11 must-see things to do in the canton of Neuchâtel

Neuchatel

Visiting the canton of Neuchâtel? Discover the best things to do around its lake and mountains!

If the region is particularly famous for the lake that bears its name, the canton of Neuchâtel charms travelers with its picturesque villages, majestic landscapes and impressive cultural offerings.

Surrounded by mountains and punctuated by crystal-clear waters, it has a pleasant setting that lends itself wonderfully to walking, swimming and winter sports. These advantageous conditions contribute to making this region the ideal destination for your dynamic vacation.

From the city of Neuchâtel to the hills of La Chaux-de-Fonds, you can discover exceptional natural sites, learn more about the history of the area and collect new memories. If you don’t know what there is to do in the canton of Neuchâtel, you’ll find the answers in our selection!

1. A stroll through Neuchâtel’s historic city center

Centre-ville Neuchatel

Photo credit: Shutterstock – 3DF mediaStudio

Facing the eponymous lake and dominated by its castle, the canton’s capital has the charm of a thousand-year-old city. Discover the town, its architecture and its monuments as you wander through its streets, or take a guided tour with one of our fascinating guides.

The city may be dynamic, but it seems frozen in time. You’ll appreciate the beauty of the 18th-century facades of Place des Halles, the astonishing Diesse tower with its 11th-century red clock, and the well-preserved 10th-century castle.

Neuchâtel is an active cultural center with a wide range of museums. You can start your visit with the Natural History Museum. Then the Musée d’art et d’histoire, followed by the Musée d’ethnographie and finally the Centre Dürrenmatt. Dedicated to the works of Friedrich Dürrenmatt, it houses impressive collections that are well worth stopping at for a few hours.

Some of these events are free on presentation of the « Neuchatel tourist card », a pass that gives access to the transport network and activities in exchange for a night’s accommodation in the canton. It’s an essential tool for visiting the canton of Neuchâtel on a budget.

2. Neuchâtel Castle

Chateau Neuchatel

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Martouf

Visiting the canton of Neuchâtel also means exploring the history of a territory that dates back hundreds of centuries. One of the great testimonies to this distant past is the impressive late 10th-century castle of Neuchâtel.

Erected on a hill overlooking the town, it can be reached by climbing the stairs in front of the Griffon fountain, or by following an itinerary along Rue du Château and the collegiate church.

Although it now houses the cantonal government, you can visit its interior during the summer months. Otherwise, you have year-round access to the adjoining collegiate church and its organ, as well as to the cloister.

What’s more, the nearby esplanade offers magnificent panoramic views of the city’s rooftops, the lake and the Alps.

3. Lake Neuchâtel

Lac Neuchatel

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Fonsi

Renowned for its turquoise waters surrounded by mountains, the lake is a must-see in the canton of Neuchâtel. Well-landscaped, its shores can also be the setting for a gourmet break, a pleasant stroll or even a romantic stroll.

Built from the Osterwald quay in 1991 to commemorate 700 years of Confederation, the Utopia footbridge also offers one of the finest views of the lake and city. Continuing along the lake, you’ll come to the marina and its pretty cabins. This is where you can book your cruise tickets and find out about the other water sports available.

If you don’t know what to do in the canton of Neuchâtel, sailing on the lake will be an unforgettable experience. Alternatively, you can try your hand at windsurfing, jet skiing, water skiing, kayaking and many other activities. As for cruising, a river cruise aboard a steamboat is a charming way to get away from it all.

4. The Neuchâtel tourist train

Train touristique Neuchatel

Photo credit: Facebook -Jura & Trois-Lacs

Those wishing to explore the thousand-year-old city effortlessly can take advantage of the presence of the city’s tourist train. Switzerland’s first electric train, the machine takes the curious on an astonishing tour of Neuchâtel’s picturesque alleyways.

The Belle Epoque-inspired decor, the world’s only locomotive and the panoramic roof all contribute to making your trip an original adventure. Thanks to its fully glazed walls, you’ll have access to a panoramic view of the historic yellow stone buildings, the château and the collegiate church. What’s more, along the way, commentaries will tell you more about the town’s history, its monuments and the people who built its legend.

5. La Coudre-Chaumont funicular railway

Funiculaire Neuchatel

Photo credit: Wikipedia – Stéphane Gottraux

Funicular railways are an integral part of the Swiss landscape. Practical, they make it easy to reach the heights and admire breathtaking panoramas in just a few minutes. Visiting the canton of Neuchâtel also means taking the time to ride one.

The La Coudre-Chaumont funicular began operating in 1910. For over a century, it has linked La Coudre to the mountain of Chaumont, an itinerary that’s quite difficult to do on foot. Thanks to the funicular, you can effortlessly climb the 1,171 meters to the finish.

At the summit, you’ll enjoy incredible views of the Three-Lakes region and the Alps.

6. The International Watchmaking Museum in La Chaux-de-Fonds

MIH Neuchatel

Photo credit: Facebook -Jura & Trois-Lacs

Founded in 1902, the Musée international d’horlogerie (MIH) houses the world’s largest collection entirely dedicated to the measurement of time. Cleverly located in the cradle of the Swiss watchmaking industry, it protects, enhances and passes on this astonishing heritage.

Located in the Parc des Musées, it features a fun-filled exhibition covering more than 2,000 square meters, spanning a vast period from the 16th century to the present day. On this tour, you’ll discover the technical, artistic and cultural evolution of Swiss and international watchmaking. A fascinating exploration to be made in the canton of Neuchâtel.

7. The House of Absinthe in Môtiers

Maison de l'Absinthe

Photo credit: Facebook – Maison de l’Absinthe

Opened in 2014, almost ten years after absinthe was legalized, this interpretation center tells the story of this alcohol born in the Val-de-Travers, the Môtiers region.

The Maison de l’Absinthe exhibition reveals the secrets behind the production of this « green fairy », explains the influence of its production on the local economy, and recounts its clandestine period… The lively museum will make you part of the visit by asking you to symbolically vote on whether or not to ban absinthe after learning about the arguments at the beginning of the last century.

Even better, a confessional is set up on site, inviting you to tell your absinthe-related stories. It’s a great moment of discovery, especially if you end the tour with a tasting.

8. Skiing on the canton’s slopes

Ski Neuchatel

Photo credit: Shutterstock – Guenaelle Chapuis

The canton of Neuchâtel is a great place for skiing. The region’s many cross-country ski trails, ski slopes and snowboard runs are sure to please both amateurs and experts alike. Located on average forty minutes from the canton’s capital, these events are easily accessible by public transport and car.

The most popular spots in the canton are La Brévine, nicknamed « the Siberia of Switzerland », Les Breuleux and its family-friendly pistes, La Robella and its white paradise accessible to all levels, Brot-Plamboz and its two km of pistes in the wild Vallée des Ponts and the 10 km of pistes from Le Pâquier to Crêt du Puy.

9. Col-des-Roches underground mills cave

Moulin Souterrain Neuchatel

Photo credit: Facebook – Moulins souterrains du Col-des-Roches

Visiting the canton of Neuchâtel also means discovering marvels of ingenuity. In the Le Locle valley, for example, at Col-des-Roches, you can descend into a cave over twenty meters deep to discover the history of an underground hydraulic system, unique in Europe, that once powered millstones.

A visit to this natural cave allows you to contemplate the galleries and remains of the 17th, 18th and 19th century installations. In addition, the permanent exhibition will complete your tour with a presentation of the site’s history and a few explanations on agriculture, milling, water power, etc.

The multi-storey reconstruction of a flour mill will give you an idea of how it worked.

10. The Creux-du-Van nature reserve

Cirque du Creux du Van

Photo credit: Site officiel du Creux-du-Van

This majestic rocky cirque offers one of the grandest panoramas in Switzerland. Its horseshoe-shaped cliffs, over one hundred and fifty metres high, are a must-see in the canton of Neuchâtel.

If you take a walk in the area, you’ll have the chance to observe its varied flora and exceptional fauna (ibex, chamois, lynx, marmots…). Hiking is possible in the Creux-du-Van. Although it requires stamina, the effort is quickly rewarded by a splendid 360° panorama of the plateau’s lakes, the Alps, the Jura valleys and France.

11. Saut du Doubs waterfall

Saut du Doubs

Photo credit: Facebook -Jura & Trois-Lacs

What to do in the canton of Neuchâtel if you’re visiting the west of the region? Discover the Saut du Doubs! Located on the French-Swiss border, this natural wonder is classified as a Grand Site National.

With its 27-meter waterfall, pools and gazebos, this magical place is both refreshing and exotic.

Visible from France and Switzerland, the Saut du Doubs is accessible on foot, by horse-drawn carriage and by boat. Boating allows you to get as close as possible to this monstrous gush of water, except in dry periods.

How do I get to the canton of Neuchâtel?

By car

If the journey is long – allow around 6 hours from Paris and 3 hours 15 minutes from Lyon on the A6 freeway – the trip to or from the canton of Neuchâtel will be an opportunity to discover the beauty of the Jura and its hinterland.

If you’re planning to use Swiss freeways, it’s essential to obtain the mandatory vignette before crossing the border.

By train

The Swiss rail network covers the entire canton of Neuchâtel. Very practical, it connects you to the cities of Lausanne and Geneva, and back to the French rail network. For example, it takes around 1h15 to get to Geneva and 5h30 to get to Paris.

By plane

Because of the many landforms that encircle the canton, the easiest way to reach Neuchâtel and its region is by plane. To get the best price, you can use a flight comparison service like Ulysse.

The airports of Geneva, Berne and Zurich will bring you closer to the terminus. You can then rent a car at one of these airports to cover the remaining kilometers. Alternatively, the Swiss train and bus network can take you to your destination.

Where to stay in the canton of Neuchâtel?

The canton of Neuchâtel offers a wide range of accommodation solutions: luxury hotels, chalets, charming rentals, Airbnb apartments, campsites… From authentic to contemporary, it’s up to you to define your needs and desires. To do so, take the time to consult an online hotel comparator, which will help you make the most suitable choice. On average, you should expect to pay €100 per night.

As far as accommodation is concerned, we recommend the shores of Lake Neuchâtel and the historic city center. Thanks to these locations, you’ll have access to the city’s most beautiful spots, as well as to the main roads that will get you out of the canton’s capital as quickly as possible.

Now that you know what to do in Neuchâtel, pack your suitcase and set off on your adventure!

Map of hotels and accommodation – Neuchatel