Switzerland is a beautiful country with awesome mountains, lakes, towns, and landscapes. A trip to one of the most popular tourist destinations with a lakeside would be the perfect way to see it. Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Montreux, and Lugano are some of the options you have. Each place has its own unique charm and is a worthwhile place to visit for a variety of reasons. Here’s a guide to choosing between Lucerne and Montreux if you were wondering which is better.
Montreux is renowned as a tranquil spa town on the French-speaking side of Switzerland, nestled on the shores of the beautiful Lake Geneva, where visitors can unwind and rejuvenate. In contrast, Lucerne, located on the German-speaking side of Switzerland, offers a range of outdoor activities and breathtaking views, thanks to its location on the picturesque Lake Lucerne.
Visitors from all over the world might wonder: Is it better to stay in Lucerne or Montreux? We’ll talk about the different places we can visit nearby as well as the advantages of staying in each.
Lucerne and Montreux
Lucerne 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 Lucerne and Montreux. Where should you stay while visiting Switzerland? Do we recommend staying in Lucerne or Montreux?
Key Differences: Lucerne vs. Montreux
The key differences between Lucerne and Montreux are as follows:
|Population: approx. 80,000||Population: approx. 26,000|
|Total Area: 37.4 km²||Area: 33.41 km²|
|Elevation: 435 m (1,427 feet)||Elevation: 396 m (1,299 ft)|
|Language: German||Language: French|
|Highlights: Chapel Bridge,|
Lion Monument, Glacier Garden, Transport Museum
|Highlights: Belle Époque Palaces, Old Town, Chillon Castle, Freddie Mercury’s Statue|
|Lake: Geneva (or Lac Léman)|
|Canton: Lucerne||Canton: Vaud|
Lucerne is a great place to start your trip to Switzerland. It’s also great all year round. With the famous old wooden bridge on the lake, plus the Alps as a backdrop, this city along the Reuss River is picture-perfect. Lucerne’s old town is perfect for shopping or sightseeing with its many shops and boutiques, as well as cafes and restaurants. The picturesque setting, accessibility, and wide range of activities in Lucerne will appeal to people of all ages.
The small size of Lucerne makes it very compact and walkable. It is easy and comfortable to explore Lucerne on foot. The Lion Monument, Chapel Bridge, and Glacier Garden are all within walking distance of each other.
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: Lucerne vs. Montreux
Near Lucerne and Montreux, there are many scenic places to visit. While Montreux is closer to vineyards, castles, and interesting towns, Lucerne is closer to waterfalls, gorges, and high alpine peaks.
Places to Visit near Lucerne
- Chapel Bridge – The Chapel Bridge in Lucerne is the city’s most famous landmark. This wooden bridge over the Reuss River is one of the oldest in Europe. The bridge was built in 1300 as part of the city walls. Even though it burned down and got badly damaged, it was rebuilt in 1994.
- Old Town – You can wander around restaurants and boutiques in Lucerne’s Old Town. Apart from the Chapel Bridge, you have the Spreuer Bridge crossing the Reuss River. Nearby is a beautiful Jesuit church.
- Verkehrshaus – The Transport Museum in Switzerland is one of the most visited museums in the country. At Verkehrshaus, you’ll see cars, ships, submarines, planes, trains, trams, and cable cars. In addition to transport exhibits, there’s also a Planetarium, a Swiss Chocolate Adventure, a Communications area, and a 2D or 3D Film Theater.
- Lion Monument – The Lion Monument was created by Danish artist Bertel Thorvaldsen in 1821 to honor the Swiss Guards that lost their lives during the revolutionary siege of Paris on August 10th, 1792. It was in vain that the Swiss Guards tried to keep King Louis XVI alive, and they paid the price by dying. In the monument, a dying lion lies across broken pieces of the French monarchy.
- Glacier Garden – The Lucerne Glacier Garden has some impressive glacier potholes from the last ice age 20,000 years ago, proving that Lucerne was covered in glaciers then. Shell fossils and palm leaves show that there was a subtropical sea beach here 20 million years ago.
- Bürgenstock Hammetschwand (1,115 meters) – famous for the exclusive Bürgenstock Resort and the Hammetschwand Lift which is the highest, free-standing outdoor lift in Europe. Overlooks Lake Lucerne and can be accessed with a ferry and funicular.
- Stanserhorn (1,849 meters) – has an open upper deck cable car leading guests up the mountain and amazing views of Lucerne
- Pilatus (2,073 meters) – has the steepest cogwheel railway in the world with a maximum gradient of 48% and a 30-minute ride
- Rigi Scheidegg (1,643 meters) and Rigi Kulm (1,752 meters) – are popular to visit due to their breathtaking views of the surrounding Alps.
Places to Visit near Montreux
- 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
- 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.
- Freddie Mercury’s Statue – along the promenade, the bronze statue is a popular photo subject for tourists. The band recorded music in this town during the 80s.
- 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: Lucerne vs. Montreux
Advantages of Staying in Lucerne
- Lucerne appeals to all age groups and is a wonderful destination any time of year.
- Lucerne is easier to get to from Zurich by train.
- Lucerne is closer to the mountains in Central Switzerland. Choose it if you want to visit mountains such as Rigi, Pilatus, or Titlis.
- Lucerne has more hotels and restaurants compared to Montreux.
- Lucerne is better if you plan a mix of indoor and outdoor activities. The transport museum Verkehrshaus is so large that you can easily spend a whole day wandering through it.
Advantages of Staying in Montreux
- It’s easier to reach Montreux from Geneva Airport by train than it is to reach Lucerne. The car drive to Montreux takes around 1 hour, which is much faster than the approximately 2 hours and 48 minutes it takes to drive to Lucerne by car.
- 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, or the Charlie Chaplin Museum among others.
- Ideal for those who will proceed to Valais later (Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Crans-Montana, Grimentz-Zinal).
Hotels: Lucerne vs. Montreux
In both Lucerne and Montreux, you’ll find a wide variety of hotels. Here’s our pick of hotels.
Hotels in Lucerne
- Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern (5-star) – Directly on the lake, this refined hotel is located in the old town of Lucerne. You’ll also find a gym, a spa, and modern furniture amid elegant interiors. A 10-minute walk gets you to the train station.
- Grand Hotel National Luzern (5-star) – A luxurious hotel built in the 1870s. Close to the train station and the historic old town, this hotel has elegant interiors, fantastic lake views, and a swimming pool.
- Hermitage Lake Lucerne (4-star) – Set on the shores of Lake Lucerne, this tranquil hotel is a great place to relax. While it’s a little outside of the city, it has stunning views and refined restaurants. There’s also a beach club with daybeds, lounges, drinks, snacks, and cool music. Party boats are available to rent or you can take public boats that stop right outside the hotel. My family has stayed here and has loved it. I highly recommend it.
- AMERON Luzern Hotel Flora (4-star) – Near the train station and the chapel bridge, this hotel has chic rooms and a great breakfast.
- Hotel Rebstock (4-star) – A historic, half-timbered hotel dating from the late middle ages, Hotel Rebstock is one of the 16 Unique&Historical Hotels in Switzerland. It is ideally located near the Hof Church, the Lion Monument, and the Glacier Garden.
- Hotel Central Luzern (3-star) – In a central location near the train station, the chapel bridge, the old town, and Rosengart Collection, Hotel Central Luzern offers bright, clean, recently renovated rooms, as well as a delicious breakfast. The rooms are reasonably priced. As a result of the hotel’s central location, you might hear some noise at night.
- Backpackers Luzern (Hostel) – The Backpackers Luzern is on the shores of Lake Lucerne, in a quiet area. Besides free kitchen facilities and WiFi, this charming hostel has a common lounge area with table tennis and table soccer. Each room has comfortable beds and a balcony. Walking to Lucerne’s train station takes less than 15 minutes.
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.
- 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.
Final Thoughts: Lucerne vs. Montreux
Let’s get back to the question: should you visit Lucerne or Montreux? Both locations offer plenty to see and do, with beautiful scenery, fascinating attractions, and a variety of hotels and restaurants to choose from.
Both Lake Lucerne and Lake Geneva offer a range of activities and attractions, and which lake is better is subjective and depends on personal preferences. Lake Geneva is larger than Lake Lucerne and offers a variety of water activities such as boating, fishing, and windsurfing. Lake Lucerne, on the other hand, is known for its scenic beauty. Visitors can take a cruise on the lake or ride the cogwheel train up to Mount Rigi or Mount Pilatus for panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Lucerne is a popular destination for tourists seeking a mix of history, culture, and natural beauty. The city has a charming Old Town with well-preserved medieval architecture and landmarks, such as the Chapel Bridge and the Lion Monument. Montreux tends to attract travelers looking for a more relaxing vacation experience, focused on wellness, nature, and gastronomy. The region offers a mild climate, beautiful lakeside promenades, and opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation.
Personally, I like both places and have been to both several times. Ultimately, it comes down to you and what you want.
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