After visiting the French side around Lake Geneva (check part I of our itinerary here), we were ready to discover the northern and eastern parts of the lake which belong to Switzerland. As you may have guessed, they are equally beautiful featuring picturesque villages, culturally-rich cities and mesmerizing landscapes.
Day 1: Around Lake Geneva – from Chillon to Bern
We set out, being eager to explore the Swiss part of Lake Geneva on a rainy morning. Our first stop was probably the most famous attraction of Switzerland and one of the most visited castles in Europe, Chateau de Chillon.
Chateau de Chillon, a castle on the most beautiful setting imaginable
This castle is famous for its idyllic location, as it is situated on an island inside Lake Geneva! It has also been made popular by Lord Byron, who wrote the poem “The Prisoner of Chillon” (1816) about François de Bonivard. Byron also carved his name on a pillar of the castle’s dungeon.
The whole castle is definitely an architectural jewel which requires your attention and besides the beautiful exterior, it offers a really interesting interior. You may enter by crossing a wooden bridge over a natural moat. The building includes several halls and each one of them unveils a part of the castle’s history. You can see the clothes the Court of Savoy used to wear, the weapons being used in medieval times, the materials used in daily life or even learn how to write dates with Latin numerals. With so many interactive exhibitions, it is totally a family-friendly attraction!
The entrance costs 12.50 CHF for adults (~11.50 Euro) and the parking is free. The castle is located just 4 km away from Montreux and offers astonishing views to the lake. We devoted 1.5 hours because we were on a tight schedule, but it is definitely worth of more time!
Our next stop should have been Montreux but we skipped it and left it for the next day as the rain was getting heavier and we were in a rush to visit Lausanne.
Lausanne, the Olympic capital and vibrant student city
Our visit in Lausanne was full of surprises. The thunderstorm over the city leaded us into the Cathedral of Lausanne for a dry break. In the heart of the old town, the majestic Lausanne Cathedral overlooks the city. Attracting more than 400,000 visitors every year, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful Gothic art monuments in Europe.
Starting from the Cathedral, the steps of the Escaliers du Marché, a direct but steep route, will lead you to Place de la Palud, the old town’s main square. From there, you can get lost in the small alleys, shop souvenirs or drink a hot chocolate.
Five minutes from there, you will find the Quartier du Flon, the mainly pedestrian city center district, covering a total surface of 55,000 m2. It offers numerous retail facilities and entertainment opportunities: from boutiques and restaurants to art galleries and recreational spaces. When night falls, Quartier du Flon is thrilling to the sound of bars and clubs. We really enjoyed the graffiti in the area and the architecture, which is an interesting combination of simultaneously historic and ultra-modern rhythm.
Due to the rainfall we could not take as many pictures as we would like to, neither enjoy the vibe of the city. The only exception was the fact that during the particular day of our visit the carnival of Lausanne was taking place. Musicians were playing music and dancing in the rain, something that cheered us up for good!
Leaving the old town, we headed towards Ouchy, the part of the city next to Lake Geneva, where the Olympic Museum is situated. This extraordinary interactive museum invites you to explore the history of the Olympic Games. The museum was closing at 6 pm and we lost the opportunity to visit it as it was already late. We promised ourselves that we would surely visit it next time!
Bern, the undiscovered Swiss capital
With just a few hours of sunlight left and an obvious disappointment on our faces, the rain was relentless. However, we decided that we would drive to Bern and have dinner at the Swiss capital!
One hour-drive later, we reached the old town of Bern and we were stunned by its beauty. The late Gothic Cathedral (Münster), the Parliament Building, the Prison Tower (Käfigturm) and the famous Clock Tower (Zytglogge) get you back in time and leave you in awe. The best part, though, was that the old town features 6 km of arcades that offer shelter to the visitors protecting them from the rain!
The Old Town of Bern is encircled by the Aare River. The view overlooking the river was jaw-dropping even during a foggy day! Take the funicular leading down to the Marzili neighborhood if you want to take more bird-eye-view photos.
For dinner, we had raclette (a Swiss dish based on heating cow’s milk cheese and scraping off the melted part), cheese fondue and mushroom rosti and we called it a day!
We didn’t regret having spent a couple of hours at the Swiss capital and I have to admit that it was my personal favorite among Geneva and Lausanne. Next time we will include in our visit the famous Bern’s bear park as well!
Day 2: Around Lake Geneva – from Montreux to Geneva’s airport
After having spent the night in Montreux, we woke up with a beautiful view awaiting us from our balcony. We could even see the Alps covered in snow, which is not the view we are used to watch in May.
Montreux and Vevey, two Swiss gems
Montreux is the perfect spot to enjoy a promenade by the lake. The town’s promenade is lined with flowers, sculptures, Mediterranean trees and grand Belle Époque buildings. Montreux is famous for its Jazz Festival held for two weeks every July, but also for the bronze Freddie Mercury’s statue placed next to the lake.
At the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1978, Freddie Mercury recorded the album “Jazz” with Queen. He fell in love with the town and Lake Geneva, and decided to settle there. What he said was: “If you want peace of soul, come to Montreux”!
Just seven kilometers away from Montreux, lies the town of Vevey. The highlights of our visit included Charlie Chaplin’s statue and the Alimentarium, a Nestlé foundation which presents various aspects of human nutrition in a captivating and interactive manner.
Right opposite to Alimentarium and inside the lake, you will see an 8m high and 1.3m wide fork. It has held the record in the Guinness World Records since 2014 as the world’s tallest fork and it is Vevey’s emblem. La Fourchette (the Fork) was designed by Jean-Pierre Zaugg and it was commissioned to celebrate the Alimentarium’s 10th anniversary in 1995. The visitors surrounded the fork for a picture as its presence inside the lake forms a truly surreal and unique scene!
Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, the UNESCO-listed fascinating site
After our two quick stops in these beautiful towns, we took the way back to the airport from the northeastern part of the lake. It is a scenic drive including the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, stretching for 30 km along the south-facing northern shores of Lake Geneva from the Chateau de Chillon to outskirts of Lausanne. The terraces are listed as an UNESCO World Heritage site and consist of 830 hectares of terraced vineyards. The vine terraces can be traced back to the 11th century.
If the weather is good, we would definitely recommend you to walk through the vineyards, as terraces are criss-crossed with marked trails offering stunning views over Lake Geneva and the Alps. And of course, you should indulge in a wine-tasting experience as well!
As our trip was coming to an end and the time for our flight was elapsing, we were driving through many other small picturesque villages while taking pictures from the car. We wish we had enough time to discover more places and we promised that we would come back to explore even more from Lake Geneva and its beauties!
Did we persuade you that this destination deserves to be explored? Share with us your experience around Lake Geneva or give us your thoughts about Switzerland!
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*All photos are captured by Truevoyagers.