Only history can explain the area of Montreux and the town with its rich aspect. The large avenues, business centers, hotels, gardens and residential areas are far away from the purely rural origin. Montreux did not grow, like most other cities, around a church and sheltered by bulwarks from the middle century. Montreux was formed like a miniature confederation. At that time, Montreux was formed by several villages, which were separated by vineyards. Most of the people were farmers, excepting a few artisans.
The church of Montreux, in late gothic style, was mentioned for the first time in 1228, but probably dates from the 12th or 11th century. It has been transformed several times and was rebuilt to its actual structure around 1507.
Chillon Castle symbolizes the presence of the "Savoyard" in this area. The castle was the princely residence of Pierre, Comte de Savoie (1203 - 1268) . In 1442, Amédéé VIII, who later became pope Felix V, stayed for a certain time with his court there.
Chatelard Castle reflects an even better image of Montreux. After having been in the family De La Sarra for almost a century, the Chatelard lordship passed into the hands of the Gingins around the year 1415 when Jean de Gingins and Marguerite De La Sarra married. Lord Jean de Gingins of Divonne is known in the history of Montreux as having started the construction of the Chatelard Castle in 1440. In 1476 the Castle burned down and was plundered during the Bourgogne wars. The castle was then rebuilt at the end of the XVth and the beginnig of the XVIth century. In 1549, the lordship was acquired by the Challant family and then passed into the hands of the Anglures, Allinges, Rotta, Blonay, Tavel and finally to the Bondeli who were the last lords of this castle.
In 1536, the Savoyan region of Vaud changed master and religion. On January 29 of this same year, 6â€™000 soldiers from the Bernese army, commanded by Hans-Franz Naegeli, bombarded Chillon Castle, capitulating only a few hours later. It is there where François Bonivard had been confined since 1530 for having worked against the Duke of Savoie in Geneva.
Louis-Emmanuel de Bondeli (1769 - 1828), the last baron to live in the Chatelard Castle, escaped to Berne as soon as the first revolutionist manifestation began, while his wife fled when the first French troops arrived . The streets being difficult, the sledges slid badly and after having travelled for a while, the nurse who was taking care of the youngest child, the 18 month old Emilie, realised that she was holding empty swaddling-clothes . The coachman turned back immediately and found the child fidgetting in the snow.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 - 1778) was one of the first writers to discover the area of Montreux (1716). A lot of people wanted to see the places where Julie and St-Preux loved each other (Nouvelle Héloïse).
Byron (1788 - 1824) and Shelley (1792 - 1822) also discovered Montreux. After having visited Chillon in 1816, Byron became fascinated by the story of Bonivard, and he engraved his name on the third pillar in the dungeon where Bonivard had been kept. After this visit he wrote "The Prisoner of Chillon".
It is thanks to literature that tourism made its entrance in Montreux.
In 1803, Vaud became part of the Swiss Confederation. The population grew in the beginning of the 18th century from 2â€™500 residents to 3â€™181 fifty years later, and 15â€™866 residents in 1900. Today the population fluctuates around 20â€™000. There were no luxury hotels or comfortable boarding houses in the years around 1830. The "tourists" stayed in private homes.
In 1835 the two first hotels opened their doors : the Visinand pension with about 40 beds and the Verte-Rive pension in Clarens. In 1836, the hotel Byron opened and in 1837 the hotel du Cygne. In 1850 Montreux could offer 8 hotels with 250 beds as well as a few family pensions.
Two important figures in Montreux 's future were Ami Chessex (1840 - 1917) and his brother-in-law Alexandre Emery (1850 - 1931). A. Chessex built the Grand-Hotel Territet (1887) and the Caux-Palace (1902) and A. Emery the Montreux-Palace (1906). One was interested in the hotel school in Lausanne the other helped to create the Swiss National Tourist Office.
The first lake steamers in 1823, and the regular services assured along the shores improved communications and abolished the discomfort of travelling on cobblestone roads.
In 1882, the Territet - Glion funicular was opened, thanks to the engineer Nicolas Riggenbach. It was then followed by the electric tranway Vevey - Chillon in 1887, the Glion - Naye steam engine and cog-wheel in 1892 and another tranway in 1908 which conected Le Trait and Les Planches.
In 1909-1910, the Territet - Glion funicular was followed by the Territet - Mont Fleuri and the Les Avants - Sonloup funicular. The tramwayline of Clarens - Chailly - Blonay was suppressed in1955.
From 1901 until 1905 the M.O.B. progressively introduced new lines, opening new perspectives to tourists, and assuring direct connections between the lake shores and the heights of Montreux - Chernex - Chamby - Les Avants - Le Pays d' Enhaut and l' Oberland Bernois.
The Kursaal was inaugurated in 1883. A symphonie orchestra of 45 musicians conducted by Ernest Ansermet (1883 - 1969) appeared for the first time. These concerts were so successful that a special trains on Sundays took people from Lausanne to Montreux to attend these events. Igor Stravinsky who was also fascinated by our region composed "Petrouchka" in 1911 in Clarens and "Le Sacre du Printemps" in 1912.