Nestled in the Swiss Alps and set on the shores of Lake Geneva, Montreux is an oasis of beauty and tranquillity. From rock stars to writers, this lakeside town in Switzerland is a magnet for creatives, the rich, and the famous. Known as the Pearl of the Swiss Riviera, Montreux’s natural beauty will take your breath away. It’s no wonder that it has captivated the hearts and imaginations of so many musicians, artists and writers.
If you’re planning to visit Montreux, this travel guide will tell you everything you need to know. Among all Swiss destinations, Montreux is a must for fans of hiking, music, watersports, history and culture. Discover the best things to do in Montreux at all times of the year, from the fairytale Chillon Castle and the Swiss chocolate train to lake cruises and watersports. This Montreux travel guide will point you in the direction of all that’s fabulous about this town.
Whether you’re visiting Montreux for its tranquil lakeside position, or the lively Montreux Jazz Festival, this guide has you covered. Discover the best time to visit, how to get there, and where to stay and eat.
Let’s explore the fascinating Swiss town of Montreux.
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How to get to Montreux
The nearest airport to Montreux is Geneva International Airport, and the simplest way to travel from Geneva to Montreux is to take one of the regular trains travelling between the two Swiss destinations. This trip takes about an hour-and-a-half, and trains depart about twice per hour or more.
Montreux is one of the stations covered by the GoldenPass Line, a scenic train route running between Lucerne, Interlaken, Zweisimmen and Montreux. It’s also easy to reach Montreux by train from other Swiss towns and cities.
You may choose to drive instead if you have a rental car. The journey time to Montreux from Geneva is around an hour by road, depending of course on traffic. From Zurich the trip takes about two-and-a-half hours.
If you do drive, there are a number of car parks in Montreux. The Place du Marché car park is one of the largest and cheapest places to park in town. You may also find parking close to Chillon castle, near the lake.
Best time of year to visit Montreux
Unlike other Swiss destinations, Montreux is not known for being a ski region, though there are winter sports resorts within reach of the town. Even in December, January and February, average overnight lows in Montreux are around -1 to -2°C.
Montreux is relatively warm in summer too, with average daytime highs reaching between 23 and 25°C. Due to this mild Montreux weather, it’s a popular place to visit all year round.
In winter the Christmas market is a star attraction, while activities like hiking, watersports, paragliding and boat trips tend to attract summer visitors. In July, the world famous Montreux Jazz Festival is also held on the shores of Lake Geneva.
Spring is another great time to visit Montreux, as the many flowers which line the lakeside promenade are in full bloom. It’s a truly stunning sight. Temperatures aren’t particularly warm but it’s a slightly quieter time of year to visit than the peak summer holiday season.
12 best things to do in Montreux
1. Montreux Lakeside Promenade
Montreux’s lakeside promenade is an eight-mile-long scenic path running between Vevey, Montreux and Chillon Castle. It’s a picturesque route, passing the glimmering waters of the lake with snow-capped peaks beyond. Palm trees and flowers provide an almost-tropical feel along the way.
You can walk the whole route, or just take in a section starting out from town. Many people set out from the well-known Freddie Mercury statue in Montreux, which can be found right by the covered market. Seeing and photographing this is one of the top things to do in Montreux in summer or winter, so it’s always busy.
2. Château de Chillon
Seeing Château de Chillon – or Chillon Castle – is also one of the best things to do in Montreux, Switzerland. In fact it’s one of the most-visited places in the entire country, and looks like something lifted straight from a children’s fairytale.
There are also magnificent views across the lake towards France from the castle, while at the site you can discover courtyards, towers and even old prison cells. The castle can be accessed via the pretty lakeside promenade in Montreux.
3. Montreux Jazz Festival
The Montreux Jazz Festival has long transcended the genre, and has been a world famous musical gala for decades. It’s also famous for the fire that occurred here in 1971, as immortalised in the Deep Purple track Smoke on the Water.
Some huge names have played at Montreux, including artists and bands such as Prince, David Bowie, Elton John, Lady Gaga and Pink Floyd. Jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone have also featured.
Held in July, the Montreux Jazz Festival sells out fast, so do book your tickets, accommodation and travel as early as possible if you plan to go.
4. Queen: The Studio Experience
Another Montreux attraction popular with music fans is Queen: The Studio Experience. This can be found at the former Mountain Studios, where Queen recorded at various times between the late 1970s and the mid 1990s.
Brian May opened the museum in 2013, and it’s packed with memorabilia related to the British rock band. It’s therefore a must for fans of the group’s music in particular and of pop or rock music in general.
5. Go hiking
Hiking in Montreux is hugely popular, and there are routes to suit all levels. You can take a relatively short stroll through the Lavaux vineyard, a UNESCO world heritage site. Or take a long-distance trek through the mountains of the Montreux Riviera.
The shortest routes are just two or three miles long, while some are double that or more. There are narcissus trails to follow in season, as well as a range of mountain treks, plus scenic lakeside and vineyard routes.
6. Boat tour on Lake Geneva
Taking a Montreux boat tour on Lake Geneva is a relaxing and incredibly picturesque thing to do here. You can hop onto a historic paddle steamer departing from the jetty in the town centre to experience a unique perspective on the town, lake, mountains and countryside.
Boat tours on Lake Geneva are available all year round and give visitors the unique opportunity of cruising the water while enjoying a majestic Alpine backdrop.
7. Lake Geneva watersports
There are lots of sporting activities taking place on Lake Geneva in Montreux. With tuition available, you can also learn a new skill if you want to. In summer, swimming is popular, and other local watersports include sailing, kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding.
Parasailing, jet boats and jet skis have however been banned on Lake Geneva by the local council.
8. Montreux Christmas Markets
The Montreux Christmas market runs annually between mid-to-late-November and Christmas Eve, and comprises over 150 wooden huts peddling all kinds of seasonal wares.
The illuminated market is held by the lake, and is a very pretty spectacle with an enticing festive atmosphere. It’s also a great place to pick up unique Christmas gifts.
9. Cog railway to Rochers de Naye
The charming cogwheel railway to Rochers de Naye runs all year round, and takes guests along the shores of Lake Geneva before beginning the 2,000 metre ascent. En route you’ll pass charming Swiss countryside, forest and lakeside villages.
At the summit there are hiking trails, plus the La Rambertia Alpine garden with over 1,000 species of local flora to see.
10. Gorges du Chauderon
Gorges du Chauderon is close to Montreux Old Town and the sight of the river running through the gorge is a breathtaking spectacle.
The route is signposted from town and there are walking routes to follow from Gorges du Chauderon too.
Taking a paragliding trip over Lake Geneva is for many a once-in-a-lifetime experience, giving a bird’s-eye perspective over Montreux and the water, vineyards and mountains.
Booking a tandem flight ensures complete safety while you experience the thrill of soaring across the sky.
12. Swiss chocolate train
The Swiss chocolate train traces a route between Montreux and Broc, where the Cailler-Nestlé chocolate factory is based.
Historic Belle Epoque carriages and incredible views over the lake and vineyards make this seven-and-a-half hour trip very worthwhile.
Best hotels in Montreux
1. Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic
The imposing Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic dates from the Belle Epoque era and is located by the lake in Montreux town centre. Many rooms have a private balcony or terrace.
The hotel has a lakeside restaurant with outdoor terrace, a cocktail bar, a cigar lounge, a gym and a sauna and hammam. Of all hotels in Montreux, Switzerland, this one has an unbeatable location.
2. Fairmont Le Montreux Palace
Another of the best Montreux hotels is the imposing five star Fairmont Le Montreux Palace. Located by the Lake Geneva shoreline, it has a glorious winter garden for outdoor dining.
This elegant hotel has a range of rooms and suites. There are also several eateries and bars including a cocktail bar, a luxurious 2000 m² spa with a hot tub and indoor pool, plus an outdoor pool for summer use.
3. Les Résidences du National de Montreux
Les Résidences du National de Montreux is an upmarket apartment complex, where stylish self-catering properties are let out to guests by private owners.
While there is no on-site restaurant, the complex does boast a sauna, a spa, a gym and a steam room for the use of visitors. Apartments also come with garage parking, laundry facilities and fully-equipped kitchens.
4. Villa Kruger Boutique Hotel B&B
This boutique bed and breakfast in Montreux is an intimate property with just half a dozen guest rooms. Located by the lake, it offers a spacious garden with magnificent lake and mountain views.
Guests here can book into a lake view double room, or a range of suites. These include a two-bedroom option suitable for a large family.
5. Hotel Victoria Glion
Hotel Victoria is located in nearby Glion rather than Montreux, and enjoys a peaceful setting by the lake and close to the forest.
The four star hotel has a fine dining restaurant, an outdoor pool, a hot tub, a sauna, a gym and tennis courts. There is also a lovely garden dotted with trees and featuring large lawns.
Best bars, cafés & restaurants in Montreux
1. Tea Room de la Baye
Tea Room de la Baye is tucked away on Rue du Pont and is the number one spot in Montreux for pastries, tea, coffee and cakes.
Vegetarian options are offered and the outlook is truly beautiful. The service is also good and prices are very reasonable.
Centrally located on the Avenue du Casino is Zurcher, a popular Montreux eatery specialising in Swiss and French cuisine plus freshly-baked cakes and pastries.
It’s the ideal venue for snacking or dining at any time of day and the selection of sweet treats offered here is outstanding.
3. Auberge de Chaulin
Five star reviews abound for this Montreux restaurant found on Rue de Chaulin. It serves a range of refined Swiss, French and European dishes to discerning diners, all executed and presented with flair.
This hilltop eatery also offers panoramic views over the lake.
4. Montreux Jazz Festival
If you’re in town at the time then the Montreux Jazz Festival offers a feast for the palate as well as the ears.
A range of exciting food and beverage stalls are offered during early July, so guests can wander among these sampling culinary delights from the local area as well as way beyond.
5. Restaurant Le Museum
Positioned on Rue de la Gare, Restaurant Le Museum is just that: a traditional Swiss-style eatery that’s the best place in town for fondue.
Stone walls, carved staircases and old wine barrels create a rustic ambience in which to savour an authentic Swiss dining experience.
Montreux travel guide FAQs
Are there any good day trips from Montreux?
Several day trips are available from Montreux so visitors can explore more of the riviera. You can go to Rochers de Naye by cogwheel railway, take a trip on the Swiss chocolate train, hike to explore the vineyards, take a longer boat trip towards French shores or travel the GoldenPass Line.
Is Montreux a good destination for solo travellers?
Switzerland is one of the most popular places in the world for solo travellers, as it’s such a safe and welcoming country. There is lots to see and do here, and it’s a particular favourite among those who enjoy hiking, watersports, music, shopping and exploring.
Planning a winter trip? Read my ultimate Zermatt ski resort guide.