Montreux: the little town bigger than its jazz festival
Despite a fortuitous combination of grand Belle Epoque buildings, stunning promenades, a Lake Geneva bordering location and, frankly, a rather awesome Alpine backdrop, the Swiss lakeside resort town of Montreux remains a bit of a hidden gem to GCC travellers.
Here’s how to take advantage of that before everyone else catches on...
The Fairmont Montreux Palace
Built-in 1906 — as a hospital during the WW1 — careful renovation and an enviable location have turned the Fairmont not only into Montreux’s most famous hotel but also its finest.
The Belle Époque hotel’s 2011 refurbishment of a number of rooms restored original architectural details (and let’s not overlook the refined plushness of the Montreux Jazz Cafe) — I mean, this is jazz country after all.
The impact of arguably the city’s most famous resident, Charlie Chaplin, can still be seen today. The American actor spent 25 years in the town’s Manoir de Ban after his self-imposed exile, and it is not hard to understand why.
Between December 23 and January 7, 2018, the Manoir de Ban will be hosting Chaplin’s World, an interactive tribute to the man’s life, including a hot-air balloon flight with views over Lavaux, Lake Geneva and the Alps.
Château de Chillon
The town’s most notable landmark is Château de Chillon. It’s notable because a Disney-style medieval castle sits on its own private island jutting out into Lake Geneva.
With ramparts, formal halls and a chapel with 14th-century murals, it is well worth the short trip, and one that will impress both child and inner child alike.
Montreux has long been home to the rich and famous, so expect some rather top-notch dining options. Our pick is La Veranda, a Michelin-starred brasserie with a casual, relaxed vibe and views so impressive that you will struggle to concentrate on your food.
Caveau des Vignerons
Set in the Old Town, the Caveau des Vignerons may seem a little off-the-beaten-track but is worth it for some very traditional Swiss food — raclette, fondue and rösti — at reasonable prices.
The interiors are cosy and welcoming, and there are several options for kids (the chocolate fondue is particularly loved).
Head to the sprawling outdoor handicrafts Christmas fair on the lakeshore to take full advantage of Montreux in full festive mode. There are enough hand-made good and seasonal tat to have everyone back at home convinced that you actually went and spent a week with Santa.
WHY GO NOW?
The world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival may draw the turtleneck-and-beret crowd in July, but come the winter, the snow-kissed streets turn Montreux into a postcard-perfect town overloaded with festive season cheer.
For 23 years the Montreux Noel festival has gone all out to capture the magic of the season with gift markets, elfin villages and even animations being projected onto the facade of the Montreux Palace. If you thought Germany went all-in with its tinsel, you are in for something else...
HOW TO GET THERE?
Etihad Airways and Emirates fly daily to Geneva. From there, Montreaux is a short train ride away.
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