In the footsteps of the Tramp: Visiting Chaplin's World, Switzerland
In 1952, Hollywood legend Charlie Chaplin bought a beautiful green and white manor house in Corsier-Sur-Vevey, Switzerland, where he would spend the final 25 years of his life. America was deep into McCarthyism, and a number of Chaplin’s films had been deemed too political and anti-capitalist. After years of interrogations and investigations from the FBI and the House Un-American Activities Committee, Chaplin was on a ship to Europe to attend a film premiere when he heard that his US visa had been revoked and he was effectively in exile. He, his wife and family would need to find a new home.
Nestled above sparkling Lake Geneva and the rolling vineyards of the Lavaux region, the Tramp’s home is now part of a museum complex called Chaplin’s World, along with a large immersive “studio” building where you can walk through and interact with the sets of Chaplin’s most famous films.
Chaplin’s World has now been open for 5 years and is a joyous, loving tribute to Chaplin’s career, family life, and his humanist values. David is a huge fan of his films and loved walking through the film sets, whereas I had a lot to learn, having only ever seen a few clips of his work. I had no idea that he lived in Switzerland!
We started our visit in the Studio building, where you are immediately seated in a red velvet cinema room for a ten minute film about Chaplin’s life, beginning in impoverished South London in 1889, through his meteoric rise to movie stardom. At the end, the screen lifted away and we were immediately immersed into the set for Chaplin’s film the Kid.
Many of his most famous films are beautifully recreated, with plenty of chances to join in. Look out for famous faces such as Laurel and Hardy (fellow Brit Stan Laurel was Chaplin’s understudy in Fred Karno's music hall troupe before either of them hit the big time), Douglas Fairbanks, Paulette Goddard and Woody Allen.
As we walked through the Studio we learned about the special effects used in Chaplin’s films and his dedication to detail when he was writing, filming and directing.
Everything is very hands on -we particularly enjoyed playing around on the rocking and lurching mountaintop house from the Gold Rush, and you can take your photo in costumes such as the Tramp’s baggy trousers and jacket, and the Great Dictator’s fascist uniform.
The bank vault displays treasures like Chaplin’s knighthood and Oscars, cuttings lovingly collected by his family, and the iconic Tramp hat, shoes and cane.
Next, we moved on to visit the beautiful manor. Walking through the elegantly furnished rooms looking out at the white peaked Alps in the distance, we got the sense that Chaplin was very happy in Switzerland, enjoying time with his wife and eight children, and entertaining friends. Watch out for a surprise appearance from Albert Einstein!
Chaplin is undeniably typecast in popular memory as the Tramp, so after celebrating his films in the Studio, it is fascinating to learn more about the domestic side, about Charlie the person: his love for his family, his passion for campaigning against war and against the death penalty, and his never ending creativity right up until his death.
Exploring the Chaplin home felt so welcoming and real, that when we stumbled upon a waxwork of Charlie and Oona watching family movies in their sitting room it almost felt intrusive. The whole museum is beautifully done.
The top floor often holds temporary exhibitions, and when we visited it was celebrating 80 years since the release of Chaplin’s masterpiece, the Great Dictator. The United Nationshave declared 2021 the international year of peace and trust, and the exhibition drew attention to Chaplin’s humanist beliefs against cruelty and conflict, culminating with footage of his barber character’s iconic “Let us all unite” speech, a rousing cry for world peace and togetherness that is still so relevant today.
Hours and prices
Chaplin’s World is open year round, 7 days a week, generally 10 – 6pm with slightly longer hours in summer and slightly shorter in winter.
On the door, adult tickets are CHF 27, or you can book tickets online for a specific date and pay just CHF19.
Under 16s are CHF 18, and over 60s CHF 25. Under 6s are free!
If you have a 2/3 day Lausanne city card, you can also add Chaplin’s World to it and reduce the on the day price to CHF 21.
How to get to Chaplins World
Chaplin’s World has a car park - it’s a half hour drive from Lausanne, or 15 minutes from Montreux - or bus 212 from Vevey train station will drop you literally right outside the front gate.
NB: Since an update on September 13th by Swiss authorities, visitors aged over 16 will need either a European Covid Certificate or a negative covid test taken within 48 hours in order to visit Chaplin’s world. This is the same throughout Switzerland for all museums, indoor dining and other leisure activities such as indoor pools, spas, cinemas etc.
Disclosure: we were kindly gifted free entry by Chaplin’s World as a part of our collaboration with the Lausanne tourism board, but we were not paid to post and all opinions are our own.