For our winter sports, we recently stayed in Brides-les-Bains, located at the foot of France’s Les 3 Vallées. However, this village is not known as a winter sports destination. It is, however, known for its thermal spa and wellness facilities, as well as for its various summer options, such as hiking, mountain climbing, cycling, and golf. Nevertheless, many winter sports enthusiasts choose Brides-les-Bains as a base for their snow holidays. Indeed, the Savoy village is an inexpensive and ideally located alternative to the higher-end ski resorts in Les 3 Vallées. Each day they take the comfortable gondola to Méribel, in the heart of the largest ski area in the world. In this blog, we describe why staying in Brides-les-Bains is an excellent idea for both summer and winter.
In this blog ...
- The history of Brides-les-Bains in a nutshell
- Brides-les-Bains as a winter destination in Les 3 Vallées
- Brides-les-Bains as a summer destination in the French Alps
- Spas and wellness in thermal spa Brides-les-Bains
- Answers to practical questions about staying in Brides-les-Bains
- Other topics you may be interested in
The history of Brides-les-Bains in a nutshell
Brides-les-Bains has a long history dating back to Roman times. The Romans were the first to discover the thermal springs of Brides-les-Bains. They enjoyed using them thanks to their medicinal properties.
In the 19th century, Brides-les-Bains grew into a popular wellness destination. Luxurious spas and extensive wellness facilities arrived, attracting visitors from all over Europe. The thermal baths and spas became a central part of the village. They played a crucial role in the growth of tourism in the region.
In 1982, Brides-les-Bains served as an Olympic village during the Albertville Winter Olympics. The village offered accommodation and facilities for the athletes participating in the Games. Brides-les-Bains’ easy accessibility via the Eurostar from London and the cable car connection to Méribel made it an ideal location.
Brides-les-Bains as a winter destination in Les 3 Vallées
Staying in Brides-les-Bains is a good idea if you want to do winter sports in Les 3 Vallées for several reasons. For one, Brides-les-Bains offers affordable accommodation, making it an attractive choice for price-conscious skiers. Brides-les-Bains also serves as a convenient home base from which you can easily reach the ski resorts in Les 3 Vallées. You can reach the slopes of Méribel after just a short 22-minute ride on the Olympe gondola.
Other winter activities from base Brides-les-Bains
For skiing or boarding, you’ll have to head out to the ski resorts of Les 3 Vallées. But there are other winter activities you can do – provided there is snow – directly from Brides-les-Bains.
One of these is snowshoeing, something we have done many times now. We continue to find this a wonderful way to enjoy the most beautiful winter landscapes in an active manner. In the immediate vicinity of Brides-les-Bains, there are many routes suitable for any skill or fitness level. Detailed information on the routes, including duration, altitude difference and starting points, can be found in the snowshoe hiking guide, as well as on the hiking page of Brides-les-Bains’ official website. You can hire the snowshoes themselves for €6-8 in the village from Intersport (there are a few branches).
Another winter activity is cross-country skiing. Admittedly, there are no cross-country skiing trails in Brides-les-Bains. But just 10 minutes away by car, you can go to Bozel for this form of winter sports for free. All you need are cross-country skis, but those are easy to rent in the village. More information can be found on the Bozel website.
Soothe your muscles after your winter activity
What we personally really liked about our winter stay in Brides-les-Bains is the Grand Thermal Spa. After a wonderful but fairly tiring day on the long skis, we were able to relax in the thermal waters of the centre. We will go into a little more detail on this later in this blog.
Brides-les-Bains as a summer destination in the French Alps
In summer, the area around Brides-les-Bains lends itself exceptionally well to beautiful walks and hikes in unspoilt nature. You’ll find opportunities anyway in the nearby Vanoise National Park, where we’ve had some fantastic hikes before. Or in Les 3 Vallées. But closer to the village you can also find many beautiful hiking trails, varying in length and difficulty. You will find a dozen walks at the bottom of the page on the official Brides-les-Bains website.
Biking around Brides-les-Bains
Besides fantastic hiking trails, the area around Brides-les-Bains offers a unique and picturesque landscape for cyclists. Both for (inexperienced) mountain bikers and (experienced) cyclists. With a range of routes and activities, it is the perfect base for an unforgettable cycling holiday in the mountains.
For those a little less experienced in mountain cycling, Brides-les-Bains offers:
- Accessible cycling trails. There are several trails and routes in the area for relaxed mountain biking while enjoying beautiful views and the natural environment.
- Use of electric or hydrogen-powered bikes. For those who prefer to cycle with less physical effort, there are opportunities to rent electric or hydrogen-powered bikes.
- Advisory and guided group rides. In Brides-les-Bains, there are rental points and organised group activities, including group rides with experienced local guides. You can then explore the area in comfort.
Are you an experienced cyclist looking for a bit more of a challenge? The area also serves as the perfect starting point for conquering legendary Alpine passes. Like the Col de la Loze: an iconic and challenging climb that commands respect from professional cyclists and amateur cyclists alike. With gradients of up to 23% and an average gradient of 7.7%, this climb is a serious challenge! Other famous climbs in the area can be found at Iseran, Petit Saint Bernard, Cormet de Roselend and Madeleine. On Komoot, you will find nine cycling routes for different levels.
After a day of cycling, you can enjoy a wonderful massage and thermal baths to relax and unwind tired muscles.
Golfing near Brides-les-Bains
Brides-les-Bains is also a perfect base for some stunning golf courses:
Méribel Golf Club
Less than 20 kilometres from the spa town is the Méribel Golf Club. This golf course is one of Europe’s finest mountain golf courses. Located at almost 1,700 metres above sea level, the 18-hole course offers a beautiful terrain with greens, fairways, water basins and bunkers. Open from early June to late October, this par 71 course is both physically challenging and technical. But accessible to amateurs and professional golfers alike.
Courchevel Golf Club
A short distance from Brides-les-Bains is Courchevel‘s 9-hole course, which offers stunning views of Lac de la Rosière. Playable from late June to October, this technical course offers great opportunities to improve your golfing skills due to its layout.
Located below the Grande Motte glacier, Tignes golf course offers a wonderful golfing experience for avid golfers like us. With 18 beautiful holes, this highest golf course in Europe offers unparalleled views of Lake Tignes and the picturesque surroundings of the French Alps. The course is open from late June to early September.
Spas and wellness in thermal spa Brides-les-Bains
Brides-les-Bains is internationally known for its thermal baths and their beneficial effects. The village’s wellness centres offer a range of treatments, from soothing massages to multi-day detox and slimming treatments. The first-class facilities include steam rooms, saunas, pools, Jacuzzis and relaxation rooms that make for a particularly pleasant retreat. The spas offer various treatments, such as massages, facials and body wraps, tailored to individual needs.
We did not do any spa treatments ourselves. We were, however, very grateful for the Grand Spa Thermal. After a wonderful but tiring day on the slopes, our visit to the spa was a blessing. To be perfectly honest, I am not usually much into spas, unlike my wife. So I was surprised that we spent several hours there without even realising it. We were especially fond of the jacuzzi and the many beautifully designed steam rooms. So reinvigorating.
Answers to practical questions about staying in Brides-les-Bains
Brides-les-Bains is located at the foot of Les 3 Vallées in Savoie, fairly close to the famous Vanoise national park. The quickest way to reach the village is by plane by flying direct to Chambéry. Here you take the train to Moutiers-Salins-Brides-les-Bains in just over an hour. Then it's just a good ten minutes to Brides-les-Bains by shuttle or taxi. Another option is to get a rental car in Chambéry.
A more comfortable alternative that is also better for the environment is the train. In just over four hours, you can be in Moutiers-Salins-Brides-les-Bains from Paris.
For us personally, the least interesting option is private car. Comparatively speaking, you're in for a long time and spend a fair amount of money on fuel and tolls. In addition, the car - unless you drive electric - is more damaging to the environment than the train. If you are with a party of more than two, this option does make the most financial sense.
You can't ski in Brides-les-Bains itself. However, the village is a perfect home base from which you can reach Les 3 Vallées by gondola in no time. Many winter sports enthusiasts stay in Brides-les-Bains because it is a lot cheaper and quieter than the higher-end ski resorts of Les 3 Vallées.
Brides-les-Bains in itself is not very special. It is, however, a place with good facilities and well-priced, comfortable accommodation. You will also find a truly fantastic wellness centre and spas. There are also regular festivals and bands performing which definitely adds to the atmosphere. Otherwise, Brides-les-Bains is mainly home to active holidays in the surrounding mountains. Both in winter and in summer. You can reach Méribel, the heart of Les 3 Vallées, in just 22 minutes by gondola. And in barely half an hour by car, you are in the Vanoise, France's oldest national park, in summer.
Brides-les-Bains is mainly known as an attractively priced base for a winter sports holiday in Les 3 Vallées. Or for a wonderful outdoor holiday in the summer season. In addition, Brides-les-Bains is a well-known spa and wellness resort, with several spas and other wellness facilities.
It sure is! Although you can't ski or board in Brides-les-Bains, you can rent skis, a snowboard or other equipment. This can be done at several shops in the village. We hired our ski equipment from Intersport. There are quite a few branches of this sports store chain in Brides-les-Bains. We hired the equipment from the shop right by the gondola. Friendly and extremely helpful staff who fortunately also speak English. The handy thing about this branch is that you can store your rental gear there, too.
In Brides-les-Bains, you can generally eat out well at affordable prices. You will mainly find local Savoyard cuisine, including fondue, tartiflette and raclette. Admittedly, for Michelin-worthy restaurants, you should mainly be in Méribel and especially Courchevel. But also in Brides-les-Bains we had some really delicious meals a few times. At La Table du Golf, for instance, we were introduced to no fewer than four different raclettes. And we really enjoyed the cheese fondue in the very cosy Le "Bis "trop Savoyard. Find a list of the best restaurants in Brides-les-Bains here.
In the relatively small, compact Brides-les-Bains, there are a surprising number of accommodation options. From flats, studios and hotels, to atmospheric chalets, there is something for every taste and budget! By the way, we stayed at the Grand Hôtel des Thermes, right next to the Grand Spa Thermal. Not a very special accommodation but comfortable and affordable.
At the invitation of l’Office du tourisme de Brides-les-Bains and Les 3 Vallées, we stayed in Brides-les-Bains and visited the ski area of both Courchevel and Méribel. We compiled the content of the blog independently and objectively based on our own impressions.