Hi Frugalistas! Most people who visit western Switzerland tend to stick to Geneva then head to the mountains. But Geneva to Montreux is a mere 60 km around Lake Geneva (Lac Leman in French), so I’m surprised more people don’t visit Montreux. On my trip to Switzerland in 2019 I travelled from Interlaken to Montreux and spent a very pleasant 48 hours in Montreux. There are plenty of things to do in Montreux, so how to spend 48 hours in Montreux, Switzerland is easy.
Arriving in Montreux
Whether you travel from Geneva, Lausanne or Interlaken arriving in Montreux by train will deliver you to the centre of town. I travelled from Interlaken on the Golden Pass through classic Swiss countryside with picture postcard views – it took around 3 hours, including changes of train, but it was so pleasant and the Swiss trains work so well, the time passed quickly. The train from Geneva to Montreux takes a much quicker 70 minutes to whizz around the lake.
The main part of town is divided into a lower lake area, and an upper town. The station is in the upper town. If your accommodation is down by the lake, don’t worry. A series of lifts (elevators) and stairs make getting between the two a breeze.
Montreux attractions – things to do in Montreux
Château de Chillon
Many people will have seen pictures of the 12th century Château de Chillon without knowing exactly where it is. If you are staying in a hotel you will be given a public transport pass which will take you to the Château for free. Staying down by the lake makes a visit easy as – just jump on the bus on Grand-Rue.
Built on a rock on the banks of the lake, the Château was originally the home and toll collection point for the Counts of Savoy. It is now the most visited building in Switzerland, making it one of the best known things to do in Montreux, Switzerland.
The interiors are quite plain, but fun to explore, and the views of the lake from it are great.
The upper town around the station is not particularly old, but it does feature some lovely Art Nouveau buildings. Keep an eye out for the postage stamp sized vineyard right near the station.
The lake is undoubtably the star of Montreux. I spent a lovely quiet Sunday morning wandering around its flat promenade. If you are a fan, this is where you will find the Freddie Mercury statue as well as a number of statues of other well known Montreux luminaries. There is plenty of seating if you want to linger longer and enjoy the serenity of this pretty location.
If being on the water, rather than looking at the water is more your thing you can also take a lake cruise:
Montreux day trips
There are not a lot of places to visit in Montreux itself, but the town makes a convenient, central location to explore the French speaking region of Switzerland.
Lausanne is perhaps best known for its connection to the Olympic Games. It is home to the Olympic Games Museum as well as a number of international sporting federations. It is similar in layout to Montreux with the town divided into two distinct districts – the relaxed lakeside area, and the main part of the town up the hill. If you take the train to Lausanne you will arrive in the upper part of the town. A tidy and efficient Metro train will take you down the hill to the lake.
I think it is worth visiting both the upper and lakeside parts of Lausanne. The upper part of the town has older buildings, and squares complete with traditional fountains.
When you visit the lake area of the town, head left when you leave the train. The Olympic museum is only a 5 minute walk around the lake (you can’t miss it). There are also a number of magnificent 19th century lakeside mansions. You can also take a ferry around the lake (including back to Montreux) or across to France on the other side.
About halfway between Lausanne and Geneva, Nyon is another pretty Swiss town worth a stop if you are travelling between Lausanne and Geneva.
Charlie Chaplin Museum
I wrote in detail about the Charlie Chaplin Museum in Vevey in a separate post – mainly because I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. If you are staying in Montreux your hotel will to give you a pass you can use on the train as far as Vevey, where you can catch a bus up to the Museum.
After my visit to Montreux I had travelled on to Lausanne for work. I had a whole day afterwards to spend more time visiting the region, so asked my work colleagues for recommendations. Without exception everyone I asked recommended Gruyères. So Gruyères it was.
Gruyères is very easy to visit from Montreux by train (it is actually closer to Montreux than Lausanne, so if you are planning a Montreux to Lausanne itinerary, visit Gruyères from Montreux). Famous for the cheese of the same name and its chocolate factory, it’s a popular Montreux thing to do. When you arrive at the Gruyères railway station a bus will be waiting to take you up to the old town high on the hill above you. It’s all downhill on the way back, so if you have a reasonable level of fitness, it’s an easy 20min or so walk back down.
The old town has ramparts and a pretty, central square, making it a fairytale village perfect for children. Completing the child friendly nature of Gruyères is its château – not particularly special in and of itself, but the views of the surrounding countryside are unbeatable.
Gruyères is an excellent place to eat fondue in Switzerland – complete with all the traditional accompaniments and, of course, a local Vaud white wine. I chose the Rick Steves recommended Chalet de Gruyères (with a choice of indoor seating or an airy terrace) and was not disppointed.
You can buy the Rick Steves Switzerland guide book here:
Where to stay in Montreux
You have two main choices for hotels in Montreux – you can either stay down by the lake or up in the main town. While hotels are expensive, regardless of where you choose, I do think it is worth paying the extra for a lake view room if you can afford it. I stayed at the simple 3 star Hotel Parc et Lac and enjoyed a huge room with a spacious bathroom and uninterrupted lake views. Staff were very friendly and the hotel was very comfortable, but I would recommend going out for breakfast.
It was fun to watch the mood of the lake changing during the day (despite the poor weather) and there were plenty of restaurants in Montreux nearby.