Visiting Montreux
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Aside from rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi of international tourism amidst the thronging honky-tonk of Grand-Rue and Avenue de Casino – everyone looking at everyone else wondering where all the rich people are – there’s actually precious little to do in Montreux, although it’s worth taking time for the gorgeous lakeside stroll along the flowered promenades. Backing onto the Place du Marché, with impressive views across the water to the Dents-du-Midi, stands Montreux’s newest and most popular photo-op – a flamboyant statue in bronze of long-time local resident Freddie Mercury which was unveiled in 1996, five years after his death. His group Queen first recorded an album in Montreux in 1978 and returned many times afterwards, Freddie eventually buying an apartment on the Territet waterfront (now private property), where he spent his last few months.

Associations with rock music continue when you reach the Casino, on Rue du Théâtre: this somewhat grating modern building replaced the grand original, which opened in 1883 and was burned to the ground on December 4, 1971, during a concert by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. During the show, someone in the audience thoughtfully let off a rocket-flare, which immediately set the ceiling on fire; everyone got out without injury, but the building continued to burn all night. Ian Gillan, lead singer of the band Deep Purple, who were holed up in a hotel nearby, watched the flames leaping into the sky and was thus inspired to write his seminal rock classic “Smoke On The Water”.

The zigzagging streets and hillside terraces of the steep Old Town above the train station provide marginally more interest. A group of eighteenth-century buildings houses the modest Musée du vieux Montreux, 40 Rue de la Gare (April–Oct daily 10am–noon & 2–5pm; Fr.6; SMP), illustrating the town’s history, with a particular focus on the impact of tourism.

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