Magical, breathtaking, magnificent from the highest peaks to the beautiful valleys, the Alps have something to offer every visitor. Skiing, snowboarding, horseback riding, summer, and winter, there is always something to do in the bucolic towns and bustling cities that connect the historical mountain ranges. Through the eastern border of France over northern Italy, in south-central Europe, the Alps cover close to 700 miles in a crescent shape from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn and more.
France is home to culture, beauty, sports, and cuisine that add pounds just from looking at it. The choices of places to visit in France are numerous but tourists lean toward Paris in the spring and summer, and Chamonix in the fall and winter. This is where the French go to set up a second home, winter chalet, or summer getaway. Chamonix is the home to the awe-inspiring Mont Blanc. The site of the 1924 winter Olympics, it is a very popular haunt for group ski holidays. Chamonix has everything for the winter visitor, Green slopes for the beginner, and seemingly never-ending off-piste for the expert skier.
There are snow schools, instructors, luxury resorts, snowboarding, and terrain for all. If it is Mont Blanc that is calling your name there is a hiking, touring, snows, and climbing for the mountain with skiing and guides. In the summer there is mountain biking, paragliding, white water rafting, rock climbing, trail running and more. Once thought of as only a winter holiday location, Chamonix is not a year-round the playground. There are museums, casinos and even classes to improve your French. This French village is ready for you and yours to explore all it has to offer all year round.
Once the seat of power, during the court of Maximillian in the 15th century, Innsbruck is the heart of the Alps with many things to do. The old town will fill you with wonderment as you explore the famous golden roofs, Baroque churches, contemporary architecture that all express the city’s culture and history. Filled with cultural diversity, Innsbruck is more than a city that hosts skiers and snowboarders. Host to both the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympic Games, the winters provide many major winter sports and activities including ski mountaineering, snowshoeing, and skating, You will not want for winter fun, but the summers will also captivate you with walking city tours, cycling, mountain biking, paragliding, hiking, shopping, festivals and more.
The Tyrol Easter Festival lasts from March 15 until March 31 and is the place to seek out the coming spring while saying goodbye to the joys of winter. The festival hosts the Easter market while highlight may customers and traditions local to Innsbruck and its history. Many of the festivals have events that last a limited time, so plan your visit to coincide with the celebration that interests. And if you miss this festival this year, just plan for next year.
Zermatt is a small bucolic village in Switzerland that is reminiscent of the lands of fairytales. This German-speaking section of Switzerland, home to the magnificent Matterhorn, welcomes all into its embrace with sports and activities all year round. In the winter the area offers a cornucopia of activities for your enjoyment. There is skiing, snowboarding, winter hiking, walking, tobogganing, curling, and snowshoeing. But it is more than these typical activities that draw visitors to Zermatt. There is a magic about this town. You will feel as if you have been transported into a world of whimsy and delight.
The nightlight, sports, shopping, local festivals, and day trips will draw you into the wonderment. The beauty of Zermatt goes beyond the expected winter fun. In the spring, Zermatt hosts the Unplugged Music Festival in April with more than 40 concerts in which the majority are free to the public. Summer brings the Drummer and Piper festival, the Raiffeisen Open Tennis Tourney, the Zermatt Marathon, and so much more including various daily activities. Beyond the slopes you can participate in summer skiing, hiking, mountaineering, climbing, mountain biking, golf, tennis, kick bikes, dirt scooters, paragliding, and fly fishing. The kick bike and dirt scooters are just what they sound like. They are off-road scooters meant for your exploration. Take a day and try the Forest Fun Park. This Tarzan-style park lets you swing from treetops and zip through the forest canopy.
In the western arch of the Alps, Torino is the small Italian city that hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics, opening its doors to the world. Turin (Torino) is also home to the Shroud of Turin and the Fiat auto company but has much more to offer. Everyone goes to Italy for Rome, Sicily, Milan, and Tuscany, but many overlook this jewel in the piedmont region. When you come to Torino, forget your diet. The region has some of the best wines, cheeses, chocolates, pastries, and well you get the idea. Make sure you try the chocolate-hazelnut sauce known as gianduja, it is a specialty of the area.
Stop in during June for the Festa di San Giovanni a festival of fireworks, and music. The chocolate festival is in March and there is a Christmas festival in December. In the summer you can also take Segway tours throughout the city as well as other activities like mountain biking, touring, and shopping. Make sure you take the time to visit Palazzo Madama. Among all the museums and tours, you will love this home of the queen nestled in luxury and royal furnishing. Don’t forget you can also go skiing and snowboarding, you are in the Alps after all.