Perched on the edge of Lake Geneva lies the Swiss town of Montreux. It’s somewhere I first visited at the age of sixteen whilst on a Geography trip around Europe with my school, and it’s somewhere I’ve thought about ever since. It pretty much sums up everything you could ever want to see in a Swiss adventure; stunning turquoise waters, snow-capped mountains, the faint sound of cow bells jingling languidly in the background…It’s a popular holiday destination, and with good cause; with stunning natural scenery, the nearby Alps to explore and the annual Montreux Jazz Festival to look forward to, the town has a lot to offer travelers both in the heart of summer and in the icy grips of winter.
Whether you plan on taking things slow or fancy an action-packed outdoors adventure, here are ten activities you can’t afford to miss while in Montreux:
Explore the beauty of Lake Geneva by boat
I defy anyone to visit Montreux and not be lured towards the shimmering blue waters of Lake Geneva. It goes without saying that the best way to explore the lake is by boat. Whether you fancy hiring a pedalo, zipping around on a private speedboat or taking a leisurely afternoon cruise, prepare yourself to be blown away by the azure tones and mountain backdrop.
Stroll along the promenade
Montreux’ promenade not only offers some of the most exceptional views of Lake Geneva, it’s also a fantastic place for people watching. Sunny days will inevitably draw out the crowds, so expect to find yourself in the company of everyone from street performers to roller-bladers and keen morning joggers. My favourite time to explore the promenade is as the sun begins to set, when the boardwalk is a little quieter and the setting sun bounces off the wild hibiscus flowers. Those colours are hard to forget.
Visit Château De Chillon
This medieval fortress sits on the edge of Lake Geneva and can be seen from the centre of Montreux; it’s arguably one of the most visited sites in Switzerland. Originally built as a Roman outpost, the castle went on to be occupied by German and then French dignitaries, and spent many years housing important military equipment. Today, it serves as a visitor centre and museum, and is an absolute must while visiting Montreux.
Experience true Swiss Chocolate
No trip to Switzerland would be complete without sampling the chocolate. It is, arguably, the best in the world. If you fancy learning more about the process of chocolate-making then why not take part in a masterclass with industry giants Läderach? You can even make one of these little guys to take home (if he even makes it as far as the suitcase…):
Visit Chaplin’s World
Find out more about the life and work of Holywood legend Charlie Chaplin by visiting Chaplin’s World museum, built on the country estate formerly owned by his family. This quirky museum delves into Chaplin’s life and films; housed in the country which provided the actor’s home for the last 25 years of his life, it’s a fitting tribute and a fun place to escape.
Strike a pose at the Freddy Mercury statue
Since 1996, this bronze statue has decorated the shores of Lake Geneva. Why the Swiss connection? You ask. Well, in 1978 Mercury came to Montreux to perform in the city’s annual jazz festival; it’s also where his band Queen recorded their album Jazz. Mercury quickly fell in love with the town and before long had bought a property and recording studio overlooking the lake. He was often heard to say that “if you want peace of mind, come to Montreux.”
The locals have not forgotten their musical resident and honored his life with a statue in the heart of the town. Even more touching is the fact that his fans keep the statue permanently in flower. Teenage me was very excited to track the statue down; sadly I’m not quite sure where that photo went…
Hop across to Vevey
Vevey is a charming and colourful town, just a hop, skip and jump away from Montreux. It’s full of gorgeous cafes, restaurants and boutiques and the sort of place you could quite happily head to without a map, just to get lost in its characterful cobbled lanes.
Catch some tunes at the Jazz Festival
Every year, across the first couple of weeks of July, Montreux hosts its annual jazz festival. This ain’t no small soiree either; in fact, the Montreux Jazz Festival is the second largest of its kind in the world, after Montreal! If you’re a fan of music and just generally great atmospheres, this is the best time to visit.
Take a day trip to Rochers de Naye
If you fancy getting out of the town a little, you couldn’t go wrong with a day trip to Rochers de Naye. This stunning mountain reaches an altitude of 6,700 feet above sea level and watches over Montreux like a gentle giant. It takes about an hour to reach the summit via cogwheel train, and the views won’t disappoint! What’s more, you might also run into some (very cute) marmots….not to be smuggled home in your hand luggage…
Watch the sun set over Lake Geneva
Sounds simple right? Sometimes it’s good just to take stock and appreciate the beautiful moments in life. For me, it doesn’t come much better than watching the sun set over Lake Geneva. What do you think?