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Magic Montreux - Switzerland's Music City

Every July Montreux, Switzerland overflows with musicians and music lovers as the Montreux Jazz Festival turns the city into the world's live music capital for two weeks. The city is also indelibly written into the rock'n'roll history book as it was the preferred place in all of Europe for rock bands to record throughout the '70s. Then there's the name-checking that occurs in one of the most beloved classic rock songs of all time, Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water;" "We all came out to Montreux/On the Lake Geneva shoreline…" But what can music fans expect of Montreux today if they visit sometime other than when the jazz festival is going on? Magic, that's what!

Montreux lies at the very heart of the portion of Lake Geneva shoreline that's known as the Swiss Riviera. The scenery here is unprecedented; the mighty Alps poke into the sky behind the city while on a clear day, across the glistening lake, you can see where Switzerland meets France. The city itself features dozens of gorgeous buildings from the era known as the "Belle Epoque" and no matter which direction you're facing the view in Montreux is stunning. There are literally endless opportunities to study history, indulge in cultural events or shop to your heart's delight as you stroll through this intriguing city (Montreux is easily navigated on foot.) Some of the places music lovers will want to check out include:

The Montreux Palace Hotel
This is where many of the musicians who come to the Montreux Jazz Festival stay and certain hallways and areas of the hotel are packed with framed photos of these guests. Freddie Mercury, the late front man for British rock band Queen, loved Montreux and lived at the Palace for quite some time. Book far enough in advance and you can stay in the Freddie Mercury Suite, the room that was exclusively Freddie's during his Montreux days. The suite is decorated with pictures of Freddie and his friends and a few other pieces of memorabilia and certainly his joie de vivre can still be felt in the room. The hotel also has a guest book that is signed by many famous celebrities; it includes Freddie's autograph and you can arrange to see this by special request. Across the street from the main entrance is the hotel's large sculpture garden where you can see impressive sculptures of artists like Ray Charles, B.B.King, Ella Fitzgerald and many others. Adjacent to the garden is the Miles Davis Hall, one of the venues used extensively during the jazz festival.


Freddie's autography


Sculpture garden


Miles Davis Hall


Ray Charles

Freddie Mercury Statue
The promenade that runs along the Lake Geneva shore runs right by the Montreux Palace Hotel's sculpture garden; head to the left (when you're facing the lake) and walk for about fifteen minutes and you'll come to the Freddie Mercury statue. The statue is a thoughtfully-done piece of art that offers great photo opportunities and if you are a really big fan of Freddie's then it will be an emotional event too. Freddie lived here through part of his illness and everyday people leave flowers, photos and other remembrances at the base of the statue. The statue is located adjacent to a plaza with lots of little cafes and shops and is an excellent place to hang out and people-watch. The shop called Bazar Suisse is in this area; here you can buy your Switzerland souvenirs but the shopkeeper is also a big music fan and you can buy licensed Freddie Mercury t-shirts and merchandise here that you can't find any other place in the world.

Casino Barriere de Montreux
This is the "gambling house" referred to in Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water;" the casino burned down in 1971 after a fan fired a flare gun into the ceiling at the end of a Frank Zappa concert. The rebuilt casino was very popular with rock stars since it housed the famous (and now defunct) Mountain Studio, the place where dozens of big acts cut hit albums. Queen, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Chris Rea and Michael Jackson are just a few of the stars who recorded at Mountain. Today the casino honors that legacy with the '70s-themed Mountain Club Discotheque where some of the room's nooks house memorabilia from the glory days. 

Freddie Mercury's Montreux Memorial Day
This annual event takes place in 2010 on Friday, September 3rd through Sunday, September 5th. Enjoy parties by the statue including music from tribute bands and take a boat ride out to the "lake house," one of Freddie's favorite spots that is seen on the cover of Queen's Made in Heaven album. For a schedule of events visit: www.montreuxmusic.com

For more information on the Montreux area visit: www.montreux-vevey.ch 

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