Montreux is a popular tourist destination because of its mild climate, magnificent location between high mountains, terraced vineyards and lake, and the famous Montreux Jazz Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors every July. But this small town on the shores of Lake Geneva is also home to one of the most popular Christmas markets in Switzerland - Montreux Noël - an event that takes place every year and surprises children and adults with its sparkling colours, some special guests and a real flying Santa Claus sleigh! We were there over a weekend and here is our travel report.
We love... Montreux!
Where to stay in Montreux
We visited Montreux during a weekend in early December. We stayed at the Hotel Masson, a hotel belonging to the network of Swiss historic hotels. It dates back to the 1800s and retains its old-world charm. In addition, it has a hospitable and welcoming staff. It is located a stone’s throw from Chillon Castle and is very well connected to the city by trolleybus line 201. In short, we recommend it!
Christmas in Montreux
Christmas in Montreux – Montreux Noël – is a real tradition! Beloved and appreciated not only by its inhabitants, but also by international and Swiss tourists, this event gives the town an even more evocative charm for the duration of Advent, generally speaking from the end of November until Christmas. For 2023, Montreux Christmas takes place from 23 November to 24 December.
Although it is a widespread event, involving the whole town and several areas around the centre, the heart of the event is around its lakeside – the Promenade – where the market takes place and where all the exhibition stands and refreshment areas are set up. There is no shortage of food and hot drinks here! But the real attraction of Christmas in Montreux is certainly Santa Claus, who surprises young and old every afternoon by flying his sleigh and dedicating a song to the town!
On the official website you can find the map with all the main landmarks to orient yourself!
The Market Square and Santa Claus on his flying sleigh
A visit to Christmas in Montreux can only start from the Market Square – Place du Marché – the heart of the event. Built at the end of the 19th century, the elegant Montreux Covered Market and the large square in front of it host some of the most important events during Advent. Here you will find craft stalls, characteristic red wooden chalets and a large number of Christmas lights that create a magical atmosphere! A large Ferris wheel is also erected on the square. If you are not afraid of heights, we definitely recommend a ride to admire the view of the market and the city from above. The ticket costs CHF 8.00 per person.
But the square also hosts the Bar des Étoiles – Bar of the Stars – the ideal place for a snack and to admire the flying Santa Claus, the real star of Christmas in Montreux! You can see him whizzing through the sky on his sleigh every day at 17:00, 18:00 and 19:00 and on weekends also at 16:00!
Christmas market by the lake
Continuing along the Promenade in the direction of Vevey for about 800 metres you will find the Christmas Market by the Lake – Les Quais en fête. This is an area of the lakeside promenade specially set up for the market, for the sale of handicraft products and to be the real meeting point of the event. The walk among the stands is over a kilometer long, so we suggest you take your time. Here you will find over 150 chalets selling handicrafts, local specialities (also for tasting), the inevitable mulled wine and many ideas for your gifts.
The Santa Claus House in Rochers de Naye and Christmas at Chillon Castle
As already mentioned, the Montreux Noel does not only take place in the city, but also involves other places in the surroundings. One of the places not to be missed, especially if you have children with you, is Santa Claus’s house at Rochers de Naye. This high mountain overlooking the town and the lake – it is about 2,000 m above sea level – can be easily reached from Montreux by a historical cogwheel train. Once at the top, you can visit Santa Claus’s house and office and take a photo with him. Santa’s house is accessible this year from Wednesday to Sunday, from 23 November to 24 December 2023. The cog railway has limited seats, so we suggest you book in advance.
However, we chose to spend part of our day visiting Chillon Castle, a historic lakeside castle that really does look like something out of a fairy tale. Besides the beauty of the place, positioned on a rock rising above the waters of the lake, the historic building is really well preserved and exudes history and charm at every turn. We loved getting lost in the narrow staircases, dark tunnels and large rooms with painted roofs. Moreover, on weekends in December, the visit becomes even more fascinating because the castle hosts Christmas at the Château – Noël au Château de Chillon – an event that proposes recreational activities, readings, shows and craft workshops with a medieval theme to visitors.
The Noël au Château de Chillon takes place this year on the weekends of 2-3, 9-10 and 16-17 December from 10 am to 5 pm.
The entrance ticket to the castle can be purchased on site or online at this link. It normally costs CHF 13.50 per adult, but on Christmas at the Castle days the price is slightly higher, CHF 17.50 per adult. Montreux Riviera Card holders are entitled to a 50% discount.
Arriving by public transport
Arriving by car
If you stay in one of the hotels in Montreux you will receive the Montreux Riviera Card free of charge. This card allows free travel on public transport in the area and discounts on tickets for the main attractions.
The Montreux Christmas market is one of the most popular in Switzerland and therefore very crowded. Our advice to experience it at its best and without stress is to avoid Saturday and Sunday evenings. But if you really can’t do otherwise, then arm yourself with patience and definitely avoid the car and public road transport, which can become really unreliable due to the heavy traffic. If you plan to dine in a restaurant, book in advance.
During our stay, we had the opportunity to visit the Fort de Chillon, a particularly interesting and little-known museum. We will tell you more about it in a future post, but in the meantime, we suggest a visit if you are in the area!
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