Switzerland: It's More than Cheese and Chocolate

Another affordable hotel, located in the charming old city of Montreux, is the very modern Tralala Hotel, designed around a music theme. Every room is different, dedicated to an artist who has performed in Montreux, including David Bowie, Aretha Franklin and Igor Stravinsky.

Things to Do in Montreux and Surrounding Towns

Take a steamboat ride on Lake Geneva, a wonder of colors and spectacular scenery. The Belle Epoque boats travel from town to town, and they also serve lunch. The boats evoke an era of grand elegance. They leave from the center of Montreux from the main dock.

Walking is the best way to explore this beautiful city. One of Montreux's best walking adventures is along its famous lakeside promenade Quai des Fleurs, or Flower Bank. It winds gently beside individually tended gardens and handmade works of art. Walk the path all the way to the Chillon Castle, a 45-minute stroll. The castle, built in the 12th century, is a must-see. It's the most visited monument in Switzerland. After the walk, treat yourself to an ice cream and take the No. 1 bus back to the center of town.

Who doesn't love a Swiss spa? While well-heeled celebs check in for weeks of pampering, my wife loved the 80-minute body scrub with special Swiss herbs she got at the day spa run by Pauline Burgener, whose health center is located at the Royal Plaza Hotel Montreux. Most hotels in Montreux offer spa treatments. One that gets raves is the spa at the Fairmont.

Take a chance at the roulette wheel at the Casino de Montreux. Located lakefront with a great view, the casino has 380 gaming machines and 27 table and poker games. There are three restaurants and two bars. I did not win, but losing in French made me feel as if I were in the movie "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."

The Chocolate Train, one of the most popular train rides in Switzerland, departs from Montreux during the summer and fall months. The day trip includes the city of Gruyeres, home of the renowned cheese. Spend an afternoon in this lovely town, then continue on to Broc, where the Cailler-Nestle chocolate factory is located. Travel in style in a vintage Belle Epoque Pullman car. Make this your cheese and chocolate day.

The towns near Montreux are also filled with beauty, history and charm. Vevey has a famous outdoor market, good access to hiking and biking trails, and a picturesque cobblestoned old town. Its lakefront is especially delightful, with a statute of Charlie Chaplin (who left Hollywood for Vevey, where he lived with his family for decades), and another sculpture you can't miss: the famous "Fork in the River" that sits, appropriately enough, right in front of the wonderful Food Museum (a really fun place).

Vevey is also the birthplace of milk chocolate and is home to the international company Nestle. The town's tradition of artisan chocolatemakers is alive and well, with young chocolate superstar Blaise Poyet. Check out his shop. Yum.

Lavaux, easily reached by bus from Montreux, is a terraced wine-growing region with dozens of walking paths and six villages. You can walk from vineyard to vineyard on a wine-tasting tour. And be sure to try out one of its many gourmet restaurants. Lavaux dates back to the 11th century and has been recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO.

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