History of Chamonix

The first information about the existence of the settlement dates back in 1091, when the entire valley was given conveyed by the count of Genevois in favour of St. Michel Benedectine House. Seven centuries later, its inhabitants bought their freedom from the priests of Sallanches who had inherited the valley.

In 1741, two English aristocrats, Windham and Pococke discovered the Chamouny valley (which became Chamonix in 1916), during their expedition to the Sea of Ice (Mer de Glace). The two then published a travel journal where they presented the wonders of the visited places as well as data about the inhabitants of the area, mostly farmers. The descriptions caused a wave of curiosity among the personalities of the time who began exploring the area in their turn. Thus, towards the end of the 18th century, no less than 1,500 tourists were visiting the valley during the summer. The hotel industry grew sufficiently along with the erection in 1816 of the first luxury establishment of the area - Hotel de l'Union - followed by La Courrone and Le Royal.

But the true touristic development of the town of Chamonix began with the occurrence of roads and railways, which allowed the access of visitors during the harsher winter conditions. The climax was the railway of St. Gervais Le Fayet - Chamonix, inaugurated in 1901, which allowed the European tourists the necessary freedom of movement for practising the winter sports, especially skiing, promoted at the end of the 19th century by doctor Payot.

Thus, the resort knew a rapid touristic development in the ensuing years, and the fact that Chamonix organized the first Winter Olympics in 1924 only brought an extra fame to the valley at the foot of Mont-Blanc. Nowadays, the resort hosts over 5 million tourists every year, benefiting from over 60,000 lodging places, most of the inhabitants in the area living off tourism.

Chamonix Mont Blanc