A Luxury Guide to the star-studded Riviera of Lake Geneva
European aristocrats, socialites and royalty have all been travelling to Lake Geneva since the late 19th Century. A region flanked by pine-covered mountains and rich in an illustrious watchmaking heritage, the interest in the ‘jewel of Switzerland’ hasn’t waned for the discerning traveller.Whether it’s the world-class ski, enhanced by its magical winter wonderland setting, or the warm summers – befit for tranquil lake cruises and trips to sun-soaked vineyards – this playground for the rich and famous sparkles from season to season. Here’s how to explore the region, whatever time of year you visit.
Lake Geneva, also known as Lake Leman, lies in the heart of the Swiss Alps, flanked by the majestic Jura Mountains, which stretch for 250km along the French-Swiss border.
Take the journey from the city of Geneva through Vaud – the third largest canton in Switzerland – to the cities of Lausanne, Vevey and Montreux. You’ll discover charming chocolate-box villages, majestic Belle Époque architecture and of course, sense-stirring scenery. This is one of the largest alpine lakes on the Continent, after all.
Photo: Vevey GrégoireChappuis gc-photo.ch
The city of Geneva spoils every visitor with its labyrinthine streets and upscale boutiques. Exploring the streets of the Old Town and discovering St Peter’s Cathedral, the medieval Maison Tavel – Geneva’s oldest house – and the impossibly charming Bourg-du-four Square naturally transports you back to a bygone era.
You can easily fill a weekend in this cosmopolitan city exploring its impressive Opera House, contemporary museums and chic cafes and chocolatiers. For a sophisticated stay, The Hotel des Bergues, a Four Seasons property, is one of Geneva’s most sought-after properties. It’s been a Lake Geneva landmark since 1834 and is resplendent in neo-classical architecture and Louis Philippe-style furnishings.
Photo: Historical square in the old town and Metro M2 and The Cathedral copyright www.diapo.ch
Lake Geneva’s famous watchmaking
You can’t visit Geneva city without exploring its watchmaking history. At the Patek Philippe Museum, discover a mesmerising display of watches – from the earliest 16th century pocket watches to the present day. A walk along the Rue du Rhône also unveils a variety of the world’s most prestigious watch and jewellery stores, from Omega to Piaget. Serious watch enthusiasts can take an exclusive tour (try bespokeswitzerland.com) to the original ‘watch farms’ of ‘Watch Valley’, a 200km-long heritage trail between Geneva City and Basle.
With its imposing Gothic architecture and medieval history, Lausanne, the capital of Vaud, is a stunning city to walk around. Not to mention its rich chocolate and cheese-making heritage, the prestigious Olympic Museum and of course, the beautiful views from the Ouchy port. Visit the city’s oldest watch shop and museum, Junot, which stocks everything from Chopard to Zenith. Or take the one hour journey to Biel/Bienne to explore the famed Omega Museum.
For places to stay, The Royal Savoy Hotel & Spa is one of Lausanne’s shining stars. Once the refuge for royalty and aristocrats, this sophisticated Art Nouveau hotel offers many opportunities to relax in luxury. Alternatively, the Beau Rivage Palace, an elegant Belle Époque building, is one of the city’s most sought-after hotels thanks to its elegant guestrooms, three-Michelin starred chef and excellent spa.
Photo: Aerial view of Lausanne and Alps copyright www.diapo.ch
It was the charming city of Montreux that inspired the setting for author Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s novel ‘La nouvelle Heloise’ and the ice-capped mountains and fairytale-like Chillon Castle make for a harmonious escape on the Montreux Riviera.
Photo: Montreux vue 2010 NL MilnerHunziker
Come summertime, music fans are in their element as the city hosts the highly-acclaimed Montreux Jazz Festival. Many visit the coveted Montreaux Jazz Café - the brainchild of festival founder and coveted chef, Claude Nob – for live sessions and contemporary cuisine.
For an elegant hotel stay, The Fairmont Montreux Palace continues to draw in the luxury traveller with its contemporary guest rooms, charming Art-deco flourishes and Willow Stream Spa. Another favourite is the Clinique La Prairie Spa, named one of the best medical spas in the world.
Photos: Fairmont le Montreux Palace ©Fairmont Le Montreux Palace
You’ll probably recognise Vevey’s most iconic emblem when you see it. The Fork, a surreal, 8-metre high sculpture, has been standing in the glistening lake off the shores of Vevey since 2009 and attracts many a cultural traveller to the Alimentarium, the world’s ‘first food museum’.
Many famed actors, poets and artists have all called this alpine paradise their home but one of the most well-known is the late Hollywood actor Charlie Chaplin. His former home, Manoir de Ban in Corsier-sur-Vevey, has been transformed into an exhibition and museum taking visitors on a fascinating journey through his life.
For the height in hotel glamour, consider the Grand Hotel du Lac, a hotel that exudes a classic luxury. The onsite Dr. Burgerner Switzerland Care & Spa specialises in tailored spa rituals and hi-tech cosmetic procedures for international clientele.
Photos: Chaplin's WorldÔäó-® Bubbles Incorporated
Lake Geneva’s Viticulture and Gastronomy
We can’t write about Lake Geneva without mentioning the exceptional gastronomy scene. There are six wine-making areas across Vaud which includes the UNESCO-recognised Lavaux Vineyard Terraces – and Vaud prides itself on 19 Michelin stars across 13 of its restaurants.
From the Restaurant Crissier and Restaurant 45 to the ultra-romantic La Veranda at the Grand Hotel Du Lac, this is just a glimpse of the attractions that place Lake Geneva on the cultural, historical and culinary radar.
Photo: Hotel de ville ©Hotel de Ville de Crissier