Every jazz aficionado worth their salt has a story to tell about about Montreux, and the city’s annual two-week jazz festival is one of the most important events on the global music calendar.
Set at the foot of the Alps, even rock stars hold this beautiful city in high esteem, with its reputation growing to legendary status since the 1970s. Everyone who was anyone came here to record the most iconic music of the time by the picturesque shores of Lake Geneva. “Remember back in ’71 when we ran into Ian Gillan writing Smoke on the Water on the back of an envelope in that café by the lake? Yeah, that place…”
For music lovers of any genre, Montreux holds a special kind of magic and it proudly displays its creative heritage. The musically inspired attractions are pretty hard to miss, so make sure you don’t.
The Montreux Jazz Festival
Let’s talk about the big one first. The annual Montreux Jazz Festival is one of the most famous in the world. For two weeks every July, this small but perfectly formed city morphs into the music capital of the world.
The second largest jazz festival on the planet (after the Montreal International Jazz Festival), it features the biggest international names of music – not only jazz but every other genre as well. With a collection of alumni as diverse as Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Marianne Faithfull and Chuck Berry, the festival has grown from humble beginnings in 1967, to a two-week extravaganza attracting an audience of more than 200,000 people.
If you’re a musician or just a music lover, this is an experience of a lifetime made all the more atmospheric by its spectacular location, as the Alps come alive to the sound of music.
When: Every July (2017’s event is June 30th-July 15th)
Where: The Montreux Musique & Convention Centre and various other indoor and outdoor venues around the city.
Tickets: Various prices. On sale early 2017.
A Musical Tour of the City
Even if your visit doesn’t coincide with the festival, there are plenty of other ways to pay homage to the city’s musical roots.
The Montreux Palace Hotel: Aside from being entirely gorgeous in and of itself, if you can’t quite stump up for a stay at the Palace, you owe it to yourself to pay your respects to those who have! The preferred home-from-home for many top name musos, the walls of the foyer are lined with framed photos of their famous guests – it’s like a mini-exhibition space, and it’s free!
The endearingly camp Freddie Mercury was so enamoured with the Palace he moved in for a while – you can even book into the Freddie Mercury Suite if you plan far enough ahead. Failing that, pay a visit to the hotel’s sculpture gardens and say hello to some immortalised greats, including Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and B.B King.
Miles Davis Hall: Right next door to the Palace is Miles Davis Hall, the venue for many of the events held during the festival. With a capacity for an audience of 3,000, the hall is part of the larger Montreux Music and Convention Centre.
Casino Barriere de Montreux: The casino was the original site of the festival until 1971, when it burned down during a Frank Zappa concert after a member of the audience let off a flare gun. It was this incident that inspired the now infamous Deep Purple anthem “Smoke on the Water”.
It was also the former home of Mountain Studios, where all those names of the 70s came to make magic on their 8-tracks, including Bowie, the Stones, Michael Jackson and Queen, to name a few. Today you can visit Club Discotheque, on the original site, to tour the fabulous 70s memorabilia.
If you’re not lucky enough to meet the ghost of Freddie Mercury in his old room, you can stop by and say hello to his bronze likeness down on the promenade. Freddie became a much-loved honorary local and the statue is a sensitive piece of art that’s become an iconic landmark – with fans and friends leaving floral tributes and photos around the base.
Tip: If you’re a real Freddie fan, every year in September the city holds a two-day Memorial Day for the flamboyant frontman, with tribute bands, parties and boat rides out to one of his favourite spots – the Lake House.
Tempted to book a holiday in magical, musical Montreux? You know you are…
How to Get to Montreux
If you’re heading to Montreux, the most convenient way to get there from the UK is is to fly into Geneva Airport, which takes just an hour and a half. All the major airlines offer regular scheduled services on the routes, so there are plenty of opportunities to snap up a cheap flight – although you’ll need to book early around the time of the music festival.
Once you land, the fastest way of getting straight to your accommodation in Montreux is on a shared or private airport transfer. Shuttle Direct offers a fast, convenient service along the picturesque route that takes just over an hour.
If you’re travelling across Europe by train, you can also book a Shuttle Direct service to meet you at the train station in Geneva to take you the final leg of your journey.
Where to Stay:
Au Fil de l’Eau: Whatever your musical mood, Au Fil de l’Eau can match it, with a unique décor in every room. Offering stunning views of the lake, onsite restaurant and a tranquil ambience, it’s the perfect place to hide away after a busy day sightseeing or taking in the festival. Just a two minutes’ walk from the lake, this lovely hotel sets you in the perfect place to experience the magic of Montreux.
Eurotel Montreux: Situated in a prime position to enjoy the festival only 300 metres from the Music & Convention Centre, Eurotel Montreux offers magnificent views over the lake, balcony rooms, an authentic Swiss restaurant and free use of fitness centre and watersports equipment. Eurotel Montreux is singing your song…
Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic: Be transported back to the glamorous Belle-Époque
era at the elegant Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic. Lap up the luxury of the lake view rooms, enjoy live music and dining on the magnificent terrace, and explore the delights of Montreux laid out on your doorstep just a few steps away.
About Shuttle Direct:
With many years of experience, Shuttle Direct is the most respected provider of airport transfers to and from destinations throughout Europe. If you’re looking for a cost-efficient, reliable transfer from any airport or train station, you can pre-book online and leave the rest to us.
We have a transfer to suit every budget and group size, and if you’re travelling with any winter sports equipment just advise us at the time of your booking and it can be included for free.
Allow Shuttle Direct’s friendly, expert team to take the stress out of organising your travel arrangements.