Switzerland & FranceCalling All Cheese And Chocolate Lovers
Keeping to the French-speaking area of Switzerland and dipping down into France, this round-trip has some magical stops along the way. Wander through idyllic streets, take to the water in magnificent lakes, and even hop on your skis to head down the slopes.
Enjoy this incredible Switzerland and France itinerary as you explore some of the hotspots in Switzerland and France.
Rail Passes: –
Price Range: $$$$$
Recommended Days: 10 – 14 Days
Riding Hours: Approx. 9,5 hr
Distance: 274 km
Lausanne: Walk In The Park
Enjoy this vineyard-filled and rolling hillside beauty that looks to the future with its upbeat vibe, unique museums, and design that pushes the boundaries. It is a lakeside city that is considered small and picturesque but no shortage of sights to see. You can explore the Cathedral of Notre Dame with its gothic architecture or even the little town of Chalet-à-Gobet.
Take a walk in the Parc de Mon-Repos that is an English-style park with impressive features such as an aviary that is home to over 70 different species of birds. There are many natural decorations like the orange grove and a waterfall. And if you head here during the summer you will get the chance to enjoy different events like outdoor screenings and musical performances.
Explore the beauty of the collection of Art Brut that is made entirely by untrained artists. With artists coming from prisons, orphanages, and asylums, the curated art doesn’t typically reflect where they have come from.
Lausanne Gare → Gare de Genève | Duration: 0:36h | Transfers: 0
Every 5-20 minutes a train will leave from Lausanne’s main train station toward Geneva. On this short and quaint ride, enjoy views of the beautiful lake Geneva from your seat as you head toward your next destination. Upon arriving, you will be arriving at Geneva’s central station (Gare de Geneve) or also known as Gare Cornavin. There are several stations throughout the city so if this one is not the closest to your accommodation, take the city a bit closer.
Geneva: International Beauty
Geneva is mistakenly thought to be Switzerland’s capital due to being the home base for many international organizations. But alongside some large organizations and not-for-profits, you will find luxury hotels, boutiques, and chocolatiers. Head out onto one of the biggest lakes in Western Europe, Lake Geneva. On the beaches in summer you will find sunbathers and out on the waters are yachters, canoers, and water skiers, so dive in!
Who would have thought you stumble upon fondue at the beach? At one of the most popular beaches of Switzerland, Bains de Pâquis, you will be able to find a local gem. The restaurant La Buvette de Bains serves up delicious cheese fondue, which will leave you extremely satisfied.
Take a trip to Geneva’s Old Town with its winding maze streets lined with pretty little cafes and boutique shops. As home to the United Nations, don’t forget to take a trip to the Palais des Nations on a guided tour to learn about its history that dates back to WWII.
Geneva (stations*) → Chamonix Mont Blanc | Duration: 2:30-3:00 h | Transfers: 2
Geneva has a handful of train stations, so the starting point will depend on which train station is closest to your accommodation. Whether it be Gare de Geneva/Gare Cornavin, Gare de Lancy-Pont-Rouge, or Genève-Eaux-Vives, take the train from Geneva, Switzerland to Annemasse, France. From Annemasse, there are trains which leave hourly to Saint Gervais-les-Bains and take only 1:10h. From Saint Gervais-les-Bains take a 45-minute journey to your final destination of Chamonix-Mont Blanc. Book these tickets with SNCF here.
En route to Chamonix keep your eyes peeled for Western Europe’s tallest mountain, Mont Blanc. As your train bends around the mountains, you’ll see glimpses as you approach your next destination.
Chamonix: Mountain Vistas
Surrounded by looming mountains, this is a hotspot for skiers and sightseers. Depending on the time of the year, you could be hitting the slopes or heading out on the hiking and biking trails. But don’t think it’s all just nature trails. Downtown Chamonix constantly hums with life as the streets are lined with Michelin-starred restaurants and some of the French Alps’ fanciest hotels. Be ready for impressive vistas and exciting nightlife.
Have you dreamed of climbing Mont Blanc but thought “Nah, not today?” Well, we’ve got some good news for you! Take the cable car with the highest vertical incline in the world to the summit of L’Aiguille du Midi and this will be the closest to the summit of Mont Blanc without putting in all the effort. The bigger win in this situation is that there is a wonderful restaurant to enjoy while you’re up there, Le 3842.
Another attraction that you don’t get to experience every day is making a courageous step. Into The Void is a glass cube that hangs over the mountain; we promise it’s worth the views.
For some views at ground level, wander into the ice cave in the Glacier des Bossons/ Mer de Glace. A mere 400 steps down, you will be able to access a man-made cave dug out yearly for visitors to check out the brilliant shades of blue within the ice. Another on-the-ground attraction is the Chamonix Luge Alpine Coaster that’s worth whizzing down on … multiple times.
Chamonix Mont Blanc → Montreux | Duration: 2:30 h | Transfers: 2
There are no direct options from Chamonix to Montreux but with two easy short transfers, the journey will go by in a flash. Take a 35-minute journey from Chamonix-Mont Blac station to Vallorcine, Switzerland, these trains leave every hour. From Vallorcine, take a 51-minute journey to Martigny, which leave hourly also. Transfer in Martigny to another train heading to Montreux multiple times an hour. Book your tickets with SNCF here. There are two options at midday (2:30h total journey duration) to minimize the amount of transfer time in each train station. Check SNCF to book one of these options. Unless you would like to stop for lunch in one of the transfer cities.
Montreux: Jazz Life
Next up on this Switzerland and France itinerary is the beautiful Montreux, where many 19th Century writers, artists, and musicians flocked for inspiration. You will be able to enjoy peaceful walks along the lakeshore, head up to the hilltop for the Old Town or discover new music at one of the jazz festivals. It has a stunning backdrop of the Swiss Alps and also the shores of Lake Geneva. This town has many cultural activities and sporting attractions to enjoy.
Discover jazz joy at the Montreux Jazz Festival that brings diverse musical performances. The festival has featured the likes of Miles Davis, Nina Simone, and even Ella Fitzgerald, as well as non-jazz musical performances. If visiting in the winter enjoy the whimsical lantern trail of Les Pléiades by snowshoe.
To reach Gruyeres from Montreux, take a train to Montbovon (services leave hourly) and transfer to a train to Gruyeres (services leave hourly). This train ride will pass through the stunning Gruyères Regional Park where the train weaves in, around, and between the mountains. Buy your tickets on OMIO.
Gruyères: Cheese And Chocolate
A medieval little village with a lot of charm, Gruyères has a long history of making cheese. Check out the cheese factory or walk along the cobblestone streets and see the quaint shops and homes that are beautifully designed.
A mere 15-minute bus ride away, take a little trip to the Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory where you will able to embark on a sweet adventure. You will learn about the story of how this decadent chocolate is created, witness the process, and finally indulge in a chocolate tasting… *psst* That’s the best part!
Make Gruyéres a night stopover or wander the medieval village and tour Cailler en route before finishing your journey in Lausanne.
To head back to Lausanne to complete this round trip itinerary, you will need to make two short transfers, with a total journey time of fewer than 2 hours. With trains leaving almost hourly to Bulle, take the 8-minute trip there where you will then transfer to the next train heading to Palézieux. The journey from Bulle to Palézieux takes 40 minutes and these trains leave roughly every hour. Once in Palézieux hop on the train to Lausanne which leaves every 20 minutes and is only 21 minutes in duration. Check train timetables and buy your tickets online with OMIO. Or maybe you’re not quite ready to head home yet… do you want to explore a bit more of France and Switzerland?
*Disclaimer: Due to the fluidity of transportation schedules, the information seen on RailwayHero may not be up to date at the time of readíng. Always double-check with the operator for the latest information.