Outside the traditional tourist circuits, the Pays de Neuchâtel offers travellers a different perspective from the usual image of Switzerland: this region is tinged with mystery and cultural richness, all in a breath-taking natural environment.
The watchmaking urban heritage, watches and watchmakers
The Pays de Neuchâtel, cradle of the watch-making industry, is a must for visitors curious to discover the world of watches and watchmakers.
The towns of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle, deeply marked by the industry, have a remarkable watchmaking urban heritage – part of UNESCO’s World Heritage.
The “Espace de l’Urbanisme horloger” showroom is an ideal starting point for exploring the town of La Chaux-de-Fonds. Guided tours on the theme of the “watchmaking urban heritage” as well as a tourist train are excellent ways to discover the riches of both towns.
The International Watchmaking Museum, recognized as the world’s most prestigious museum devoted to this art, the Château des Monts, the Neuchâtel Art and History Museum and its exhibits of three 18th century androids created by the most famous watchmaker of all, Jaquet Droz, are just a few examples of the many testimonials to the sovereign role played by the master watchmakers of Neuchâtel.
Recently, the watch manufacturer Zenith began opening its doors to the public every Friday to visit its production workshops. The watchmaking workshops provide a range of options for assembling your own mechanical watch. So many unforgettable experiences as you explore this fascinating universe.
An extraordinary natural environment
The wild and mysterious Gorges de l’Areuse, the Doubs, a magnificent river with green hues, its 27m drop waterfall and its majestic meanders are truly rewarding for hikers.
A picnic on the banks of the river, trout fishing or trout tasting in a restaurant, walks accessible to all in the gorges or rock climbing for visitors in search of a shot of adrenaline are some examples of the many possible activities inthe region.
Lake Neuchâtel, the largest lake located entirely in Switzerland, is freely accessible over its entire perimeter! Much smaller, Lake Taillères at 1000m altitude, in the heart of the Brevine Valley, also known as Switzerland’s Siberia, may change into a gigantic outdoor skating rink in winter.
Last but not least, the rocky cirque of the Creux du Van is a 1.5 km diameter amphitheatre with dizzying cliffs (150 m).
A hidden cultural heritage of unsuspected wealth
La Chaux-de-Fonds (the highest town in Europe, at an altitude of 1000m), birthplace of the most renowned architect of the 20th century, Le Corbusier, is a surprising example of an urban environment with a chequerboard structure.
Part of the European Art Nouveau network, La Chaux-de-Fonds is home to Le Corbusier’s very first designs: the White House (the first house entirely created by Le Corbusier working solo) and the Turkish Villa.
In contrast to the modernist approach of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchâtel is a small intact jewel with medieval origins. Its 12th century Château and Collegiate church, narrow cobbled streets and lively pedestrian zone plunge visitors into a medieval dream. But make no mistake: other splendid periods have marked the history of this charming town, notably the Belle Epoque, the theme chosen for visits to the city, punctuated by ten entertaining experiences.
Enchanting wine-growing villages stretch from the hills to the shores of the lake and extend your journey back through the centuries.
Sports, leisure, gastronomy and “food for the soul”
The Canton of Neuchâtel offers a wide range of sporting, gastronomic, cultural and leisure activities that many other regions can only dream of. A wide variety of museums, galleries, open-air music and theatre festivals, all winter sports, water sports and a network of hiking and cycling trails make the Neuchâtel region a paradise for everyone all year round.
Typical Neuchâtel world-famous specialities were born here, such as absinthe, the preferred drink of 19th century artists that marked the history of Val-de-Travers. Surviving the ban and hidden away in the cellars, absinthe is now one of the Region’s pride and joys. You can enjoy it quite legally at the many distillers in the region, as well as at the Maison de l’absinthe in Môtiers, a veritable temple dedicated to this mythical beverage.
Neuchâtel Transport Card
A Swiss first: the Neuchâtel Transport Card offers travellers staying in the canton of Neuchâtel free access to public transport and some thirty cultural or sports facilities.