Fairmont Le Montreux Palace

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Discover the Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, which was the site of the Montreux Convention in 1936.

Fairmont Le Montreux Palace, a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide since 2018, dates back to 1906.

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A member of Historic Hotels Worldwide, Fairmont Le Montreux Palace is among the most celebrated holiday destinations in all of Switzerland. Its history stretches back to the early 1900s, when two aspiring hoteliers named Alexandre Emery and Ami Chessex commissioned architect Eugène Jost to construct the building in 1906. The men had operated a small, yet magnificent, historic hotel next door known as the “Hôtel du Cygne” since 1881. Operating the business through their company, “Société du Montreux Palace et du Cygne,” they fused the two historic buildings together to form a new entity called “Le Montreux Palace.” When it finally debuted, it possessed some of the finest amenities of its age, including indoor plumbing and private bathrooms. The newer and older structures were also connected by a spectacular structure known as the “Salon de Musique,” which contained several stunning ballrooms and a grand hall. The spaces quickly became the site of countless concerts and galas attended by some of the more prestigious European aristocrats and entertainers at the time. Perhaps the greatest of those celebrations were the “Venetian Nights,” which Emery and Chessex held inside the hotel’s fantastic “Art Nouveau” and “Neo-Baroque” rooms.

Its ascent as one of Switzerland’s leading holiday destinations was momentarily cut short with the onset of World War I. Fighting along the Western Front ceased at the nearby French border, which meant that the Allied Powers were in desperate need of makeshift field hospitals throughout the region. And even though Switzerland was neutral throughout the conflict, Le Montreux Palace did allow for French and British doctors to treat their wounded soldiers within its many rooms. Fortunately, the hotel quickly resumed its identity as a luxurious boutique hotel. This renewal even saw the signing of a major international treaty when representatives of Greece, Turkey, England, France, and Russia negotiated the Montreux Convention. The treaty, which still governs access to the Black Sea as an important piece of international law, was signed at the hotel on July 20, 1936.

Le Montreux Palace has continued to serve many illustrious guests from across the world. Renowned Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov began living in the hotel’s Swan Suite starting in 1961. Celebrated across the globe for works like Lolita and Pale Fire, he remained at Le Montreux Palace for the next 16 years. Nearly several dozen musicians stayed at Le Montreux Palace upon the founding of the First Annual Montreux Jazz Festival, as well. Among the international celebrities to vacation at the hotel at the time were Miles Davis and Aretha Franklin. Many prominent dignitaries have reserved accommodations over the years, such as Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, British Prime Minister John Major, and French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, too. It has even hosted royalty, including Prince Albert of Monaco and Queen Noor of Jordan. For its spectacular history, Le Montreux Palace was listed on the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance. Now operated by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, few places better for a historically themed vacation than Le Montreux Palace.

  • About the Location +

    Fairmont Le Montreux Palace resides along the shoreline of the majestic Lac Léman, otherwise known as Lake Geneva. It is specifically located in the Town of Montreux, which rests within the foothills of the Swiss Alps as part of the historic Canton of Vaud. While the earliest settlements emerged as far back as the Late Bronze Age, the modern footprint of Montreux first appeared somewhere around the beginning of the 13th century. The town and the surrounding region had become famous throughout Europe as a rich wine growing region originally developed by the Romans. Montreux itself resides along an ancient Roman road that connected Italy and the Province of Gaul via the Simplon Pass. At the height of the Middle Ages, Montreux was administered by the Bishop of Sion, who subsequently sold the parish to Girard of Oron in 1295. Girard of Oron then split divided the land surrounding Montreux between his family and the Counts (later Dukes) of Savoy. Montreux and the rest of the region continued to be ruled by the Dukes of Savoy for the next several centuries as part of the Holy Roman Empire. They were responsible for constructing many of the iconic historical landmarks that still stand throughout the region, including the famous Château du Chillon.

    Montreux was eventually unified into the Swiss Canton of Vaud when the Dukes of Savoy lost control of the region to the Bernese following the Burgundian Wars of the 15th century. The area prospered under Bernese rule for the next three centuries. As the Reformation swept through the Holy Roman Empire, the town became an attractive haven for protestants fleeing persecution in Central and Southern Europe. Most of the religious refugees were skilled artisans who quickly established shops across the Canton of Vaud. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte brought independent Swiss rule over Montreux to a brief end in 1798, when his armies marched through the Alps and subjugated the region. Montreux and the Canton of Vaud were formally liberated after the Congress of Vienna re-established Switzerland at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Most of the historic structures that reside within Montreux appeared throughout the remainder of the 19th century, as the town became a hotspot for European tourism. A few magnificent hotels, including the Hotel du Cygne, appeared around this time to address the region’s growing popularity. Montreux and the surrounding countryside continue to be among the most popular destinations in Switzerland today, offering to guests unrivaled access to both Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps.

    The hotel is also a few miles from the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, which UNESCO has protected as a World Heritage Site since 2007. Located along nearly 19 miles of coastline along Lake Geneva, the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces are a series of picturesque manmade slopes that cover the mountains around the City of Lausanne. It is the heart of the region’s wine-growing region, which harkens back to Roman times. Yet, most of the vineyards that exist today trace their lineage to the Benedictine and Cistercian monks who controlled the region during the 11th century. The verdant terraces of the Lavaux region are brilliant examples of the interaction between people and the environment, which has transpired for more than a millennium. Visitors today can tour the 2,000 acres of vineyards that inhabit the area by way of a beautiful 20-mile-long trail that winds from Lausanne to the Château du Chillon. Truly, to trip to Montreux is ever complete without a thorough visit to the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces.


  • About the Architecture +

    Fairmont Le Montreux Palace was originally designed by a local architect named Eugène Jost. Jost had actually studied industrial design at a celebrated university near Geneva before pursuing the architectural aesthetics of the Belle Époque at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He specifically trained under the renowned architects Louis-Jules André and Victor Laloux from 1884 to 1891. Establishing his practice in Montreux upon his graduation, Jost wound up developing some 50 structures over the course of his career. Jost’s work earned him the praise of his contemporaries in Switzerland at the time, as some of his buildings received various awards and accolades for their designs. Perhaps the greatest honor he won was placing first in a national competition to design the Hôtel des Postes in the nearby City of Bern. Jost even created the blueprints for several unique monuments, such as those dedicated to William Tell, Alexandre Vinet, and Abraham Davel. The architect eventually relocated to Lausanne in 1904 following his work on the Château Saint-Maire and the Grand Conseil Vaudois. He would continue to work from his office in Lausanne for the next three decades before finally retiring in 1931.

    The architecture that best defines the iconic exterior façade of the Fairmont Le Palace Montreux can best be described as “Belle Époque.” Originally popularized in Paris at the height of the Victorian Era, the architectural style drew its inspiration from a range of earlier forms that included Moorish Revival and Renaissance Revival-style architecture. More recent architectural styles also constituted aspects of Belle Époque architecture, such as the palatial designs of 17th and 18th century French châteaus. Perhaps the most famous style to emerge within the greater umbrella of Belle Époque architecture was that of Art Nouveau. Defined by its ornate interior designs, Art Nouveau was best represented by Hector Guimard’s wonderful Castel Béranger in 1898. The name “Belle Époque” specifically referred to time in European history marked by its technological advances, pristine artwork, and relative peace. While the Belle Époque is a historical period relevant to most Western countries, it specifically applies to France and the life of the French Third Republic (1870 – 1914). Belle Époque architecture was eventually phased out during the 1920s in favor of a new style known as “Art Deco.” Its emphasis on modernity seemed to better represent Western culture as it emerged from the aftermath of World War I.


  • Famous Historic Events +

    Montreux Convention (1936): Known formally as the Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits, this conference was an agreement that granted Turkey control over the Straits of Bosporus and the Dardanelles. The straits themselves are geopolitically significant, for they both form the only sea route connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean basin. As such, the convention was part of a long series of agreements that attempted to sort out the contentious international questions of who ought to regulate movement through the straits. Prior to the Montreux Convention, the leading powers of the world signed the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, which contended that the Turkish Straits ought to be permanently demilitarized by the League of Nations. But in the face of rising aggression across Europe in the following decade, Turkey implored the League to revisit the issue for the sake of its own national security.

    In the end, France, Germany, Japan, the Soviet Union, Turkey, and the United Kingdom—along with several other countries—gathered at Le Montreux Palace on June 22, 1936 to discuss the matter further. While the Turks were able to reassert control over the Bosporus and Dardanelles, the League of Nations managed to enact a few important caveats. For their part, the British and the French supported Turkish remilitarization of the straits, although they disavowed any Soviet access to the region. The Russians, on the other hand, advocated fiercely for military access for both themselves and the other nations lining the Black Sea. After much negotiations, the conference goers—with the exception of the Germans and the Japanese—agreed to grant Turkey control over the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, while allowing the Soviets and other Black Sea countries limited military access. While the law attracted serious controversy during World War II and the Cold War, it still remains in effect today.

    Montreux Jazz Festival (1967): Fairmont Le Montreux Palace hosted several musicians that performed at the First Annual Montreux Jazz Festival on June 18, 1967. It was founded by Claude Nobs, Géo Voumard, and René Langel with help from Atlantic Records and the local tourism office. Lasting for three days, the festival celebrated all variations of jazz played throughout the world at the time. The organizers held the massive event at the historic Montreux Casino, which had been in operation for almost as long as Le Montreux Palace. Among the entertainers who attended the festival were some of the best in the business, including Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, and Charles Lloyd. Some of these fantastic performers even spent the duration of their stay at the hotel located just five minutes away.

    The festival’s nature began to change at the beginning of the 1970s, though, when it started to include artists from other genres. Over time, musicians such as Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin became frequent guests at the event. In fact, a performance by Frank Zappa actually caused a fire to breakout at the Montreux Casino in 1971, which inspired fellow band Deep Purple to create its famous song, “Smoke on the Water.” Popularity with the concert continued to grow to the point that it had truly become a worldwide phenomenon by the end of the decade. As such, its guest list had become quite extensive: Count Basie, Don Ellis, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Ray Charles, Eric Clapton, Santana, Chuck Berry, Eddie Harris, George Clinton, Buddy Guy, Ney Matogrosso, Bo Diddley, Gary Moore, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Etta James, Rory Gallagher, and Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band.

    All the while, Le Montreux Palace continued to entertain the festival’s performers. Such renowned musicians like B.B. King, Aretha Franklin, and Van Morrison all booked their entire stay at the hotel. Even Quincy Jones, who coproduced the festival during the 1990s, lived at Le Montreux Palace for a considerable period of time. By this point, the Montreux Jazz Festival had attracted thousands of visitors every year. It had grown so large that the festival’s organizers had to split the event between the Montreux Casino and the neighboring Convention Center. Today, the Montreux Jazz Festival lasts for nearly two weeks and attracts an audience of some 200,000 people.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Sarah Bernhardt, stage actress known for her roles in such plays like La Tosca, Ruy Blas, and La Dame Aux Cameilas.

    Aretha Franklin, singer and songwriter hailed as “The Queen of Soul.”

    Michael Jackson, singer best remembered for such albums like Off the Wall, Thriller, and Dangerous.

    Quincy Jones, songwriter, musician, and record producer known for his 28 Grammy awards.

    Petula Clark, singer known for such singles as “Downtown,” “My Love,” and “I Know a Place.”

    B.B. King, musician hailed throughout the world as “The King of the Blues.”

    Miles Davis, musician best remembered as being one of the key figures in the history of jazz.

    Patti La Belle, singer best remembered for such singles like “If Only Your Knew,” “New Attitude,” and “Stir It Up.”

    Al Jarreau, musician best known for his album Breakin’ Away.

    David Bowie, musician and actor best remembered for his albums Let’s Dance, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
    Freddie Mercury, musician best remembered as the lead singer of the rock band Queen.

    Van Morrison, musician best remembered for his albums Astral Weeks and Moondance.

    Richard Strauss, composer considered by many to be a successor to Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt.

    Vladimir Nabokov, novelist and writer best remember for his works Lolita and Pale Fire.

    Henry Kissinger, 56th U.S. Secretary of State (1973 – 1977)

    Lee Kwan Yee, First Prime Minister of Singapore (1959 – 1990)

    Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, President of France (1974 – 1981)

    Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (1985 – 1991)  

    John Major, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1990 – 1997)

    Queen Noor of Jordan (1975 – 1999)

    Prince Albert II of Monaco


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    Lady L (1964)

    If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969)

    The Magic Mountain (1981)

    Tender is the Night (1995)

    Kiss of the Dragon (2001)


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