'Belle Epoque' excursions in the Lake Geneva region

At the turn of the 20th century, the Belle Epoque represented the heyday of the bourgeois lifestyle and ideals – particularly the fondness for pleasure trips. Switzerland, which had started to become a romantic tourist destination at the end of the 18th century, faced a need to develop extensive transport and hospitality infrastructures throughout the 19th century. The banks of Lake Geneva gained a number of high-class resorts, from Geneva – the main gateway to Chamonix at the time – to Ferney-Voltaire, Château de Coppet, Signal de Bougy, Lausanne and Clarens. Montreux, Chillon. The lake and surrounding countryside soon became tourist destinations as well. International high society adored the grand hotels of Vevey, Montreux, Interlaken, Lucerne and St. Moritz. The vogue for clean air drew travellers into the mountains, from the northern Jura to the Lower Valais and Vaud Alps and Pays-d’Enhaut in between. A massive expansion in transport networks was needed to meet demand, causing a boom in paddle-steamer operators on Lake Geneva from 1823 onwards and then railways – both cross-country and mountain varieties. The legacy of this period survives today in the form of beautiful structures and means of transport, and its appeal for tourists during the high season is as strong as ever.

Detailed description




Cédric Humair, Laurent Tissot (Ed.) : Le tourisme suisse et son rayonnement international. Lausanne, 2011

Marc-André Miserez : Les grandes dames de la Belle Epoque. In : swisinfo.ch, 20. avril 2003

Olivier Pavillon (Ed.) : Histoire du tourisme en pays vaudois (Revue historique vaudoise 114). Lausanne, 2006

Claude Reichler : La découverte des Alpes et la question du paysage. Genève, 2002

Laurent Tissot : Naissance d’une industrie touristique. Les Anglais et la Suisse au XIXe siècle. Lausanne, 2000

Hans Peter Treichler et al. : La saga ferroviaire de la Suisse. Les chemins de fer suisses ont 150 ans. Zürich, 1996.

Laurent Tissot : A travers les Alpes. Le Montreux-Oberland bernois ou la construction d’un système touristique, 1900-1970. In : Histoire des Alpes vol. 9. Zürich, 2004, p. 227-244.



République et canton de Vaud
Service des affaires culturelles

Print contact