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Chamonix or Annecy?

Our family (with 2 kids, 10 yrs and 13 yrs) are traveling to Lausanne for Thanksgiving weekend. My itinerary currently looks like this: Thurs-arrive in Geneva, drive to Lausanne; Fri-drive to Gruyers for chocolate factory tour and maybe cheese factory visit; drive to Montreux for Chateau Chillon and have dinner that evening with friends in Geneva; Sun-visit Chamonix or Annecy.

Questions: is driving better than taking trains? Right now it is a cheaper option, and it's a little easier for our kids. Is it easy to drive to France for the day? Also, is it worth going to Chamonix at this time of year? The lift is closed, so we would just be looking around the town, and possibly hiking a little if it isn't raining. Maybe we should do Annecy and dinner in Geneva on Sat to minimize driving, and save Montreux for Sunday. Any other thoughts?

Posted by
118 posts

We just went to this region this summer with our son. I would highly recommend Annecy over Chamonix. We enjoyed Chamonix but Annecy was our favorite stop on our trip.

Posted by
5253 posts

Amanda,
My daughter and I stayed in Chamonix and in Annecy for a few days. We enjoyed both towns but Annecy became our favorite place.
We were there in May and the lake was so beautiful, however, I don’t know what the weather is like in November.

Please let me know if you want recommendations for good places to eat if you decide to visit Annecy.
We enjoyed a place with great pizza and another with delicious crepes.
You must also try the delicious gelato at Glacier des Alps!

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1824 posts

I’ve enjoyed both but Annecy was just a lunch stop for a few hours. If the weather is nice I would rather be in Chamonix. But I’m partial to mountains vs. lakes.

If you’re driving, why not decide when the time approaches? Check the weather and head for whatever sounds good given the forecast.

Posted by
7051 posts

I agree with Rocket, if it's not going to be an overnight but just a day trip then you don't have to decide until the day of and let the weather be your guide. I personally have not been to Chamonix but I love the mountains - all mountains - and I love mountain resort towns, adored Zermatt. But having said that, I wouldn't go there if the weather is socked in and you can't even see the mountains; and as you said the lift is closed, which to me would be the main draw. I loved Annecy, spent 2 days there, and I think it would be better than Chamonix if the weather is not clear.

Posted by
692 posts

The Swiss trains are outstanding but the highways are among the easiest to drive in Europe -- beware of the speed cameras, even on the surface streets. However, you might want to consider the Chocolate Train that hits both Broc (Chocolate) and Gruyeres. I've not done it, but colleagues with kids really enjoyed it - it is pricey however, and you can easily do it by car for far less money.

I agree with the others, if the weather is bad, consider Annecy instead. Driving there is very simple and most of Chamonix is closed before the ski sesaon starts. If the weather is good, I believe there are other daytrip destinations that might get you a good alpine view -- Zermatt still has the Gornergrat train and the glacier cable car open. I've never done that in late November, however.

If the weather is nice, consider a stroll in the Lavaux vinyards, with great views across the lake. The ferries from Lausanne to Evian or Vevey (or Montreux/Chillon) have some nice views.

(I used to live in Lausanne)

Posted by
322 posts

Thanks everyone. I think it's a great idea to just be flexible and decide depending on the weather. I'm not used to that because we've only driven on one European vacation-we normally take trains. But that will help us see the best option at that time. Thanks again!

Posted by
322 posts

For those of you who visited Annecy with kids: what did you do to enjoy the time there? Again considering it's the end of November, I'm finding that a lot of activities for kids seem more geared towards summer.

Posted by
27275 posts

I have no children and don't know what kind of weather to expect in November, but the two things that come to mind are a boat trip on the lake and (weather permitting) a bike ride along the lake. I assume there will be a place to rent bikes even in November. I do not know about the helmet situation, however.

In addition, the center of the town is laced with canals, so it's an interesting place to wander. I don't know how much activity there will be in November, but I can tell you that it was a madhouse in mid-summer. The pedestrian area was crammed with people, and there were some bikes, skateboards and a few roller-bladers in the mix as well. Less foot traffic should make for a more pleasant visit as long as the weather is acceptable.

Posted by
692 posts

The canals and narrow streets are charming and interesting, but for 10 and 13 year old kids it may get a little boring after a while. November is definitely less crowded. Also note in/near Lausanne and Geneve there are plenty of typical kid-activities in and about the urban center and some kid-friendly museums (Olympic Museum, Game Museum)

In Montreaux, there is a cog-wheel train to Rochesr-de-Naye that can be pretty interesting, for some beautiful views without a long drive. The marmots might be in hibernation. I believe there is a winter park there, too, with sledding.

Posted by
782 posts

If you get clear weather go to Chamonix otherwise Annecy has a lot to offer as other posters have stated, we spent four days in each location in May to assure us of clear weather windows for Mt Blanc.
Mike

Posted by
322 posts

Thanks again for the help and advice. We're looking forward to our trip!