Montreux is a lovely city in Switzerland on the shore of Geneva lake famous for its castle – Château de Chillon (remember Byron’s The Prisoner of Chillon?), jazz festival, Queen & Freddie Mercury links and the Christmas market!
If you google something like ‘The best Christmas markets in Europe’, you’ll inevitably bump into Montreux at some point of your search. This year (2019) Marché de Noël is open till the 24th of December.
I’ve explored whether it’s really good and what connections with Russia – guest country of the Christmas market – Swiss Riviera has.
How to get to Montreux?
We had a flight to Genève and then took a train to Montreux. Besides that, SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) has a nice offer for those who travel to the Christmas market and buy a ticket at the till: 15% off train ticket and free mug with hot drink of your choice (hot red/white wine, Christmas tea etc) and pretzel to collect at the market.
Market is located a few minutes walk from the station – just go down toward the lake.
Marché de Noël is stretched along the lake shore and it’s huge: there are over 170 stalls. Apart from the open air area, there is a covered market too.
Food stalls dominate the area indeed – you can find everything that you associate with Christmas delicacies as well as traditional Swiss and French cuisine: sausages, raclette, foie gras (and sausages with foie gras!), warm white and red wine, potatoes prepared in different variations (french fries, gratin etc), bretzels, seafood, sandwiches, pancakes, roasted chestnuts and almonds. There are a few restaurants in this area too.
No doubt, you will find everything to please you if you have a sweet tooth too: cotton candy, lollipops, chocolates, lots of different pastries, marzipan, jams, churros, marshmallow and so much more. Surprisingly, I didn’t spot any candy apples and any candy fruits or berries at all which traditionally invade British Christmas markets but I personally didn’t mind at all 🙂
There were many shops too. So, if you look for some skin care products, arts and crafts, jewellery, toys, Christmas decorations and other souvenirs from Switzerland and France, it might be a good idea to buy them there.
Btw, I make references to France all the time because French is the main language in this part of Switzerland (everybody speaks English fluently too though), and many products are brought there from France as well.
Interesting: Christmas vibes stretch far beyond the Montreux Christmas market. The Santa Claus’s grotto is located on the Rocher-de-Naye, the mountain nearby, and Chillon Castle gets all ready for the festive season too!
A guest country is invited to Montreux Christmas market every year – and, surprisingly, this year it was Russia! I swear I didn’t know that before coming 🙂 Russian dolls, Russian Santa Claus called Ded Moroz and his grand-daughter Snegurochka, folk music, Russian cuisine – it all looked a bit like a cliche but these are the symbols that are actively promoted for tourists.
But, actually, Russian culture runs deep into Montreux history. Famous Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov, mainly known as the author of Lolita, lived there for many years. Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Lev Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Nikolay Gogol, Igor Stravinsky and many other notable Russian figures loved the Swiss Riviera.
Hope you enjoyed my blog!