The jewel of Montreux is the promenade along its shoreline. Lined with cafes, hotels and greenery, the promenade makes for a beautiful walk and a charming location to enjoy a lovely summer afternoon or moonlit romantic dinner. The main street, the Grand Rue, is where many of the hotels are located. But this is a busy, hectic road one street off of the pretty promenade. One of the few hotels located directly on the promenade is the Hotel Eden au Lac, a pretty Edwardian style hotel where we stayed. This hotel is discussed further below.
Up in the hills behind Montreux is the old-town. In contrast to the ritzy, glamorous feeling of the promenade, the Montreux old-town is small, sleepy and in areas almost impoverished. Nevertheless, it has charm, and if you have strong legs and lungs it is worthwhile to explore. To find the old town, start near the tourist information center, find Rue du Marche and walk up the cobblestone street. The street name will change to Quartier des Tilleuls, Rue du Pont and finally Rue du Temple. But it is essentially the same street, heading in the same direction, up, up, up.
Panoramic View of Montreux and Lake Geneva
If you are determined and persistent enough to climb up the hill to the old church, the steeple of which you can see rising high above from any point of the old town,you will be rewarded by a wonderful panoramic view of Montreux and the Lake.
Visable from the promenade as well as the old-town is Chillon Castle in Territet, a fairy tale-like monument built just off-shore on a small island. The castle seems much closer from Montreux than it actually is. It took us about an hour to walk there from the center of Montreux, but the walk, past charming villas, blooming flowers and gliding swans was absolutely beautiful. The Castle, immortalized in Byron's poem 'The Prisoner Of Chillon' and Henry James' novella 'Daisy Miller' is open only until 18:00. If you do not feel like walking back, there is a train that runs once per hour from Territet station reachable by stairs from the walkway.
Montreux is most famous for two things: the Montreux Jazz Festival, one of the most famous music festivals in the world, and Deep Purple’s classic song “Smoke on the Water”, which tells the story of the burning of the Montreux Casino on December 4, 1971. According to Ian Gillian from Deep Purple, the band was attending a Frank Zappa concert at the Montreux Casino when a fan shot off a flare gun, and the Montreux Casino caught on fire. The band members retreated to the adjacent Hotel Eden au Lac restaurant to watch the fire.
In the restaurant of the Eden Au Lac Roger Lovell wrote the lyrics to 'Smoke on the Water' on a napkin. (note: Roger Lovell insists it was the Eurotel about 300 meters further away from the Casino, not the Eden au Lac). The problem was that the band was supposed to record their album at the destroyed Casino. Instead, they put together a make-shift recording studio at the Grand Hotel, better known as the Grand Hotel Des Alpes located in Territet, which was converted to apartments in the late 1990's. The Montreux Casino was rebuilt on the same location in 1975.
There is a monument to the fire on the Montreux Promenade, which is easiest to find at night as the words “Smoke on the Water” light up and are clearly visible.
Near the “Smoke on the Water” monument is a monument to Freddie Mercury of the Rock Group Queen. Freddie owned an apartment in Territet and bought a recording studio, Mountain Studios, which was located in the newly built Montreux Casino. Unfortunately, Mountain Studios is now closed. Queen recorded many of their albums in Montreux, as well as the famous “Under Pressure” which they recorded in Montreux with David Bowie. In addition to Mercury, other famous residents of Montreux include Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita. Nabokov lived the last years of his life at the Montreux Palace Hotel and is buried in nearby Clarens.
Hotels in Montreux
Montreux is filled with many upscale luxury hotels. We selected Montreux’s Eden Au Lac hotel for its location and amenities. One of the few hotels located directly on the promenade, the Eden Au Lac offers spectacular views from its restaurant, gardens and lake view rooms. We received an attractive offer from the hotel reservation website ‘Venere’ for a street-side (not lakeview) double room with breakfast. We were delighted with the hotel.
The Eden au Lac hotel is very centrally located; the hotel lobby is large and attractive and our room (#117) which overlooked a quiet street had an elegant modern design. We were pleased with the breakfast offerings and the charm of the breakfast room which offered a spectacular view over the lake and the mountains.
The hotel has two swimming pools. The first pool is small and very simple looking, but with nice sun beds and umbrellas in a quiet garden and a lovely view. The second pool, located next to the adjacent casino, is larger and more attractive. Be aware that the larger pool can be crowded and chaotic and it closes at the end of August. In addition, there is a small fitness room and sauna available to guests at no charge.
VeveyIn contrast to Montreux, the charm of Vevey is its old town. While the promenade has a beautiful view and well manicured vegetation, Vevey does not have the same tourist appeal as Montreux and the businesses along the Vevey promenade seem to have fallen on hard times and many are closed down. The result is that the promenade has a relaxed, but down-scale feeling. Located on the promenade is a statue of Charley Chaplin, a resident of Vevey for the final 20 years of his life. In contrast to the sad condition of the promenade the nearby old-town, is busy and pretty with many shops, cafes and restaurants. It has the charm that is lacking in Montreux’s down-trodden old town.