Lunch with a view: Best ski mountain huts and restaurants

Newsroom Ski destinations Lunch with a view: Best ski mountain huts and restaurants

Lunch on the mountain is 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. There’s no better time to do this than at lunchtime! We have researched the best alpine mountain huts and restaurants to enjoy traditional dishes and soak up the views.

Here are our pick of the best mountain huts and restaurants for magnificent lunchtime views:

Le 3842 Restaurant

Chamonix, France

At the top of Europe’s highest cable car, Le 3842 Restaurant perches on the Aiguille du Midi (3,842m). It has awesome views of Mont Blanc (4,808m), the Matterhorn (4,478m) and Monte Rosa (4,634m). 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. Favourites include 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. A short lift ride 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 before to avoid queuing for tickets. 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.

Le 3842 Restaurant on Aiguille-du-Midi, Chamonix
Le 3842 Restaurant on Aiguille-du-Midi, Chamonix. Credit Le 2842 Restaurant/Facebook

Ice Q 

Sölden, Austria

Quite the opposite of the alpine mountain huts we’re used to, the contemporary all-glass Ice Q restaurant is pretty spectacular. It sits at the top 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.

Ice Q 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.

Ice Q at sunset, Solden
Ice Q at sunset, Solden. Credit Ice Q

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 of Garmisch-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.

Drehrestaurant Allalin

Saas Fee, Switzerland

Drehrestaurant Allalin on the Mittel-Allalin is the world’s highest rotating restaurant (3,500m). It 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).

As mountain huts go, this one ticks all the boxes. The restaurant is rustic, simple and very clean. It serves famous local classics like grilled Raclette cheese on bread accompanied by small pickles and onions. Alternatively, try the 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. Get to the caves 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 with slides and ladders for the children to play on.

A typical lunch: Cheeseburger and chips or spaghetti bolognaise 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.

Drehrestaurant Allalin above saas-fee
Drehrestaurant Allalin above saas-fee. Credit Drerestaurant

Rifugio Guide del Cervino

Cervinia Breuil Switzerland

When you think of traditional mountain huts, something like this would spring to mind. 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. From here ski down or put on your crampons and tramp down the ski run for 30 minutes.

Rifugio Guide del Cervinio
Rifugio Guide del Cervinio. Credit Rifugio/Facebook

For more information on any of the mountain huts mentioned, follow the links above.

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