Neuchâtel is part of the watch-making industry that Switzerland is so famous for. It lies on the French side of what is known as the “Watch Valley” that comprises the Jura, Bernese Jura and Tramelan regions. It’s a little-known part of this country that I am curious to know. Neuchâtel is, or should be, a huge visitor attraction; it is a beautiful town by the lake and has a delightful centre complete with picturesque trams and petite shops. The birds come here too. It is a chief stop for migrant birds from Africa, a flawless terrain for nature lovers, where you can “rent” a bike for free and largely enjoy the good life.
A quick check-in later, I meander around the slender petite streets of the Old Town and grab a bite in the Maison des Halles, a sheltered market dating back to the Middle Ages, located on the square with the same name. The exceptional yellow sandstone buildings make the city quite dissimilar to any other in Switzerland, and the place has a much laid back feel with many street cafes to ease in. Stomach happy, I am ready to explore and off I head to check out two of the Neuchâtel’s iconic monuments, the castle and collegiate church, which seems to form one solitary building. The castle, overlooking the city, dates back to the 5th century and the collegiate church constructed beside is a Gothic-style building.
I call it a day with a walk along the lakeside boulevard before heading to the rooftop bar of Hotel Beaulac. During my walk I come across a painting of a lady called Marthe Robert, who in September 1904 swam across Lake Neuchatel and covered the 8 km to Portalban in three hours and 50 minutes, becoming the first person to achieve this, a feat envied by many men. I also come across the smallest bar in the world called La Vouvre, people dancing on the streets, having a drink at the cafes and bars and in general having a good time. Neuchâtel is much laid back when compared to some other cities in Switzerland and the Old Town and chateau area is stunning.
If you have more time there is also a cable car ride up to Chaumont, from where it is said on a clear day you can even see the Matterhorn! I will save that trip for next time.
BEST WAY TO REACH: Fly Swiss Air from India. Buy a Swiss Pass which comes in handy with every transportation be it train, tram or bus.