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Switzerland Travel & Holiday Tips
 
 
 

Northwest Switzerland

Jura, Neuchâtel & Fribourg

The lakes of Biel, Murten and Neuchâtel are strung along the foot of the Jura Mountains. Although not one of the most popular regions for tourists, the rolling hills of the Jura mountains, the Franches Montagnes in the Neuchâtel region and the foothills of the Alps in the canton of Fribourg to the south of the lakes are excellent for hiking, camping and fishing. The waterfalls of the Doubs and the gorges of the Areuse in the Jura are very impressive. The area is also famous for its food and wines, and for the production of Swiss precision watches; do not miss the Horological Museum at La-Chaux-de-Fonds, and the watch-making factories at La-Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle. The striking yellow stone buildings of medieval Neuchâtel, attractively located beside a lake, were once described by Alexander Dumas as ‘carved from butter’. The town itself is celebrated for its cafe culture and first-class cuisine. Worth visiting nearby is the medieval town of Romont and the unspoilt lakeside town of Murten (known as ‘Morat’ by its French-speaking minority). The bilingual city of Fribourg (or ‘Freiburg’ to its German-speaking minority), where a Romanesque-Germanic atmosphere prevails, is one of the most interesting historic cities in Switzerland. In the south of the canton of Fribourg, in the foothills of the Alps, lies the Gruyère region, famous for its dairy farming which produces one of the best Swiss cheeses: Gruyère. The ancient town of Gruyères is still completely surrounded by its old city walls.

Basel

The ancient university and trading city of Basel (Basle), straddles the Rhine between the Jura, Alsace in France and Germany’s Black Forest, and is a centre of art and research. During the three days of the Basler Fasnacht (a pre-Lenten carnival), no serious sightseeing should or can be done, as visitors are required to take part in grand masked parties and street parades with fancy costumes. There is even a Fasnacht Fountain in front of the City Theatre. The collection in the Art Museum ranges from Cranach and Holbein via Rembrandt to Monet, Picasso and Max Ernst. In the old city centre stands the ancient red sandstone cathedral or Münster (parts date from the ninth to 13th century). Its tower affords impressive city vistas. Other sights include the Spalentor (1370), one of the original city wall’s three remaining towers, and the Church of St Peter (15th century). Away from the town, mountain paths zigzag up the Jura mountains.

Although northern Switzerland is not one of the main tourist areas, there are a few well-known holiday resorts beyond Basel, one of which is picturesque Solothurn where the prevalent architectural styles are Renaissance and Baroque. Day trips to Aarau, Baden and the 13th-century moated castle at Binningen, are also recommended. During winter months, the main sport in the Jura is cross-country skiing.

Southwest Switzerland

Geneva

Geneva is a university town situated on the Rhône-outlet of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman), at the southern foot of the Jura mountains. Its popularity is, however, not only due to its excellent surroundings. It owes its cosmopolitan nature to the presence of the United Nations, the International Red Cross and numerous other international organisations. Elegant shops, nightclubs, restaurants, fine museums and art galleries and an extensive calendar of cultural activities make it a favourite with many visitors. The old city centre is best explored on foot. One of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture is the Cathedral de St Pierre. The flower clock, with over 6,500 blooms, near the lake in the Jardin Anglais pays homage to Geneva’s watch industry. A boat trip on the lake is recommended. Dominated by the Jet d’Eau, a 145m- (476ft-) high fountain, the lake is generally alive with sailing boats. A crisp breeze known as the bise (kiss) blows across the lake and there are facilities for all kinds of watersports, as well as golf and riding nearby. Geneva is also a traditional European centre for health and recuperation, and maintains state-of-the-art sanatoria such as the 100-year-old Clinique Générale Beaulieu.


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