacket, sunglasses and sunscreen. If it’s winter, I’d add a hat and gloves. Also, bring a bottle of water. The altitude can really leave you breathless, so it’s important to stay hydrated and take breaks.
Have lunch on the mountain. There are a few different options if you’d like to dine on Mont Blanc. The first option is to book a table at the Restaurant 3842. Request a window table! The second option is to buy something inexpensive at the snack bar and sit outside. The third option is to exit the first gondola on the way up or down and have lunch at the Alpine cafe located mid-way up the mountain. You can also pack a picnic, but I’d only recommend this in the warmer months.
Step into the void. We waited about 30 minutes to spend about 30 seconds in a glass box suspended in the air. It was dizzying and electrifying. Totally worth it. You have to try it.
Have you been? What did you think? The gondola ride alone was one of the most intense roller coasters I’ve been on — lots of “ooohs” and nervous laughter that transcended the seven or so different languages we heard spoken on board.
Over the next two weeks we’re exploring Barcelona and Menorca, so feel free to follow along via my Instagram stories. And please send in any recommendations you have for tapas and sangria! Meanwhile, here are a few links to kick off your week: