The French Alps aren't just about nature and wonderful mountain scenery, they are also home to historic villages with a very specific local culture and traditions. During a holiday in these mountains you can expect crystal clear lakes, tranquil forests and beautiful peaks.

    But the area also has a long history and is home to a people rooted in their region and their past. In these remote villages where the hospitality is as warm as the winters are cold, you can stay in traditional chalets and enjoy the generous local food in its restaurants. Discover the 10 most beautiful villages in the French Alps.

    1

    Évian-les-Bains

    A town famous for its water and a place to relax

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    Évian-les-Bains is a spa town on the banks of Lake Geneva (lac Léman), whose water is famous all over the world. Lots of visitors go there to visit the spa and drink its waters from the Cachat spring, but it's just as nice to visit for relaxation, a little culture or some sport. There are lots of artisan boutiques and art galleries in the Art Nouveau influenced pedestrianised streets leading down to the lake.

    Or you can hop on a boat, which is the only way to visit the water gardens of Pré Curieux (les jardins de l'eau du Pré Curieux). If you are looking for something more energetic, golf, sailing and rowing are also possible.

    Location: Place de la Porte d'Allinges, 74500 Évian-les-Bains, France

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +33 (0)4 50 75 04 26

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    2

    Chambéry

    A very special Town of Art and History

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    • History
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    Chambéry, on the banks of the River Leysse, is the former capital of Savoy and a town that buzzes with art and history. It was one of the homes of the Dukes of Savoy so in addition to the famous castle there are some beautiful 15th and 16th century mansions (hôtels particuliers) that bear witness to the town's past grandeur.

    The most beautiful of these mansions are along rue Croix d’Or. Strolling through covered passageways and internal courtyards, past trompe l'oeil facades and fountains decorated with elephants, this is a fascinating town to explore. Have a coffee in place Saint-Léger and enjoy a bit of people watching before heading off to enjoy the Italian masterpieces in the museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts).

    Location: 5 Bis Place du Palais de Justice, 73000 Chambéry, France

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +33 (0)4 79 33 42 47

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    3

    Saint-Gervais-les-Bains

    Come for the spa or for the scenery

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    • History
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    Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, a little town sitting at the foot of the Alps, has been considered one of the prettiest thermal towns in Savoy for over a century. And there's still plenty to enjoy today. Of course, there's the spa with its thermal springs and well-being treatments (hammam, sauna, massage), but there are also the beautiful mountains and countryside.

    If you're a keen climber you may use the town as a base for your climb of Mont Blanc, or you could just try the cable car to enjoy the amazing view. Saint-Gervais is also excellent for winter sports, having a network of cable cars that joins it to the Megève and Chamonix ski-resorts.

    Location: Maison de Saint-Gervais, 43 Rue du Mont Blanc, 74170 Saint-Gervais-les-Bains, France

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +33 (0)4 50 47 76 08

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    4

    Abondance

    A village with as much character as the cheese named after it

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    • History
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    • Food
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    Abondance is a tasty cheese, but also an attractive, traditional alpine village. The little onion dome on its church is typical of the religious architecture of Haute-Savoie, and below it the local houses are built in with their wooden floors on stone bases.

    As well as the ancient abbey and its cloisters don't forget to visit the cheese co-operative to try the local speciality before you leave. If you're looking for some exercise, the village also has a ski area.

    Location: Chef Lieu, 74360 Abondance, France

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +33 (0)4 50 73 02 90

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    5

    La Grave

    The home of off-piste skiing

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    La Grave is a mountain village surrounded by incredible scenery and synonymous with French skiing. The main village is surrounded by 6 hamlets, all overlooked by the majestic La Meije mountain and three imposing glaciers.

    The steep and winding streets (called "trabucs") lead to the houses built in shale and volcanic rock (no wooden chalets here), as well as the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption (l'église de Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption), the White Penitents' chapel (la chapelle des Pénitents blancs) and the peaceful cemetery looking out over La Meije. La Grave is also famous for its off-piste skiing featuring high quality powder in unspoiled larch forests.

    Location: RD 1091, 05320 La Grave, France

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +33 (0)4 76 79 90 05

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    6

    Beaufort-sur-Doron

    Cheese, skiing and alpine meadows

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    Beaufort-sur-Doron has everything you'd expect to find in a mountain ski station and shares its name with a gourmet cheese. This village in the Beaufortain mountains has stone streets and colourful stone houses lined with flowers around a pretty church of Sainte Maxime (l’église Sainte-Maxime).

    Above the village there are the blue waters of Lake Roselend (lac de Roselend). On the walk up to the lake you can admire the old forge and the old bakery or visit the cheese co-operative to find out how to make this local speciality, and try it of course. Not forgetting the ski-resort of Arêches-Beaufort, where there are lots of sporting activities, in summer as well as in winter.

    Location: 2 Grande Rue, 73270 Beaufort, France

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +33 (0)4 79 38 37 57

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    7

    Bonneval-sur-Arc

    The village where all the houses had names

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    Bonneval-sur-Arc is just like you imagine an alpine village to look at first glance and boasts snow-capped peaks and glaciers.This tiny, remote village, straight from a fairytale, is surrounded by majestic glaciers. The thick walled stone buildings have limestone tiled roofs (lauze) held up by very strong timber beams.

    It's easy to imagine the inhabitants spending their winters weaving next to a good fire, so they have something to sell the next summer. Nowadays this old village has 21st century ambitions and offers snowboarding, skwalling and ice-climbing.

    Location: Résidence Ciamarella, 73480 Bonneval-sur-Arc, France

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +33 (0)4 79 05 95 95

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    8

    Cordon

    The balcony of Mont-Blanc

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    • Families
    • History
    • Photo
    • Adventure

    Cordon, 900 metres above sea-level, is ideally placed for a spectacular view of the Mont Blanc mountains, hence its nickname the Balcony of Mont Blanc (le balcon de Mont-Blanc). Why not spend a few days in a traditional mountain chalet, breathing in the clear mountain air and recharging your batteries?

    If you want to be a bit more active you can visit traditional farms and share in local festivities, enjoy local food or walk (or ski) among the pine trees. This ski resort is very family friendly and offers lots of things to do, whatever your age.

    Location: 1 Chemin des Motteuses, 74700 Cordon, France

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +33 (0)4 50 58 01 57

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    9

    Briançon

    The highest town in France

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    • History
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    Briançon is a Town of Art and History (ville d’Art et d’Histoire) fortified by Vauban and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Briançon is a homage to Louis XIV's famous engineer who designed a citadel and various forts (Salettes, Randouillet) to strengthen this frontier town.

    In addition there are some beautiful churches like the Church of the Shoemakers (l’église des Cordeliers) and the collegiate church of Our Lady (la collégiale Notre-Dame), and not forgetting the colourful facades, sun dials and fountains in the streets. A must-see during any holiday in the Alps, this town is also connected to the Serre Chevalier ski-resort if you want sport as well as culture.

    Location: 1 Place du Temple, 05100 Briançon, France

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +33 (0)4 92 21 08 50

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    10

    Entrevaux

    A magical fortified town

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    • History
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    Entrevaux is a town full of heritage and a beautiful setting to relax and recharge. Behind the impressive drawbridge are narrow streets and tall houses, but also a flour mill and an oil mill, fountains, medieval bread ovens and shops.

    Explore the old dungeons and the citadel's keep, try the Chemin de Ronde for amazing glimpses of the Var valley through arrow slits in the walls, or walk up to see the fascinating mix of Gothic and Baroque architecture on the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption (la cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption). In July there are lots of medieval festivals to enjoy.

    Location: Rue de la Porte Royale, 04320 Entrevaux, France

    Open: 24/7

    Phone: +33 (0)4 93 05 46 73

    Map

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