Let’s face it – it’s hard not to be considered a beautiful village when you’re in view of the dramatic Eiger or neighbors with a crystalline glacial lake. Yet, these 10 Alps towns have gone a step further, with their medieval architecture, adorable old towns, and gingerbread chalets.
Mountain Travel Sobek has selected the 10 most picturesque Alpine villages, ranging from Swiss hamlets nestled in lush valleys under captivating waterfalls, to relaxed Italian ski resorts where you stroll down stone-paved lanes to reach the ski lift. Here’s how to explore them.
Far more than the glitz and glamour for which its après-ski scene is known, the town of Chamonix earns its reputation as one of the Alps’ most soul-stirring towns. This long-time winter sports hub (it first came on the scene during the 1924 Winter Olympics) sits at the base of Mont Blanc, the highest summit in the Alps.
- Whether you’re a snowsports enthusiast or a sightseer, adventure awaits by way of six ski areas (and the near-mythical, off-piste La Vallée Blanche run). Choose any ski area in the mountain range you wish to sightsee in! There’s abundant access to hiking and biking trails in the summer.
- There’s a cable car that launches you to more than 12,600 feet high on the Mont Blanc massif.
How to visit Chamonix? Join the 10-day Alps Village to Village Hiking Tour.
With its iconic fin-shaped summit, the Matterhorn defines Zermatt, a town first brought to international attention when English explorer Edward Whymper climbed Switzerland’s highest peak. Today, don your designer outerwear and get ready for the best views around.
- Choose from the car-free town’s cable cars, chair lifts or adrenaline-inducing Gornergrat Behn, the highest open-air railway on the continent, to take in the surrounding Alps and the storybook village below.
- A preferred time to go is nighttime when the town lights up like a magical snow globe.
How to visit Zermatt? Join the 7-day Alps Chamonix & Zermatt Hiking Tour.
Sitting more than 3,800 feet high in the Mont Blanc region, Les Contamines looks to have leapt off the pages of a children’s picture book.
- Trek through the charming hamlets that comprise the town, full of traditional chalets, alpine-inspired residences, and historic farmhouses that have been restored to keep with the typical Savoyard architectural style.
- The surrounding nature reserve adds to the aesthetic appeal of Les Contamines, revealing lakes, meadows, cliffs, glaciers, and abundant flora and fauna.
How to visit Les Contamines? Join the 12-day Alps Tour du Mont Blanc Hiking Tour.
If you prefer a refined Alps experience that’s as much about the actual sport of skiing as it is about its après-ski scene, head to Courmayeur in northern Italy.
- There are upscale boutiques and contemporary ski lodges aplenty, but there are also historic bars, ancient churches, labyrinthian cobblestone streets, and absolutely spectacular mountain views. In the winter, Courmayeur is all about the snowsports, whereas in summer and fall it’s a popular stopover for hikers along the famous Tour du Mont Blanc.
- If you wish, choose to whisk by cable car to Chamonix in France, if you wish, to get a double dose of Alps awe.
How to visit Courmayeur? Join the 11-day France Mont Blanc Hiking Private Adventure Tour.
Related Article: Top 7 Tips to Prepare for Hiking in the Alps
Delightfully off the beaten path, Arolla charms visitors with majestic mountain views, idyllic timber cottages bedecked with flowers in summer and blanketed in snow in the winter, and access to more hiking and skiing trails than you can imagine.
- Use the beguiling village as a jumping-off point for outdoor adventures in the Eringer Valley
- Explore Arolla at its best—from ski touring along the Haute Route (one of the world’s most famous high-altitude trails) to cross-country skiing to the Arolla glacier and Borgne River, to trekking the Col de Riedmatten alongside ibex, marmots, and chamois in the summer.
How to visit Arolla? Join the 11-day Alps Haute Route Trek Tour.
6. Aosta, Italy
Satisfying both snow enthusiasts and history buffs, the picturesque town of Aosta (August) is the valley’s capital city and one end of the Mont Blanc Tunnel.
- Stroll through the massive Porta Praetoria (the main Roman gate) and marvel at ancient fortifications, towers, and arches in the charming historic center. Then, turn your gaze to the surrounding snow-capped mountains, home to some of Europe’s best ski resorts.
- At once modern and historic, this Valdostan village has a decidedly French feel, an enticing cafe culture, and a simple, yet hearty cuisine to refuel you after a day of outdoor recreation.
How to visit Aosta? Join the 9-day Alps Tour de Monte Rosa Trek Tour.
If you’re seeking the Switzerland of postcards, look no further than Lauterbrunnen. Translating to “many fountains,” this stunning village, as you might expect, is replete with waterfalls – 72 of them, in fact. Nature lovers can enjoy the views and soak up the casual alpine ambiance of the photogenic town.
- Make sure to check out the 974-foot-high wonder, the vaporous Staubbach Falls, which served as a muse to both Goethe and Lord Byron!
- There are plenty of opportunities to hike, climb, ski, and more (the mountain railway connects Lauterbrunnen to the ski regions of Mürren-Schilthorn and Wengen-Kleine).
How to visit Lauterbrunnen? Join the 8-day Alps Eiger to Matterhorn Trek Tour.
With its 15th-century island castle perched on an emerald-green lake and some of the highest peaks of the Julian Alps as a backdrop, Lake Bled wins the award for most fairytale-like setting.
- Enticing activities woo visitors year-round, from rowing a pletna (traditional wooden boat) out onto the lake to winter hiking in Triglav National Park.
- The charming city of Ljubljana occupies an enviable lakeside location (as well as sitting on the Ljubljanica River). You can see almost everything on foot in this small city, from lively bars and cafes to art galleries and chic boutiques.
How to visit Lake Bled/Ljubljana? Join the 10-day Slovenia Julian Alps Hiking Tour.
With swoon-worthy Bernese Alps views, flower-bedecked 19th-century wooden chalets, and cows grazing in wildflower-strewn meadows, Grindelwald comes by its epic beauty quite honestly.
- This popular outdoor destination sits in the shadow of the Eiger’s north face and the eye-catching Wetterhorn, drawing skiers and hikers into its pristine natural playground year-round. While not as glitzy as Chamonix, laid-back Grindelwald knows its worth as a relaxing retreat.
- Shop for ski gear or tuck into a convivial cafe along the main street, while also taking time to take day trips to explore the historic churches and gothic domes found throughout town.
How to visit Grindelwald? Join the 8-day Alps Eiger to Matterhorn Trek Tour.
While Heiligenblut faces the highest mountain in Austria, this legendary mountain climber village doesn’t live in anyone’s shadow.
Here, at 4,265 feet above sea level, visitors have front-facing views of the 12,460-foot-tall Grossglockner and access to all the natural riches Hohe Tauern National Park has to offer.
- From Heiligenblut, hike the first stage of the long-distance Alpe Adria trail, winding your way through forests, past waterfalls, alongside glacial lakes and around exhilarating hairpin bends. Take in the views from Franz Josef Hohe, then hop on a shuttle back to the village.
- Dine heartily on local dishes featuring lamb and beef – and we mean local. The farmers in these parts tend to their herds in nearby alpine pastures that sit at 6,000 feet above sea level.
How to visit Heiligenblut? Join the 10-day Austria, Italy & Slovenia Alpe Adria Hiking Tour.