Mont Blanc from the Summit Cafe in Chamonix.
Copyright: Chamonix Tourism
Lunch on the mountain is primarily about resting the legs, refuelling and soaking up some sun before getting back out there. But once in a while it's worth spending a little more time absorbing the immensity of your surroundings, and there's no better time to do this than at lunchtime!
Here are five of the best mountain restaurants for magnificent lunchtime views:
Le 3842 Restaurant & Cafe, Chamonix, France
At the top of Europe’s highest cable car, Le 3842 Restaurant & Cafe perches on the Aiguille du Midi (3,842m) with unique views of Mont Blanc (4,808m), the Matterhorn (4,478m), Monte Rosa (4,634m) and the Grandes Jorasses (4,208m) in the foreground. Beyond are the alpine peaks of France, Italy and Switzerland. It is a good idea to stop and enjoy the views at the first station, Le Plan de l’aiguille (2,300m), on the way up as it’s pretty remarkable even from there.
Catering at almost 4,000m is a bit complicated so the full restaurant is only open in the summer. Even so there is an excellent lunch menu in winter with daily specials, regional French and Italian dishes, tartiflette, pasta, sandwiches, salads and desserts. But the real reason for the visit is the astonishing 360-degree view.
Pick your weather but bear in mind that sometimes the top is sunny above the clouds hanging over Chamonix far below. Newly opened via a short lift above the restaurant is the stomach churning ‘Step Into The Void’ – a reinforced glass box over a 1,000m drop, just in case you hadn’t fully appreciated just how high up you were already.
Typical lunch: Homemade soup of the day, gratin, pasta or bruschetta and pancakes.
Access: Take the Aiguilles du Midi cable car from the centre of Chamonix. A flight of stairs takes you to the restaurant and viewing platform. At this altitude you may find the stairs as breathtaking as the view. It is a good idea to book the night before to avoid queuing for tickets. Normally in summer the cable cars can take you on a spectacular trip across the Mer des Glaces and down to the Italian resort of Courmayeur. However they are closed for modernisation in 2014.
Step Into The Void on the Aiguille du Midi above Chamonix
Copyright: Chamonix Tourism
Ice Q, Sölden, Austria
The brand new totally contemporary all glass Ice Q restaurant is right on top of the Gaislachkogl (3,048m) next to the cable car station. From here, and the viewing gallery on the roof, you enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the Austrian Alpine scenery. The views take in the endless peaks over 3,000m from the Dolomites in the South to Zugspitze in Germany in the North. From the rooftop terrace you can walk across a suspension footbridge to the peak of the Gaislachkogl.
The new restaurant aims to be a unique alpine gourmet experience says Tino Schwarz the restaurant manager. Traditional Austrian food with a modern bias is the theme. A highlight is the fine dining – Summit Dinner with musical entertainment every Wednesday evening from Christmas until the end of March. Guests are greeted with an aperitif on boarding the gondola. They are also served roast chestnuts and hot wine on their way up. The Sölden lifts are open every Wednesday until 1030pm for night skiing as well.
The restaurant has a unique wine cellar where barrels of Pino 3000, a blend of three great Pinot Noir varieties, are matured. Maturation undoubtedly takes a little longer at this level, but Cellar Master Paul Axel says, “Finesse and elegance are more important to me than opulence.”
A typical lunch: Free range duck, sweet potatoes and red cabbage with a glass of champagne.
Access: Pedestrians reach the Ice Q via Gaislachkoglbahn I & II, there is also the possibility of using the Giggijoch gondola to the intermediate station Gaislachkoglbahn. From there it's off again on the Second Section of the gondola up to the summit.
Super modern IceQ gourmet restaurant on the Gaislachkogl Peak (3048m)
Copyright: Solden Tourism
Gipfelalm, Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany
Perched on the highest point in Germany is the traditional Bavarian stübe style Gipfelalm restaurant on the Zugspitze, at 2,962m. The food is good and the views are not only spectacular but amongst the most interesting in the Alps, looking across four countries to the peaks of Switzerland, Italy and Austria. On a clear day you can see for 250km. The menu changes every two weeks. As you tuck into typical Bavarian weißwurst or apple strudel, you can feast your eyes on the Grossglockner (3,798m), the Wildspitze (3,768m), the Marmolada (3,343m), the Ortler (3,905m), and the Piz Bernina (4,049m) in Switzerland.
Next to the restaurant is the Panorama Lounge serving traditional coffee and cakes, surely the highest ‘Kaffee und Kuchen’ in the world. For the full view of the surrounding 400 peaks, walk up some steps to the viewing platform or take the lift. On the German side you can see across Werdenfelser Land and beyond to the glacial lakes, Starnberger See and Ammer See. You can see all the way toMunich, and football fans can spot the floodlights of the 500 million euro Bayern Munich Stadium.
A typical lunch: Local beer, wurst and pretzel, beef broth soup with green onions and bacon dumplings, apple strudel and spiked coffee.
Access: Do the round trip. Take the comfortable cogwheel train from the Zugspitze railway station in the centre ofGarmisch-Partenkirchen to the idyllic lakeside destination of Eibsee. Then take the Eibsee-Seilbahn cable car straight to the top. It is the cable car with the biggest height difference in the world. On the way down, take the glacier cable car to the Zugspitze Glacier (2,600m). Then take the cogwheel train through the Zugspitze Tunnel directly back to the town centre.
Gipfelalm restaurant on the Zugspitze (2,962m)
Restaurant Three Sixty, Saas Fee, Switzerland
Three Sixty on the Mittel-Allalin is the world’s highest rotating restaurant (3,500m) and offers the best views of the Swiss Alps. The continually rotating circular restaurant is flooded by sunlight through wall-to-ceiling windows. Don’t leave your camera on the window sill because it will gently disappear as you and your table moves in a circle. As you move around a detailed map shows every peak in sight as you see it, including the Eiger (3,970m), the Mönch (4,107m) and the Jungfrau (4,158m).
The restaurant is rustic, simple and very clean, with famous local classics like grilled Raclette cheese on bread accompanied by small pickles and onions or Walliser Brot (local Valais bread) with smoked ham, dried tomatoes, and truffle olives.
A visit to the world’s largest artificial ice cave 10 metres below is recommended, via 120 steps carved through glacial ice thousands of years old leading down a 70-metre-long tunnel. There is an ice altar for celebrating weddings and another room completely outfitted as a playground with slides and ladders for the children.
A typical lunch: Cheeseburger and chips or spaghetti bolognese and ice cream for the children.
Access: Take the Alpin-Express or a cable car from the centre of Saas-Fee and then the Metro Alpin from Felskin to the top.
Revolving Restaurant Three Sixty at 3500m in Saas Fee
Copyright: Saas Fee
Rifugio Guide del Cervino, Breuil Cervinia, Switzerland
The restaurant is housed in the traditional, wooden mountain refuge on the Plateau Rosa glacier. The impressive views from the hut and terrace take in the Matterhorn (4,478m), the Monte Rosa (4,634m), Mont Blanc (4,808m), the Gran Paradiso (4,061m) and many more. It is the architectural opposite of the new Ice Q restaurant at Sölden, with a collection of lap boarded buildings that look as if they’re straight out of a spaghetti western.
The refuge is next to the Testa Grigia ski lift. On the walls are pictures of the great Italian guides like Jean-Antoine Carrel and Edward Whymper who competed to be the first to the top of the Matterhorn. For climbers, the refuge it is a good base to attack the Monte Rosa and for skiers it is the ideal spot to try some local delicacies in between runs. The food is simple but a great deal better than the usual refuge fare with descriptions from visitors varying from ‘assolutamente eccellente’ to ‘fantastic’. It is popular with Italians and you get a great welcome from Erik the manager.
A typical lunch: Cold meats and cheeses, hot stew with polenta, accompanied by a local wine.
Access: From the Italian side by the Testa Grigia lift. On the Swiss side you take the Matterhorn Express from Zermatt to the year-round Ski paradise and then ski down or put on your crampons and tramp down the ski run for 30 minutes.
Views over Italy from the Rifugio Guide del Cervino, Switzerland
Copyright: Gunter Schurr