Montreux, Switzerland, is located on the northeastern shore of Lake Geneva, in the French-speaking region of Switzerland. Part of the Canton of Vaux, the city is set at the foot of the Alps and forms the center of the Montreux Riviera, famous for its scenery, mild microclimate, and as a playground for the rich and famous.
Regardless of what season you visit, this relaxed lakeside city has plenty to keep visitors occupied for a few days or more. Here are 10 of the top things to do in and around Montreux.
Imposing Chillon Castle, or Château de Chillon in French, sits on a rocky outcrop just offshore in Lake Geneva, less than 2 miles from downtown Montreux. The castle foundations date to the 12th century, when it was used as a summer home and strategic outpost of the House of Savoy. In the 1900s, the castle was meticulously restored to its early medieval state, and today it is one of the most visited castles in Europe. Fans of Game of Thrones might feel like they've wandered into Winterfell. We highly recommend booking a guided tour or, at minimum, renting the audio guide of the castle.
Cinematic giant Charlie Chaplin spent the last 24 years of his life at Manoir de Ban near Montreux, where he lived with his wife, Oona, and their eight children. His estate is now Chaplin's World, a multi-acre attraction that includes a museum in the former mansion, a Hollywood-style studio with stage sets from Chaplin's most famous films, and an expansive park. Even those with just a mild interest in Chaplin's life will get something from a visit here. Chaplin's World is in Vezey, about 5 miles northwest of Montreux.
Stroll, Jog or Bike the Montreux Lakeside
For 4 miles along the shores of Lake Geneva, the Montreux Lakeside promenade offers a pleasant, scenic, and mercifully flat walking path for walkers, joggers, and bikers. During most of the year, the promenade is vibrantly landscaped and bright with colorful flowers.
For more than 50 years, the Montreux Jazz Festival has been one of the world's top music festivals, attracting world-renowned artists for two weeks every summer. Elton John, David Bowie, Prince, Aretha Franklin, and Lady Gaga are just some of the esteemed performers who have taken the stage here. Top-tier concerts, free performances, and impromptu jam sessions are all part of the festival tradition. If you plan to attend, buy your concert tickets and book your hotel early, as this beloved event is sure to sell out.
For a thrilling ride to high altitudes, board the charming Rochers-de-Naye cogwheel train at Montreux train station, and gaze in awe during the 55-minute climb to Rochers-de-Naye, 6,700 feet above sea level. The scenery is stunning year-round, especially as the train climbs diagonally through forests and over mountains, with the lake spread out below. Activities at the summit range from gentle walks to grueling via ferrata climbs. At Christmas, Santa Claus's house opens in the snow-covered setting.
A boat ride on Lake Geneva is practically obligatory during a stay in Montreux, especially on a sunny day. Lake Geneva General Navigation Company (CGN) offers daily sightseeing cruises in the summertime about one of its vintage steamships, which date to the early 1900s. Lunch and dinner cruises are also offered. If you're touring Switzerland without a car, the steamer is a great way to transfer to Geneva, Lausanne, and other cities along the lake.
Pose with Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury, the charismatic lead singer of the rock band Queen, performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1978 and was so enchanted with the city that he moved here, keeping an apartment overlooking the lake until he died in 1991. The band recorded at Mountain Studios in Montreux, which can now be visited as Queen: The Studio Experience. A larger than life statue of Mercury stands at the center of Montreux's lakefront, where fans leave flowers and pose for photos.
To the north and west of Montreux, the Lavaux wine-growing region is famous for its stepped rows of terraced vineyards, which climb high onto mountainsides and overlook the lake below. The unique terrain and terraced cultivation method earned the Lavaux vineyard terraces a place on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Wine tourism is well-organized here, allowing visitors to ascend to vineyards on tourist trains, learn about Lavaux wine, and, of course, sample and purchase it as well.
Explore Vevey's Narrow Lanes
With its well-preserved old town, much of which dates to the Middle Ages, Vevey is a lovely and interesting place to spend a few hours. A small maze of pedestrian-only alleys and passageways add to the charm here. On Tuesdays and Saturdays in the summertime, a vibrant market draws locals and visitors to Grande Place, the sprawling lakefront square. You can reach Vevey by train or boat or, if you're feeling energetic, you can walk or bike here from Montreux.
From late November until Christmas Eve, the Montreux lakefront is the scene of Montreux Noel, one of Switzerland's biggest Christmas markets. Artisans' shops, huts selling fondue, pretzels, gluhwein (hot, spiced wine), a Ferris wheel, and countless fairy lights cast a magical glow on the scene. Three times a night, Santa and his reindeer fly across the lakefront in a special rocket-propelled sleigh.