People around the world are familiar with the story of Frankenstein, but fewer people know it was written on the shores of Lake Geneva, across from where Hotel d’Angleterre stands today. 2016 marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s legendary horror story, making it the ideal time to visit the city and set out on a discovery of the locations that inspired each of the scenes, while staying on the same shores the story was written. From the luxury lakeside Hotel d’Angleterre, take in the region’s inspiring scenery and explore its ancient sites to experience the setting of Frankenstein in its momentous 200th year.
It was in the early 1800s that Lake Geneva attracted an influx of writers and artists who were drawn in by the beauty of the Swiss landscape, finding inspiration in the vast blue body of water – the largest within Switzerland – and its surrounding snow-capped peaks.
In 1816, the poets Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin – who became Mary Shelley when she later married Percy – and Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont, all arrived to spend the summer together in a villa on the lake’s shores. Not long before this, the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia had caused what was called the volcanic winter (now known as the ‘year without a summer’), which engulfed the northern hemisphere. For this reason, the writers found themselves trapped inside the villa for much of the time.
At this time, Lord Byron decided to challenge each of the other writers to come up with a horror story, and this is what resulted in Mary first coming up with Frankenstein, many scenes inspired by the location they were in. After seeing the glaciers within the nearby mountains, Mary decided to write the arctic scenes of Frankenstein, and the sheer seclusion of these mountains was the basis for the scene when Frankenstein’s monster runs away to the hills; Salève mountain – just across the border in France – is believed to be this very place.
As well as taking trips into the mountains, the group of writers were especially impressed by Chateau de Chillon, a medieval castle on its own island, close to the eastern shores of the lake. Dating back to the 12th century, the castle is now designated a Swiss Cultural Heritage Site, with a wealth of history to uncover. The fortress can be explored independently or on a guided tour, with exhibitions to wander through.
In contrast to the alpine eastern side, the slopes of the northern shores are home to verdant vineyards and villages, which can easily be visited from the city. And within the city, visitors can stop by the market space, Plaine de Plainpalais, which also hosts events throughout the year and is where the statue of Frankenstein has been placed, erected in honour of Mary Shelley’s world-famous story.
Back at Hotel d’Angleterre, guests can look out across the water towards Mont Salève and the mountains beyond from Windows Restaurant. Here, international cuisine is paired with a curated selection of fine wines, making it the perfect spot for contemplating a day’s exploration of Geneva and the fascinating setting of Shelley’s Frankenstein. Speak to our concierge to arrange a cable car ride to the peak of Salève mountain, before finishing the day with live music and fine wine in the Leopard Bar.
Image credits: Cover photo of Lake Geneva © iStock / Chris Pecoraro. Lake Geneva and the castle © iStock / GoranQ. Chillon Castle © iStock / marianorte. Inside Chillon Castle © Flickr / Cristian Bortes.