Interlaken and Montreux are two of Switzerland’s most popular tourist destinations linked by the GoldenPass train line. Each place has its unique charm and is a worthwhile place to visit for a variety of reasons. Here’s a guide to choosing between Interlaken and Montreux if you were wondering which is better.
On the French-speaking side of Switzerland, Montreux is known as a relaxing spa town. In contrast, Interlaken is situated between two lakes near the high alpine regions of Wengen, Mürren, and Grindelwald.
Visitors from all over the world might wonder: Is it better to stay in Interlaken or Montreux? We’ll talk about the different places we can visit nearby as well as the advantages of staying in each.
Interlaken and Montreux
Interlaken and Montreux are two well-known villages in Switzerland. These two villages are famous, each in their own right, and they’re surrounded by gorgeous scenery. You may find it hard to choose between the two. They’re both good options, but one might work better for you.
In this article, we’ll talk about both Interlaken and Montreux. Where should you stay while visiting Switzerland? Do we recommend staying in Interlaken or Montreux?
Key Differences: Interlaken vs. Montreux
The key differences between Interlaken and Montreux are as follows:
|Population: approx. 5,600
|Population: approx. 26,000
|Total Area: 4.4 km²
|Area: 33.41 km²
|Elevation: 568 m (1,863 ft)
|Elevation: 396 m (1,299 ft)
|Main transport gateway to the Bernese Oberland Region
|One of Switzerland’s most important tourist destinations
|Highlights: Harder Kulm Mountain,
Thun and Brienz Lakes
|Highlights: Belle Époque Palaces, Old Town, Chillon Castle, Queen Studio Experience, Rochers-de-Naye
|Lakes: Brienz (East) and Thun (West)
|Lake: Geneva (or Lac Léman)
In a way, Interlaken is more of a travel base than anything else. It doesn’t have the same kind of views as Grindelwald or Mürren. But it’s surrounded by two lakes – Lake Brienz and Lake Thun. Around these lakes, there are many pretty towns and villages like Thun, Spiez, Brienz, and Iseltwald. Also nearby are multiple castles, St. Beatus Caves, and more. You can also go on the Aare River.
Interlaken is also home to two fantastic viewpoints – Harder Kulm and Heimwehfluh.
Montreux is the most popular spa town on Lake Geneva with a relaxed, touristy feeling. Its mild climate and riviera make it seem like miniature Cannes. It has a picturesque promenade along the lake dotted by Belle Époque hotels like Fairmont Le Montreux Palace and Hotel Eden Palace au Lac.
Montreux was made popular by the novel Julie ou La Nouvelle Héloïse by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Other prominent visitors include Lord Byron, Mary Shelly, Igor Strawinsky, Edgar Wallace, and Vladimir Nabokov.
Montreux has an eight-kilometer-long riviera, proximity to the beautiful Chillon Castle, and a scenic train to the Rochers-de-Naye summit.
Montreux is home to one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world – the Montreux Jazz Festival. The festival has attracted famous musicians such as Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana, Deep Purple, Etta James, Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Radiohead, Roberta Flack, Van Morrison, and many more. This is a busy time for music lovers, locals, and businesses alike.
Places to Visit: Interlaken vs. Montreux
Near Interlaken and Montreux, there are many scenic places to visit. While Montreux is closer to vineyards, castles, and interesting towns, Interlaken is closer to waterfalls, gorges, and high alpine peaks.
Places to Visit near Interlaken
There are many places to visit near Interlaken. There are many tourist attractions nearby, such as those around Lake Thun and Lake Brienz.
- Harder Kulm – Harder Kulm can be reached from Interlaken by walking through the English Garden and crossing the bridge to the Interlaken Harderbahn. It is located 1,321 meters above sea level and provides fantastic views of Interlaken. Eiger, Mönch, Jungfrau, Lake Thun, and Lake Brienz can be seen from Harder Kulm, too.
- Thun – Thun is a breathtaking lakeside town on the banks of Lake Thun. In Thun, you will find two castles (Thun and Schadau), a picturesque old town, museums, and places to bathe during summer.
- Iseltwald – Iseltwald with its peninsula, the Seeburg castle, and its lakeside promenade is a peaceful little village to visit near Interlaken. Boats stop here in summer.
- Lake Thun – The bigger of the two lakes beside Interlaken, you can cruise around Lake Thun, swim, or try one of the water sports.
- Lake Brienz – Lake Brienz is great for sailing, canoeing, windsurfing, wakeboarding and more. Take a ride on the Brienzer Rothorn to get some great photos of Lake Brienz.
- Giessbach Waterfalls – Giessbach Waterfalls get their water from the high Faulhorn-Sagis Valley. From there, it flows into Lake Brienz
- St. Beatus Caves – The caves and the museum are located inside the Niederhorn Massif. Outside, you can walk around a garden with beautiful waterfalls. Take good walking shoes and bring a jacket since the cave can get chilly.
- Spiez – A gorgeous lakeside town near Interlaken with several beaches and a castle.
- Rosenlaui Valley, Glacier, and Gorge – An absolutely beautiful and peaceful pocket of land in the Reichenbach Valley. The gorge has thundering waterfalls and bizarre cliff formations. It is definitely worth visiting.
- Reichenbach Falls – Beautiful waterfalls famous for being featured in Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem.
- Aare Gorge – Known for its limestone formations, Aare Gorge is a large piece of bedrock that stretches 1,400 meters long and 200 meters deep between Innertkirchen and Meiringen.
- Bönigen – Bönigen is a traditional village with wooden houses and chalets from the 16th century. You can find the village of Bönigen on the lower shore of Lake Brienz.
- Axalp – Axalp, right above Lake Brienz at 1,535 meters above sea level, is the starting point for a lot of hiking trails from spring until autumn. In winter, it is transformed into a small ski resort with 15 kilometers of slopes for young and old alike.
- Ballenberg Open Air Museum – This open-air museum features various centuries-old buildings from the different cantons of Switzerland. They have typical farm animals such as donkeys, cows, chickens, rabbits, and cats. In some houses, you will learn about specific trades or you will be able to interact with musical instruments or handicrafts.
- Blausee – Blausee is a gorgeous lake in the Kander Valley roughly 38 kilometers away from Interlaken. Open all year round, this destination is worth visiting any time of the year. With the exception of one day per year, swimming in Blausee is not allowed.
- Höheweg – The shopping street in Interlaken in case you are on the lookout for souvenirs, jewelry, or watches.
- Milibach Waterfall – This waterfall can be found near Brienz. Best visited right after a rainy day.
- Pochten Falls – A waterfall found at the end of Suldtal.
Places to Visit near Montreux
- Chillon Castle – Chillon Castle is a romantic castle 2.5 kilometers away from Montreux. It was built by the house of Savoy and included in the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance.
- The Queen Studio Experience and Freddie Mercury’s Statue – Music was recorded in this town during the 1980s by Queen. You can visit the Queen Studio Experience at the casino for free. A bronze statue of Freddie Mercury adorns the promenade, and tourists enjoy taking photos of it.
- Old Town of Montreux – ten minutes from the lakeside, the old town is a beautiful place for walks and is the start of the Chauderon Gorges path.
- Maison Visinand House – a beautiful house in Rue du Pont 32. Built back in 1592, the house is currently a cultural center with exhibits.
- Montreux Museum – housed in a 17th-century building in Rue de la Gare 40, the museum presents the history of Montreux
- Nyon – this lovely lakeside town is about 25 kilometers northeast of Geneva; it’s actually part of the bigger Geneva metro area. This lovely town has a castle and the entire town itself is on the Swiss Heritage Inventory.
- Prangins – in this town, Château de Prangins is a great place to learn about the history of the country and its heritage. The town of Prangins recently received the Wakker Prize in 2020 for preserving and treasuring its architectural heritage.
- Vevey – is a beautiful town near Montreux that has lots of interesting museums such as the Alimentarium, Chaplin’s World, Museum of Fine Arts and Prints, the Swiss Museum of Games, and more.
- Lausanne – with its charming old town and fantastic views of Lake Geneva, also has a lot of historical buildings and museums to visit. Other places to visit in Lausanne are the Cathedral, Bellerive Plage, the Olympic Museum, Plateforme 10, and Aquatis Vivarium.
- Lutry – The Lutry Castle or Rôdeurs Castle, the Roman Catholic Church of Saint-Martin, the Swiss Reformed Church of Saint-Martin, and a Gothic facade house are just some of the historic places you can visit in Lutry. This whole region is also famous for being part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site: Lavaux, Vineyard Terraces.
- Morges – is a beautiful town famous for its Tulip Festival in April and May. It also has a castle and a pretty old town.
Advantages: Interlaken vs. Montreux
Advantages of Staying in Interlaken
- Interlaken is easier to get to from Zurich by train. It is 40 minutes closer than Montreux.
- Interlaken has more hotels and restaurants compared to Montreux.
- Ideal for those who will proceed to Bernese Oberland later (Wengen, Mürren, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald).
- Interlaken is an excellent choice for outdoor sports enthusiasts. If you are into swimming, surfing, sailing, SUP, paragliding, hang gliding, and skydiving, then Interlaken is a better option.
Advantages of Staying in Montreux
- Montreux is easier to get to from Geneva by train. It is 1.5 to 2 hours closer than Interlaken.
- Ideal for couples looking to relax. It is a well-known spa resort and the Lavaux Vineyards are always pleasant to visit.
- Ideal for families with young children. You can visit the Chillon Castle, Aquatis Aquarium-Vivarium, or the Charlie Chaplin Museum among others.
- Ideal for those who will proceed to Valais later (Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Crans-Montana, Grimentz-Zinal).
Hotels: Interlaken vs. Montreux
In both Interlaken and Montreux, you’ll find a wide variety of hotels. Here’s our pick of hotels.
Hotels in Interlaken
- Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa (5-star) – A luxurious and elegant hotel with distinctive design and decor, marble bathrooms, and views of the Jungfrau mountain.
- Swiss Hotel Apartments (5-star apartments) – With spacious rooms equipped with a kitchen, balcony, dishwasher, microwave, refrigerator, and coffee maker, it’s the most affordable and convenient place to stay in Interlaken. It’s also just 80 meters from Interlaken Ost train station, so you can easily get there from Zurich and Geneva airports.
- Hotel Interlaken (4-star) – This 4-star hotel, conveniently located next to the Japanese Garden, offers good value for money in pricey Interlaken. It’s just a short walk from Interlaken Ost train station, and the staff is friendly and helpful.
- Hotel Bellevue (4-star) – This boutique hotel is near Interlaken West train station. Each room has a balcony with a view of the mountains.
- Hotel Bernerhof (3-star) – The Hotel Bernerhof is an affordable, central hotel right opposite Interlaken West train station. It has modern rooms and a restaurant that serves Swiss food.
- Interlaken Youth Hostel (Hostel) – A convenient hostel located near the Interlaken Ost train station. They have clean and basic accommodations, plus breakfast is included.
Hotels in Montreux
- Fairmont Le Montreux Palace (5-star) – Fairmont Le Montreux Palace is located on the shores of Lake Geneva. It offers magnificent views of the lake and the Alps, dining spaces, fitness facilities, swimming pools, and a large garden.
- Montreux Grand Rue – Swiss Hotel Apartments (5-star apartments) – These spacious apartments in the heart of Montreux offer gorgeous rooms, lake views, a terrace, and a fully equipped kitchen.
- JETTY Boutique Hotel (4-star) – A picturesque, newly established beachfront boutique hotel featuring breathtaking lake vistas, a garden, and a fantastic restaurant, tailor-made for those who want rest and relaxation.
- Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic, Autograph Collection (4-star) – With its proximity to Montreux Train Station, this Belle-Époque hotel is ideal for GoldenPass passengers. Hotel amenities include elegant and air-conditioned rooms with a balcony or terrace, restaurant, bar, terrace, winter garden, fitness room, business corner, and laundry services.
- Marché 28 Guesthouse (4-star) – A centrally located gem in Montreux offering spacious suites at an excellent price point. Adorned with tasteful decor, I encourage you to book it fast due to its limited room availability.
Final Thoughts: Interlaken vs. Montreux
Let’s get back to the question: should you visit Interlaken or Montreux? There is much to see and do in either place; the scenery is beautiful, the places to visit are interesting, and there are hotels and restaurants in both locations.
Due to its scenery and activities, Interlaken is a great place for energetic individuals and outdoor enthusiasts. Wine lovers and relaxed travelers might enjoy Montreux more.
Personally, I like both places and have been to both several times. Ultimately, it comes down to you and what you want.
The two locations are just a GoldenPass train ride away, so you can easily visit the other one if you wish to. Whichever choice you make, you won’t regret it. Both places are really beautiful, with majestic mountains and natural landscapes.
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.