Visiting The Swiss Riviera
The Swiss Riviera is located on the shores of Lake Leman stretching from Geneva which is 99 km to the south and Montreux to the north east. With an abundance of sailboats dotting its shores, Lake Leman is the biggest fresh water lake in Western
Europe and a pearl for travelers visiting Switzerland.
Most of French-speaking Switzerland is so appealing because it barely registers on the package tour circuit. You can swap a bus full of Japanese tourists shopping for cuckoo clocks in Lucern for a hillside of blooming narcissi or a wine village with spell-binding views and a deep blue-green gleam along Lake Leman.
Make your first glimpse of the Swiss Riviera, a playground for the rich and famous, from the window of a Panoramic train as it descends the snow-capped Alps upon French-style farmhouses adorned with terraced vineyards just beside you and Lake Leman.
Lake Leman possesses such grace with its calm azure waters and graceful swans patrolling underneath the medieval Chillon Castle. However, Chillon’s history is no fairytale. During Switzerland’s witchcraft purges, dozens of women were tortured here while many others were incarcerated. Lord Bryon, who visited in 1816, wrote an epic poem about Francois Bonivard, the prisoner chained in the dungeons of Chillon.
Steep mountains and vineyards terraces mirror in the crystal clear waters of the lake, providing a feeling of complete harmony and relaxation. Discover the unique terraced vineyards of the wine growing village of Lavaux which represents the culture of the region. Why not take a stroll along exceptional landscape away from the road traffic and into ever changing colors of the over 50 vineyards alongside Lake Leman.
Montreux is one of those places that seem to hold a certain tantalizing magic. With a sought after and mild microclimate, Montreux is spectacularly located at the shores of Lake Leman with the afternoon sunshine streaming across the lake. Visitors can marvel at a wide variety of well kept tropical plants lining the scenic ten km lakeside walk.
Lake Leman’s summers are definitely Riviera-like, reaching a sweltering 95 F in mid July. Be sure to cool off at one of the many beaches and regattas in the summer months, surrounded on all sides by the Swiss and French Alps. Relatively speaking, winters can be quite mild, which explains the terraced vineyards and infamous banana and palm trees along the lakeshore.
Take a day trip on a classic Pullman rail car to the medieval village of Gruyere where you will witness cheese making demonstrations the traditional way. In the afternoon, enjoy Nestle’s Callier chocolate factory located in Broc where you can indulge in the taste of pure chocolate heaven.
In high summer, ferries ply between the lakeside villages, spending much of your time afloat on the lake. Ferries also go to such areas as Geneva bound for Yvoire and Lausanne bound for Evian (source of the famous bottled water) in France. Such cultural attractions as the Nestle food museum and farmers markets open along the shores every Saturday to shoppers.
Ernest Hemingway, Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward, Shania Twain and Freddy Mercury all owned homes in Montreux and neighboring Vevey. Charlie Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life in Vevey, with a statue of him along the lakefront. One can only bask on a terrace at sunset and marvel at the huge expanse of green land and presence of mountains beyond.
While the Swiss Riviera is in some ways passe these days, new luxurious wellness centers have sprung along its shores to entice visitors to come rest and play. Come relax at such wellness centers as the Amrita Wellness Center at Le Montreux Palace, the Givenchy Spa at Le Mirador, the Puressens Spat at Hotel Trois Couronnes in Vevey and La Reserve Hotel and Spa in Geneva. Switzerland is renewing its spa reputation and millions have been spent to create everything you could possibly need to de-stress, detox, lose weight, tone up and bring mind and body back to optimal health.
It’s quite easy to understand why once you catch a glimpse of the ambling quai des fleurs among the neighboring towns and villages you will never want to leave its beauty. You’d never tire of the ever changing panorama of lakes, alpine pinnacles, and twinkling villages. Best of all, within a half-an-hour you can be high in the mountainous Alps enjoy various winter sports.