The first in a three-part series
Arrive in Montreux, Switzerland, and you might think you’re on the French Riviera. Indeed, Montreux is actually called the “Swiss Riviera” because its location, nestled between Lake Geneva and the Alps, gives it a unique microclimate resulting in lush vegetation—complete with palm trees—that might leave you wondering in just what paradise you have landed.
Montreux itself is famous for its annual Jazz Festival in July, but is certainly worth a visit the other 11 months of the year as well. Stroll along the flower-bordered lake promenade, which links Montreux with the town of Vevey and extends all the way to the Chillon Castle, built in the 13th century. The centerpiece of the promenade is the Covered Market, built between 1891 and 1892 through the generosity of industrialist Henry Nestle (yes, the Nestle’s you know and love today), from the same ironworks that supplied Gustave Eiffel with material for the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Many of the houses and hotels along the lakeside road date from the heyday of the Belle Epoque. The Montreux Riviera has also hosted numerous artists and celebrities through the years. Some well-known names include: Charlie Chaplin, who is buried with his wife in the Corsier-sur-Vevey cemetery, Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov, who stayed for many years at the Hotel du Cygne, part of the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace and both Victor Hugo and Mahatma Gandhi, who visited the town of Villeneuve.
Not far from Montreux is the Lavaux region, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 because of the beauty of its landscapes. The region includes more than 2000 acres of vineyards, and eight wine-producing areas: Lutry Villette, Epesses, St-Saphorin, Dezaley, Calamin, Chardonne, and Vevey-Montreux. Most of the vineyards have their own cellars, which are open to the public for tastings. For an overview of the entire region and samplings and sales of the 200 “crus” produced nearby, visit the Lavaux Vinorama www.lavaux-vinorama.ch. Each week 8 different wines are selected to be tasted at the bar, while an additional “tasting space” allows you to discover more wines of your choice. Don’t miss the film, which offers a look at a year in the life of a Lavaux vintner.
If you’d like a Swiss experience with a touch of the Mediterranean thrown in for good measure, the Montreux Riviera can’t be beat.
If You Go
For more information on the Montreux Riviera, visit www.montreuxriviera.com.
We arrived in Montreux in style, aboard the Golden Pass, one of Switzerland’s justifiably famous panoramic trains. This is an experience not to be missed. For more information, visit www.goldenpass.ch.
There is no shortage of top-of-the-line hotels in Montreux. I couldn’t have been happier with my choice, Grand Hotel Suisse-Majestic, Avenue des Alpes 45, www.suisse-majestic.ch. If the weather is nice, make reservations for lunch on the deck at Le 45, the hotel’s restaurant (even if it’s not deck weather, the meal will be a treat).
After your visit to the Lavaux Vinorama, try Le Deck at Le Baron Tavernier in Chexbres for dinner. The restaurant looks like it could have been plucked from Northern California”s Napa Valley, but the waterfront setting ringed by the Alps is decidedly Swiss. Check it out at www.barontavernier.com.
Montreux is only an hour away from Geneva’s international airport. If you’re flying into or out of Geneva, you might want to add a day to your trip to visit this world capital of watch-making, with its beautiful lakeside parks; medieval Old Town full of art galleries, antique shops, booksellers, cafes, high-end shopping districts, and fine dining. We stayed at the Hotel Le Richemond, part of the Dorchester Collection of hotels www.lerichemond.com. Its luxurious public spaces and modern, comfortable rooms are a wonderful way to begin—or in our case—end your trip.
To read about the rest of my trip to Switzerland visit https://thehuntmagazine.com/traveler/2011/12/further/ or http://beta.thehuntmagazine.com/traveler/2011/12/the-bbs/