I lived in Neuchâtel for five years, between 2011 and 2016. It’s a small city located in the French speaking part of Switzerland, on the shore of Lake Neuchâtel and capital of the Swiss canton of… Neuchâtel. Easy, right? It’s not the most famous or the most touristic part of the country but it’s a lovely city surrounded with stunning landscapes. I can’t wait for my next trip which is actually in a couple of days as I’m writing this article! And after you’ve seen the ten pictures below, I’m pretty sure that you’d love to come with me…
📷 For more pictures have a look at my gallery of photos of Neuchâtel and its surroundings.
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Neuchâtel is a very old city. When I arrived there for the first time in 2011, there was a big celebration for the 1,000th anniversary of its creation (in 1011, if you’re bad in maths). There are still many remains of the past around the city, such as the castle (from which this picture was taken) or the Collegiate Church. Its location next to Lake Neuchâtel makes life really enjoyable here, and on bright days the tall summits of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau (3,970m, 4,107m and 4,158m high) are clearly visible in the distance… even though they are 100 kilometers away!
2/ The three-lakes country
Neuchâtel is located in the three-lakes country, constituted by Lake Neuchâtel (the biggest of the three, to the right on the picture above), Lake Biel (to the left, at the border between the French- and the German-speaking part of Switzerland) and Lake Morat (the smallest, in the background). Lake Neuchâtel is the 3rd biggest of Switzerland, the biggest that is 100% Swiss. This picture was taken from the summit of the Chasseral, the highest peak of the Jura Mountains (1,606m above sea level). On clear days, the panoramic sight from its top is one of the best views of the area!
3/ Sunset on Lake Neuchâtel at Boudry
Boudry is a little village 8 kilometers away from Neuchâtel. The village itself isn’t located directly on the shore of the lake, but there’s a little restaurant a bit out of town that serves fondue on a terrace just above the water. It’s an absolute delight to sit there on a beautiful summer evening, enjoying melted cheese with a gorgeous view. It’s also a popular diving spot: I can’t remember if I took this picture before or after I had the fondue that day, but that’s the kind of sight that you don’t see very often, especially when you know that the mountain to the right (partially hidden by the trees) is the Mont Blanc, highest summit of the Alps!
4/ Creux du Van
The Creux du Van is an extraordinary natural cirque, 1,440m wide and more than 150m deep. The tallest cliffs are almost 200m high! The panorama from the edge is exceptional… but also a bit scary if you’re afraid of height. It is located only a few kilometers away from Neuchâtel (the lake is clearly visible from the top), next to the village of Noiraigue. It is accessible either by car, with a narrow winding road going all the way to the top, or by foot via a stunning (and quite difficult) hike starting from Noiraigue. I went there many times; once, it was so foggy that you couldn’t see anything, which is a little dangerous when you walk close to a 150m high cliff… Another time, I went there with friends in the late evening to eat a fondue (yes, again!) and watch the shooting stars (it’s a perfect place for stargazing): an unforgettable memory!
5/ Areuse Gorge
The Areuse is a little river born in the Jura mountains and flowing into Lake Neuchâtel. It’s a short trip, but between Noiraigue and Boudry a stunning natural gorge was carved over thousands of years of erosion, and it’s now one of the most beautiful places to go for a walk in the surroundings of Neuchâtel. The most adventurous hikers can even combine it with the climb to the Creux du Van nearby! The sight is always different: green and cool during summer, white and peaceful when it snows during winter, turbulent and noisy during spring, when the water flow is at its highest.
6/ Vineyards next to Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel is also in the middle of a little wine region. There are a lot of vineyards around the city, mostly to the South-West, around the villages of Peseux, Cortaillod or Corcelles-Cormondrèche. This last one is where I used to live, up on a hill and with a fantastic view over the lake and the Alps. It was particularly nice to walk down the streets of the village, where there are some beautiful ancient houses, and it only took a couple of minutes to reach the vineyard. From there it was possible to walk all the way down to the lake, via the paved streets of Colombier, another lovely village. A great stroll, especially in the end of the summer before the harvest would have started.
7/ La Tourne Pass, fall
Fall isn’t usually the best season to visit Neuchâtel. Because of its location at the foot of the Jura mountains and next to a big lake, blue sky is often hidden behind a thick fog that might last for days. Only solution, climb above the limit of the fog to admire a beautiful sea of clouds from above, or hope for the wind to blow it away. When it happens, the colours of nature can be extremely spectacular during this season, as you can see on this picture that I took in the La Tourne Pass, which connects Neuchâtel to the beautiful valleys of the Jura mountains.
8/ La Sagne Valley, winter
La Sagne Valley is one of these valleys in the Jura mountains that can be reached within 20 minutes from Neuchâtel, mostly via two roads (La Tourne Pass and the Pass of La Vue des Alpes – literally “Alps View Pass”). It doesn’t snow very often around the lake, but these places are always covered by a white layer during winter. Dozens of cross-country skiing tracks can be found in this area, as well as the coldest place of Switzerland, La Brévine, 30km away from Neuchâtel. In January 1987, temperature was measured at a record level of -41.8°C, which gave the city its nickname: the Siberia of Switzerland! To be honest, even if the landscape is beautiful when it’s covered in snow, after a few weeks of winter I was already impatient for spring to return; the fact that I prefer warm temperatures might be one of the reasons why I left Switzerland to travel around Australia…
9/ Sunrise on the mountains from la Vue des Alpes
Once again, the three famous swiss summits of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau (from left to right, the three peaks in the middle of the picture), seen from the Pass of la Vue des Alpes between Neuchâtel and the city of La Chaux-de-Fonds, famous for its watchmaking industry. It’s the place where I used to work, so I regularly took the Pass of la Vue des Alpes in the morning or in the evening (although most of the times I took the tunnel of la Vue des Alpes dug below the mountain which is a quite faster road). When I started early, I had the privilege of going to work with this extraordinary view; the kind of things that helps you get up in the morning…
10/ Sunset in Neuchâtel
I think that if anyone asks me why I love Neuchâtel, I’ll just answer by showing this picture to that person, as it sums up perfectly everything that makes this city so beautiful. The gorgeous castle, the vast and quiet lake and the summits of the Alps in the background; the mountain that can be seen to the left of this picture is the Mont Blanc, 4,810m high. I’d love to have the chance of seeing such a stunning sunset again in the coming days, during my next trip in Neuchâtel!
So, convinced that Neuchâtel deserves a visit? Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever been there!
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