Grindelwald to Montreux via Interlaken Ost and Zweisimmen
We say auf wiedersehen to Grindelwald this morning and board our train to Montreux located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Once again our luggage travels ahead – one of the many pleasures of travelling by train in this beautiful country. Heading down the valley to Interlaken Ost we change here for Zweisimmen where we connect with our direct train to Montreux. Once again First Class on SBB gives us extremely comfortable seats, a good buffet service and fabulous panoramic windows from which to admire the mountain scenery.
Our journey on the GoldenPass MOB line takes us up in to the mountains through Gstaad and Chateau d’Oex, and descends through the UNESCO-protected Lavaux vineyards above Montreux bordering a shimmering Lake Geneva with the snow-capped French Alps in the distance. A magnificent and very scenic way to arrive at this celebrated city on the shores of Lac Léman.
Montreux Riviera, Lake Geneva
We are staying at the fabulous Suisse-Majestic hotel conveniently located opposite Montreux railway station. Book a room or suite overlooking Lake Geneva for the best views. The restaurant here is superb and there’s a terrace on which to have coffee and dine. Our luggage arrives mid-afternoon – soon after our arrival at the hotel. I have a corner room with oblique views of the Lake and the mountains.
It takes my body a while to register that it’s no longer in the mountains. Feeling more grounded after a hearty pizza at La Rouvenaz on the Rue du Marché on the waterfront road – highly recommended – the crystal blue waters of Lake Geneva are calling. I walk slowly along the flower-filled promenade past the jetty and the tourist office to the statue of Freddie Mercury – bedecked with flowers and even a bottle of whisky.
The Queen singer lived and recorded in Montreux towards the end of his life. I recommend visiting Queen: The Studio Experience located inside Montreux’s Casino Barrière. Queen owned Mountain Studios here in Montreux where they recorded several albums including Made in Heaven. Another famous son of Montreux is the poet Byron whose scrawled signature can be seen on one of the dungeon pillars in the nearby Château de Chillon. Take a self-guided tour around this extraordinary castle and its battlements and wander down to the shoreline.
That evening we enjoy a sun-lit walk from the Majestic and dine at the famous Montreux Jazz Café. Scene of many wild nights, the restaurant is adjacent to the lobby of the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace hotel. Jazz Festival founder Claude Nobs donated the kimono given to him by Freddie Mercury and other Festival memorabilia line the walls. Funky Claude’s Bar is the only place to see and be seen during the Festival and has an exciting live stage. The 2019 Montreux Jazz Festival (Friday 28 June to Saturday 13 July) has a very diverse line-up of artists this year, including Sting, Joan Baez, Quincy Jones and Rag’n’Bone Man.
After dinner, we walk in the gardens opposite the Belle Epoque Fairmont. Among the manicured lawns are statutes of previous festival performers including Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Quincy Jones. The light here late afternoon is stunning, as are the views across Lake Geneva to the French Alps.
Chaplin’s World, Vevey
Montreux is the perfect base to explore other towns along this northern shore of Lake Geneva. Head to Lausanne, Pully and Cully for the vineyards, and west to Vevey for the incredible museum dedicated to Charlie Chaplin. Housed in his former villa, this is the very best museum I have visited in a long time. Its interactive displays, memorabilia and even a cinema are highly recommended. You’ll need a morning to absorb it all. I sat on the bench looking out onto the gardens as Chaplin surely did, before walking to Vevey jetty and boarding a steamer back to Montreux. The vintage paddle steamers are all well maintained and a wonderful way to explore the towns and villages on Lake Geneva.