For an average Indian, Switzerland is synonymous with gorgeous snow-covered Alps, dreamy blue lakes and boundless lush meadows that have been covered extensively in very many movies. Surprisingly, there is so much more to this touristy country if one decides to look beyond the fairytale-like vistas, which makes it an ideal offbeat European destination as well. For travellers, who prefer experiencing small countrysides and local culture, a small but significant town called Montreux could be part of their Swiss itinerary.
The musical connect:
While many of you would recall Montreux from Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke on the water’ song that starts with “We all came out to Montreux, On the Lake Geneva shoreline”, this town actually has a very strong musical connect with old and new artistes. In the month of July, Montreux hosts the annual Jazz festival which attracts music lovers and famous performers across the globe. The town also has a unique connection with bands like Led Zeppelin and Queen, and still relives the musical history through jazz bars and buzzing cafe located by the scenic Lake Geneva. According to the locals, when Freddie Mercury visited Montreux in 1978 to record the album ‘Jazz’ with his band Queen, he fell in love the city and remarked: “If you want peace of soul, come to Montreux”. To commemorate his time in Montreux, a bronze statue of Freddie Mercury facing the waterfront was installed in 1996 at the main square of the town (place du marché), which is now a landmark for tourists.
The beautiful French-speaking town of Montreux is located in the southwestern part of Switzerland and can be reached from Geneva via a short train ride. It is located in the Canton of Vaud along the shoreline of Lake Geneva and surrounded by vineyards and green Alpine range on the opposite side. Apart from the scenic views, chalet inspired buildings and an exotic range of floral plantations by the lake promenade, this alpine town is also known for its unique microclimate. On a hot summer day, one can find locals and tourists taking a dip in the cold water of Lake Geneva. Whereas, during the cold season the town is converted into a winter snow land with mountains and pine trees covered in white snow layers. In the month of December, a traditional Christmas market is organised by the lake promenade, which is quite popular among tourists and is known as one of the prettiest Christmas celebrations across Europe.
Old world charm:
The town is a fine example of modernity and history that co-exists in harmony. Most vibrant buildings located on hilltops are accentuated by rose bushes and seasonal blooms that cover the entrance, exit gates, and balconies. While you’ll be amazed to see the old-world chalets and French architecture sprinkled across the city, the locals will zoom past you in super-expensive convertibles and fancy sport cars in the blink of an eye. The manicured gardens and old-style fountains across the lakeside convert into bustling hubs for local youngsters, who gather in the evening to chill by the water and head-bang on the latest French hip hop tracks that play loudly on their mobile speakers.
Around the city:
At the end of the lake is the medieval Chillon Castle (Chateau de Chillon) which is built on an island and is quite popular among history lovers. This fortress is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Europe and it situated in Canton Vaud, around 3 km from Montreux. As you move further up towards the famous Crans-Montana ski resorts, you’ll reach Bluche – a small Swiss village with a unique example of self-sustainability where students and staff of renowned hospitality college Les Roches global hospitality education work hand-in-hand with the local farmers and daily producers.
The village campus is famous for its unique location at 1,200 meters of altitude facing the Alps in the rhône valley, where the Swiss vineyards produce high quality and expensive Swiss wines. The closest city to this unique establishment is a small town called Sierre, which is easily accessible by bus and funicular. Les Roches is regarded among the world’s top three institutions in hospitality management sector and has students from over 68 plus nationalities, who practice farm to fork philosophy by buying local produce from farmers in Bluche and run a successful bar and fine-dine restaurant called Roots within the campus. The restaurant is also open for tourists and locals, who can make a reservation in advance and enjoy a scrumptious meal in a luxury setup.
Speaking of unusual collaborations, another noteworthy establishment in the Eastern part of Montreux is the Institut International de Glion, a luxury hospitality management institution, built on the site of the former Grand Hotel Bellevue. Glion’s main campus overlooks the city of Montreux and it is located strategically at the Glion-sur-Montreux, between Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps. While this remarkable institution is known for its practical arts in culinary, it also has two functional fine-dining restaurants namely Le Bellevue and Fresh, established in 2018 and both are open for all tourists.
Must eat in Montruex:
By the time you’ll absorb the beauty and culture of the city, you’ll be tempted to try out the delicious local food like Swiss cheese, sausages, crispy bacon, salami, dried beef, assortment of bread and fruit-based desserts paired with creamy ice creams available at small cafes and shops that lit up as the sun goes down. If you are in the mood for some fine dine with melodious music, don’t forget to try the Swiss specialties like Raclette (melted cheese) served with baked potatoes, fondue served with bread rolls, Swiss Meringue with double cream and delicious chocolate mousse and fresh fruits with nutty garnish for a hearty Swiss experience.