A taste of Megève, the French Alps' luxurious mountain resort

With its Rothschild heritage, Mont Blanc backdrop and slew of smart hotels serving top-notch mountain cuisine, the town of Megève is a sparkling little jewel in the French Alps.

By Nick Dalton
Published 14 Mar 2023, 16:10 GMT
A sharing board at Hotel La Ferme du Golf, Megève, France.

A sharing board at Hotel La Ferme du Golf, Megève, France.

Photograph by Sylvain Terret

The day is warm, the sky blue and we’ve just had lunch at l’Alpage de Pré Rosset, a restaurant set in an 18th-century farm building with views of Mont Blanc. The place might look rustic, but it offers a feast fit for a fine dining restaurant, with beef tartare fresh from the owners’ private herd. This is Megève: a place of contrasts, cutely Alpine but effortlessly chic. They ski hard here in the winter but make the most of the mountains in all other seasons, too. ‘Art de vivre’ they call it — the art of living.

That spirit springs to life at Grand Hôtel du Soleil d’Or, which opened in 1901 then reopened with flair in 2019. The top-floor, glass-walled bar has epic views, the sun glinting off the chandelier; downstairs is La Chocolaterie, a chateau-like saloon centred on a table loaded with sweet treats.

Megève’s elegance has long attracted the aristocracy, along with the rich and famous, from Hollywood star Jean Harlow in the 1920s to French film maker Jean Cocteau in the middle of the century, all dancing and drinking in jazz venue Club les 5 Rues, which is still swinging today.

Much of Megève’s cachet is down to one family. Just after the First World War, Noémie de Rothschild, wife of Baron Maurice de Rothschild, decamped from France to Switzerland to spend time in glossy St Moritz, and soon set about creating a similar haven in her native country, choosing Megève as her crucible. A hotel opened, followed by golf and ski lifts, in Mont d’Arbois, an area that’s still a Rothschild stronghold, now under the guidance of Baron and Baroness Benjamin de Rothschild. 

Opened in 2017, the Four Seasons Megève is an exquisite, chalet-style hotel where Baroness Ariane de Rothschild has arranged favoured pieces of art to unite with contemporary design and old-world comfort — a vast front desk here, extravagant chandeliers there. 

I dine at La Dame de Pic - Le 1920, the latest Michelin-starred venue from Anne-Sophie Pic, the French chef whose string of restaurants has garnered 10 Michelin stars worldwide, a record for a female chef. The tasting menu — five courses plus extra little treats — is a revelation, with such standouts as fish from Lake Geneva and lamb from the local mountains. It’s £215 without wine pairing but it’s the food, rather than the cost that’s unforgettable.

Fondue at La Ferme du Golf, Megève, France.

Photograph by Sylvain Terret

For a couple of nights, I stay at La Ferme du Golf, a hotel that sets impressively high standards for a three-star. Also part of the Edmond de Rothschild Heritage collection, it’s set across the road from the family’s Mont d’Arbois golf course, but this traditional chalet is far from a standard golf hotel. I enjoy VIP views across the valley and the course’s French garden landscaping from the deck where I enjoy an early morning al fresco yoga session.

Megève is no stranger to such stylish chalet living. It was here that the ski chalet as we know it was created, when the Rothschilds asked architect Henry-Jacques Le Même to design a farm-like mountain cabin but with added creature comforts and a ski boot room. His buildings from the 1920s still stand across town, while his style is perhaps most celebrated at the Au Coin de Feu hotel; his own former home is a modernist icon, something of an homage to Le Corbusier. I wander past it, shrouded by tall trees, as I follow the snaking Calvary Path from hotel to town, flanked by a 14-strong succession of 19th-century chapels that trace the Passion of Christ. Distracted only by a delectable hot chocolate on the Soleil d’Or’s terrace, I forge onwards to a more modern attraction: Le Palais, the largest sports complex in the Alps. The aquatic centre has three outdoor pools: one for children, one Olympic-sized for keen swimmers and (the most popular) one for pure lounging.

I up the ante the following day with a leisurely group e-bike tour taking in Megève’s many ups and downs. We call in on farmer Aline Contoz who, with husband Guillaume, makes reblochon and abondance cheese, which we sample accompanied by the ringing bells of cattle in the Alpine pastures. Nothing, however, can match the trill of a flight around Megève’s perennially snowy peaks. With just three fellow passengers, our light aircraft soars up from the town’s little altiport, looking down on neighbouring Chamonix, mighty Mont Blanc, and the 12-mile glacier ski run Vallee Blanc.

Far below, Megève is a web of cobbled streets lined with the likes of Hermès and Dior, and tiny stone bridges crossing a stream that, like us, eventually has to bounce down from the mountains heights. 

Back in town, across from cheese shop La Caverne des Lepinoy, I find a sculptural tribute to Jacques Revaux. Turns out it was here in Megève the French musician was inspired to co-write Comme d’Habitude, the song that became Sinatra’s My Way. Given Megeve’s inimitable class and style, this makes perfect sense. 

How to do it

Grand Hôtel du Soleil d’Or has doubles from £275, B&B. 
La Ferme du Golf has doubles from £180, B&B (two-night minimum). 
Scenic flights cost from £170. 
Half-day guided e-biking from £150. 

Published in the Alpine 2023 guide, distributed with the April 2023 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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