Europe > Central Europe > Switzerland > Western Switzerland
Western Switzerland comprises most of the French part of Switzerland with the exception of the Valais. It represents the cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Neuchatel, Jura as well as the French speaking parts of the cantons of Fribourg and Berne. It stretches over all the three topological regions of Switzerland, from the Jura mountains in the Northeast, over the Plateau with among others Lake Geneva and Lake Neuchatel to the Alps in the Southwest.
The cities of the northern Jura are where the famed Swiss watch-making industry took off in the 18th and 19th centuries, and so there are a lot of interesting watch-making related things to see in the region. The Plateau is the most densely populated area, with the two important cities of Lausanne, known as a university town, and Geneva, famous for housing numerous of international organisations. Fribourg is known for its cheese making tradition, being the origin of both the Gruyeres cheese and the moitie-moitie fondue.
Around Lake Geneva
- Coppet -- medieval charm on the lake, very close to Geneva
- Geneva -- the largest City on the lake.
- Lausanne - like San Francisco, but more Swiss.
- Montreux -- the jewel of the Swiss Riviera
- Nyon -- pleasant town center with thriving Sunday flea market
- Vevey -- Small city in the midst of the Swiss Riviera, corp. headquarters of Nestlé
Fribourg and the Alps
- Aigle -- a jumping off point for the Vaud Alps, with a very cool castle
- Château d'Oex
- Les Diablerets -- ski/hiking resort town in the Vaud Alps
- Leysin -- spa and college town with good skiing in the Vaud Alps
- Villars-sur-Ollon -- good ski resort for beginners and families
- Lavaux - A terraced wine growing region
The western part of Switzerland is entirely French speaking, though you will also hear Swiss German, Italian, and English. While it might be hard to get around the country side without speaking French, Geneva and Lausanne are much more international and it is not uncommon for people around you to be having conversations in four different languages.
The only airport in this region is in Geneva (Genève-Cointrin). It is much smaller than the airport in Zürich, but very heavily internationally connected due to the UN's presence in Geneva. You can also easily fly into Zürich and catch an express train west.
The TGV from France and the Cisalpino from Italy stop in Geneva, Lausanne, Vevey, and Montreux. From Germany or Austria you will have to change in Basel or Zürich.
The region has an extensive network of train lines deserving most towns. The main lines (IC and ICN trains) go along Lake Geneva from Geneva via Lausanne to Aigle, from Lausanne to Fribourg (towards Berne) and from Lausanne/Geneva via Yverdon and Neuchatel to Biel.
Most towns on Lake Geneva are served by the boats of the Compagnie Génerale de navigation (CGN). As well as modern boats, CGN operates five heritage paddle steamers build at the beginning of the 20th century. On some routes, boats are the fastest mean of transport (between Lausanne and Evian, for example). On most other routes though, boats are much slower than trains, but they often offer more scenic views.
Private boat tours and transfers from Geneva to any port on the lake is by Léman Transfers. Groups of up to 6 passengers can be privately chauffeured around the lake. - Léman Transfers.
- Les Paccots is a mountain resort in the Fribourg Alps in Switzerland.
- Papiliorama. A small zoo featuring an indoor butterfly habitat, and bird and monkey habitats simulating the jungles of Belize both during the day and at night. Kids love it, and parents too, though the extensive playground might take more parental energy than one wants to expend when travelling.
- Take a boat from Montreux to see the iconic Chillon Castle. This is probably the most famous castle in Switzerland and stands prominently on a rock on the lake.
- Visit the chocolate factory of Cailler in Broc in the Fribourg Alps. On the way there you can stop over at Gruyeres, a quaint town which gave its name to the world-famous cheese.
- Chocolaterie Tristan: In Bougy-Villars, a cute little village half-way between Lausanne and Geneva, one shouldn't miss this little artisanal chocolate factory. Unique chocolates with all sort of original flavours such as spice, tea, olive oil, and many more, are prepared here. You can get there by bus from Allaman (IKEA train stop). On the way, you will enjoy a beautiful view of the mountains and the surrounding vineyards. Once in the village, let the scent guide you to the shop. And by the way, why not stop in Féchy (the neighbouring village) to taste some famous local wine.
Like all of Switzerland, this region is laced with hiking trails (marked in yellow) and biking trails (marked in vermillion). You can buy first-rate hiking and biking maps (about CHF28) at tourist information offices in all towns of any size. For going up into the Jura, a map is strongly recommended; elsewhere you can get by without one.
- Geneva and Lausanne are well connected to Berne and other major Swiss cities by train, bus and road. From Montreux you can ride the Golden Pass train to Lucerne and the Bernese Highlands.
- The region of Rhône-Alpes, France is both physically and culturally close to Geneva.
- You can drive to Aosta Valley, the northwesternmost part of Italy in 2-3 hours from anywhere in the region. Train and bus connections usually take a little longer as you need travel via France.