Nicknamed the City of Dukes, Chambéry welcomes you to the heart of Savoy. It is a mountain town of 60,000 inhabitants, nestled between the Bauges and Chartreuse mountains in the northern Pre-Alps. It proudly displays a rich and fascinating history: capital of the Duchy of Savoy, disputed between France and Italy, almost destroyed during the bombings of World War II, today Chambery is a town with a remarkable population growth.
The presence of a large university, its geographical location within a region of sublime landscapes and the countless monuments that testify to the richness of its historical heritage make it an ideal destination for tourism. Charming and attractive, the city hides unique historical treasures such as its architectural heritage and gastronomic delights and attracts tourists with its exceptional environment, cultural richness and outdoor activities.
You can whizz down the snow-covered slopes of the Chartreuses massif, taste the famous and delicious raclette, admire the Chambéry castle, visit the Savoy museum or the Saint-François-de-Sales cathedral, have a drink in Place Saint-Léger and stroll through the Curial quarter.
The historical centre of Chambéry is characterised by a maze of alleyways and courtyards of private mansions. Their Piedmontese-inspired architecture, embellished with trompe-l’oeil, sculptures and decorative ironwork will leave you speechless. Nestling at the foot of the castle, the historic centre of Chambéry contains an immense and original urban fabric marked by the presence of water.
To discover the most picturesque corners of the city, just follow the elephants: on the pavement of the old town, you will find golden medallions with the effigy of small elephants, which make up a route of about 2 kilometres, lasting about 1 hour and 15 minutes, through the smallest streets and alleys of Chambéry. They will take you on a discovery tour of the city, leading you from the squares to the palaces, passing by the cathedral and the Elephant Fountain, through medieval alleys, traboules and the most peculiar ravines.
The Elephant Fountain is one of the symbols of Chambery, originally called the Boigne Column in honour of the General Count de Boigne, who had it built in 1838. To be precise, four elephants adorn the fountain at the four cardinal points, forming a Savoy cross. This is why the inhabitants of Chambéry call it ‘La Fontaine des quatre sans cul’.
The presence of the pachyderms probably evokes Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps in 218 BC. The fountain was completely renovated in 2015.
Opposite the elephant fountain, at the end of rue de Boigne and its beautiful arcades, the castle of the Dukes of Savoy is the marvel of Chambéry. It currently houses the prefecture and the departmental council of Savoy.
It consists of two distinct bodies: the medieval castle, on the city side, and the Renaissance-style building where the regional council is located. On a guided tour, you can see the castle’s imposing entrance, known as the passage de la Porterie, the Sainte-Chapelle that housed the Holy Shroud in the 16th century, the castle ramparts that offer a fabulous view of the city and the semicircular tower with its panorama of the castle and the Bauges massif. The tower also houses the Grand Carillon de Chambéry, one of the largest in the world with its 70 bells that ring regularly throughout the city.
Built in the 15th century by the Franciscans, this cathedral houses an extensive collection of trompe l’oeil paintings. The simplicity of its flamboyant Gothic façade is absolutely unique and the portal enchants visitors.
But the real marvel can be admired inside: in fact, most of the walls and the vault of the cathedral are entirely painted in trompe-l’oeil. The 6,000 square metres of painting constitute the largest collection of trompe-l’oeil in the whole of Europe. Also not to be missed is the imposing organ above the cathedral’s main entrance.
Located on the outskirts of the city, the house is the place where the famous writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau‘s personality was deeply influenced. For visitors from all over the world, it is something of a place of pilgrimage.
The calm and peaceful atmosphere of this mansion and its botanical garden will make you feel in an indescribable state of well-being. Reflecting the soul of one of the greatest writers of the French language, you will witness the themes that animated his thought: nature, romanticism, education, happiness, Enlightenment, human rights and citizenship.
The botanical garden alone is worth a visit: it has been redesigned in the style of 18th century gardens. More than 80 species are cultivated, some of them rare, and it is a haven of peace and reverie for solitary walkers.
In the former grain hall, the museum houses the largest collection of Italian works in France after the Louvre. In addition to paintings by Georges de la Tour and Jean-Honoré Fragonard, you can admire a collection of Savoy painters.
In the Hotel de Cordon, the interpretation centre presents the history of Chambéry and the city. Here, the evolution of the city over time is told, starting from the exterior and the interior of the buildings.
The Hotel de Cordon is itself representative of the panorama of wealthy families who came to settle in Chambéry to hold high positions in the Savoy administration. Admission is free.
The Eureka Gallery is the Chambéry Centre for Scientific Culture: its entertaining and interactive exhibitions aim to introduce visitors to the world of science.
Particularly interesting is the section dedicated to the mountains, which offers a fabulous journey through a realistic setting: you will plunge into the heart of an astonishing valley, discover the world of science and technology thanks to a natural laboratory dedicated to this environment.
You will go back in time to understand the formation of the mountain ranges, learn about the gigantic forces that make them rise and disappear, get to know everything that lives, flows or falls along these slopes, be amazed by the greatest technical and technological challenges of past and future centuries, and measure the fragility of this environment that reflects the problems and challenges of the 21st century.
You will have 13 interactive spaces to manipulate, play, turn, pull, press, touch, lift, using all the senses. A fabulous museum for children aged 8 and up, but also fun and interesting for adults.
This railway rotunda, unique in France, is covered with a metal vaulted roof very similar to the style of the Eiffel Tower. Accessible only by guided tour, you can discover the exceptional railway layout of Chambéry, which led to the construction of the rotunda to facilitate manoeuvring and locomotive maintenance.
Classified as a historical monument, it is regularly restored by the SNCF and is still used for the maintenance of some fifty locomotives. It owes its survival to the will of a few railwaymen. The site can only be visited by appointment and the visit is forbidden to children under 8 years of age.
The Chambery market, completely transformed, perpetuates the long tradition of popular meetings between producers and consumers in the heart of the town, with the brand new shopping block enriched by big brands, boutiques, a cinema and a completely redeveloped structure.
Local producers and retailers offer all kinds of products: butchers, bakers, cured meats, cheeses, horticulturists, confectioners, fish, restaurateurs and florists. This is an original way to discover the local soul and taste the area’s delicacies such as Tome des Bauges, the traditional cheese from the massif overlooking Chambéry, or Farou de l’Epine, the typical goat’s cheese, or the tastiest cured meats such as diots, sausages in red or white wine.
Less numerous than in Lyon, Chambéry has some picturesque traboules , the pedestrian passages that allow you to move from one street to another by crossing the inner courtyards of buildings. Get lost in its medieval alleyways, its mysterious, covered passages that once passed through the private dwellings of the notables of the House of Savoy.
Most of them radiate around Place Saint-Léger, but there are a few on the side of Rue Juiverie or Rue de Boigne . Many of these passages wind through the courtyards of private houses, which are very difficult to visit and find. If you rely on a local guide, you will be able to penetrate the most inaccessible alleys of the old town and the most difficult-to-find passages.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
This is one of the places not to be missed between Aix-les-bains and Chambéry: the tour around Lake du Bourget is a beautiful loop of about 60 kilometres to be made by car, bicycle or motorbike that leads from the city to the mountains through the beautiful village of Chanaz. About 25 km long and 3 km wide, Bourget is the largest natural lake in France.
The road is dotted with beautiful viewpoints and views. Stop at the viewpoint on the ascent to Col du Chat to admire the lake and the view of Chambéry and its mountain environment or at the chapel of Mont du Chat opposite Aix les Bains.
Also not to be missed is the bird’s-eye view from the Belvedere of Ontex and a beach break in the small south-facing village of Châtillon at the far end of the lake.
Three footbridges have been built on Mont Revard, one of which allows you to walk in the void. At an altitude of 1530 metres, this belvedere provides a view of Lac du Bourget, Aix-les-Bains, Dent du Chat and also Mont Blanc.
Nearby there is also a restaurant with a panoramic view and a take-off runway for paragliders. In autumn and winter, this attraction lends itself to magnificent sunsets, especially when a sea of clouds forms below your feet, between 1,000 and 1,400 metres above sea level.
About 40 minutes from Chambéry, in the direction of Annecy, the Gorges du Fiers are an immersion in a world of rocks, water and freshness. Since 1869, the gorges have been accessible to the public via a 252-metre-long footbridge, suspended 25 metres above the river: you can enter a spectacular, narrow canyon that meanders through the mountain.
The Croix du Nivolet is one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the area around Chambery and is located more precisely on the Dent or Pointe du Nivolet, at an altitude of 1547 metres. The view is magnificent and if the sky is clear you will be able to see the Massif de l’Epine, the Massif de la Chartreuse, the Massif des Belledonnes, the Massif de la Vanoise, Lake Bouget and of course Chambéry and Aix-les-Bains.
The easiest way to get there is via an easy walk from the Chalet des Sires (with parking) following a well-marked path that leads to the cross in 1 hour.
The Chambéry Christmas Market takes place every year in Place Saint Léger with around 40 wooden chalets and a magical atmosphere created by entertainment, music, the scent of cinnamon and mulled wine to warm the hearts of young and old alike.
The jewel in the market’s crown are the exhibitors offering typical handicrafts, gastronomy and Savoyard talents. Not to be missed is the market set up near the Elephant Fountain: here you must try the chocolate truffles, a chocolate invented in 1895 in Chambery itself, covered in cocoa powder.
Other markets are set up in Place de l’Hôtel de ville and Place Métropole, where there is also a maze of 200 fir trees, particularly suitable for children.
The historic centre is definitely the best place to find accommodation if your aim is to visit the city. You will find several hotel and flat solutions for all budgets and needs. Our advice is always to book in advance, as Chambery is a very popular location for both summer and winter tourism, dedicated to snow and skiing in the nearby mountains.
If, on the other hand, you like quiet and relaxing neighbourhoods, Jacob-Bellecombette is the place for you: almost integrated into the urban fabric of Chambery, it lies to the south of the city. Several hiking trails start here: you will find a still wild corner of nature and guesthouses offering rooms for rent at very reasonable prices.
Another alternative can be found a few kilometres west of Chambéry, in Lepin-le-Lac, a quiet Savoyard town overlooking Lake Aiguebelette. This small Savoy village has a nautical base from which it will be easy to rent a boat to discover this majestic place at the foot of the mountains. Accommodation, in the commune of Lépin, is easily found in all seasons.
The lively city of Chambery is surrounded by Alpine valleys and is quite close to the Italian border. By plane, the nearest airport is Lyon Airport, which is almost 90 km from Chambery and can be reached by various shuttle services.
What's the weather at Chambery? Below are the temperatures and the weather forecast at Chambery for the next few days.
Chambéry is in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, 108 km from Lyon and 58 km from Grenoble.