Why Vaud is so fascinating
There is something so serene and special about the entire region of Vaud. It's hard to explain. You really have to go there to feel the warm breeze floating through the vineyards of Lavaux, the tranquility and romantic lure of Montreux, the calm waters of Lac Léman sparkling from shore to shore – Vaud just has it!
But first - why is there a statue of Freddy Mercury in Montreux?
A good question and I’m glad you asked. He loved this particular part of Switzerland and it is instantly easy to see why. Vaud is mystical, colourful and calm and yet buzzing and stimulating all at the same time. Perhaps Freddy Mercury summed it up with his lyrical charm and well documented line:
"If you want peace of soul, come to Montreux".
I've been told that many famous people frequent this part of Switzerland and that several quickly noted that they were permitted to freely roam the streets and visit the cafes, unhindered, without being noticed or even asked for an autograph! It must be true – because during my days in Vaud not a single person recognised me!
But enough about me, let’s explore my favourite Swiss Canton!
Welcome to Vaud
From castles, vineyard walks, glacier hikes and nights under the stars, we explore 10 summer highlights of this amazing region.
1. Castles, History & Steamboats
Follow the footsteps of Lord Byron and Mary Shelley as you potter around Château de Chillon (in the photo above), a truly magnificent castle with lots of intriguing information in several languages including English. If you have any interest in the Middle Ages or more specifically the House of Savoy, you will simply not want to leave. Anticipating my excitement, my wife had cleverly booked a paddle boat excursion, which conveniently departed a mere 200 metres away and 90 minutes after I took over my new castle! ‘I know you’d like to stay longer, looking at medieval relics, banquet halls and armour and pretending you’re a Medieval Knight, but our boat leaves in an hour!’
And so, off we went to Vevey by steamboat! My history addiction and love of castles gave way to the promise of Pinot Noir. It was an easy choice!Show me more castles
2. The Terraced Vineyards of Lavaux – UNESCO World Heritage Site
Admiring Lavaux on a bike ride © D. Carlier
One of the most romantic things you can do in life is meander through the many vineyards of Lavaux - just before sunset. Even better, start with a mid-afternoon wine tasting and soak up summer sun whilst gazing out over the lake. The Canton’s seductive allure will beckon you to indulge and relax with simultaneous perfection. You really can put your feet up here and then, might I add a leisurely walk along the waterfront where you will find many a fine café, bar and restaurant. If that has not made you want to stay, well there is so much more to Vaud… but first, let’s get up to speed with the wine list!
You may wish to check out Epesses, St. Saphorin (a great wine which bears the name of a beautiful village) and of course Dézaley - which has some ancient connection to a bunch of Monks, so it must be good!
May I also suggest one port of call that we stumbled upon or rather out of, to be more accurate. Lavaux Vinorama – It’s exceptional. The staff are amazing. Starting at around CHF15 you can sample a selection of superb local wines and ask lots of silly questions. I did both!
3. Discover the wine regions of Vaud
If you happen to be a bit of a wine connoisseur then a few names might spring to mind. Chasselas – the most common grape in the region and my personal favourite, La Côte which is actually a region, Bonvillars which is a tiny municipality and has a wine trail which combines vineyards and a castle - for 1476 and all that Charles the Bold business see here.If that fails to quench your thirst and intellectual appetite there’s Côtes de l'Orbe which is great for reds and claims to be the oldest wine producing area in the country. I’m not so sure about this, because just down the road in the Vallorbe Cave I met a hermit who told me he’d been making wine for much longer!Show me the best wine and gourmet experiences
4. Get on your bike or just hire one!
You'll love biking in Vaud © Switzerland Tourism/ Andre Meier
Vaud is not an unknown destination for cycling buffs. Au contraire! The canton is home to the World Cycling Centre in Aigle at the foot of the Alps, with the International Cycling Union (UCI) providing facilities for training young talent from all over the world.
Depending on your interests, we recommend these routes:
For adventure seekers: the Tour des Alpes Vaudoises or the Leysin Downhill Bike Park.
for families: e-bike tour in the Bike Tour Parc Jura Vaudois.
for romantic rides: try the Route du Rhône, especially the portion between Montreux and Morges with a spectacular view of Lake Geneva.
Swim tip: If you happen to be cycling near Lausanne, Plage de Préverenges, with its sandy beach, is a great stop-off point to take a refreshing dip!Show me more biking trails
5. Sleep a night under the stars, reconnect with nature
Night with a beautiful starry sky in Les Diablerets © Fabiano Mancesti @fabxplore
Here’s a unique chance to watch the sun dip over the mountains and discover the vast wilderness of Switzerland
A night under a starry sky – that's definitely an experience you'll never forget. And you don’t have to be an adventurer to sleep under the stars, because there will be a certified hiking guide waiting for you!
How it works
Organised with all environmental regulations in mind in several locations (the Vaud Alps, the Jura, and the Vaud Plateau) these bivouacs are supervised by a guide with a wealth of local knowledge. There are several experiences you can choose from, from spotting wildlife to uncovering forest legends or exploring the stunning night sky. (Yes, it's really that starry!).I want to know more
6. Yverdon-les-Bains on Lac de Neuchâtel
I have to mention Yverdon-les-Bains and the fairy tale castle with its four imposing towers, collectively renown for being the first ‘Savoyard Square’ defensive design. Couple that with the cobbled streets and close proximity to more vineyards and you will be getting immersed in a cultural experience that will literally make you feel like you have gone back in time! There’s a lovely little theatre under the castle with just 120 seats that often puts on some great kids shows. Also, Yverdons-les-Bains is well known as a spa town apparently since Roman times, so you might want to stop and enjoy its amazing thermal spa.
If you neglected to take a dip in Lake Geneva, then do check out two idyllic little beaches on Lake Neuchâtel, the Plage d'Yverdon-les-Bains and the somewhat obviously smaller La Petite Plage. Having got this far, it is okay to have ice cream even if you don’t have children! Really – it’s okay.
7. Explore Romainmôtier
Dashing across the Canton we next travelled to Romainmôtier Priory - a 5th Century Abbey! Of all the mediaeval towns in Switzerland, this stands out as the most impressive. The little tourist information office is well staffed and extremely helpful. This tiny village has just 500 inhabitants and if you are looking for a dictionary definition of ‘idyllic and quaint’ then this is it. In addition to the many magnificent buildings there are several spectacular walking paths to explore.
8. Glacier 3000 - the highest point of Vaud
Les Diablerets © Glacier 3000
If you like mountains, may I recommend Glacier 3000 - the highest point of Vaud? Imagine being so high up that you can see Mont-Blanc, the Matterhorn, Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. But hang on, because there’s more! Imagine that you are 3000m above sea level and walking along a suspension bridge between two mountain peaks! You may now picture Barney Stinson in ‘How I met your mother’ shouting ‘Awesome!’. One of the best views in the world awaits you. Total Awesomeness at the Top!
9. Something for the whole family
Juraparc is a great place for families and it’s just 5km from the Vallorbe caves, so this provides you with the possibility of a very exciting day out. Juraparc offers the chance to see not only wolves and bison, but also two bears called George and Ursina. This park is a very easy sell if you have kids! They will love it.
A good alternative and a little closer to Lausanne (just 15km), you may like to discover Servion Zoo, where they have Siberian tigers and lions!
Earlier, I mentioned the Vallorbe Caves - a ‘must-do’ for families. This really is a wonderful experience for kids. A visit involves a short walk through a forest. We we’re particularly impressed by the river that gushes through the cave and the five rooms with crystals and rock samples.
Oh! And did I mention Lausanne? To be perfectly honest, there’s so much to do there that we thought we’d write a special article all about Lausanne.
10. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with Freddy who is clearly singing…
‘I want to…. Go to Vaud’
Looking for more inspiration before you visit Vaud?
On the official website of Vaud Promotion you'll find top inspiration for the main highlights of the canton, as well as the off-the-beaten-path experiences, main events as well as interesting experiences and lovely tour ideas. Highly recommended!Sounds lovely, tell me more about Vaud
About the author:
This article was written by Bruce Anderson, a talented writer, comedian and full fledged fan of canton Vaud. He personally visited all the places mentioned in the article, except spending a night under the stars, but that's next on his list.
Main article photo: Lavaux Vineyards © Swiss Panoramic Tours