The ancient town of Murten, known in French as Morat, is a popular resort on the Murtensee/Lac de Morat (Lake Murten). The bilingual town has a boat-lined waterfront, windsurfing rentals, a lakeside public pool complex, grassy picnic areas, and a promenade as well as a superbly preserved medieval center. From the town's 13th-century gates, take a stroll through the fountain-studded cobblestone streets. Climb up the worn wooden steps to the town ramparts for a view of the lake over a charming montage of red roofs and stone chimneys.
Although a small town, Murten looms large in the history of Switzerland. Its most memorable moment came on June 22, 1476, when the Swiss Confederates—already a fearsomely efficient military machine—attacked with surprising ferocity and won a significant victory over the Burgundians, who were threatening Fribourg under the leadership of Duke Charles the Bold. Begun as a siege 12 days earlier, the battle cost the Swiss 410 men and the Burgundians 12,000. The defeat at Murten prevented the establishment of a large Lotharingian kingdom and kept Switzerland's autonomy unchallenged for decades. Legend has it that a Swiss runner, carrying a linden branch, ran from Murten to Fribourg to carry the news of victory. He expired by the town hall, and a linden tree grew from the branch he carried. Today, to commemorate his dramatic sacrifice, some 15,000 runners participate annually on the first Sunday in October in a 17-km (11-mile) race up the steep hill from Murten to Fribourg. As for the linden tree, it flourished in Fribourg for some 500 years until 1983, when it was ingloriously felled by a drunk driver. It has been replaced with a steel sculpture.