Montreux is your quintessential Swiss town. Scenically located next to Lac Leman, overlooking the Alps and France on the other side of the lake, it is also the last stop where you can have wonderful wine produced in the beautiful Terraced Vineyards of the region.
Situated a little over an hour by train from Geneva, in the canton of Vaud, Montreux has charmed visitors with its simplicity and as a host of annual events that are known around the world.
Montreux is compact and best experienced on foot. Even though it receives a fair share of visitors, there’s subtlety to it that is trademark Swiss in nature. It’s pretty in an unconventional way, quaint even, and being part of the “Swiss Rivera” an aura of luxe permanently lingers over it.
The town can be reached by road, rail, a leisurely boat ride, or if you have all the time on your hands then walk along Lake Geneva from one of the neighbouring towns like Vevey.
The most popular attraction in Montreux is Chateau de Chillon. A castle that dates back to the “Bronze Age” is said to be the most visited ancient residence in the country. The castle was further made popular by Lord Byron’s infamous The Prisoner of Chillon.
Don’t be fooled by its rather petite (for a castle) exteriors, for inside, it runs like a maze taking visitors through a labyrinth of rooms and stairs of which the ones leading to the tower must be explored for some spectacular 360-degree views. It’s location by the cliff and on the lake not only served as the perfect vantage point in the past, but now makes for a dramatic photo opportunity.
Chateau de Chillon also has two of the best – one is inside and the other right outside – if not slightly expensive, souvenir shops that we came across while traveling through the country. From Lord Byron labeled wines to bow and arrow sets for kids and of course books, posters, knick-knacks, postcards, and the likes, there’s enough for everyone’s taste to take a more physical memory of their time spent back home.
Tip: If you are traveling with the Swiss Travel Pass, the Museum Card that comes free with it, allows you free entry into the castle.
Montreux also produces some remarkable wine and similar to the other vineyards of Lavaux, it remains one of the lesser known and underrated wine regions in the world.
The city’s train station forms the base for many a day trips to others parts of Switzerland, primarily in the direction of Gstaad and Gruyeres. In fact, the Chocolate Train that leaves Montreux at certain times of the year is a wonderful day trip that explores two of Switzerland’s main produce – cheese and chocolate.
Montreux has become the destination of choice for a number of events that it plays host to through the year. Of the many activities that take place, the Montreux Jazz Festival and the Montreux Comedy Festival have become premiere events on the World circuit and see many international performers taking part in them. For a bit more of festivities, the Montreux Noël at the end of the year is when the entire town is engulfed in a blanket of celebrations and merriment.
There’s still lots to do on an average day in Montreux. For a bit of romance take a walk on the promenade admiring the majestic views of the lake, the beautiful flowers by the side, and rows of sculptures that keep popping up after regular intervals.
On sunny days, the young and the young at heart can enjoy a toy train ride that runs by the lakeside. Then there is the magnificent architecture to appreciate, especially the Belle Époque styled buildings that can be found in this area.
Montreux though also has a connection with music and one of its legends. The Queen Experience is a must for all fans as it paying a visit to the Freddie Mercury statue that stands by the viewing platform in the city.
And for some more Montreux related music trivia, you need to pay a visit to the Montreux Casino – well, you got to pay as part of playing and then hope that you win – which in 1971 was rebuilt after a fire, a scene immortalized by Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water.
Perfect for a day trip and even better if you want to stay awhile and spend some time exploring the riviera, Montreux is a delightfully attractive and alluring destination that is a must for anyone visiting the country.