French-speaking Switzerland, or Suisse Romande, occupies the western third of the country, comprising the shores of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) and the hills and lakes to the north. Geneva, at the southwestern tip of the lake, was once a haven for freethinkers from cross Europe; now it’s a city of diplomats and big business, but you’ll see its more relaxed side by the lake on a warm day. Halfway around the lake, Lausanne is full of young people; it’s a cultured, energetic town acclaimed as the skateboarding capital of Europe. Further east is the stunning medieval Château de Chillon, which drew Byron and the Romantic poets. Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest mountain (4807m), is visible from Geneva, while Lausanne has breathtaking views across the water to the French Alps. On a sunny day, the train ride around the beautiful northern shore is memorably scenic, but the excellent boat service brings home the full grandeur of the setting.
Top image: Chillon Castle, Geneva lake © FenlioQ/Shutterstock