At 1326m, and officially Europe's highest town, Briançon has a strong identity that goes beyond winter sports, with lots of great shopping and other facilities to entice skiers and non-skiers alike.
These include several museums, one specialising in ski history; a casino, several cinemas and a theatre. Dining choices are another strong point, with around 30 restaurants to choose from including the Michelin Guide rated Le Valentin.
Briançon is linked with Serre Chevalier, the resort name for the four main villages located in a sunny south-facing valley at the foot of the most beautiful peaks in the Ecrins National Park. All are linked by 250 km of ski runs and a local bus service, and stretch between the Lautaret pass and Briançon.
There are actually 13 villages in total forming the Serre Chevalier ski network.
The three other main villages close by are Chantemerle (Serre Chevalier 1350), Villeneuve and Mônetier les Bains, which is home to the Serre Chevalier Spa which opens late until 10pm and is accessed via the shuttle system.
The old town of Briançon has a very attractive ancient centre and a long history of snow sports too, with France’s first ski school established here in 1902. As you climb above it in the gondola you’ll see laid out below you a variety of 17th century fortifications that evolved over several centuries.
Indeed many people will enjoy just wandering around the streets of Briançon and taking in the fountains, squares, sundials, the twin-towered eighteenth century church and its ancient streets complete with ‘gargouille’ - a small canal that runs down the centre of the street. The lower town is the most active area with shops, market, cafés and restaurants clustered around Rue Centrale leading to the Rond Point du Quyeras. In 2008 several buildings in the town, including its walls and fortress, were classified as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Leisure facilities include an indoor swimming pool complex incorporating an Olympic-size pool, a hot tub, massaging waterfalls, rivers, geysers, massage jets and a 65m-long giant slide. There’s also a spa section complete with sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, and relaxation solarium. Ice hockey matches featuring the local Diables Rouges de Briançon team are well worth attending.
Briançon also has a reputation for sunshine, receiving an official average of 300 days of sunny weather each year. So it’s a major outdoor activity centre year round, not just in winter, often hosting starts and finishes of stages of the Tour de France and its Italian stable-mate, the Giro d'Italia
- It’s a large ski area with mixture of wooded/open runs
- It has a good snow record and excellent sunshine conditions
- It has a friendly resort ambience
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Briancon ski facts:
- No. of slopes: 101
- Green slopes: 24
- Blue slopes: 28
- Red slopes: 37