There's a characteristic appeal to the Swiss Riviera that is frankly inimitable, you won't find anywhere else quite like it in Europe. Comprising of the region between Geneva and Montreux, alongside the stunning Lac Léman, the Swiss Riviera isn't just a place where the rich and famous come to get away from the world, but a destination that never ceases to impress with its dramatic vistas, delicious wine, and vibrant culture. Here's a list of things you just have to do when visiting this beautiful region.
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The Top Things to Do and See in Europe’s Beautiful Swiss Riviera Region
Savor the Local Wines
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Unbeknownst to many, there exists a lively wine culture in Switzerland. Lavaux and its surrounding areas are particularly popular, where wine is still produced primarily by locals, giving each bottle the kind of uniqueness and personal touch that enthusiasts often cherish. Even more surprising is the fact that the grape vines are grown on the lower slopes of the mountains, called terraced vineyards, limiting the usage of machines. As a result, the entire 30 kilometer stretch of vineyards from Lausanne to Montreux has been labeled a UNESCO World Heritage Site for promoting "centuries-long interaction between people and their environment."
For the wine enthusiasts wanting to discover more, there are regular tours that run through the vineyards culminating in wine tastings. However, for a truly authentic experience, head to Association Vincole in Corseaux, an organization that has been producing spectacular wine in limited numbers for over 100 years.
Feel the Power of Music with Queen: The Studio Experience
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There's a surprise in store for music fans who wander into Montreux. The charming city at one end of Lake Geneva has been home to many music greats, one of which is Freddie Mercury. A statue of the musician is the highlight of a walk along the lake, but for a more intimate session, visit the Montreux Mountain Studios, for the Studio Experience, where the band produced some of their most well-known works.
Queen though is not the only band to immortalize Montreux. Deep Purple's famous song, Smoke on the Water, is based on a fire that broke out at Montreux Casino in 1971 during a performance by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
Montreux's association with music continues to this very day as the home of the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival, held every year in June and July, attracting music lovers and singers from around the globe.
Sprint to the Olympic Museum
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The Swiss love their museums, and there are many to be found around the Swiss Riviera. From the Alimentarium and Camera Museum in Vevey to the Museum of Natural History in Geneva, there are ample options for visitors looking to fuel their own interests.
Among the most famous museums in all of Switzerland is the Olympic Museum in Lausanne. Refurbished a few years ago, this state-of-the-art institution follows the most significant sporting event in the world, right from its inception to the present day. A delight for any sports fan, the museum includes interactive activities, remarkable displays and is a treasure trove of information to keep everyone busy for hours at end.
Hop Across to France for a Day
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The positioning of the mountains around the Swiss Riviera gives it an exceptional microclimate, one that can change dramatically within minutes. Thus, it makes sense to make the most of bright sunny days, and soak up some sun while simultaneously taking in the cool breeze that blows over Lac Léman, in one of the ferries that cover the length of the lake.
Although stopping at any of the traditional villages along the way makes for a great day out, an enjoyable part about the region is that visitors can hop across Lake Geneva into France for a perfect day trip. A visit to Yvoire or Evian makes for a delightful respite that includes indulging in some crepes, fashion and charm that is synonymous with picturesque French villages.
Laugh Out Loud at Chaplin's World
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Switzerland has been home to many celebrities over the years. The non-intrusive nature of the locals makes it the perfect destination for the famous, who can walk the streets without being hassled by fans or the paparazzi. One of the most popular movie stars to have lived in Switzerland was Charlie Chaplin, who spent a considerable number of years, after his exile from the US, in the village of Corsier-sur-Vevey.
Fans of the comic genius can now walk through his home, recently converted into a museum, featuring various important aspects from his private life. The highlight of the museum is a separate studio wing where Chaplin's most famous works come alive through set pieces and wax figures of his co-stars who made him a worldwide phenomenon. When planning a visit to Chaplin's World, keep a few hours free to roam around his house, walk the garden, which boasts of the most amazing views of Lac Léman, and dress up to click memorable photos that place you straight into iconic moments of Chaplin's films.
Immerse in Swiss History at Château de Chillon
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Château de Chillon, situated between Villeneuve and Montreux, is the "most visited historical monument" in all of Switzerland. Comprising of ancient artifacts, displayed beautifully in the castle's many rooms and open spaces, the highlight of a visit here is the climb up to the tower for some truly exceptional views of the surroundings.
Castle Chillon's popularity has grown over the years; however, it is through Lord Byron's infamous poem, The Prisoner of Chillon, that most people know of this place. Byron also etched his name on one of the pillars in the castle's dungeon, because of which there still exists a common misconception that the poet himself was at one time imprisoned here, which is not the case.
Ride Up to Les Rochers-de-Naye
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No visit to Switzerland is complete without a ride up a mountain and the Swiss Riviera doesn't disappoint, with some excellent opportunities to enjoy the thrills of feeling like you're on the top of the world.
An hour-long train from Montreux on a cog railway takes locals and tourists to Les Rochers-de-Naye, an idyllic spot for a family excursion. From skiing in the winter months to leisurely hikes during summers, children can spend time at Marmots' Paradise wildlife park while adults revel in tasty Swiss treats at the Alpine or Plein Roc restaurants. There's a natural refreshing aura that surrounds Les Rochers-de-Naye which guarantees a trip packed with memorable experiences.
A region that promises imposing panoramas, delectable food and wine, a cultural ethos steeped in tradition, and activities for all ages, the Swiss Riviera is a magnificent part of the country that is often overlooked by the most ardent of travelers. Whether it is the famous Fork in the lake near Vevey, the quaint hillside Swiss villages, or the unexpectedly steep Lausanne Gare metro station, there are unusual and charming spots along the way that promise a vacation full with surprises and fascinating sights.