Montreux might be called the Cannes of Lac Léman—though it might raise an eyebrow at the slur. Spilling down steep hillsides into a sunny south-facing bay, its waterfront thick with magnolias, cypresses, and palm trees, the historic resort earns its reputation as the capital—if not the pearl—of the Swiss Riviera. Unlike the French Riviera, it has managed, despite overwhelming crowds of conventioneers, to keep up appearances. Its Edwardian-French deportment has survived considerable development, and though there are plenty of harsh modern high-rises with parking-garage aesthetics, its mansarded landmarks still unfurl yellow awnings to shield millionaires from the sun.
Famed for the nearby lakeside Château de Chillon, Montreux is where Stravinsky composed Petrouchka and Le Sacre du Printemps, and where Vladimir Nabokov resided in splendor. Indeed, Montreux and its suburbs have attracted artists and literati for 200 years: Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Leo Tolstoy, Hans Christian Andersen, and Gustave Flaubert were drawn to its lush shoreline. The resort is best known for its annual jazz festival, which lately has strayed from its original focus to include rock, R&B, Latin, and hip-hop. Each July, Montreux's usually composed promenade explodes in a street festival of food tents, vendor kiosks, and open band shells, which complement standing-room-only concert hall venues.