How to spend one day in Montreux on the Swiss Riviera

Montreux is a gorgeous Swiss town that sits on the shores of Lake Geneva. There are mountains all around, a beautiful lakeside promenade, and a fairytale castle – enough to justify spending at least one day in Montreux. 

The town known for having attracted the rich and famous – most well-known among these is Freddie Mercury, but also Lord Byron and Coco Chanel. And while you’re unlikely to be able to live there yourself, you can still visit and have a great time. As it’s quite a small town, it’s easy to see the main sights in just one day in Montreux. 

I did just that recently and would recommend it. We day-tripped from Geneva, but it’s also easy to do this from other Swiss cities, such as Lausanne and Bern.

Below, you can find out what to do during one day in Montreux and the best things to include on your Montreux itinerary.

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Where is Montreux?

Montreux is a small town on the eastern shore of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman). It is around an hour, to an hour and a quarter, by train from Geneva, making it a great day trip from Switzerland’s second city. The journey from the capital, Bern, is around an hour and a half.

It’s nearer, however, to other places such as Lausanne (20 to 25 minutes). 

Montreux is also just minutes from the nearby town of Vevey. In fact, it’s so close that one of the things you might consider doing on your one day in Montreux is popping over to Vevey and going up the hill to visit the neoclassical mansion that was once home to Charlie Chaplin. The grounds house a museum dedicated to his life and work.

There are regular trains around Lake Geneva, so if you’re based elsewhere and just day-tripping here, I’d recommend you take the train. When you arrive in Montreux, the train station is right in the middle of the town and just a couple of minutes’ walk down to the lakeside.

Alternatively, you can book day tours along the Swiss Riviera which will take you to Montreux.

One day in Montreux: the top things to do in Montreux

The fact that Montreux is relatively small means you can easily see the main sights in just one day.

Here are the things you should focus on seeing with your one day in Montreux.

One day in Montreux

– Wander alongside the lakeside promenade and take in the views 
– See the statue of Freddie Mercury
– Walk up to the medieval castle on the water’s edge
– Go inside the castle and wander around the fortress grounds

– Grab some lunch at the castle, the lake, or in Montreux’s old town
– Learn more about the band Queen, head to Vevey and the Charlie Chaplin Museum, go on a boat trip, or have some fun at the Fort de Chillon interactive experience

Take a lakeside stroll

Like most places that sit on a lake, a stroll alongside the waterfront in Montreux is one of the main highlights. It’s a wide lake with huge mountains on the other side. 

Part of the lakeside walk with flowers and trees and a boat on the lake - see this on one day in Montreux

If you start your walk after coming down the steps/escalator opposite the train station, you’ll come to the Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic. Cross the road and you’ll then be in the main part of Montreux’s waterfront area.

This was quite busy when we were there, probably because several cafes and restaurants are dotted around. There are also a few outdoor booths selling drinks and ice cream, and a small children’s playground.

As you wander along, you’ll notice that even though you’re next to a glacial lake and mountains, there are palm trees! These flourish thanks to the region’s mild climate. Depending on the time of year you visit, you’ll also see lots of colourful flowers in bloom along this pathway. 

Part of the lakeside promenade in Montreux with a palm tree and mountains in the background

And if you continue walking, you’ll eventually be able to glimpse the 12th century Chillon Castle jutting out into the water.

Walk up to see Chillon Castle (the Château de Chillon)

If you have enough time and energy, carry on walking along the promenade and away from the main lakeside activity in Montreux. If it’s a pleasant day, this is really enjoyable. 

The walk passes flowers and more palm trees, as well as some quite unique plant ‘sculptures’ of various animals – there are fish, a lobster, pigs, and even a hanging spider overlooking a crab! 

The spider 'sculpture' hanging from a tree overlooking one of a crab with the mountains and lake in the background

When we were there, an accordion player was sitting on the side of the pathway playing music. This added to the laid-back atmosphere as we wandered along looking out at the lake and mountains.

The further you walk, the greater your chance of seeing the 12th century medieval Chillon Castle. This emerges in your eye line in the distance on a small island at the side of the lake. 

Chillon Castle in the distance on the lake with mountains in the background

At this stage, you could just take a few photos from a distance and turn back, or carry on walking. Note that if you decide to walk right up to the castle, you’ll need a bit of time. It probably took us around an hour to walk the whole way from the central part of Montreux (although we were walking quite leisurely and did stop to buy an ice cream on the way).

Alternatives to walking to Chillon Castle

I do think it’s worth walking along the lake up to the castle if you can, as it’s all part of the experience of your time in Montreux. 

However, if you don’t want to walk, you can catch a bus up to the castle (the number 201). You can also take a train to the Gare de Veytaux-Chillon stop. 

We walked to the castle and then caught the bus back. This is about a 10 minute bus ride back to the town centre. 

There is also the ‘Little train’ tourist train that runs from the market near the Freddie Mercury statue. This goes along the promenade to the port of Territet (a 25-minute journey).

The Little Train in Montreux

This is probably around halfway up to the castle, so you could travel this way for some of the journey and then get off and walk the remainder.

Visit Chillon Castle

If you do walk onto Montreux’s ancient castle, you’ll initially walk up a slope slightly away from the lake. You’ll then see a path that drops down to a small rocky beach below the fortress. 

After walking down to the beach and admiring the castle from on the beach, you can go back up to the footpath. It’s then only a short walk on to the castle entrance with its drawbridge.

You can go inside the castle for a fee. You can book tickets here.

Inside Chillon Castle

Inside, you can learn about the castle’s history and wander through the different rooms – the towers, halls and ceremonial rooms, outside courtyards, bedrooms, underground rooms (these apparently inspired the British poet Byron and ‘The Prisoner of Chillon’), and the chapel. 

You can also look at around 300 exhibits displayed in its rooms. These include weapons, various pieces of furniture, and discoveries from excavations at the turn of the 20th century. There are also murals and frescoes on some of the walls.

The castle grounds

Even if you don’t have time for a quick visit inside, you can still learn about the castle’s history from the plaques dotted around outside. You can also wander around and see the castle from different vantage points. 

Chillon Castle and some of its grounds

This will allow you to appreciate it more fully. It might have looked like a small building from the water’s edge as you approached it from Montreux, but you’ll see there’s much more to it up close. That said, it’s still only a fairly small castle relative to others you might have visited.

There is a café outside next to the railway line – the aptly named Café Byron – if you fancy a break before continuing your sightseeing.

Chillon Castle is open daily except for Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, although opening and closing times vary with the seasons. 

Have a photo with Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury, the late lead singer of the band Queen, is one of the most famous people to have lived in Montreux. He first visited in the late 1970s.

I read after I visited that he apparently wasn’t that keen on Montreux at first. But he soon changed his mind (it’s not hard to see why!) and eventually bought a house overlooking the lake. He also recorded several albums with the band in Montreux. 

Freddie Mercury died in 1991, and a statue honouring him is now standing at the side of the lake in Montreux. Take a look at this as you wander along, and maybe even get a photo of yourself with him!

The statue of Freddie Mercury - see this on one day in Montreux

Visit the Queen Studio Experience

If you want to know more about Freddie Mercury and Queen, or are an avid fan, you can also pop into the Casino Barrière Montreux. In addition to the usual things you’d expect to find in a casino, there’s the ‘Queen Studio Experience’ here. 

This exhibition – based in the old ‘Mountain Studios’ – was once also used by the likes of The Rolling Stones and David Bowie. There is now a dedicated Queen museum in recognition of their recording of six albums here.

There are various items of memorabilia here, including photos and handwritten documents, some of the outfits they wore during live performances, their instruments, and album covers.

We didn’t have time to go in and see this, but if you’re a Queen fan, you really should. It gets four and a half stars out of five on TripAdvisor.

The Queen Studio Experience is open every day between 9am and 9pm. Admission is free.

And if you’re a real lover of Queen and want a bit more information, check out this guided tour that will take you around some of the main parts of Montreux associated with the band.

Stop off for a drink or lunch overlooking the lake

If you have time, I’d recommend stopping for refreshments along the lakeside. This allows you to look out across the water to the mountains in the distance and appreciate the absolutely incredible setting. 

For me, although there were some sights I wanted to see, my one day in Montreux was as much about slowing down and appreciating my beautiful surroundings as it was ticking things to see off my list (that said, I’m glad I did see a lot of the things covered in this post). 

It’s the perfect place to do this, and it’s particularly lovely in the summer when the weather is fine and the skies are clear.

Several places by the promenade offer views over the lake. We had a coffee in the Hotel Eden Au Lac while strolling up to the castle. 

This is on the pricier side, but it’s really nice inside, with a floor to ceiling plate glass window looking out onto the lake and mountains. There is also an outdoor seating section.

We then had a tasty glass of Swiss wine in the Le Metropole bar, another venue with waterside seating, before catching the train home.

There are also plenty of places along the promenade where you can sit on a bench with a drink and a picnic and watch the world go by.

Learn about the life and work of Charlie Chaplin

After a visit to Chillon Castle, if you fancy going to a fantastic museum in another beautiful setting, you could catch the bus to the nearby lakeside town of Vevey and up the hill to the Charlie Chaplin Museum, Chaplin’s World.

As the name suggests, this covers the life and work of Charlie Chaplin, the famous comic actor, director, and filmmaker who became famous in the first half of the 20th century.

We visited, and I have to say, it’s one of the best museums I’ve visited in a long while. You can read about our visit here.

The museum has two main parts. The first is the modern ‘Studio’, which covers Chaplin’s early life in London and his rise to fame in Hollywood.

The second is in the large neoclassical mansion (the Manoir de Ban), Chaplin’s former family home. Here, you can learn about his life in Switzerland from 1952 until his death in 1977.

The Manoir de Ban at Chaplin's World in Vevey near Montreux

You can also walk around the gardens with the vast green lawn in front of the Manor House. These have incredible views of the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

You can book tickets to the Charlie Chaplin Museum here.

To get here from Montreux you can take the 201 bus (this also runs from the stop near Chillon Castle) and then swap to the bus up to Coursier-sur-Vevey. Or catch the train to Vevey (a journey time of just four minutes) and then catch the bus.

Take a boat ride on Lake Geneva 

If you want to get closer to the water and mountains, you can take a boat ride on the lake during your one day in Montreux. 

One way to do this is on a historic paddle steamer that cruises along the water, past the castle and the small pretty towns located along the lake. This gives you fantastic views of the French and Swiss Alps and is a great way to spend a couple of hours in Montreux.

A paddle steamer boat on the lake in Montreux - you can do this as part of your one day in Montreux

Other things to do in Montreux

I’ve outlined the main things I think you should prioritise on your Montreux day trip. However, there are also other things that you may prefer to do, or that you can also do if you have longer in the Swiss Riviera.

Below are some of the best activities to consider if you have more than one day in Montreux.

Travel on the cogwheel train up the mountain

The Rochers-de-Naye is a mountain near Montreux that gives you the opportunity to see some amazing panoramic views: this time from up high at around 2,000 metres. 

Part of the fun of this will be travelling on the small cog railway that goes up the side of the mountain. It takes less than an hour and runs from Montreux train station.

On the journey, you get breathtaking views of Lake Geneva and out to mountain peaks such as Mont Blanc and the French Alps. Once there, you can look out from the observation points, wander around the Alpine Garden, go hiking, and, at Christmas, visit Santa Claus!

If you’re visiting for longer, there are ski resorts in the area.

There is also a restaurant where you can grab some refreshments.

Check out trips up to Rochers-de-Naye here.

Ride the Chocolate Train

If you’re visiting Montreux in the summer months, you can take a trip on The Chocolate Train (the Train du Chocolat). This is a day trip in itself, especially if you’re a train lover – a journey of over 7 hours on a 1915 GoldenPass Belle Epoque train and then on the ‘Chocolate Bus’. 

The train ride runs between Montreux and Broc. In Broc, you can visit the Cailler chocolate factory and take part in some tastings. On the way, you stop off in the quaint town of Gruyeres to learn about its famous cheese.

Part of Gruyeres town
View of the medieval town of Gruyeres

You can take the Chocolate train between the start of May and the end of September on selected days. The cost of the journey is reduced for Swiss Travel Pass holders.

Have some fun at Fort de Chillon

The Fort de Chillon is just a short walk from Chillon Castle across the road. This is a fun interactive museum that is housed in an old Swiss Armed Forces installation. It covers over 2,000 square metres and 20 rooms. 

Inside you can play games of strategy, 3D games, quizzes and take part in some virtual reality, all aimed at demonstrating the lives of the soldiers who once served here in the Forces. You can also eat in the soldier’s mess while you’re here.

The website says it’s ‘the ideal place for adventure-seekers, families in search of entertainment or simply those curious to discover one of the region’s best-kept secrets’.

Fort de Chillon is open year round from Wednesday to Sunday. 

Go wine tasting

Montreux is well placed to try a bit of wine tasting if this takes your fancy. 

The Lavaux vineyards, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are just a few kilometres away, and there are plenty of opportunities to try some Swiss wine here.

There are a number of vineyards in the area and different experiences you can have on a visit to the Lavaux area. Check these out here.

Experience the Montreux Jazz Festival

The world-famous annual Montreux Jazz Festival is held in July and attracts around a quarter of a million people. It takes place over a two-week period from early July and features a wide range of concerts and different artists. 

Over the years, famous names who’ve performed include Nina Simone, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, and Aretha Franklin. The festival covers not only jazz, but also a wide range of different styles. And of course, it is in a wonderful and unique setting.

The 2024 Monteux Jazz Festival will take place from the 5th to 20th July.

Get into the festive spirit at the Christmas market

The Montreux Christmas market takes place from late November right up until Christmas. It bills itself as ‘one of the prettiest Christmas markets in Europe’, situated as it is alongside the lake. 

The summer months are ideal to visit Montreux because you can make the most of the outdoor scenery. However, Christmas is also a magical time to visit if you want to wander around the old town, see the promenade lit up, and generally get into the festive spirit.

Father Christmas also has a house at the top of the Rochers-de-Naye mountain. Kids will love riding the cogwheel train up to see him!

One day in Montreux: other ideas for day trips and short breaks

If you’re in the Montreux area and looking for other ideas for great places to visit nearby, you should check out some of my other posts. 

I have a post on how to spend one day in Geneva on my website (which includes a free itinerary for your day out). 

There’s also one that covers the top things to do on a day trip to Lausanne. This is a great place to spend some time, with its old town and the lakeside area of Ouchy. It’s less than a half hour from Montreux by train.

Neuchatel is also only around an hour and 10 minutes from Montreux station. So you may want to head up there as well. It sits on Lake Neuchatel, the third largest lake in Switzerland, and has a picturesque old town.

If you’re on a more extended trip and looking for other places to put on your Switzerland itinerary, you might also be interested in my posts and travel guides on:

For other ideas for trips in Europe and the UK, see my website.

Written by Emma Marshall

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