Fairmont Le Montreux Palace: A Palatial Hotel on the Swiss Riviera

Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux Switzerland

Fairmont Le Montreux Palace

The town of Montreux, in Switzerland’s French-speaking Lake Geneva region, has long been a holiday destination. In the area dubbed the Swiss Riviera, Montreux may be best known for its annual music extravaganza, the Montreux Jazz Festival. Launched in 1967, the festival has drawn the greats of the jazz world, from Miles Davis to Ella Fitzgerald, along with performers as diverse as Freddie Mercury, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, and Prince.

Many of these performers, along with numerous festival goers, literary icons (including novelist Vladimir Nobokov), and others who’ve come for a vacation by the lake, have stayed at the area’s grandest lodging: Fairmont Le Montreux Palace.

I wasn’t in town for the jazz fest, which is normally held in July, and I didn’t settle in for as long as Nobokov, who lived in the Montreux Palace for 16 years. But I did have a chance to stay several nights at this luxurious Swiss hotel.

Here’s the scoop:

Lobby, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux Switzerland

A grand staircase descends to the lobby in the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace.

Facilities and Services

Opened in 1906, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace is full of period details, particularly in its elegant public spaces. A grand staircase connects the lobby — where the helpful concierge team is ready with local tips, transportation advice, and restaurant suggestions — with the hotel’s second floor dining and event facilities.

Breakfast, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux Switzerland

A window into the dining room, where a buffet breakfast is served

The Fairmont serves guests a generous breakfast buffet in La Palmeraie, a window-lined second-floor space. The daily spread features fresh fruits, yogurts, cheeses, smoked fish, cured meats, and an assortment of breads, croissants, and other pastries. A chef will also prepare omelets to order, and staff circulate with coffee and other hot beverages.

On Sunday afternoons, the hotel offers an even more elaborate weekend brunch, with a changing selection of hot dishes, a pasta buffet, an assortment of salads, breads and cheeses, and a tempting array of desserts.

Bar, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux Switzerland

The hotel’s jazz connections are on view in the lounge.

For a casual cocktail, pop into the Lounge Bar off the lobby, where photos of jazz musicians line the walls. Funky Claude’s Bar, a second drinking space, was named for Claude Nobs, who established the Montreux Jazz Festival, and features live –and lively — music most nights. 

Also on the lobby level, the Montreux Jazz Cafe is a far better restaurant than its casual name suggests. Open for lunch and dinner, the cafe serves up starters like green pea and coconut milk soup with feta-verbena pesto or a salad of local tomatoes with Bloody Mary sorbet, along with mains that might range from veal medallions with chanterelles, to artichoke risotto with truffle cream, to a simple but excellent local lake perch, pan-fried and paired with roasted potatoes and fresh peas. Wines from the nearby Lavaux region are a natural accompaniment.

Pool, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux Switzerland

One of the hotel’s two swimming pools

Among the hotel’s best features is its gorgeous spa and pool area, with both indoor and outdoor swimming pools and inviting lounge chairs set across a broad lawn overlooking the lake. Even on a cool late spring morning, a swim in the heated outdoor pool made a refreshing start to the day.

Indoors, the spa has a eucalyptus steam room, whirlpool tubs, and men’s and women’s saunas, as well as a well-equipped fitness center. The spa offers a full menu of massages, facials, and other services.

Guest Rooms and Amenities

With such an expansive array of public spaces and services, the guest rooms could seem almost an afterthought. Why linger in your room when there’s so much to do?

Yet the 236 guest rooms and suites at the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace are comfortable and posh enough that you can understand why Nobokov took up residence for so many years.

Guest room, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux Switzerland

A lake view guest room

The rooms are traditionally decorated in a palette of creams and whites, with darker brown accents. They’ve been updated with enough electrical outlets and charging plugs that you can work, if you must.

Other standard amenities include coffee- and tea-making equipment, in-room safes, robes, and slippers.

Guest room view, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux Switzerland

I wouldn’t mind working remotely from this writing desk with lake vistas.

The guest rooms include city-view and lake-view options. The views from the windows on the city side, which extend over the town into the hills behind the hotel, are charming, but the lake vistas are show-stopping.

Balcony view, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux Switzerland

Balconies at Fairmont Le Montreux Palace look out to Lake Geneva.

The balconies on the lake side look across the hotel’s broad lawn to Lake Geneva and beyond to the mountains on the lake’s French shore.

About Montreux and the Swiss Riviera

A one-hour train ride from Geneva, Montreux has a castle you can visit, an homage to musician Freddie Mercury and the group Queen (who recorded six albums in Montreux between 1978 and 1995), and a series of statues opposite the Fairmont honoring many of the jazz greats who’ve performed in town. A walking path follows the lakeshore, and you can cruise the waters on a restored Belle Epoque steamer

You can also day-trip from Montreux to Lausanne, the lake region’s cultural hub, which is only 25 minutes by train. Among Lausanne’s highlights are the recently opened Plateforme 10 arts district, which encompasses three different museums opposite Lausanne’s main rail station, and the Olympic Museum, set in a park near the lake, where you can explore the highs and lows of the international sports events over the years.

But if you choose to stay put at Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, lounging by the pool by day and enjoying the music in the evenings, you could still have a lovely holiday in this palatial property.

And maybe, like the artists and writers who’ve stayed here before you, you might even be inspired to produce a song or two.

Lake Geneva, near Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, Montreux Switzerland

A ship cruises the lake near Montreux


Rates at Fairmont Le Montreux Palace start at US$300-435 per night, depending on the season, for a standard double room, increasing as you add lake views, the breakfast buffet, or other amenities. You can also compare rates and reserve your stay through Booking.com, Expedia, or your favorite booking site.

Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. Switzerland Tourism and Vaud Promotion provided support for my research trip through the Lake Geneva region.

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