Perched on the southwestern tip of Lake Geneva near the border with France, the city of Geneva makes an excellent base from which to explore some of Switzerland’s prettiest towns. From medieval mountain settlements to a town famed for its cheese production, here are a few of the Swiss towns worthy of a day trip.
Set within the canton of Fribourg, the medieval town of Gruyères is surrounded by rolling alpine pastures where bell-wearing cattle graze. It is these black-and-white cows that provide the milk for the town’s biggest claim to fame: Gruyère cheese. Samples of this nutty-flavored cheese can be tasted on visits to local dairies.
With its hilltop Old Town, lakeside promenade, and mountain backdrop, it’s easy to understand the enduring popularity of Montreux, which has been attracting creative types—including poets Percy Shelley and Byron, and Frankenstein author Mary Shelley—since the 19th century. Its star attraction is the lakeside Chateau de Chillon, which inspired Lord Byron’s well-known poem, “The Prisoner of Chillon.”
Located on the north shore of Lake Geneva, Vevey promises spectacular lake and mountain views. With its traditional shuttered buildings and narrow streets, the old town is pure eye candy. For book lovers, the town offers literary connections: Henry James wrote part of Daisy Miller here, while Dostoyevsky, Victor Hugo, and Hemingway are all said to have spent time in Vevey. A sweet bonus: It’s also the home of Nestlé, one of Switzerland’s most famous chocolate producers.
The lakeside city of Lausanne spreads across three hills. In addition to a Gothic-style Old Town and hip lakefront districts, it’s also home to the International Olympic Committee. Lausanne’s Olympic Museum, which tracks the history of the Olympics from ancient times to the present day, is one of Switzerland’s best attractions.