Music plays a huge part in our lives and our travels. Whenever we enter a country, some song or artist always springs to mind about the location we’re visiting. When it came to Montreux, we knew that Montreux had one of the most beautiful waterfront walks in Europe along Lake Geneva.We knew that Montreux was an excellent location to base ourselves to explore the terraced vineyards of Lavaux or to hop over to Medieval town of Gruyere. What we didn’t know that it had such a colourful history in music.

montreux waterfront

Lake Geneva from the Montreux Promenade

Montreux and Music

Overlooking Montreux and Lake Geneva from Lavaux Wine Terraces

The Montreux Riviera Viewed from Lavaux Wine Terraces

Montreux has a long musical history and today it hosts the Montreux World Music Festival. The second largest annual festival in the world second only to the Montreal Jazz Festival. (who knew?) Artists such as Miles Davis, Santana, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan have performed at the festival, but what we’re here to talk about is Rock and Roll!

Montreux  graffiti art

Graffiti at the Bandstand on the Promenade

Smoke on the Water

It was the first song I ever learned on the guitar. One Christmas I was given an acoustic guitar as a gift and I remember my brother Jim putting it on his lap. He played four notes. A four note blues scale that goes down in the history of music as one of the most memorable guitar riff of all time.

Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” tells of the events of the Montreux Casino burning down in 1971. It was during a Frank Zappa concert when a fan shot a flare gun at the stage. Deep purple was recording an album at a mobile studio attached to the Casino which just happened to be owned by the Rolling Stones. As Deep Purple watched the blaze from their hotel room, they noticed smoke spreading out over the waters of Lake Geneva. And the rest is history.

montreux switzerland Casino

The New Montreux Casino

Freddie Mercury, Musical Legacy 

Years ago, I remember watching a biography on Freddie Mercury where it said that he spent much of his final days in Switzerland. Little did I know it was Montreux. I can understand why Mercury chose this location, it is magical. It was in 1978 when Queen bought the legendary Mountain Studios and recorded such iconic songs as Under Pressure with David Bowie and the Show Must go On from Innuendo; The last album released while Freddie was alive. Their final album Made in Heaven, featuring Mercury was also recorded and mixed in 1993, two years after his untimely death.

Queen Monument, Freddie Mercury

Freddie Mercury strikes a pose in Montreux over Lake Geneva

There is an iconic statue on the promenade paying homage to Mercury as he strikes a pose over Lake Geneva. It is this vision that comes to mind whenever we picture him singing. A true performer and front man, nobody could compare to his presence and power on stage and to this day, I can’t think of anyone who comes close.

The Plaque on the statue states “He appreciated the kindness and the discretion of the townspeople and Montreaux became a haven for him. His second home and setting for his final work”

Zanzibar’s Music Connection

freddies zanibar

A stop at Freddie Mercury's Restaurant in Zanzibar, Tanzania

Our Freddie pilgrimage had started before our trip to Montreaux. In 2008 after our climb to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, we flew to Zanzibar to relax on it’s sandy white beaches while being captivated by it’s turquois waters. Freddie Mercury was born on the island and we made a point to visit a few of his old haunts listed in our guide book. The most notable stop was the Freddie Mercury bar. After three months in Africa, there was nothing better than walking into a waterfront bar, sipping a cold beer and listening to one of our favourite rock bands of all time.

Back to Montreux

grand hotel suisse in Montreux

Our Hotel, Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic

Montreux is beautiful. Staying at the Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic was like staying in a palace and the fondue at Caveau des Vignerons was the best we’ve ever had, but when we look back we’ll always think about the important role that Montreux has played in Music history and continues to do so. The Montreux Music Festival is held annually in Early July.

We were in Switzerland representing Expedia.com at the Adventure Travel World Summit and showing you everything Switzerland. When visiting Montreux make a stop at the Chillon Castle, Take a walk along the promenade, catch a train or drive out to the wine terraces a few short kilometres away and enjoy fine food, Vacation packages to Switzerland can be booked through Expedia.com.

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8 Comments

  1. Lisa@iLiveWhereIam

    Great post! I loved hearing about the history of Montreux and music. I was familiar with the Montreux Jazz Festival and Smoke on the Water, but I had forgotten about Freddie living there. I just love him. Wonderful to read the quote on the plaque “He appreciated the kindness and the discretion of the townspeople…” that’s great. thanks for sharing such great stories on Montreux!

  2. coolnewz

    yes, Montreux and the entire region is very rich in all sorts of music festivals along the year. There is the Paleo Festival near Nyon, there is the Cully Jazz Festival near Lausanne usually in Spring if I remember well. But Montreux indeed is the diamond of the crown!

  3. Addison S. @ Visa Hunter

    I need to make a visit to the Montreux music festival sometime soon. The opening two lines of this post are so true. Having traveled across five continents, I have attached a plethora of songs to destinations and am always happy to hear them – no matter how good or bad – as they evoke so many memories.

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