The few years that I was lucky enough to spend in the Swiss Riviera are the most beautiful days of my life so far. I have lived in many countries. But nowhere have I been able to live within such overwhelming beauty combined with such ease of everyday life. During those days we used to often go on unplanned short day trips within the Riviera. Even a regular bus trip from Vevey to Villeneuve offers such panorama that you may call it a romantic journey. Here, I will tell you about some of the day trips that I really loved, some events that we used to enjoy and some other practical info that may be of use in your trip to the Riviera.
Rochers de Naye: The journey from Montreux to the summit of Rochers de Naye was one of my favorite day outings. We used to catch the first train in the morning as I love to see the view from the summit in the morning light. The mid-day sun hazes the view. The cogwheel train takes you through Glion, the Jaman pass across forests and meadows filled with narcissus and edelweiss. At the summit there is the “Marmottes Paradis” where you can observe and learn about the life and habitat of these shy little creatures called Marmottes. There is also “La Rambertia ” where you can see 100 varieties of Alpine flowers in summer. I, however, preferred to climb up to the top of the hill and enjoy the wide angle view of the Riviera, vineyards, little villages, Lake Geneva and the French Alps across it. In winter, there is skiing opportunity for every level of skiers. I loved to be there on Christmas when Santa comes to meet his young friends.
Mont Pelerin: This is the trip that we took on my first weekend in Switzerland. We took the bus Line 1 to its last stop, Vevey Funi. From there, the little automated red funicular took us up and within moments we could see Vevey zooming out and we could view it in its total perspective. There was Vevey, a tiny town at the foot of the Alps by the side of the huge Lake Geneva, terraced vineyards and wine growing villages surrounding it in a loving embrace. At the summit we continued our travel on foot till we reached the Plein Ciel lift.
Blonay-Chamby: This journey is available only on weekends and the train and the Railway museum up there are run by volunteers. Given the excellence of trains in Switzerland, this journey and a visit to the railway museum is a must. The steam engine runs only on Sundays. The old engines and trains in the museum are maintained in working condition. The journey on the cogwheel train itself is quite impressive.
Les Pleiades: This is another uphill journey in a cogwheel railway across beautiful meadows, vineyards and views of the lake. There are many hiking and biking trails in summer and skiing opportunities in winter. As always the train ride in itself is spectacular and can be taken for its own sake.
Lavaux: The journey on the wine train is one of my favorite train journeys in Switzerland. The yellow train will take you from Vevey to Puidox-Chexbres. It runs right through the terraced natural vineyards of Lavaux, a UNESCO World heritage site. I used to sit with my camcorder beside the window recording the journey. At the little wine growing village of Chexbres, we used to walk within the vineyards, maybe taste some wine, and walk back to Vevey through the vineyards. The walk is long but you will not feel it.
Cruise: A ride on one of the CGN steamers would give you a new perspective and you can see the beautiful Riviera from a distance. The little towns of Vevey, La Tour de Peilz, Clarens, Montreux, Veytaux and Villeneuve with their background of Alps will give you numerous photo opportunities and you will be astonished at the picture postcard shots that you get.
Montreux-Jazz Festival: This is the biggest event of the Riviera. The quiet little towns wake up to the music of Jazz and for the first two weeks of July the place changes its character. The riverside promenades in Montreux become crowded and cars are not allowed within the festival zone. The Line1 bus from Vevey to Villeneuve becomes free, very crowded and runs whole nights. Renowned musicians come to the Auditorium Stravinsky and Mills Davis Hall and new and aspiring musicians fill the free venues and lakeside promenade.
Vevey Folklore Festival: Every year we waited for this summertime festival. From July to September, Vevey-Marche by the side of the lake turns into a village market from 10:00 to 13:00. People bring their fresh products and sell on the little stalls before the Vevey tourist office. The best part of the festival is that unlimited tasting of the local wines of the Riviera can be done just by buying a special glass. The glass can be kept as souvenir and each Saturday the design on the glass is different. There is traditional folk music and dance; the festival ends with a glorious colorful parade in costumes representing all the different strata of society in medieval times.
Montreux Noel: From November 24th to December 24th the Riviera celebrates Christmas. From the lakeside at Montreux to the tops of the nearby mountains, there are various venues of this festival. We would stroll from Montreux Place du Marche along the Grand Rue browsing local products. Almost 146 decorated chalets sell many local specialties and remain open till late hours at night on some specific dates. The little town of Caux, a little uphill from Montreux turns into a Christmas village with a reindeer park, Santa’s post office and enchanted forest. Santa comes to visit children on top of Rochers de Naye. On weekends there is a medieval market on the grounds of Chateau de Chillon.
Where to eat: I loved the fried rice, prawn dishes and reasonable price at Noix de Coco in Vevey. I previously mentioned Le Kashmir at Glion, whose food itself summoned me up the funicular to Glion. On weekdays they serve buffet during lunch.
If you want to self cater and stay at a local chalet or apartment, you will get the best fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and fish at Manor. Grocery, alcohol and tobacco are cheaper at Denner. Migros is also a good option for all your grocery shopping but it does not sell alcohol.
Getting around the Swiss Riviera is best done in the VMCV buses. You will get a free Riviera card if you stay at one of their participating hotels. Or you can buy one. This will give you unlimited travel on the VMCV network and discounted travel on the mountain trains. The little towns can be best seen on foot and one of my favorite hikes was by the side of the lake. The buses are frequent; when you feel tired just hop on one.
Nature has designed the Swiss Riviera with enormous care and the Swiss have valued and preserved the beauty with no less love and care. Its serene atmosphere, crisp climate, little romantic train journeys and picture perfect views make the Swiss Riviera unsurpassable in beauty. However much I roam about the world I have still not seen anything that is more beautiful.
Sources: My Switzerland