Apres Ski in Meribel
There are 14 villages that run the length of the valley from Les Allues up to Mottaret.
Meribel owes its famous picture-book chalet style to a building code written and enforced by a British Colonel.
Meribel itself sprawls along a several roads that winds up the east side of the valley from Mussillon, through the centre, Plan du Moulin, La Renarde, Morel, Les Chalets, Le Plateau and finally the Altiport. It is a vertical of around 250m.
Les Allues, Le Raffort and Meribel Village are directly linked to the major ski areas, while Morel has its own chairlift. The areas of La Renard and Les Chalets have easy access to pistes, otherwise getting to the Chaudanne can be tiresome.
Chalet operators almost all offer minibus transport to the Chaudanne in the morning and afternoons, while the public bus operates well between 8.30am-9.30am and 3.45pm-5pm.
The famous picture-book chalet style of Meribel is the result of strict adherence to a building code emphasising the use of traditional local materials, propounded by designers under the control of Peter Lindsay, a British colonel who established the first ski lift back in 1945 and devoted the rest of his life to developing the resort.
Mottaret is less charming and more typically purpose-built but has the advantage of a higher altitude (1,750m) with pretty much all the accommodation ski in-ski out.
There is a free bus service between Meribel and Mottaret but beware the casual adherence to the published timetable. Buses will happily depart early leaving you up to a 30 minute wait for the next one.
The last bus out of Meribel to Mottaret is at around midnight; tiresome if you are on a late night out to Dick’s Tea Bar, and you miss it at your peril. A late night taxi ride between the villages is priced at around €35-40.
Due to Meribel’s extensive chalet accommodation, the main town centre can be dead from post skiing until at least 10.30pm.
Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday tend to be chalet staff night off so restaurants are extremely busy and definitely need to be booked in advance.
Apres Ski Bars & Nightlife in Meribel
Meribel’s apres ski is pretty subdued when compared to Austria, or virtually any other big league French resort.
Many of Meribel’s vibrant bars and clubs are English-run and rather expensive although this is more down to exchange rates than profiteering.
The first place to head for is Le Rond Point. The sun terrace is the place to be seen and is pretty full for most of the day. On most days there is a live band from about 5pm, and the whole place shuts at 8pm.
The Cactus Cafe at the Chuadanne does good special offers while nearby Jacks Bar also have bands on a regular basis. In Meribel itself, Le Taverne has a happy hour and serves cheap pitchers of beer from 5-7pm.
As far as drinking is concerned, the English run bars of Barometer, Pub, Cactus Cafe, Jacks Bar and Le Taverne Bar are all there for the British market. They all serve a mean line in shots, have pitchers of beer, provide special offers and screen live sport. Barometer would be the smartest of them all. Jacks Bar put on a ‘toss the boss’ evening, generally on Sundays, where you roll the dice against the barman. You roll higher and you get your drinks free. The bar also has bands at night.
For those looking for something different, the Bar A Vins has a huge wine list, many by the glass. It is a tiny establishment with a strong French flavour and sells delicious little plates of food to go with your wine. We estimate you can get no more than 30 people in there. A similar establishment is 50-50, which is situated halfway from the Chaudanne and Meribel centre.
Evolution, down by the Chuadanne, serves cocktails. For the best cocktails in Meribel, however, head to Le Poste in the centre of Meribel adjacent to the post office. In early evening it is a sophisticated bar that would not look too out of place in any of Europe’s major capital cities. Live music such as Cuban guitarists strum, but go deeper into the night and the place because a hive of Euro pop carnage. It can be as raucous as Dick’s Tea Bar on many evenings and sets you up perfectly should you want to progress to that venue.
Elsewhere in the resort, up in Morel, both Chez Kiki and Aux Petits Oignons have good bars in which to have a quiet drink, while most of the hotels have their own bars that are open to non-guests.
In Mottaret, Le Rasro gets pretty loud later on in the night, while in Meribel Village the Lodge du Village, run by Brits, offers the best apres ski with bands performing several times a week. Le Zig Zag brings a taste of Austrian Jagartee to the proceedings. For those in Les Allues, Tsaretta showcases a big night out on Sundays, and serves the strong larger Mutzig.
Although Meribel’s bars stay open until 1pm, Meribel does not boast the most raucous nightlife in the Alps. It has two nightclubs, the fiercely British Dick’s Tea Bar and the fiercely French Le Loft. Both are well patronised and stay open late. Le Privilege is the only nightclub in Mottaret.
Restaurants in Meribel
Meribel offers a wide range of restaurant options from traditional Savoyard to the ubiquitous pizza.
The title of best restaurant in town is strongly contested but Chez Kiki in Morel has been at the top for so long it is surely ranks in the top three. A huge grill chars steaks to perfection, ably aided by Kiki himself. Savoyard specialities are also available, but the restaurant clearly is no place for vegetarians. Chez Kiki has edged in to the extremely pricey bracket, but it is just still worth the blowout.
Aux Petits Oignons, also in Morel, is not as good as the Enfants Terribles that it replaced, but the food is still hearty, tasty and is served in a delightful little dining room. The Charolais beef rivals Kiki’s.
In Meribel proper, Le Taverne, downstairs from the bar, is always underrated. The wine list is solid, and the chef does the Savoyard classics well. The duck is superb.
Down near the Chaudanne, the Kouisena is a traditional Savoyard restaurant. It is a rustic setting, without being too kitsch and the food is well prepared. Decent wine list.
For cheese lovers, the Fromagerie, also in Meribel centre is perfect for raclettes and fondues. The cheese board, unsurprisingly is vast. You can buy cheese to take away as well.
In Les Allues, the Hotel La Croix Jean Claude has a good restaurant but the best in the village is Tsaretta. The decor is rustic Alps and the menu is broad. They have their own pizza oven, offer basic British dishes such as fish and chips, but also serve seafood. The restaurant offers a minibus back up to Meribel.
Other stand alone restaurants worth considering slightly out of Meribel centre are the Blanchot and the Grain de Sel. The Blanchot up by the Altiport offers a varied menu which is far removed from the pasta and pizza restaurants that dominate the landscape in central resort; think warm macaroon with foie gras served with prunes and Armagnac.
Meribel’s hotels house some of the best restaurants in resort. The Allodis, the Hotel Grand Coeur, L’Helios, Hotel Yeti and the Hotel Adray Telebar lead the way, while the likes of the Hotel Marie Blanche, Merilys and Oree du Bois also offer good dining.
At the cheaper end, Meribel offers decent dining. There are a little too many pasta and pizza places, and Brits are well served by an outpost of Pizza Express above Dick’s Tea Bar.
The best restaurants at the cheaper end for traditional Savoyard food are the Galette, La Grange and Refuge, which among the raclettes and hot stones arguably serves better pizzas than Pizza Express. Evolution is a stylish dark wood bar/restaurant serving gastro pub food while Cactus Cafe and Barometer serve burgers and other bar food.
In Mottaret, Le Grenier serves good, no-nonsense French fare at reasonable prices and the cellar restaurant of Au Temps Perdu comes highly recommended. The Pizzeria Mottaret offers a variety of first rate pizza and pasta dishes.
For fine dining the Chalet in the Hotel Mont Vallon and the Table du Mottaret in the Hotel AlpenRuitor are worth the trip up the mountain for those staying in Meribel.
Other Activities in Meribel
Meribel boasts a huge ice rink which is also the venue for concerts, an excellent swimming pool and a climbing wall.
The Meribel Olympic centre’s ice rink hosts weekly ice-hockey games, which can often be of international standard. The centre also has has a gym, tenpin bowling a climbing wall as well as a decent pool. The spa and wellness centre is perfect for those who do not have such facilities in their hotels or chalets.
You can go dogsledding, play squash and, for the particularly high pain tolerant, there is a special paintball field. The traditional non-skiing Alpine pursuits of skidooing, snowshoe walking, paragliding and snow biking are well catered and, for a special thrill, you can take a low altitude flight around the valley or ride in a hot air balloon; why not treat yourself to an indulgent massage or even go to the cinema.