This year I was surprised with a very special birthday present… a trip to Switzerland – a country I’ve always wanted to visit.
Not only was I very excited to eat all the Swiss cheese and chocolate but I was looking forward to the beautiful scenery, mountains and lakes. It also gave me a chance to practice some of my French.
After an early start at Gatwick airport we landed in Geneva after what felt like one of the shortest flights I’ve ever been on. Seriously, it was almost the same length as my morning commute!
We were heading to Montreux, a town towards the east of Lake Geneva. It’s really easy to reach from the airport by train and we bought tickets at the station (70 CHF). The train journey took just over an hour and then we stepped off the train to beautiful lake views!
We chose to stay right on the lakeside in the Hotel Du Grand Lac Excelsior. It’s a beautiful hotel and every room is a lake facing room with a balcony.
I was very spoilt with some beautiful rose petals, a rose and my favourite chocolates on the bed.
The hotel was perfect, it has a very grand, old style feeling to it, with wide carpeted corridors and large portraits on the wall.
There was an indoor swimming pool on the ground floor and you can choose to have breakfast and dinner included with the room when you book.
Montreux is just beautiful. It definitely helped that we had clear blue skies each day. I had been checking the weather everyday for the week before we left and it had been changing so much I was expecting rain and clouds most of the weekend. It was actually quite hot in the sun but I was glad of my coat and scarf when we went out in the evening!
The city had an old town and then a more modern centre. The old town is about a ten minute walk from the lakeside uphill and there are little shops and winding streets to explore. The centre has restaurants, clothes shops, bakeries and cafes. We spent an afternoon exploring both and popping into the bakeries to keep us going!
My favourite part of the town was the lakefront. Montreux is know for it’s mild climate ‘the Vaud Riviera” and walking along the lake you can actually imagine you’re in the South of France. There are palm trees and bright flowers all along the lake. It was so peaceful walking along and there are plenty of benches and little bay areas to sit and admire the mountains and water.
What to do
You can pretty much do as much or as little as you want to in Montreux. You can spend the days lazing by the lake with a book or head off and explore the many different walking routes in the area.
We spent one morning at Chillon Castle, the place that inspired Lord Byron and his famous poem in 1816. I’d really recommend a trip here.
You are given a helpful guide when you arrive and you can make your way between the rooms at your own leisure. The rooms are set up to look like they did in the past or with some of the old furniture in them. You can climb right to the top of the tower too which gives stunning views out over the alps. You can walk to the castle, but we chose to get the boat so we could get out on the lake and then we walked back.
If you’re looking for that perfect instagram shot there is also the Rochers-de-Naye rack-railway that takes you up to beautiful panorama views. You can also visit the Marmots there!
Depending on whether you’re visiting in summer or winter there are also lake activities like paddle boarding, swimming and boats. In winter there is the option of skiing. We visited in October so in the middle of the two seasons but I would love to go back for some skiing one day!
Don’t forget to give the Freddie Mercury statue a visit on the lakefront! He had a recording studio in Montreux and the statue was placed there to commemorate him.
Where we ate
Everyone knows Switzerland isn’t particularly cheap, so we opted to make our own breakfasts and lunches and just eat out for dinner. We stocked up on pastries, bread, salami and cheese from the local supermarket and bakery which sorted us out for breakfast and lunch.
I knew I wanted to eat some fondue while I was there so for dinner we went to two restaurants that had it on the menu!
The first restaurant was Restaurant Le Museum where we shared beef fondue in a red wine broth and home made rosti. The beef also came with potato gratin and homemade sauces. The portions were a good size, especially the rosti and it was delicious. For dessert we had chocolate fondue and cheese. I was in heaven, basically a saucepan of melted chocolate!!
For our second evening we headed to Caveau des Vignerons for more fondue! We had beef fondue and rosti again but you had to have minimum 2 people sharing the fondue which is something to bear in mind if you’re going here especially for fondue.
Both meals were really tasty but my favourite was Le Museum. It was a very cosy restaurant with big wooden beams and the waiters were very friendly. They gave us both a glass of prosecco for my birthday too!
On the Saturday night we went to Restaurant 45 for a drink. My cousin recommended it to me as a good place to go and it was just about warm enough to sit on the roof terrace. We had somehow ended up with the best seats on the terrace, right on the edge, so got a great view. We were treated to the most beautiful sunset over the lake – it was honestly incredible!
I definitely want to go back to Switzerland. I had the best time here. The people were so friendly, the scenery is stunning and I could definitely get used to eating fondue all the time! I’d like to visit the Italian side next time too.
Have you ever been to Switzerland? Let me know in the comments below!