Neuchâtel (French), German Neuenburg, capital (since 1815) of Neuchâtel canton, western Switzerland, on the northwestern shore of Lake Neuchâtel, at the mouth of the Seyon River, partly on the slopes of the Chaumont (3,566 feet [1,087 metres]) and partly on land reclaimed from the lake. A Burgundian town by the 11th century, it was chartered in 1214. It was the centre of the former countship and principality (1648–1707) of Neuchâtel. Historic landmarks include the medieval castle (now the seat of the cantonal administration) and the Collégiale Notre-Dame (12th–13th century), now Protestant and containing the monumental tomb of the counts (1372). There are several fine 17th- and 18th-century patrician dwellings, including the Hôtel du Peyrou (c. 1765) and the town hall (1784–90), which is in classic style. The town’s institutions include the University of Neuchâtel (founded as an academy in 1838), the Institute of Physics, the Swiss Laboratory of Horological Research, the commercial school, the conservatory of music, the museum and public library in the Collège Latin, the cantonal observatory, and the fine Musée des Beaux-Arts. The city has an important wine market and its manufactures include watches, chocolate, tobacco, and paper.
Built out of yellow sandstone, Neuchâtel is located on the northern shore of Lake Neuchâtel and nestles against the Jura hills. The medieval centre of the town with its many cafes and restaurants, shops and numerous theatres and museums exudes French charm and is ideal for a gentle stroll.
Neuchâtel (or Neuenburg) also has some interesting museums: the Dürrenmatt Centre, built by the Ticino star architect Mario Botta, is dedicated to the Swiss author Friedrich Dürrenmatt who lived in Neuchâtel for many years. And then there are the Jacquet-Droz automata from the 18th century at the Art History Museum. The “Laténium” archaeological park which enables visitors to go on a scientific journey through time from prehistoric times to today is also well worth a visit.
Neuchâtel is located in the so-called “Watch Valley” holiday region. As the name suggests, the watch and clock industry plays a major role in this area. The town has an important research centre featuring an observatory which gives the official Swiss time down to the exact split second.
A panorama funicular transports its passengers up the Chaumont (1100 metres above sea level), Neuchâtel’s ‘house mountain’. Other rewarding excursion destinations include the Vue des Alpes pass crossing set in a hiker’s paradise with stunning views, the Val de Tavers with its asphalt mines, walks and cycle rides along the lake and a trip to the Vine and Wine Museum at Boudry Castle. And last but not least, you might want to consider a cruise on board one of the pleasure boats operating on Lakes Neuchâtel, Biel and Murten.
- Old town – castle and collegiate church dating from the 12th century, Hôtel du Peyrou dating from the 18th century and Place des Halles.
- Chaumont – Neuchâtel’s ‘house mountain’ (1100 metres above sea level) with a wonderful all-round view of the Bernese Alps, Montblanc Massif and three Jura lakes.
- Jacquet-Droz automata collection – selected examples of the world-famous watch and automata production of the 18th century at the Musée d’art et d’histoire (Art and History Museum) Neuchâtel.
- Laténium Museum – 50’000 years of local history – modern presentation at the archaeological park and museum.
- Cruising on Lake Neuchâtel – biggest lake located completely in Switzerland offering an opportunity to go on a three-lake-cruise.
- Papilliorama-Nocturama in Kerzers – a tropical experience world with exotic butterflies and a lot of nocturnal animals.
Neuchâtel International Fantastic Film Festival NIFFF – a key event in the Swiss film calendar (July).
Buskers Festival – buskers liven up the streets of Neuchâtel (August).
International Choral Festival – Festival of amateur choirs at a high level including award ceremony (every other year in August).
Winzerfest (grape harvest festival) – a big traditional festival celebrating the grape harvest featuring a big flower procession (September).
How to get there
Public Transport: Direct train connections to Neuchâtel.
- Genève-Neuchâtel: 1 hour 20 min.
- Lausanne-Neuchâtel: 40 min.
- Zurich-Neuchâtel: 1 hour 50 min.
- Bâle-Neuchâtel: 1 hour 35 min.
- Paris-Neuchâtel (TGV): 3 hours 50 min.
By car: Auto route A5, Geneva – Neuchâtel (128 km)
Auto route A1, Zürich – Bern – Murten (150 km)
Other/Air: Geneva – Cointrin Airport, 1 hour 30 min from Neuchâtel
Zürich – Kloten Airport, 2 hours 20 min from Neuchâtel