Driving through Switzerland is a bucket list item everyone should tick off at least once in their life. With jaw-dropping mountains crowned with snow, glassy lakes, and numerous historic sites, Switzerland’s roads will show you a spectacular blend of visually stimulating locations. In this post, I will zoom into the terrains of Southwestern Switzerland, starting with Geneva!
The best month to rent a car in Geneva is May (when prices for Economy start from $52.99. This is 35% cheaper than the yearly average and 57% cheaper than renting in December.) Car rental prices in Geneva vary a lot according to the time of year, especially with the high ski season in the winter months. Check out this helpful graph which compares month-to-month price changes to help you find the best offer.
Did you know that in 2017 Switzerland won the top award presented by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) for having the safest roads in Europe? Traveling around Switzerland by car is an ideal way to experience its charm. With that said, you have to be extra careful while driving in Switzerland: Swiss roads are not only diverse in landscape (ie. mountain roads), but they are also strictly regulated (astronomical fines and other measures are taken if you violate the rules)! The minimum driving age for cars in Switzerland is 18 years old. You can drive with your foreign drivers license however, if it isn’t in English, German, Italian or French – you will need a legal translation of your license (a.k.a. International Driving License).
After you pick up your car from the airport or downtown, head over to the city center. Parking in Geneva is relatively easy and there are many underground parking garages. In addition to garages there are parking zones: a white zone constitutes paid parking (purchase ticket at a machine) for a maximum amount of time (typically 90 minutes). Blue zone parking is free of charge for non residents for a limited time. Blue zone parking requires a blue parking disc which you can purchase at gas stations or tourist offices. Geneva is a chic cosmopolitan city surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks. Geneva is considered to be Switzerland’s most international city, as it is where the European seat of the UNO is based.
Popular Attractions in Geneva:
- Lake Geneva & Jet d’Eau
- Patek Phillippe Museum
- St Pierre Cathedral
- Place du Bourg-de-Four
- Jardin Anglais (English Garden) and Parc de la Grange
- Palais des Nations
- Musée d’Art et d’Histoire
Where to Eat in Geneva:
- Le Tse Fung at La Reserve
- The Baroque
- Leopard Room
- Pizzeria De Paolo
- Izumi @ the Four Seasons Hotel
The next place you should visit is Montreux – a petit resort town on Lake Geneva surrounded by the staggering beauty of the alps. Montreux is the perfect place to walk along Lake Geneva. Montreux is so serene that Freddie Mercury, the singer of the rock band Queen, acquired a recording studio there and made his last album with Queen: “Made in Heaven.”
Popular Attractions in Montreux
- Chillon Castle
- Queen: The Studio Experience
- Montreux Promenade
- Statue Li Ning
Where to Eat in Montreux:
- Palais Oriental
A roadtrip in Southwestern Switzerland is simply incomplete without a visit to Gstaad. Gstaad is a very upscale resort town with luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants, luxury chalets and it attracts celebrities from all over the world. Nearby is Lake Lauenen, a stunning mountain lake embedded at the bottom of the Wildhorn Mountain. Make sure to pay a visit to the more than one hundred year old history of the Gstaad Palace: the luxury hotel in Switzerland opened its doors on 8 December 1913.
Popular Things to Do in Gstaad:
- Snow Biking
- Hot Air Balloon (summer)
Where to Eat in Gstaad:
- The Bar at Park Gstaad Hotel
- Gildo’s Ristorante at The Gstaad Palace
Another stop during your Swiss roadtrip should be Chamonix. Well, okay – we are technically in French territory now. Chamonix (or Chamonix-Mont-Blanc) is a very popular ski resort area nestled between France, Switzerland and Italy. In fact, you can even ski in all three countries in one day! Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps and the highest in Europe! Spend some time walking around the main town and then head over to the ski lift which will take you to the highest elevation point of the mountain. Even if you don’t plan to ski, you can take the ski lift up walk around and have lunch with spectacular views.
Ok – again we are technically leaving Swiss territory and entering Southeastern France. But if you ask any Swiss or French resident, the drive is so seamless – you’d barely even know that you’re in a different country! Crossing the Swiss/French border is completely seamless, but you should definitely have your passport handy just in case. Likewise, new speed-limits and regulations will take into effect so be sure to take note of those. Megève is another popular ski town that features cobbled streets, rustic chalets, and many petit cafes, restaurants and stores.Head over to Restaurant Le Beef at Lodge Park for dinner!
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This post was brought to you in part by Discover Car Hire! As always, all opinions are my own.