7 places to discover in the Montreux Riviera
The Montreux Riviera on the shores of Lake Geneva stretches from Vevey to Montreux and is in my (perhaps biased) opinion one of the most beautiful parts of Switzerland.
On my last visit to the Montreux Riviera, I was lucky enough to visit the region on an e-bike tour with YouMo. A local guide accompanied us on our fantastic tour which started in Vevey and took us all the way to the Château de Chillon and back. Below you will find some of the highlights of our tour, as well as suggestions of other places to visit in this lovely region.
Tip: YouMo are known as the Harley Davidson’s of electric bikes with super comfortable seats and a cruising speed that goes up to 45km an hour.
1. Explore the Lavaux vineyards
The beautiful Lavaux wine-growing region is of such beauty that it was added to the UNESCO’S World Heritage List in 2007. It stretches about 30km along the shores of the lake from Vevey to Lausanne. It offers stunning landscapes of very steep terraced vineyards that have been there since the 11th century, towering over the lake. The grapes benefit from a triple natural boost of sunshine here: direct sunlight, the reflection of the sun from the lake and the warmth of the sun in the terrace walls.
Today it is possible to discover this beautiful area by foot, with over 30km of foot trails that meander through the vineyards, by train or even by e-bike. There are a number of places visitors can stop off to taste the local wines along the way. The pretty villages of Saint-Saphorin and Epesses are really worth visiting and to get the best views stop off just below the village of Chexbres. The Lavaux has become one of my "go-to" places on a sunny fall day, the views are just stunning and the paths meandering through the vineyards are so peaceful, I love to come here and walk.
2. Visit the Charlie Chaplin Museum
Charlie Chaplin made the pretty village of Corsier-sur-Vevey, a short way above Vevey, his home in 1952. Grévin opened a museum dedicated to the great film star in 2016, which comes complete with an amazing Hollywood-style studio so that you can rediscover his most famous films.
The Museum is split between the family’s original manor house where the movie star lived with his fourth wife Oona and their eight children and a purpose-built building devoted to his films all set in extensive and beautiful grounds. The house is furnished as it would have been in his day complete with wax models of Oona and Charlie at leisure in the family living room. The highlight of the visit is the new building that welcomes you with an engaging film of his best-known work on screen together with some home videos in a plush red velvet cinema. At the end of the introductory movie, the screen rolls up and visitors are invited to discover the most famous of his film sets that have been beautifully recreated, complete with wax works and interactive features. All in all, the museum offers a wonderful visit for any lovers of film and an impressive and thorough survey of Charlie Chaplin’s career and work.
Details: Chaplin’s World is open every day from 10am to 6pm. The entrance fee is CHF 24- for adults and CHF 18- for kids (6 to 15 years old).
3. Stop off in Vevey
Stop off in Vevey and view the world’s tallest fork! In 1995, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Alimentarium, a museum with a permanent exhibition on food and Nestlés history, a highly symbolic 8-meter high 500-kilo stainless steel fork sculpture was installed in the lake, just a few meters from the shoreline. Vevey is home to the world headquarters of the Swiss food giant Nestlé founded in 1867. The fork has become one of Vevey’s greatest landmarks and should not be missed.
The town of Vevey also welcomes a market on its large square on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Take a stroll along the beautiful promenade or visit one of the town’s five museums, including the Swiss Camera Museum and the Swiss Toy Museum. We started our bike tour in Vevey and were pleasantly surprised to find bike paths along most of the lakefront.
4. Discover Montreux
No visit to Montreux is complete without strolling along the stunning lakeside promenade that extends over a number of kilometres. The thing that will strike you the most is the sheer amount and variety of floral arrangements along the promenade. With the town of Montreux nestled in a protected bay, it enjoys a mild climate with winter temperatures rarely dipping below nine degrees and hence both palm trees and cypresses can be seen along the lakeside promenade. Our guide told me that the town of Montreux spends Chf 150.- per inhabitant, per annum on flowers! There is plenty to distract you here with a public mini-golf, a really beautiful public swimming-pool and lots of cafes and restaurants. Also, don’t forget to visit the gardens of the Fairmont Montreux Palace to see the fabulous bronze statues of music legends Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles.
Montreux has a long history of welcoming music legends at its world famous annual Jazz Festival. As a tribute to Freddie Mercury and the band Queen, the city of Montreux placed a large bronze statue of the singer by the waterfront just below the market square in 1996. Freddie Mercury fell in love with Montreux and ended up buying the Mountain Recording Studios in 1979 where Queen’s last album “Made in Heaven” was recorded. I would recommend popping into this small (free) exhibition spread over two rooms dedicated to Queen, called The Studio Experience. It is located in the current Casino building. Lots of incredible band memorabilia are on display here, including guitars and costumes. You can also see the original studio in which Freddie Mercury wrote and recorded his last songs. For those like me who grew up to the tune of “We will rock you” and “Bohemian Rhapsody”, a visit here is sure to take you down memory lane.
5. Visit the medieval Château de Chillon
The Château de Chillon was the last stop on our e-bike tour, it is a perfect destination for anyone wanting to go on a short bike ride, or long walk from Montreux as there is a bike path most of the way. The medieval fortress of Chillon is Switzerland’s most visited castle with every good reason. Built on its own large rock island that is 84 meters deep, it sits on the water commanding stunning views of the lake and the Alps beyond. It was in its time located very strategically at a narrow passage point controlling movement between the north and the south of Europe. Built over several centuries, the oldest written mention of the castle dates back to 1150.
Like many people who grew up in this part of Switzerland, I have many fond memories of exploring this imposing castle as a child. From the gothic vaulted-stone ceilings of the dungeon to the imposing wood-panelled drawing-rooms there is so much to discover. The highlight of the castle, when we were kids, was a visit to the latrine that dates from the 13th century; it is really just an open hole, with a crude wooden seat, high above the lake – with exceptional views!
In 1816, Lord Byron who was on tour in the Lake Geneva region with Mary Shelley and a number of other bohemian British aristocrats was so moved by his visit to the dungeons of the castle that he wrote his famous poem The Prisoner of Chillon. It tells the story of François Bonivard imprisoned by the Duke of Savoy at the castle for six years, four of which were spent chained to a pillar in the cold, dark dungeon. Today, the castle is a very popular tourist site and can get quite busy during the summer months. To really get the best view of Chillon plan to arrive by paddle-steamer from Montreux.
Details: The Château de Chillon is April to September 9am to 7pm; October 9.30am to 6pm; November to February 10am to 5pm; March 9.30am to 6pm. The entrance fee is CHF 12.50 for adults, CHF 6- for children and CHF 29- for a family (2 adults and up to 5 children). The audio guide is CHF 6-.
6. Ride the cog-wheel train up to Rochers de Naye
Towering at 2042 meters, Les Rochers de Naye is a destination I would really recommend for nature lovers. From here you can enjoy exceptional views of Lake Geneva and the Alps and explore numerous hiking trails. Absolutely worth visiting is the alpine garden, La Rambertia, that nestles between two rocky ridges. Opened in 1896, it is home to over a 1000 species of plants and flowers from around the world, including the legendary Swiss edelweiss. Follow the narrow path that will take you in a loop around the mountain to discover the plants and also admire the views.
If you come up here in May, you will get to see the narcissi in full bloom in the meadows, a really special treat for the eyes. Of note, children may enjoy marmot paradise, which is a small enclosure housing several different species of marmots, an animal that is often difficult to spot in its natural habitat. Not being a keen fan of zoos, personally I found this a little on the sad side. And for the sporty, there are mountain biking trails and there’s also a via ferrata.
For the ultimate experience book an overnight stay in one of the seven traditional Mongolian yurts at the top. They are kitted out in authentic furnishings, have electrical heating and sleep up to eight people. A very scenic cog-wheel train ride of just under an hour will bring you up to the Rochers de Naye directly from Montreux.
8. Get pampered at the Willow Stream Spa in Montreux
As you know, I do enjoy relaxing and being pampered and so this post would not be complete without a spa recommendation. Set in a really beautiful setting, the Willow Steam spa is an oasis of calm and tranquillity.
Overlooking the lakeside promenade, this light-filled spa belongs to the Fairmont Montreux Palace hotel and offers over 2000m2 of beautifully-decorated space dedicated to getting fit and healthy. It includes a 25m indoor lap pool with a large adjacent hot-tub; 10 treatment rooms; separate ladies and men's facilities complete with a whirlpool, a cold tub, a steam room and sauna; and a café. A wide-range of treatments can be booked, including a selection of aromatherapy treatments. During the summer months, the spa has direct access to the expansive gardens with a beautiful green lawn that unfurls down to the promenade. It offers plenty of lawn chairs and sofas to loll around in. There is also a lovely outdoor pool.
Details: A massage at the Willow Stream spa costs CHF 159- A day pass to the spa costs CHF140- If you book a treatment, you have unlimited access to the spa’s facilities.
I would like to thank Montreux Riviera tourism for having very kindly provided me with a guide for part of my stay in the region and Swiss Deluxe Hotels for all their support during my stay.
This article first appeared on Swiss Bliss Travel
Catherine Mikton is a Swiss-American travel and luxury lifestyle blogger. She enjoys all things beautiful, be it a moonlit landscape or a five-star hotel. Her blog is intended as a gateway for the discerning traveller to Switzerland - an essential guide to help you discover this beautiful country and all it has to offer, whilst relaxing in some of the best Swiss accommodation.