The medieval fortress of Chateau de Chillon on the banks of Lake Geneva in Montreux, dates back to the 12th century, or as my children call it, that-time-before-Alexa. In every guidebook and blog post that I read about travels to Switzerland, I was amazed to see that this fortress popped up as a must-visit destination.
Really? I thought to myself. In an entire country filled with unbelievable sights, how does a fortress make it to the top 10? The only way to find an answer to my question was to spend a night in Montreux and see it for ourselves.
Located in the south west region, Montreux sits on Switzerland’s largest lake, Lake Geneva. Known as a resort town, Montreux caters to tourists with plenty of fun hotels and a laid back vibe.
We stayed at the Montreux Apartment on the Lake just steps away from the main train station. After what felt like roughing it in Interlaken, we were so happy to come to a fancy home, that was huge, comfortable, and boasted amazing views of the lake across.
Our less than 24-hours in Montreux were basically dedicated to walking along the Lake (which is beautiful; littered with sculptors and playground) and visiting Chateau de Chillon. In a way, it worked out fine because honestly, Montreux is very expensive even by Swiss standards, and lacks the hustle and bustle that I crave while on vacation (instead of a sleepy vibe at least in the fall season).
So back to Chateau de Chillon, you can take a ferry or bus to the fortress from city center. We waited for the ferry for a bit and then got antsy and started walking down the lake path. After strolling for a few minutes and stopping at every small playground that crossed our path, we hopped on the bus for the rest of the short journey. Our Swiss Travel Pass allowed free transportation and entrance to the fort, which was a great bonus.
Chateau de Chillon felt quite small and unremarkable at first glance. But as soon as we entered the gates, our mood changed quickly as the little ones started running about and pretending that we were surrounded by dragons, princesses, and knights. They had received a handy map at the entrance with a scavenger hunt in it, and so that is how we started our self guided tour.
The fort is really well preserved with exhibits, murals, and objects that I found very interesting and beautiful. It wasn’t crowded during our fall visit and allowed the children to linger and look as they pleased. The two biggest highlights were finding the secret escape tunnel in one of the bedrooms, and seeing the royal toilet facilities (a.k.a a hole in the ground).
Our visit lasted just under two hours. It was a lot of fun and kept everyone engaged and entertained. The museum has even more elaborate and interactive activities for older kids, that looked a lot of fun too. And of course, you couldn’t beat the views as the fortress sits right on Lake Geneva.
So what is my verdict about Chateau de Chillon being listed as the top must-see sights in all of Switzerland? Short answer – No.
Don’t get me wrong. We had a good time during our visit, but it wasn’t worth the effort, and expense for our short week-long visit. If you are spending two or more weeks in Switzerland however, of if you are already in the Lake Geneva area, then by all means, please do make your way to this beautiful city and check out the fortress along with it. But for our visit, I wish we had skipped Montreux and instead spent that time in Basel or in the Bernese Oberland exploring the Alps some more.
So there you have it folks. Not a out-of-this-world destination, but still happy that we got to experience Montreux and its famous chateau. And this makes me wonder, have you guys been on a highly hyped destination or site, just to discover that it isn’t really that remarkable?