Haute Savoie / France
For a small Alpine village, St Martin de Belleville packs a big punch as a holiday destination. As a gateway to the Trois Vallées, it sits on the edge of the largest winter sports domain in the world, with fast access to Val Thorens, Courchevel and Meribel.
And when it comes to eating out, many of the village’s former barns and farmhouses have become fine dining restaurants - including the three Michelin-starred La Bouitte, which also has its own spa!
Another thing St Martin de Belleville can offer, which is lacking in the bigger resorts, is peace and quiet. At the end of an exhilarating day in the mountains, you’ll return to your holiday rental in a peaceful farming community - there is a good selection of bars and restaurants, but if you’re looking for lively aprés-ski, you might have to look elsewhere.
This is one of the reasons families are drawn to St Martin de Belleville - that and its dedicated beginners’ area complete with magic carpets.
There’s a real sense of history to this authentic village - visit the museum or book a heritage walk to discover its evolution from farming community to ski resort.
With fast lifts ready to whisk you into the heart of the vast Trois Vallées ski area, there’s more than 600km of pistes waiting for you, just minutes from your holiday rental.
In 15 minutes, the gondola and the six-person express chair-lift will take you up to the ridge between St Martin de Belleville and Meribel. From here, you can take blues and reds back down to the village, explore the varied terrain above Les Menuires or carry on to Meribel and Courchevel. And if you’re looking to go off-piste, there’s plenty of that too, including the Vallée des Bellevilles. Why not hire a guide for the day to get the most from your holiday?
Some of the best views can be had from one of the most popular pistes in the Trois Vallées, the rolling Jerusalem, just above St Martin de Belleville.
There’s a dedicated area for beginners right next to the main lift and ski school - magic carpets and gentle nursery slopes cater for even the most cautious youngsters. When they’re ready to take the next step, head to the easy blues from the top of Tougnete, or the Grand Lac blue from the top of the Granges lift.
Here are some of our favourite things to do in St. Martin de Belleville - you’ll find the details below.
Summer or winter, a trip to Speed Mountain is always fun for the family. Children over the age of 10 can ride solo, but those as young as five can ride with an adult. You can set your own speed using the side brakes, and make sure you smile, as you’ll be offered a souvenir photo when you get to the bottom. Open in the afternoons, Sunday to Friday.
Children and adults will enjoy this day out - youngsters can make friends with the goats, chickens, horses and ponies, and the adults will enjoy trying the goats’ cheese! The farm also offers pony rides, 4x4 trips into the summer pastures to meet the goat herds and foraging lessons to find wild plants that you can cook up back at the farm.
Get away from your mobile phone, email and all the other trappings of the 21st century when you spend a summer night in a mountain refuge. It’s a great family adventure - you’ll have to hike there, but just imagine waking up with nothing around you but the mountains and nature. Choose your route and your refuge, book ahead, travel light and check the weather conditions before you set off.
Every wondered how the pistes are pristine, ready and waiting for skiers every morning? Now you can find out - and be part of it! Take a one-hour ride on a dameuse, or piste basher, and get a mountain-style aperitif thrown in!
Set in an old farmhouse, the museum of St Martin de Belleville will show you how this beautiful farming valley evolved, via its first lifts, to the ski resort you see today. Entry is €5, or free for the under 16s. A great distraction on a rainy day.
You don’t need any experience of climbing to conquer the mountains when you try via ferrata - a sort of vertical hike around cliff faces on wire trails. It’s all totally safe as you’re attached to the rocks by a wire harness. There are two via ferrata trails near St Martin de Belleville - try La Lavassay for beginners or Le Cochet for those with a bit more experience. The Bureau de Guides offers guided tours.
Get away from all the action and find a totally different perspective on the mountains from a paraglider. There are a variety of different packages to suit your needs, and you’ll fly with a pilot, so there’s no need for any experience. Contact the tourist office, who will put you in touch with a provider.
If you don’t mind getting wet, there’s so much fun to be had on the Isere river. White water rafting, hydrospeed, canyoning and canorafting are just some of the adventures waiting for you on the water. And with the supervision of the Bureau des Guides, you’ll be in good hands.
Many of the hotels in St Martin de Belleville have spas where you can enjoy a day of total relaxation, perhaps with a treatment or two thrown in. Why not try the 5* Hotel La Bouitte, where you can relax in the spa or take advantage of a whole range of treatments. Even the children can experience a treatment or two from the Little Marmots menu. The Aquafun and Wellness centre at Les Bruyeres has a great leisure pool area as well as hammams, saunas and jacuzzis, as well as treatments and an aqua club for youngsters.
Discover the history of St Martin de Belleville and nearby Villarenger on a historical trail around the towns. You can do these unguided walks in your own time - just stop in to the tourist office to pick up the route.
La Bouitte (Saint Marcel, 73440, Les Belleville, tel +33 4 79 08 96 77) There is no shortage of wonderful places to eat in St Martin de Belleville, but if you really want to push the boat out, there’s only way to do it. La Bouitte, run by father and son team, René and Maxime Meilleur, has three Michelin stars, so you know you’re going to get exceptional food. What you may be more surprised by is the friendly, unpretentious welcome you’ll get from the staff, who go out of their way to make you feel relaxed. Choosing from the menu is difficult, so why not let the chef decide and choose the surprise menu - you can opt for three, four, five or eight courses, all of which can be expertly paired with wine, should you wish. Prices start at €179 for three courses, up to €345 for eight courses. If you can, leave some room for the cheese ‘trolley’ - 40 cheeses all from Savoie or Haute Savoie. Children under 10 can try Sarpecot’s dinner, a €59 menu designed specifically for them.
Le Montagnard (rue des Places, 73440, Les Belleville, tel +33 4 79 01 08 40) This cosy mountain restaurant is only small, so make sure you book in advance if you want to try their delicious pork, served with apple, bacon and polenta, or the 64C egg, served with spinach, bacon and a truffle cracker. The restaurant was started in a former barn in the 90s by cheese farmer Eric Suchet, who has now been joined by his son Valentin. It’s very much a family affair, decorated with heirlooms and photographs. And the service they provide will make you feel like one of the family too - definitely worth a visit.
Simple et Meilleur (Place de Notre Dame Quartier Caseblanche, tel +33 4 86 80 02 91) This popular bistro next to the main lift in St Martin comes from the La Bouitte father and son team. You can ski right up to the door in winter, making it a great stop for lunch. Tapas are offered on the ground floor, with a more traditional French menu in the dining room upstairs. There’s also a takeaway menu if you’d rather head back to your chalet. Although the dishes may be more simple, and the prices lower than the Michelin-starred restaurant, the passion for local food remains the same.
La Marmite (Immeuble le Belleville Quartier des Bruyères, 73440 Les Menuires, tel +33 4 79 00 74 75) It’s worth heading to Les Menuires for a fondue or a pizza at this charming mountain restaurant. For a really fun evening with the kids or a romantic dinner a deux, why not book one of their telecabines? They are safely on the ground now, but offer a totally private table and a special menu. There’s also a Savoyard buffet, where you can eat as much as you like for €25 (half price for children).
Le Corbeleys (Lieu-dit Saint Marcel, 73440, tel +33 4 79 08 95 31) This mountain restaurant is run by a brother and sister in the chalet built by their great-grandparents. Accessible by gondola from St Martin, it’s open five days a week (closed Saturdays and Mondays). The menu offers a good choice of Savoyard specialities as well as burgers, pasta etc, and portions are generous. There’s a sunny terrace with fabulous views, as well as a cosy dining room for colder days.
Chez Pepe Nicolas (Between Les Menuires et Val Thorens Piste de La Chasse, 73440, tel +33 6 09 45 28 35) This authentic mountain restaurant isn’t easy to find, but when you book your table, you can also book a free taxi service to pick you up and take you back after your meal. The restaurant is part of an open farm, where you can help out with the milking, watch cheese being made or just mingle with the animals. As you’d imagine, the farm’s produce features heavily on the menu. The decor is Savoyard style, bordering on the kitsch, but if it takes your fancy, there’s also a shop where you can buy everything you need to recreate it at home.
You’ll find the usual selection of ski hire and sports shops in St Martin de Belleville, as well as a great village bakery, Patisserie de Rissole, where you can pick up your morning croissants and baguettes, as well as a tempting selection of pastries and cakes. For local produce, head next door to Au Coin des Producteurs, for cheeses, charcuterie, jams and chocolates, as well as a good range of wines. La Boucherie de Christophe has a similar selection, as well as fresh local meat. There’s also a small supermarket for your daily essentials, and several gift and craft shops for those souvenirs to take home.
Bus - Free shuttle buses run every day between St Martin de Belleville and Val Thorens, stopping at Les Menuires and other smaller villages.
Car - If you’re travelling by car, there is free parking in the village, although this is restricted near the shops - you’ll need to pick up a free parking disc from the tourist office.
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