Montreux, Switzerland Travel Guide
This was Jordan and I’s first trip to Europe, and I think we totally lucked out with the unique blend of culture, food, and landscape that the Montreux-Vevey region had to offer! The area we stayed in was very close to France (and about a one hour car ride from Geneva), so the main language spoken was French, followed by English. The combination of the Alps and Lake Geneva in this area was incredible, plus combined with the time of year we went, we were absolutely in awe of the views every day. We’ve both said we’d 10/10 go back during another season (winter skiing, can you imagine?!), and loved our first taste of Europe without a doubt! For this guide, I’m going to break down where we stayed, where we ate, and some really fun things we did and saw along with some tips for the area!
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Fairmont Palace Hotel in Montreux, and the location couldn’t have been better. Our room overlooked Lake Geneva, and the hotel was next to two bus stops that made it super easy to travel in either direction around the lake area. We loved our room, but I should’ve packed lighter pajamas for the room because we were SO hot every night with the heavy comforter and lack of A/C. One thing we noticed about the Swiss is that they seemed to feel like they were freezing on 68 degree days, and every restaurant/shop we’d go in to felt like a sauna. We did love that they provided a motorized blackout shade for our window, and it was so quiet in the hotel and area. This was probably why (combined with forgetting to set alarms) we accidentally slept 13 hours our first night there - whoops!
Where We Ate
We had quite a few meals at the hotel, but also tried some spots around Montreux, Vevey and Lausanne. It’s very easy to spend quite a bit on food in this area, so be warned. Switzerland isn’t necessarily known for their food (although their cheese and chocolate was yum!), but we found that the Italian and French influences in Montreux were definitely strong when it came to wine and pizza. We ate SO MUCH pizza (Jordan made it his mission to try it all!) and tried a lot of Swiss wine (more on that later). Sharing our top 3 places to eat below:
La Rouvenaz in Montreux had an amazing selection of Italian and Swiss wine by the glass (which is much harder to find) and their food and service was very, very good as well. It was a good nice lunch spot or semi-fancy dinner.
Au Parc in Montreux won Jordan’s Best Pizza Award, and I also loved their pasta. It’s a great casual lunch restaurant, but don’t go after their peak lunch hours for pizza because their oven shuts down.
MP’S Bar & Grill at the Fairmont Palace (where we stayed) was absolutely excellent for a nice dinner, and the views are incredible off their outdoor balcony where we opted to eat. We ate outside every chance we got because #alpsviews and I swear every time we did, we got the funniest looks. The staff was so nice though, and even brought out some cozy blankets after the sunset and temps dropped.
A few other things to note about Swiss dining:
Even if you only do it once, get the dessert. We loved that every dessert came with espresso, and when in Switzerland, just eat the chocolate!
Also, this could be a general European thing, but we noticed that lunch was a 1.5 hour affair and dinner was even longer. If you’re in a hurry, be sure to nicely let your server know. Servers usually didn’t come back to ask if we wanted the check for a long time, and that can be important to know for days you’re catching trains or tours.
What We Did
We did a little bit of everything! I think by far my favorite was the wine tour because it was so unique and beautiful, plus we loved the wine tasting of course. The shopping in this area is also so varied, which we loved. It had everything from super high-end luxury brands (in the larger cities) to charming little boutiques.
This insanely beautiful piece of history was built in the 12th century, and it’s rumored to have been inspiration for Prince Eric’s castle in The Little Mermaid. You can tour it for a reasonable fee, or just gawk at it with your camera like we did. We made it down there by sunset, and it was incredible to see at that time of day. There’s not a ton of restaurants in that area, but it’s a quick 10 minute bus ride back to downtown Montreux.
In downtown Montreux, there was a mix of bigger brands like Zara and H&M and ones I had never heard of that were fun to wander into. My favorite place to shop and walk around was Vevey (just a 10 minute bus ride from our hotel). Vevey had more of the small boutiques, charming walkways, and little cafes. For the higher-end shopping, we went to Lausanne and took a half hour train ride to get there. It was a much bigger city feel than Montreux, but still had so much of the charm with the cobblestone roads and gorgeous architecture. We were staying in Montreux, so shopping was convenient there for us (specifically picking up gifts to bring home), but the best by far was Vevey and Lausanne.
Did you know Switzerland exports less than 2% of the wine they produce? As self-proclaimed winos, we were really excited to experience Swiss wine, and enjoy the Italian wines they had on hand as well. Also, grape vines were literally everywhere - next to highways, above luxury car dealerships, growing absolutely anywhere grapes can grow. We took a tour of a vineyard and did a wine tasting in an area outside of Lausanne, and the views were beyond description. The history and culture surrounding wine in Switzerland is really fun to experience, and I highly recommend doing a tour if you can while you’re there. The Swiss are wine lovers, but they make it to drink and not to age it, which is a very different wine culture than what we’d seen pretty much everywhere else, and it makes for a very refreshing wine that I hadn’t really tried from other areas around the world. (FYI - We booked our tour through our travel group, and I’ll link the winery we toured here. I recommend researching tours well before you go, if that’s important to you! We learned that tour guides do not need licenses in Switzerland, so as a result quality can vary a lot between guides.)
Montreux Riviera WaterWalk
The WaterWalk was absolutely gorgeous, and we loved strolling down there for the views alone. You could actually walk it from our hotel to the Chillon Castle which was about a 45 minute walk, and I saw tons of people riding bikes and walking down here. In the summer, they offer stand-up paddle boarding, and there was an on-going boat tour that was running when we were there. There’s also tons of random sculptures on this WaterWalk, including a massive fork (dinglehopper, maybe?).
Our hotel gave us two bus passes to use while we were there (although we were never asked for these when we rode!). We took it so many places, and it saved us a lot of time and money. During the day, we took the 201 up and down the Montreux-Vevey area and the buses came about every 20 min. Jordan handled the tickets for the train we took to Lausanne, and he used an app called SBB Mobile that saved us both time and money. All the transportation we took in Switzerland was very clean, safe and affordable, and we were so impressed with that piece of our trip.
A Few Final Tips
Dress in Layers
We had exceptional weather while we were there. During the day it was sunny with cooler temps (essentially the perfect Fall day for me), but at night it got cooler. We still jumped at any chance to sit outside, so bringing layers made that much more comfortable! Also, I said before that Swiss shops/restaurants cranked the heat during the day, and it was nice to be in layers when we were shopping because there’s a lot of walking, and we were always hot when we stopped in places.
English Speakers are Welcome
This was our first trip to Europe, so we didn’t know what to expect as far as language barriers. Where we were, French was the primary language, but most people spoke enough English that we were fine.
Stock up on Snacks
If you’ve travelled abroad before you know jet lag is a real issue. We figured out early on that stocking up on snacks and water bottles at the local grocery store down the road was a great way to avoid spending $$$ when we woke up starving at 3am.
Bring a Coin Purse
This is more for the guys who don’t carry change in their wallets typically. Swiss Francs don’t come in bill form under 10 CHF, so you’ll be potentially carrying quite a few coins in smaller currency. Also, most places take cards for larger purchases, but it’s nice to have CHF as well on hand (like when we had to pay to use the bathroom at the train station.)