With its stunning location on the shores of Lake Geneva, Montreux became a favorite destination for European royalty, especially British poets, as early as the 19th century. Its popularity continued to blossom in the following century, when the rich and famous, including Queen, found refuge here. The center of Montreux itself is relatively small, but if you’re already here, it’s definitely worth a trip to the surrounding area, as Montreux really is an ideal base for many activities. In this article, you’ll find 10 tips on what to visit in and around Montreux.
Getting to Montreux
By train: Montreux can be reached by direct train from Geneva (1 hr 11 min), with a change from Bern (1 hr 36 min) and Zurich (2 hr 38 min). The train station is located almost directly in the city center.
By car: if you arrive in Montreux by car (from Bern on the A12), you can park right in the city center at Parking Montreux Market (Grand’ Rue, 1820 Montreux), if it’s full, I recommend Parking La Paix (Rue de la Paix 8, 1820 Montreux, you’ll also find a Coop supermarket here, which is open also on Sundays).
10 places to see in and near Montreux
NOTE: some of the headings and bold text are “clickable” – click on them to get a more detailed description of the place/activity.
1. Montreux promenade
Along the promenade, you can enjoy floral masterpieces. Walking along the waterfront, you don’t feel like you’re on the shores of a lake, but rather on the Mediterranean Riviera (and this place is rightly called the “Swiss Riviera” or Montreux Riviera). Don’t forget to take a photo with the statue of Freddie Mercury on Place du Marché, created by Czech-born sculptor Irena Sedlecká.
Freddie Mercury spent a lot of time in Montreux with Queen in the recording studio and recorded their album here in 1978. The studio, now a small museum, is located in the Casino in Montreux. The entrance is at 9 Rue du Théâtre, not the lake entrance. After passing through the revolving door, you will reach the foyer of the casino, then take a left. The entrance is free.
3. A boat ride on Lake Geneva
You don’t have to take the cruise only on the Swiss side – boats can also reach the French shore. How about a trip to Yvoire, a village that boasts the title of “Most Beautiful Village in France”.
PS: If you’re planning a cruise on Lake Geneva, be sure to check the timetables on CGN’s website. Timetables vary according to the season and are very limited outside the high season.
You can also take a boat from Montreux to Chillon Castle. This 13th-century building is the most visited historical monument in Switzerland. The tour is unguided, but informative brochures are available in many languages. A pleasant walk along the shores of the lake will take you back to Montreux in less than an hour.
From Montreux, you can follow the entire GoldenPass scenic route to Zweisimmen. The GoldenPass Scenic Route runs along the shores of Lake Geneva, past the terraced vineyards of Lavaux and many impressive castles to the peaks of the Gstaad region and the Simmental Valley. You can travel the route in hourly intervals either on the modern panoramic train or on the recreated Golden Pass Belle Epoque train with upholstered seats. The Golden Pass Belle Epoque operates all year round, reserving a seat is warmly recommended.
6. Taking the local Territet funicular or the train to Rochers de Naye
From the local area of Territet (where, incidentally, Freddie Mercury bought an apartment and spent the last months of his life), you can take a funicular to the village of Glion. You can either hike here in the spring to see the narcissi (see below) or change trains to Rochers de Naye, a natural plateau at 2,042m.
Of course, you can also reach Rochers de Naye directly from Montreux: At the Montreux train station, go to track 8 where you will board the vintage cogwheel train that goes up to Rochers de Naye. As Tanya recommends on her blog Swiss Family Fun, on sunny weekends, best to arrive at least 20 mins early to get tickets and queue for a good spot on the train.
7. The narcissus fields above Montreux
The hilly area above Montreux and Vevey is famous for its meadows full of narcissi, which bloom from late May to early June. You can find a great interactive online map to find out which routes the narcissi are blooming on here. The blooming narcissus meadows are visited by many tourists every year, so try not to visit on the weekend, especially when it comes to very famous places like Les Pléiades and Les Avants, lest you end up like us. I recommend taking the lesser-known route above the village of Glion.
The terraced vineyards above Lake Geneva have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. This unique wine-growing area between Lausanne and Montreux covers some 800 hectares.
The Alimentarium, the world’s first food museum, is located in Vevey in a magnificent building (the former headquarters of the Nestlé Group) in a beautiful setting on the promenade of Lake Geneva, opposite the statue of Charlie Chaplin and the big fork – a tourist landmark of Vevey.
Swiss Vapeur Parc in the village of Le Bouveret, just a 20-minute drive from Montreux (or 45 minutes by boat), is a theme park for all train lovers – and not just for children, but for all ages. Started in 1987, it was inaugurated on 6 June 1989 with the International Steam Festival (i.e. “vapeur”), which has been held here every June since. Today, the park covers an area of approximately 19 000 m².
Don’t forget the Christmas market
One of the most beautiful Christmas markets in Switzerland takes place in Montreux. Perhaps the biggest attraction is Santa personally visiting the market on the lakeside on a flying sleigh every day at 5, 6, and 7 pm.
As you could see for yourself, the area around Montreux definitely has a lot to offer. Have you visited any of these places? Or can you recommend some others? Let me know in the comments.