Lake Geneva is a sparkling summer destination for international visitors. Situated in the foothills of the Swiss Alps, about 80km south-west of Bern, Switzerland’s capital, this prosperous lakeside area is brimming with pretty towns, terraced vineyards, historical chateaus and upscale shops. Here are five spectacular places around Lake Geneva that will have you reaching for your camera.
Lausanne is a grand old city filled with natural beauty above Lake Geneva. Explore the narrow alleys, ritzy shops and shuttered mansions in the vielle ville (old town) at a leisurely pace before making your way down to the waterfront. Lausanne has been the headquarters of the Olympic Committee since 1915 and there’s an Olympic Museum on the Quai d’Ouchy, Lausanne’s lakeside port. For those wanting a more concise history of the Olympics, stroll along the waterfront promenade and enjoy the statues and storyboards that capture the highlights of past games.
2. Evian Les Bains
Evian Les Bains is a popular health resort town on the south shore of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), just over the French border. This is the famous source of Evian mineral water, which pours into the fountain of Sainte Catherine. You won’t want to miss the sumptuous French Renaissance town hall, the neo-classical theatre and casino and the frescoed interior of the mediaeval Church of Our Lady of the Assumption.
During the summertime, Evian Les Bains’ water gardens can be explored on a solar-powered boat.
Said to be Switzerland’s most beautiful village, the well-preserved mediaeval town of Gruyères is set amidst the mountains of the prealps. Browse the shops and art gallery in the old chapel, see the stone grain measures in front of the ancient granary, Auberge de la Halle and take a tour of the richly appointed Chalamala House and the 13th century Château de Gruyères.
Our editor, Rebecca, in Gruyères
In the valley below, you can tour the world-famous Gruyère cheese factory at La Maison du Gruyere. Visit the museum, see the cheese wheels maturing on racks and try a tasty sample. Gruyères is en route to Bern and the gateway to Interlaken, which is another stunning area surrounded by beautiful lakes, alpine meadows and mountains, midway between Geneva and Zurich.
Montreux is possibly Lake Geneva’s most popular town. The grand architecture and Belle Époque villas are a reminder of when Charlie Chaplin and other artists and musicians once lived here. The near-vertical terraced slopes are covered in muscadet grapevines and trees, providing a scenic backdrop to the flower-lined promenade. This is an inviting place to walk along the waterfront, drinking in the fresh mountain air.
Views across the lake to Evian Les Bains are highlighted by shimmering reflections of the snow-capped mountains. If you visit in July, the famous Montreux Jazz Festival will be in full swing.
5. Chateau de Chillon
Chillon Castle is a well-known landmark at the eastern end of Lake Geneva. This sturdy mediaeval castle sits on a rocky island just offshore and was once home to the Counts of Savoy. Built around 1150 AD on Roman foundations, the castle guarded the trade route to Italy, charging tolls for imports into Western Europe. Cross the old drawbridge and enter the oval-shaped chateau with its Swiss flag flying high above the conical turrets. The picturesque castle consists of a series of buildings and courtyards connected by passageways and open-sided sentry walks. See the arrow-slit windows and damp dungeon with its vaulted roof carved out of solid rock.
Staying in nearby Leysin in the foothills of the Swiss Alps is an excellent choice for enjoying a lake cruise, visiting Montreux’s casino and exploring all of Lake Geneva’s delights.
Best Time to Visit
Weather in Switzerland
Switzerland’s skiing and winter sports season runs from January to mid-April. The best time to visit Lake Geneva is in the off-season, during July and August. Prices are lower, the weather is mild and breezy and temperatures are around 24°C.
Spring is pleasant; June can be showery and in winter, icy winds blow across the lake from the snow-covered mountains.
Best Time to Visit
Swiss festivals, such as the Montreux Jazz Festival, Bern International Jazz Festival, Interlaken Classics festival and the Art International Zurich fair are all well worth attending, along with the festive Christmas markets in December.
Where to Stay
Singapore to Switzerland:
Inexpensive flights to Geneva International Airport (IATA code: GVA) from Singapore can be booked with Condor, Swiss, Lufthansa and Jetstar Asia, along with other major airlines. Direct flights to Zurich Flughafen Airport (IATA code: ZRH) from Singapore are available through Swiss, Emirates, Etihad Airways and other major airlines.
Image Credits: Rebecca P. , images by Creative Commons 2.0 License