Welcome to Montreux
In sunlight, when the morning mists have cleared, this astonishingly pretty town resembles nothing so much as a technicolour Alpine postcard. The famous Royal Plaza Hotel, with its rows of bright yellow blinds, fronts onto a wide boulevard that runs alongside the lake. The best of Euro-fashion parades here daily, dangling tiny dogs on Vuitton leads, enjoying the view of the misty Alps rising across the water.
There’s such a sense of well-being in the pure mountain air, it’s easy to see why invalids used to come here- and hard to believe they weren’t all instantly cured. And although the waterfront area is steeped in wealthy serenity, the old town is small and a little ramshackle, requiring a climb up the cobbled hill. At the top, the lake and mountains lie spread before you. 'Beautiful' is a hopelessly overused word, for any town that offers a cathedral and a distant view. But Montreux truly deserves it- once seen, its wide promenade, shaded by tropical plants, and its silver lake reflecting the silhouetted mountains, are impossible to forget.
If you don’t have long in Montreux, you can see all you need by strolling down the Promenade Fleuri, which runs from Vevey to Villenueve. Past the Hotel Eden Palace au Lac, it is crowded with buskers, tourists and locals, but further down, there are quiet stretches, where people sit on the low wall, silently gazing out to across the water, and couples chat on benches under the sculpted trees.
Ten minutes’ drive beyond Montreux is the Castle Chillon, a restored 11th century castle, with over 45 rooms to explore- its beautiful architecture and position on the lake has inspired writers and artists including Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Byron, and Delacroix. It hosts changing exhibitions, and it can take several hours to explore the castle’s great Gothic rooms, and centuries-old treasures.
To visit the old town, head upwards behind the train station, and climb until you find the narrow, cobbled area which leads up the hill, for wonderful views. It is a steep ascent, but you will find little bars and restaurants there, which are much more affordable than the grand cafes of the waterfront.
Eating in Montreux can be expensive, but generally speaking, the quality is excellent and diners are often paying for one of the world’s great views, as well as the food. Restaurant 45 at the Grand Hotel Suisse-Majestic looks out over the lake to the Alps, service is seamless but friendly and the calm, contemporary setting lets both the food and the landscape shine. Or try Auberge de la Cergniaulaz and if you’re with children, Chinese restaurant Beijing Town is worth stopping at. The Eden Lac Hotel is wonderful and extremely expensive- but for heavy metal fans, it’s worth noting that Roger Glover wrote the lyrics to 'Smoke on the Water' on a napkin in its restaurant.
Holidays in Montreux
French Roads To Florence
From 13 days