Montreux Jazz Festival
Montreux in Canton Vaud is a place of prestige in the music world. It's considered a huge honour to take centre stage at Montreux Jazz Festival and many world-famous musicians have given career-defining performances there. In short, it's a place where legends are born!
Jazz, soul, blues - and everything from bebop to hiphop
The festival is not only about jazz - it's a genre-defying festival in terms of its impressive scope and its broad outlook. It has the honour of being regarded as the second-largest jazz festival in the world, after the illustrious Montreal Jazz Festival.
Artists of jazz, soul, blues, bebop, hiphop and everything in between have graced the stages of the festival over the decades. Artists like Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye, Prince, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Elton John and Stevie Wonder have played at Montreux Jazz Festival.
Montreux - an extraordinary festival setting
It’s not uncommon for artists and audiences alike to extend their stay in the region after the festival because there’s just so much to see in the gorgeous “Swiss Riviera”. Montreux is a strikingly beautiful city on the shores of Lake Geneva. Located between the French Alps and the lake, near the UNESCO-listed Lavaux vineyards, the festival setting is extraordinary.
Over 50 years of Montreux Jazz Festival
The first edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival took place on June 18, 1967, at Montreux Casino, as a result of the vision of Montreux native Claude Nobs. In the early days, it was a purely jazz-themed experience. As the years went by, other genres were represented at the festival, and in the 1970s, acts like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa and Deep Purple played there.
The Montreux Casino burned down during Frank Zappa's performance at the festival in 1971. This event was immortalised when Deep Purple wrote their iconic song "Smoke on the Water", in which they sing about the smoke billowing over Lake Geneva during this unfortunate - but unforgettable - event.
The 1980s and 1990s saw a massive expansion of the festival, and the legendary producer Quincy Jones co-produced the festival for several years, which saw it transform further and attract even more artists and genres and and even wider audience demographic. By the early 1990s, the festival had outgrown the casino and moved to the much larger Montreux Convention Centre.
Photo: courtesy of Montreux Jazz Festival
Montreux Jazz Festival venues
In a typical year, Auditorium Stravinski and Miles Davis Hall in the Montreux Convention Centre, as well as the smaller, more intimate Montreux Jazz Cafe are where the magic takes place. In 2020, the Montreux Palace was the centre of the festival, in a scaled-down pandemic-proof version.
The Grand Hall of the palace and the palace gardens hosted free concerts. Meanwhile, the Salle des Fêtes hosted ticketed concerts. For the first time ever, a concert stage was built entirely on the lake, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. That way, audiences could gather around and hear the music from a very safe distance in the open air.
Getting to Montreux Jazz Festival
Public transport is recommended at Montreux Jazz Festival, rather than driving. The festival site is located very close to the train station, so train is the ideal mode of transport. From Montreux, you can take direct trains to and from Geneva and Lausanne.
The Montreux-Vevey regional bus service is free for ticket-holders on presentation of their tickets on the same day of the concert – this is useful for those living or staying overnight nearby, as there are plenty of night buses running after the concerts. The festival can even be accessed by boat – from nearby Swiss cities like Geneva and Lausanne and from French cities such as Evian.
Get your tickets to Montreux Jazz Festival
Get your tickets on the official Montreux Jazz Festival website. All tickets will be exchanged for a festival wristband on arrival. All visitors under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult. If you'd like to hear more world-class music in Montreux, don't miss Septembre Musical Montreux-Vevey which takes place each autumn!
Thumb photo: courtesy of Montreux Jazz Festival