The mountains around Megève are renowned for offering some of France’s finest skiing, but the pretty Alpine town has much more to offer than winter pursuits. Fine dining, boutique shopping and upmarket hotels lend an air of high culture to the Haute-Savoie.
Before it became one of France’s glitziest ski destinations, Megève had a much humbler history as a simple farming town. Located in the Haute-Savoie region and surrounded by fertile land, the location was perfect for agriculture.
Despite its snowy mountains it wasn’t until the First World War that Megève started to be looked upon as a ski destination, when journalist Mathilde Maige-Lefournier published an article in the magazine La Montagne singing the praises of the sites of Mont d’Arbois and Rochebrune for skiing. She famously also commented to a hotel owner in the village that, “I think that Megève was created for skiing and skiing invented for Megève”.
Shortly after, in 1914, the village held its first skiing competition. However, it was when the wealthy Rothschild family arrived in the 1920s that skiing really took off in Megève, and along with the famous family came France’s high society, firmly establishing the village as one of the country’s most affluent and elegant ski resorts. It also draws a variety of skiers, thanks to offering everything from gentle slopes for beginners and families, through to a designated freestyle area for the experts.
However, you don’t have to be a skier or snowboarder to enjoy Megève. With its charming chalet-style architecture it’s one of the prettiest ski resorts in France, and also boasts a fantastic food scene. And despite its small size, Megève has a lot going on. Every Friday from 8am until 1pm there is a weekly market in the village centre (winter) and at Le Palais Park (from spring) where you can find and taste traditional produce and dishes.
Every Tuesday and Thursday between 3pm and 4pm you can head to the Musée du Haut Val d’Arly for a guided tour of an authentic 19th century farmhouse which shows what daily life was like at that time. Tours of the village each Tuesday also help unlock the area’s history.
In late March, the annual Megève International Jazz Festival takes place over three days. And of course, the village regularly hosts winter sports events, including Back to Back in late March, a freeski backcountry event which will see renowned international skiers showing off their tricks.
As a key destination for skiers and snowboarders, Megève offers a choice of four areas: Mont d’Arbois, Rochebrune, Le Jaillet, La Princesse. If you’re staying in town then access to one of the ski lifts, Chamois, is very central, and can be found just a few minutes walk away from many hotels, making it easier to go and pick up your ski pass in the morning. Alternatively, you can also book it online. The pass also gives you access to other resorts close to Megève and more than 400km of slopes, many of which can be accessed from Chamois via ski lifts.
Other snow day activities include ice-skating on the town’s outdoor ice rink (Place de la résistance), which is suitable for both adults and kids. There’s also an Olympic Ice Rink inside Le Palais Megève (247 Route du Palais des Sports), which might not give you the chance to skate under the stars, but it does offer plenty of space.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, then you can go sledging on La Princesse, where there is a nearly 3000m long tobogganing piste; watch out for the twists and turns. You can also sign up for a few hours of dog-sledding, and a let a team of huskies pull you across the snowy mountains, or book a lesson to learn how to drive the sleigh if you fancy trying it out yourself.
For a more leisurely day there are also hiking and snowshoeing routes along many of the slopes (just follow the signs), with breathtaking views and plenty of restaurants to stop off at along the way. If you pop into the Tourist Office (70 Rue Mgr Conseil) in the town centre, they have information about all of Megève’s winter activities.
For a central location, it’s hard to beat the boutique design hotel M de Megève (15 Route de Rochebrune), which is within easy walking distance of the main square, shops and restaurants. This five-star address has put its own contemporary spin on chalet-style, combining traditional wood panelling and faux-fur throws with sleek light fittings and a modern colour palette of deep grey and bright orange. Facilities include a well kitted out spa area, which includes a pool big enough to swim in, a large whirlpool bath, sauna, steam room, and treatment rooms, along with two restaurants, one with a menu designed by two-Michelin star chef Édouard Loubet, and a cosy bar.
If you’ve come to Megève for peace, tranquillity and cosy chalet style, then consider checking in to Le Chalet Zannier (367 Route du Crêt). This luxurious property can be found perched a hill a ten-minute walk outside of the town centre, offering guests a peaceful setting and unspoilt views over the snow-topped fir trees. It has its own restaurant, La Ferme de Mon Père, which serves up locally sourced, seasonal dishes, and an atmospheric subterranean spa with organic beauty treatments. Other extras which make this an address worth splashing out on include a roaring fire in each room, a delicious and complimentary goûter every afternoon (the French equivalent of afternoon tea), and a free on-demand shuttle service so you are only ever a two-minute drive away from the action of the village.
If you prefer old-fashioned charm, then the Hôtel Chalet Saint Georges (159 Rue Mgr Conseil) has bags of it. The hotel’s owners have painstakingly tracked down antiques from the Savoie region and Austria to create their authentic chalet-style décor and individually decorate each room. The hotel’s down-to-earth restaurant, La Table du Trappeur, has a menu as homely as the décor, serving up comfort foods such as tartiflette (made with potatoes, reblochon cheese, lardons and onions) and large shots of after-dinner génépi (the local herb-infused liqueur).
Restaurants & Bars
After a day out on the slopes, you’ll probably be in the mood for something hearty, and if for you that means melted cheese, then Les Grands Crus de Fondues (15 Route de Rochebrune) is a must. The stylish restaurant, which belongs to hotel M de Megève, has a delicious selection of locally sourced cheeses allowing you to create your own personalised fondue with your perfect combination of flavours. The restaurant’s resident cheese expert Thomas Lecomte will be on hand to help you make your selection (his own personal favourite is the traditional combination of beaufort and abondance, with some comté added in for extra flavour) and to recommend what you should pair with the cheese; the pineapple and raspberries are a surprisingly tasty option, and the cepes mushrooms are so good you might want to order extra.
The most famous restaurant in Megève is undoubtedly Flocons de Sel (1775 Route du Leutaz), the three-Michelin star institution (and hotel) headed up by Emmanuel Renaut. But not only is a three-star establishment not within budget for most of us, it’s also not in Megève’s centre, and lies a ten-minute drive out of town. If you want to sample some of Renaut’s recipes, and without needing to take a car, then book a table at his bistro, Flocons Village (75 Rue Saint-François). You won’t find any Michelin stars here, but you will find fine dining, fantastic service, and decent three-course and two-course menus. If you’re still dreaming of Flocons de Sel, then opt for one of the desserts by the restaurant’s pastry chef Aurélie Collomb-Clerc.
Megève might be home to many Michelin star restaurants (the town holds an impressive seven stars), but you can dine simply here, and very well on a much more modest budget, if you know where to go. Chez Olivia (18 Impasse du Chamois) is a cute little spot for savoury galettes (made with buckwheat flavor) and sweet crêpes (the thin French pancakes served toppings such as Nutella). The largest is the Savoyard, which comes with the all the ingredients of a tartiflette and makes for a filling lunch.
For people-watching, snag a table on the terrace of Le Bistrot de Megève (76 Rue Charles Feige), one of the hottest restaurants in town boasting a prime location right in the centre. It might be a fashionable address but the food is also very good; think hearty portions of fondue, raclette, tartiflette, as well as some lighter Mediterranean dishes if you need a break from all the cheese.
If you prefer a more down-to-earth vibe, then Bar-Tabac Saint–Paul (43 Place Saint-Paul) is the bar where the locals drink. Order a pint and prop up the bar in this friendly and historic tavern (look out for the black and white photo near the bathrooms which shows the bar-tabac as it used to be), or head over to catch some winter sports on the TV.
For a party vibe, The Roof Top Bar at the Grand Hôtel du Soleil d’or (255 Rue Charles Feige) is the only rooftop terrace in town, and serves up cocktails and champagne with a panoramic view of the town.
The best boulangerie (bakery) in town is arguably Le Fournil De Megève (5 Route de Rochebrune and 38 quai Prieuré). It supplies many of Megève’s most prestigious restaurants (including those at M de Megève and Le Chalet Zannier) with its artisan loafs, and also sells delicious fresh sandwiches and bags of le glaçon de Megève, which is a circular-shaped praline coated with a fine meringue, created 110 years ago in Megève. You can also try here a brioche de Saint-Genix, a traditional brioche not from Megève but from a small town in the Savoie region (called Saint-Genix-sur-Guiers) which is studded with praline rose (pink sugar-covered nuts).
No trip to the mountains is complete without a steaming mug of hot chocolate, and so with this in mind, the new Grand Hôtel du Soleil d’or (255 Rue Charles Feige) recently opened its doors with its very own chocolaterie. With a log fire and plenty of blankets and throws, it’s a cosy setting to warm up with a rich cup of hot chocolate from Paris’ master chocolate maker, Jean-Paul Hévin, which is freshly prepared and whisked right in from of your eyes. If you want to drink it the traditional way, ask to add a boozy kick of chartreuse to your chocolate, or if you’d like to enjoy a goûter, there are plenty of delicious homemade cakes on offer.
As one of France’s chicest ski resorts, Megève naturally caters for those looking for equally chic attire; just wander down the main street of Rue Charles Feige to spot the likes of Hermès, Fusalp, and Moncler. However, it’s also a great destination for foodies, with many épiceries in town showcasing a selection of Savoyard produce.
The family-owned L’épicerie des Fermes (28 Rue Saint-François) not only offers a great selection of local charcuterie and cheeses (look out for beaufort, reblochon, and abondance) but you can also pick up fresh produce if you want to cook at home and international products from around Europe, although expect to pay extra for them here.
L’épicurie Megève (20 Rue Saint-Jean) has a good selection of Savoyard products, including wine, génépi and organic beer from Megève. Not only can staff advise you on what to choose, particularly if you’re after a bottle of lesser-known Savoyard wine (which is not particularly famous in France) but pop in on a Saturday and you’re likely to find a dégustation (tasting) taking place where you can try a selection of drinks, cheeses, and other products.
If you’re looking for something sweeter, La Boutique aux Chocolats (176 Rue Charles Feige) has been offering delectable artisan chocolates since 1963. Run by Caroline Vouillon and Françoise Legon (and originally founded by Caroline’s grandfather), the pair still make every chocolate by hand, including classics like caramel and praline and specialties that blend local ingredients such as chartreuse with rich dark chocolate.