In Switzerland, winter’s powdery windfall is eagerly anticipated. The snow-covered slopes of the Alps delight downhill skiers and snowboarders of all ages. Additional fresh-air options, including tobogganing, ice-skating and curling, have established this country as a horn of plenty for winter sports enthusiasts.
If your family is planning a Swiss ski holiday, consider adding on a few days to explore the Lake Geneva Region. It’s close to the fashionable ski resorts of the Vaud Alps, including Leysin and Les Diablerets, so it’s easy to combine a world-class ski vacation with a family-friendly cultural getaway.
Though located very near the snow, the region enjoys a fairly mild winter climate so it’s often possible to comfortably cycle and stroll around the lake.
The gracious cities of Lausanne, Vevey and Montreux are just a few miles from each other along Lake Geneva.
These Francophone cities are loaded with Gallic panache, are easy to navigate and manageable in size. Sparkling Lake Geneva is the centerpiece, with quaint towns and ancient hillside vineyards enriching the scenic panorama. It’s a treasure trove of family activities.
Notre Dame Cathedral, Lausanne
Switzerland’s finest Gothic cathedral is perched high on a hill in Lausanne’s beautiful Old Town. A night watchman lives in the cathedral’s bell tower. Starting a 10 pm each evening, he strikes the bell and calls out the time. In today’s high-tech world, this old-world ritual seems frozen in time. Let the children stay up late and witness this charming relic of yesteryear.
The Olympic Museum, Lausanne
This museum is a tribute to the Olympic spirit. It’s not a collection of stale artifacts, rather a place that encourages visitors to reflect on the ideals of the Olympic Movement and the value of sports in society. State-of-the-art robotic, computer and audiovisual technology make it possible to get a sense of the emotional highs and lows of an elite athlete.
Aquatis Aquarium-Vivarium, Lausanne
A visit to the largest freshwater aquarium in Europe is an immersive journey through the earth’s aquatic environments. Take a trip around five continents and discover a variety of freshwater ecosystems. The sustainable message emphasizes the importance of preserving precious aquatic resources for future generations.
A Cooking Class for Kids at Hôtel de Ville, Crissier
If your child was practically born with a whisk in hand, book a cooking class at a 3-star Michelin restaurant. The famed Hôtel de Ville is just a few minutes from Lausanne. Chef/owner Franck Giovannini is himself the father of two and offers Saturday cooking classes for children. Young gourmets will get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the kitchen’s expert precision as they prepare lunch.
Chaplin’s World, Vevey
Dive into the world of silent movies and the life of cinematic genius Charlie Chaplin at this interactive museum. Located on the site of Chaplin’s estate above Vevey, visitors may stroll through the stately home Chaplin shared with his wife, Oona and their many children. The Hollywood-style studio immerses you in the world of Chaplin’s greatest films. The leafy grounds are the perfect place for kids to let off steam.
Hands-on Chocolate Workshop, Vevey
Swiss chocolate is prized around the world. There are dozens of shops producing top quality chocolates in the Lake Geneva region, so a chocolate crawl wouldn’t be out of the question. For families looking for an experiential way to appreciate this sweet temptation, the chocolate workshop at Läderach would turn Willy Wonka green with envy. Make your own bar and customize it with a variety of colorful toppings. You’ll have a mouth-watering souvenir to bring home.
Food is an essential part of life and this museum aims to make young visitors aware of food across the ages and across the globe. Head straight to the interactive games area, where kids may explore the world of nutrition through fun-filled, hands-on games that engage the senses. A variety of cooking classes are offered.
Chillon Castle, Veytaux
Switzerland’s most famous castle is just outside of Montreux. Kids should enjoy exploring the maze of towers, halls, arms and the spooky dungeon Lord Byron immortalized in his poem “The Prisoner of Chillon.” Family-friendly events, including demonstrations of medieval fencing, are frequently on the schedule.
Christmas Market in Montreux
Montreux Noël is a magical Christmas Market. It runs annually from late November until Christmas Eve along the lakefront promenade. Numerous activities and workshops, including a Santa Claus House and an Elves’ Square, make this market a memorable part of the Swiss holiday season.
Aquaparc, Le Bouveret
If you’re prepared to get wet, this indoor water park is a winner. Pack your swimsuit and get ready to romp in the wave pool, glide down a giant slide or let the current carry you down the lazy river. Ride the train here and experience the Swiss rail network’s legendary efficiency.
Where to Stay
Lausanne’s Beau-Rivage Palace Hotel is one of the most elegant lakeside hotels in Europe. The hotel offers numerous special winter treats just for young guests. Ride a wooden horse on the enchanting merry-go-round, roast chestnuts in front of the fire or spend time in the playroom. If you’re staying at Christmas, Santa Claus will be dropping by. The indoor swimming pool provides hours of weatherproof fun.
In Vevey, the Grand Hôtel du Lac is an old-world lakefront beauty that welcomes children with open arms. On request, they will provide families with nightlights, bottle warmers, a baby monitor and more. The staff really goes out of their way to please.
By Allison Tibaldi