Montreux & Geneva: Adventures in the French-Speaking Part of Switzerland

Geneva has an airport that’s relatively cheap and easy to fly in and out of. However, it’s also on the Golden Pass panoramic train route. The panoramic trains feel like a destination in and of themselves, offering gigantic windows that extend into the ceiling of the train and stunning views. I highly recommend planning your trip to include this mini-adventure.

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My travel partner and I took a three-hour panoramic Golden Pass train from Interlaken to Geneva, stopping in Montreux on the way. You’ll have to look at the train schedule to ensure that you get on a panoramic train; these are typically marked with asterisks. Other trains will follow the same route but just have the regular, boring old windows. Either way, the ride is covered with a Swiss Travel Pass. If you’re not spending the night in Montreux, there are lockers available at the train station to store your belongings for the day for about CHF 7. It might cost more or less depending on the size of your bags.

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We went through Montreux around the time of the annual jazz festival, so the music was a great backdrop as we walked along Lake Léman (or Lake Geneva depending on where in Switzerland you are). Montreux is a fancy little resort town offering the Chateau de Chillon as its largest tourist attraction. Apparently the Chateau de Chillon was the inspiration for Eric’s castle in the Disney classic, “The Little Mermaid.” I can see why; not only is it beautiful but it has all of your stereotypical castle elements like a drawbridge, a secret passageway, an escape route, and dungeons. Fortunately, it’s an easy walk along the lake from the Montreux train station to Chateau de Chillon, making this a perfect day trip. Find more specifics about transportation here: http://www.lake-geneva-switzerland.com/montreux-vevey/chateau-de-chillon/easy-transportation-to-chateau-de-chillon-near-montreux/

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jazz fest

In terms of accommodations, we were excited to have a private double room at the City Hostel Geneva. The hallways were quiet, we had access to a full kitchen, and there were even little soaps (a luxury we didn’t have in other hostels). The only downside was that there was a fair amount of noise outside in the mornings. Does trash pick-up come daily there?

In Geneva, an obvious stop is Jardin Anglais (English Garden). Jardin Anglais contains both the largest flower clock in the world (which often looks different depending on the season), as well as the National Monument. Nearby is the impressive Jet d’Eau (water jet), which blasts water 140 meters into the air. It’s definitely worth taking the path right up to Jet d’Eau, though prepare for a heavy mist!

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We also visited the Cathedral of St. Pierre and stumbled upon its attached archeological site. The archeological site was one of the unexpected highlights of my trip to Switzerland. I was able to see the remains of old churches (some dating back to the 4th century), learn about how Geneva was formed around those churches, and get an in-depth look at how the area was excavated. If you’re thinking, “Nerd alert,” just go and then tell me that you’re not impressed.

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Another of my favorite excursions in the area was visiting the Palais des Nations (the UN Geneva). For CHF 12, you can go on one of the hour-long tours, which are available in a variety of languages. Make sure to check the hours ahead of time to ensure that tours are happening that day, as they may not offer them during special events. Also, given the understandably high level of security at the UN, plan on removing any money belts or other travel accessories before going through the metal detectors. Lastly, the Broken Chair sculpture outside is another quick must-see. I’ll let you hypothesize about its meaning, or if you’re interested, you can read about it here: http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-us/broken-chair-geneve.html

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Listening to the translator at the UN Geneva

UN Geneva

Broken Chair

What would you do on a trip to Geneva? Post in the comments below!

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