Montreux and Annecy: Easy Day Trips from Geneva
Geneva Is Boring...
Bunny recently found herself in Geneva without much of an agenda for a couple of days. Now Geneva is all nice(ish) and everything but can one really spend four days hopping around in Geneva? Bunny thought not.
So she started researching possible easy day trips from Geneva, places she could effortlessly visit on her own, without having to rent a car, spend a long time traveling or pay a lot of a money.
She was immediately taken by Chamonix, intrigued by the promised views of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe. But the reviews mentioned a nearly vertical cable car to get to the highest viewing point. No thanks. Bunny has a thing about heights and she doesn’t like embarking on suicide missions without Mr. Bunny’s protective arms around her. Mr. Bunny was not available for this expedition, thus Chamonix was out of the question.
Chamonix was anyway a bit difficult to get to without a car so Bunny turned her eyes to something a little easier instead.
Bunny then investigated the smaller towns on Lake Geneva. The question was: Lausanne or Montreux? Although Lausanne was the more famous of the two, Montreux seemed more intimate. In addition, it could lure Bunny with the promise of a castle: Chateau de Chillon. This was enough for Bunny to decide to grace Montreux with her presence for a day.
It was a glorious sunny October day and Bunny, the perennial late riser, caught the 10:30am train from Geneva to Montreux. The train was comfortable and punctual (this is Switzerland after all). The journey time was a little over an hour and there were some very nice views on the way. The train ran very close to the lake at times, past vineyards that were reflecting yellow in the autumn sun.
Once in Montreux, Bunny first visited the tourist information centre to get a map. She had decided to walk to Chateau de Chillon right away, as she was not sure how long the expedition would take. Bunny was aiming to take the 4pm train back to Geneva so she didn’t have any time to waste.
Despite the sunny weather, Lake Geneva had a kind of blue mist hovering above it, making it very photogenic. Bunny was in love with Montreux as soon as she made her way to the famous promenade by the lake. It was simply gorgeous!
Chateau de Chillon
Bunny had not heard about Chateau de Chillon before she started researching Montreux. Apparently it is one of the most visited castles in Switzerland and Europe. Wow.
The castle is located a couple of kilometers south of Montreux, directly on Lake Geneva. The walk from Montreux is an easy 45 minutes following the beautiful promenade. The views to the lake are amazing throughout the journey.
Just before the castle, there is a little kiosk where you can take a picture of the castle inside a frame that is built for this purpose. There are also some drinks and snacks available for the peckish.
Photographing Chateau de Chillon
Depending on the time of the day you visit the castle, you should also walk past the castle to get good pictures from the other side. Pictures taken against direct sunlight are very rarely good, Bunny says.
There are benches for a light picnic with excellent views of the castle on the southern side of the castle. Bunny sat there, basking in the sunlight, eating some nuts and fresh plums before even entering the castle.
Inside the Castle
After you buy your ticket to the castle (12.50 CHF), you will get an information leaflet with a suggested itinerary. An audio guide is also available for an additional charge. Bunny was happy with the information booklet and decided to follow it to the letter as the castle seemed huge and sprawling, just the place for little bunnies to get lost forever if they are not careful…
Bunny has seen quite a few castles in her life but Chateau de Chillon was very impressive. All the nooks and cranes of the castle were available for exploration and information was displayed in three languages, French, English and German, everywhere. Bunny learned quite a bit about medieval life hopping through the various halls and courtyards of this impressive structure.
"Medieval rabbit stew, anyone?"
In fact, she got so enthralled that she forgot her fancy Canon 70D camera in the lady bunnies room in the middle of her expedition, and didn’t even notice it was missing until much later. Talk about heart-attack inducing moments! Luckily, this was Switzerland and some kind soul (bless her!) had returned the camera to the castle gift shop where Bunny was reunited with her faithful companion. Phew.
Great Views from the Top
In the end, the itinerary took Bunny to the top of the castle which offered great views in all directions. You could easily see Montreux and beyond.
Unfortunately, Bunny arrived at the top the same time as a class of 7-year old school kids which was a bit of a stretch for her poor nerves… Otherwise the castle seemed pretty quiet during Bunny’s visit, no big tourist groups or a lot of people in general which was great.
It took Bunny about an hour to go through the castle but you could easily spend much more time exploring. An hour is perhaps the minimum you should plan to spend.
After the castle visit, Bunny enjoyed an ice-cream from the souvenir kiosk just outside. Then it was time to hop back to Montreux. There were more people on the promenade now, enjoying the afternoon sun and views of sailboats skimming across the water.
Bunny was incredibly lucky with the weather (for once) that day. It was a gorgeous sunny day in late October, warm enough to wear short-leaved shirts. Amazing!
Amazing scenery in and around Montreux at Lake Geneva
If you don’t feel like walking all the way from Montreux, there is also a train stop (Veytax-Chillon), an easy 10 minute stroll from the castle. Bunny strongly recommends walking though. Don’t be lazy!
Oriental Palace for Lunch
Back in Montreux, Bunny stopped for late lunch at Oriental Palace, lured in by an interesting-looking menu and a sunny terrace.
Bunny ordered hummus, falafel and non-alcoholic beer. It was very tasty but also very expensive: 45 CHF with tip! The place was very nice though, with direct lake views and gorgeous oriental interior.
Bunny's lunch at Oriental Palace
Queen Studio Experience
After lunch, Bunny went to check out the Queen Studio Experience at the Montreux Casino. It turns out (Bunny didn’t know) that Freddie Mercury owned a house in Montreux and the band recorded many of their albums in their studio in Montreux. The small museum in the Casino building (where the studio used to be) is a cool experience for fans and non-fans alike.
Bunny has always been fond of Queen so she was happy to hop around, taking in the memorabilia, pictures and curious items while enjoying the music. The best thing is that the place can be visited totally free! Bunny left a donation for charity work at the end of visit but otherwise she didn’t spend a penny - despite being inside the Casino…
There is a direct train from Gare Cornavin, the Geneva main railway station, to Montreux every half an hour (at the top and bottom of the hour). The regular price is 31 CHF one way.
In Montreux, the railway station is a 5-minute walk (down the stairs) to the promenade. There is a tourist information kiosk on the promenade and they can provide you with advice and maps. However, no map is needed to find Chateau de Chillon, just follow the promenade to the South. The walk should take about 45 minutes at a brisk pace but it is more likely that you will stop every five minutes for pictures of the gorgeous scenery…
A Little Corner of France: Annecy
Let’s start with a startling confession: Bunny is not a big fan of France. Paris is magnifique, and Bunny has enjoyed lovely holidays in other parts of France too but she has never really developed the kind of love for France that she has, for example, for her beloved Italy. There is just something about France that rubs Bunny the wrong way.
That said, Bunny is always open to reflect on her views and try new experiences and see new places. So she decided it was time to give France another go and head for a day trip from Geneva to check out neighbouring Annecy in France.
Just a Short Bus Ride Away
Annecy is a mere 40 kilometres from Geneva but feels like a different world altogether.
There is a direct bus connection, handled by at least two different bus companies, between Geneva and Annecy. Bunny chose Flixbus as she had had experience with them elsewhere in Europe.
Flixbus asks you to arrive 15 minutes before departure. Bunny had bought her ticket online the previous day. There was no need to print the ticket as the bus driver just scanned the bar code on Bunny’s mobile phone.
The bus was comfortable enough and there was even a promise of Wi-Fi. It didn’t work, of course. Oh well. The bus left almost promptly. Bunny was excited, she was going abroad, after all! Halfway through the journey the Wi-Fi also started working so all was good. The nice scenery along the way provided some pleasant distraction for those moments when the Wi-Fi was down.
Three Hours to Wander Around
Bunny had taken the earliest possible bus which left Geneva at 11:40am. Returning with the last Flixbus at 15:40, gave her about three hours to wander around in Annecy. This would have to be enough to see some of the sights and try some French food (another reason she is not a huge fan of France - have they even heard about vegetarian food?).
It was a lovely sunny day in Annecy. Bunny made her way from the bus station to the old town without any maps, just following her instincts and some road signs. It was a short, 10-minute walk before the beauty of Annecy started to unfold around her and she saw its first canals.
The Venice of the Alps
Annecy is often called the Venice of the Alps. It is, of course, very touristic but in a cute little way. The old town with its canals, restaurants, crêperies, ice-cream parlours and shops is very pretty indeed.
The distances are small so it is easy to get around by foot. Bunny did just that. She just wandered around, took loads of pictures, enjoyed an ice-cream and admired the many swans that have chosen to live in the canals of Annecy. Bunny even walked up to the Chateau d’Annecy but didn’t have time to explore the museum inside.
In addition to the picturesque old town, Annecy also has a pretty water front. Lake Annecy, which is a 5-minute walk from the old town, is fed by mountain springs and has incredibly clear, turquoise water. You can rent paddle boats and enjoy the mountain scenery around the lake. Bunny settled for wandering around the lake, taking plenty of pictures.
French Cuisine (ugh)
All the hopping around made Bunny hungry and she started to look for a restaurant in the old town. She knew the food would be overpriced but since she had limited time, she wanted to get a seat outside with a nice view of the canals.
Bunny was a bit weary of the restaurants as the French love their meat. Their love for rabbits, in particular, always makes Bunny shudder.
She finally settled down in one of the (touristic) restaurants lining the pretty canals. She found a quiche on the menu and by some miracle it was vegetarian! Hurrah! She did double-check though as the French (and other nationalities) sometimes don’t consider ham meat…
But this was a real vegetarian affair and they even had non-alcoholic beer for Bunny. It was hot and sunny on the terrace and the food was good. Bunny liked this place! Maybe France has some potential after all…
Buses to Annecy leave from the Geneva central bus station at Place Dorcière, just a short walk from the water front or the railway station. The return ticket for the 50-minute journey with Flixbus cost Bunny 24 euros. Finally something affordable!
Bunny had three hours to spend in Annecy but that is the bare minimum. It would be better to give yourself more time to absorb the unique Frenchness of the place, or even stay the night. Bunny herself, is, in fact, planning a return visit for the whole weekend, with Mr. Bunny in tow, bien sûr.