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If you’re planning a trip to Chambéry, France, this post will help prepare you for what there is to see, do, eat and drink in this historically intriguing Alpine town that is often overlooked by tourists to the area.
This small city of around 50,000 inhabitants is located in eastern France, at the foot of the French Alps, between the Chartreuse and Massif des Bauges regional parks. It’s a historically important city with plenty of things to do for visitors, including architecture, culinary delights and many museums to stroll through.
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Where is Chambéry, France
This small city of around 50,000 inhabitants is located in eastern France, at the foot of the French Alps, between the Chartreuse and Massif des Bauges regional parks. It’s an attractive city with plenty of things to do for visitors, including architecture, culinary delights and many museums to stroll through.
How to Get to Chambéry
If you’re flying internationally, I recommend flying into Geneva Airport and either renting a car to drive yourself to Chambéry, taking a train or booking a taxi.
Chambéry is a 92 kilometers by car from the Geneva airport. It will take a little over an hour to drive it, unless it’s a heavy traffic day. You will pass by the charming town of Annecy on the way, which I highly recommend checking out.
The train is a great option. You will have to make one transfer in Geneva, and then the train goes directly to the Chambéry train station. The most luxurious way is to take a private car directly which is 1 hour 20 minutes, non-stop.
What’s it Like in Chambéry?
One thing is for sure, Chambéry has as much of an Italian feel as a French one, seeing as the city was only annexed by France in the 19th century.
The little bit of my heart that is Italian skipped a beat when I knew I was heading to Chambéry, the former capital of the region of Savoia, home to the Duke of Savoia. In 1860, the capital was transferred to Torino and, after the Unification of Italy, the whole region was ceded to the French.
You may also feel that this town has seen its fair-share of political intrigue. Secret passageways and hidden alleys abound. Duck into this one and then that and you can shake whoever is following you.
Things aren’t always what they seem in Chambéry. The city had a penchant for trompe-l’oeil and the best example of it in France is in St. Francis de Sales Cathedral. Almost everywhere you look, nothing is real.
All the plaster-work on the ceiling, the marble columns, the statues in the niches, and the construction in the cathedral are all painted to fool the eye. I wandered around with my eyes on a ceiling that wasn’t really there – yet there was a ceiling, but it was all trompe-l’oeil. It’s difficult to describe, but wonderful to experience. The town is also filled with windows and doors that aren’t really there.
What to Do in Chambéry, France
The Cypriot and I love wandering around a market. I believe it’s the best way to feel like a local. In Chambéry, it’s possible to fill up on loads of saucisson and Reblochon cheese, among other local specialties, at the Chambéry Market.
Chambéry is the land of Beaufort and Tomme da Savoie cheeses, as well as nougat and the Savoy cake, invented in 1358, so be sure to look for those specialties throughout the market.
To cut the cake, you will need the Opinel – the famous folding knife invented in Chambéry in the 1890’s – make sure to check in your bag if you want to take one home with you.
If you love Chambéry Market, you will also adore Annecy Market, so try and make time for both cities!
The Holy Chapel of the Palace of the Dukes of Savoy
The Savoia may have absconded with the holiest relic of them all when they moved to Turin, but don’t despair. The Holy Chapel of the Palace of the Dukes of Savoy contains a life-size copy of the Shroud of Turin (via Chambéry). If you are a real fan, make sure you stop at the Hotel de Princes in town, originally a convent where the first shroud was kept.
I was led on a private tour and I loved it. You can do the same – I would start with the Private Walking Tour of Chambéry Historical Center, which is only two hours and includes a walk around the Chateau. I also loved Lake Bourget, so I might add From Chambéry: Medieval Village and Lake Bourget Day Trip as well. You spend the whole day exploring a medieval village and a gorgeous ride on the largest lake in France!
What to Eat & Drink in Chambéry
You cannot go thirsty in Chambéry – the city of Dolin Vermouth. For over 200 years, Dolin had been making fortified wine in Savoie Mont Blanc.
The two Carthusian monks, who are permitted to know the secret recipe, are churning out Chartreuse and everyone in town is making the local liqueur, Génépi.
For all of you who are keeping off the alcohol, try hometown 1883 syrups in your fizzy water.
If you want to learn more about the wines of this area, check out my post on Savoie Mont Blanc wines.
You know you have to have a chocolate sooner or later in the town the invented the truffle. Invented by M. Dufour in 1895, the truffle came to be when he mixed some cream, vanilla and chocolate together. Who knew something so simple would take the world by storm?
Make sure you hit Cedric Pernot, not only to try his to-die-for chocolates and ice cream, but also to visit the store itself. It’s in the oldest shop in town “Au Fidèle Berger” and has been a patisserie since it opened in 1832!
Where to Shop in Chambéry
One fabulous store carried everything – La Ruche. Not only is it a one-stop shop for all things Chamberoise, but it’s also a bike repair shop, coffee house and restaurant.
The Tour de France passes through Chambéry every year and the town has become a cyclists’ haven. Finally they have a spot to cool down and caffeine up, while waiting for their bike to be fixed.
Where to Stay in Chambéry
Here are a few hotels I can recommend in the luxury range:
- Petit Hôtel Confidentiel – Elected best hotel in France in 2017, 2018 and 2019 – this is the only luxury place in town!
- Le Chateau de Candie – a delightful chateau out of town a bit.
Or book one you like in Chambéry on Booking.com
Best Bits to leave you with
You might just leave, like I did, with a suitcase filled with Savoie treats. Even though Chambéry isn’t often considered as a top tourist destination when visiting France, you will want to be back in every season to see how it changes.
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NB: I was the guest of the Savoie-Mont-Blanc Tourism Board and I can’t thank them enough.
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