Fribourg and Neuchâtel

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  • 1. Cathédrale St-Nicolas

    Fribourg's grand cathedral rears up from the surrounding gray, 18th-century buildings. Its massive tower was completed in the 15th century, two centuries after construction began...

    Fribourg's grand cathedral rears up from the surrounding gray, 18th-century buildings. Its massive tower was completed in the 15th century, two centuries after construction began in 1283. Above the main portal, a beautifully restored tympanum of the Last Judgment shows the blessed few headed toward Peter, who holds the key to the heavenly gates; those not so fortunate are led by pig-faced demons into the cauldrons of hell. Inside you can see the famous 18th-century organ, as well as the restored 1657 organ. The exceptional stained-glass windows, installed between 1873 and 1983, are executed in a number of styles, including Pre-Raphaelite and art nouveau. In the Chapelle du St-Sépulcre (Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre), a group of 13 figures dating from 1433 portrays the entombment of Christ. If you can handle the 368 steps, climb to the tower for a panoramic view. During services, entry is not allowed.

    Rue St-Nicolas, Fribourg, Fribourg, 1700, Switzerland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, tower SF4, Tower closed Nov.–Mar.
  • 2. Château de Gruyères

    Crowning the storybook village of Gruyères is the town's famed château. Between 1080 and 1554, 19 counts held political power over this region, and they...

    Crowning the storybook village of Gruyères is the town's famed château. Between 1080 and 1554, 19 counts held political power over this region, and they built and expanded this medieval castle. Little is known about them except for the last one, Michel. A lover of luxury and big spending, he expanded the estates and then fled his creditors in 1555. In 1849, a wealthy Geneva family bought the castle and encouraged painter friends to decorate a room now known as Corot's Room, because it features four of Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's landscapes. Also worth seeing is the Knights' Room with its impressive 19th-century fresco cycle depicting local legends, and the aptly named Fantastic Art Room, hung with contemporary work. An 18-minute multimedia show called Gruyères, which brings to life the history of the castle in animated form (available in eight languages), shown daily in the old caretaker's lodge, is worth your time.

    Gruyères, Fribourg, Switzerland
    026-9212102

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF12
  • 3. Musée d'Art et d'Histoire

    Thanks to a remarkable curator, the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire displays a striking collection of paintings gathered under broad themes—nature, civilization—and mounted in a radical,...

    Thanks to a remarkable curator, the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire displays a striking collection of paintings gathered under broad themes—nature, civilization—and mounted in a radical, evocative way. The 15th-century allegories, early impressionist paintings, and contemporary abstractions pack the walls from floor to ceiling, interacting, conflicting, and demanding comparison. You may climb a platform (itself plastered with paintings) to view the higher works. This aggressive series of displays is framed by the architectural decorations of Neuchâtel resident Clement Heaton, whose murals and stained glass make the building itself a work of art. This novel museum also has the honor of hosting three of this watchmaking capital's most exceptional guests: the automates Jaquet-Droz, three astounding little androids, created between 1768 and 1774, that once toured the courts of Europe like young mechanical Mozarts. Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son Henri-Louis created them, and they are moving manifestations of the stellar degree to which watchmaking had evolved by the 18th century. Le Dessinateur (the Draughtsman) is an automated dandy in satin knee pants who draws graphite images of a dog, the god Eros in a chariot pulled by a butterfly, and a profile of Louis XV. La Musicienne (the Musician) is a young woman playing the organ. She moves and breathes subtly along with the music and actually strikes the keys that produce the organ notes. L'Écrivain (the Writer) dips a real feather into real ink and writes 40 different letters. Like a primitive computer, he can be programmed to write any message simply by the change of a steel disk. The automatons come alive only on the first Sunday of the month, at 2, 3, and 4 (more often in summer; days and times are posted on the museum's website), but the audiovisual show re-creates the thrill.

    1 esplanade Léopold-Robert, Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, 2000, Switzerland
    032-7177925

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF8, Closed Mon.
  • 4. Aventicum

    One of the most notable ancient Roman settlements of Switzerland's "Roman era" is Aventicum, which dates from 58 BC to AD 400. In the famous...

    One of the most notable ancient Roman settlements of Switzerland's "Roman era" is Aventicum, which dates from 58 BC to AD 400. In the famous Musée et Théâtre Romain (Roman Museum and Theater), you can still see the remains of an ancient Roman forum, a bathhouse, and an amphitheater where bloodthirsty spectators once watched the games. The collection of Roman antiquities at the town museum is noteworthy, particularly the gold bust of emperor Marcus Aurelius. To get here from Murten, head 8 km (5 miles) southwest to Avenches.

    1 rue Centrale, Murten, Fribourg, 1580, Switzerland
    026-6751727

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon. and Tues. in Nov.–Jan.
  • 5. Basse-Ville

    At Fribourg's very core is the Basse-Ville, tucked into a crook of the river. Here you'll find the 11th- through 16th-century homes of the original...

    At Fribourg's very core is the Basse-Ville, tucked into a crook of the river. Here you'll find the 11th- through 16th-century homes of the original village, as well as a lively café and cellar-theater scene.

    Planche-Supérieure 1, Fribourg, Fribourg, 1700, Switzerland
  • 6. Casino Neuchâtel

    The small casino has 150 slot machines as well as favorite table games like roulette, blackjack, and Ultimate Texas Hold'em Poker....

    The small casino has 150 slot machines as well as favorite table games like roulette, blackjack, and Ultimate Texas Hold'em Poker.

    14 faubourg du Lac, Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, 2000, Switzerland
    032-7244848
  • 7. Centre Dürrenmatt

    Named after the Swiss writer and artist Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921–90), the Centre Dürrenmatt, perched high above Neuchâtel, houses an exhibition devoted to modern literature and...

    Named after the Swiss writer and artist Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921–90), the Centre Dürrenmatt, perched high above Neuchâtel, houses an exhibition devoted to modern literature and visual arts. One of Switzerland's (and the world's) top architects, Mario Botta, designed a curving, skylit underground space connected to Dürrenmatt's former home (now a private library and offices). Many of Dürrenmatt's paintings are disturbing, reflecting a bleak worldview that tends to be softened by the humor, albeit acerbic, in his writing. Letters and excerpts of his books are also on display, with each artwork accompanied by a quote.

    74 chemin du Pertuis-du-Sault, Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, 2000, Switzerland
    032-7202060

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF8, Closed Mon. and Tues.
  • 8. Château de Grandson

    When the Burgundian Wars broke out in the late 15th century, the Château de Grandson, built in the 11th century and much rebuilt during the...

    When the Burgundian Wars broke out in the late 15th century, the Château de Grandson, built in the 11th century and much rebuilt during the 13th and 15th centuries, was in the hands of Charles the Bold of Burgundy. In 1475, the Swiss won it by siege, but early the next year their garrison was surprised by Charles, and 418 of their men were captured and hanged from the apple trees in the castle orchard. A few days later the Swiss returned to Grandson and, after crushing the Burgundians, retaliated by stringing up their prisoners from the same apple trees. After being used for three centuries as a residence by the Bernese bailiffs, the castle was bought in 1875 by the de Blonay family, who restored it to its current impressive state, with high, massive walls and five cone turrets. Inside, you can see reproductions of Charles the Bold's Burgundian war tent and two jousting knights astride their horses—in full armor. There are also oubliettes (dungeon pits), torture chambers, and a model of the Battle of Grandson, complete with a 20-minute slide show (in English if you get in quickly enough to push the right button). The dungeons now house an extensive vintage-car museum, displaying the prized beauties of Greta Garbo and Winston Churchill. Currently under renovation until 2025, the castle can be still be visited by making a reservation in advance.

    Pl. du Château, Grandson, Vaud, 1422, Switzerland
    024-4452926

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF12, Reservations essential
  • 9. Château de Neuchâtel

    Perched on a rocky hill at the center of the city, the relatively modest château is one of a cluster of historic buildings that made...

    Perched on a rocky hill at the center of the city, the relatively modest château is one of a cluster of historic buildings that made up the ancient royal court of Neuchâtel, including the Collegiale and Tour des Prisons. Until the canton joined the Swiss Confederation in 1848—uniquely, the only monarchy to do so—it was inhabited by various branches of Prussian royalty. Today, it serves as the main administrative offices of the canton, but a selection of the castle's rooms and fittings can be viewed on a guided tour, which is offered four times daily on days that the château is open to visitors. Taking the tour is the only way to visit the fascinating Roman-built Tour des Prisons,where visitors may enter the original wooden prison cells and take in stunning views from its panoramic terrace.

    Rue du Château, Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, 2001, Switzerland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF5 for guided tour, Closed Oct.–Mar. Closed weekdays Apr. and May. Closed Mon. June–Sept.
  • 10. Château de Yverdon-les-Bains

    In the center of the Old Town sits the turreted, mid-13th-century Château de Yverdon-les-Bains. Most of the castle is now a museum, with exhibits on...

    In the center of the Old Town sits the turreted, mid-13th-century Château de Yverdon-les-Bains. Most of the castle is now a museum, with exhibits on locally discovered prehistoric and Roman artifacts, Egyptian art, natural history, and, of course, local history. A special room is dedicated to the famous Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746–1827), who spent 20 years here. His influential ideas on education led to school reforms at home and in Germany and England.

    1 pl. Pestalozzi, Yverdon-les-Bains, Vaud, 1400, Switzerland
    024-4259310

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF12, Closed Mon. and Tues.
  • 11. Église Abbatiale

    The magnificent 11th-century Église Abbatiale, built on the site of an ancient Roman villa, is one of the finest examples of Romanesque art in Switzerland....

    The magnificent 11th-century Église Abbatiale, built on the site of an ancient Roman villa, is one of the finest examples of Romanesque art in Switzerland. Of particular note in its austere, restored interior is the impressively engineered barrel vaulting; the frescoes and primitive carvings on the capitals of stone pillars are also of interest. Organ concerts are frequent attractions, and exhibitions are staged in both the church and an adjoining museum.

    Pl. du Marché, Payerne, Vaud, 1530, Switzerland
    026-6626704

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF15, Closed Mon. Sept.–June
  • 12. Église Collégiale

    The French influence in Neuchâtel is revealed in many monuments and in its architecture, most notably the Église Collégiale. The handsome Romanesque and Burgundian Gothic...

    The French influence in Neuchâtel is revealed in many monuments and in its architecture, most notably the Église Collégiale. The handsome Romanesque and Burgundian Gothic structure, with a colorful tile roof, dates from the 12th century. The church contains a strikingly realistic and well-preserved grouping of life-size painted figures called le cénotaphe. Dating from the 14th and 15th centuries, this is considered one of Europe's finest examples of medieval art. From April through September there are guided tours (usually between 10 and 4) of the Château de Neuchâtel (Neuchâtel Castle) adjoining the church; check at the château entrance to learn when the English one starts. Anyone not wanting to climb steep streets can reach the church from the Promenade Noire off the Place des Halles by an inconspicuous elevator—ascenseur publique.

    3 rue de la Collégiale, Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, 2000, Switzerland
    No phone

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 13. Église des Cordeliers

    This imposing 13th-century church is attached to a Franciscan friary. Its pale walls and the rose-, gray-, and alabaster-colored ceiling contrast with the Gothic darkness...

    This imposing 13th-century church is attached to a Franciscan friary. Its pale walls and the rose-, gray-, and alabaster-colored ceiling contrast with the Gothic darkness of the interior. A 16th-century polyptych by an anonymous Nelkenmeister, or Maître à l'Oeillet (one of a group of painters who signed their works only with red and white carnations), hangs over the high altar. A carved-wood triptych, believed to be Alsatian, and a 15th-century retable of the temptation of St. Anthony painted by the Fribourg artist Hans Fries decorate the side walls. At the entrance to the cloister leading to the friary is a 13th-century five-panel fresco depicting the birth of the Virgin Mary.

    Pl. de Notre-Dame, Fribourg, Fribourg, 1700, Switzerland
    026-3471160

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 14. Espace Jean Tinguely–Niki de Saint Phalle

    Museum/Gallery

    Once the city's tram terminal, this is one of the premier modern-art spaces in Switzerland. It houses a selection of whirring, tapping, spinning...

    Once the city's tram terminal, this is one of the premier modern-art spaces in Switzerland. It houses a selection of whirring, tapping, spinning metal sculptures by Jean Tinguely and a wall full of the voluptuous, colorful work of his wife, Niki de Saint Phalle. After working in the Dadaist movement, Tinguely (1925–91) made headlines as a pioneer of the "kinetic art" movement. Kids (16 and under free) are often fascinated by Tinguely's work, which is full of fantastical elements: skis are walking, a potted plant is turning, and a toy rabbit is being hit on the head.

    2 rue de Morat, Fribourg, Fribourg, 1700, Switzerland
    026-3055140

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: 6 SF, Wed. and Fri.–Sun. 11–6, Thurs. 11–8, 7 SF, Closed Mon. and Tues.
  • 15. Galeries de l'Histoire

    This gallery houses scale models of Neuchâtel from the year 1000 to 2000....

    This gallery houses scale models of Neuchâtel from the year 1000 to 2000.

    7 av. du Peyrou, Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel, 2000, Switzerland
    032-7177925

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon., Tues., Thurs.–Sat.
  • 16. Giger Museum

    This museum houses the world's largest collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture, and film designs by the enormously talented but equally tormented H.R. Giger. The Swiss...

    This museum houses the world's largest collection of paintings, sculpture, furniture, and film designs by the enormously talented but equally tormented H.R. Giger. The Swiss surrealist, who died in 2014, won an Academy Award for his set design for the horror film Alien; he was not likely to win any prizes for his cheerful, healthy outlook on life (or women). That said, a few of his sculpture-furniture pieces are very good. Most people get enough of an idea about the artist just by sitting in the Giger Bar, opposite the museum. Here you can admire ceiling buttresses that look like elongated backbones with ribs, and his ingenious trademark chairs: yet more spines and ribs, with pelvises for headrests.

    Château St. Germain, Gruyères, Fribourg, 1663, Switzerland
    026-9212200

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF13
  • 17. Hôtel de Ville

    The Hôtel de Ville (Rathaus in German) is the seat of the cantonal parliament, built on the foundations of the château of Berthold IV of...

    The Hôtel de Ville (Rathaus in German) is the seat of the cantonal parliament, built on the foundations of the château of Berthold IV of Zähringen, who founded the town of Fribourg in 1157. The symmetrical stairways were added in the 17th century, as were the clockworks in the 16th-century clock tower. A vibrant produce market sets up on the square in front of the Town Hall on Saturday morning.

    Pl. de l'Hôtel de Ville, Fribourg, Fribourg, Switzerland

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun.
  • 18. Hôtel de Ville

    In front of Yverdon's Hôtel de Ville—an 18th-century building notable for its French-inspired neoclassical facade—stands a bronze statue of Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, grouped...

    In front of Yverdon's Hôtel de Ville—an 18th-century building notable for its French-inspired neoclassical facade—stands a bronze statue of Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, grouped with two children.

    1 pl. Pestalozzi, Yverdon-les-Bains, Vaud, 1401, Switzerland
  • 19. Laténium

    Located at water's edge, this interactive archaeological museum is the largest in Switzerland. In the nearby community of Hauterive, it displays artifacts found in and...

    Located at water's edge, this interactive archaeological museum is the largest in Switzerland. In the nearby community of Hauterive, it displays artifacts found in and around Lac de Neuchâtel and explains how they were recovered. The lifestyles of Bronze Age lake dwellers are skillfully depicted, with pride of place going to a sculpted standing stone that resembles a man, from Bevaix, a village southwest of Neuchâtel. Inside the museum, see the remains of a 60-foot-long Gallo-Roman barge; outside in the park, its reconstruction is moored near a full-scale wooden Bronze Age house on stilts. There is a pamphlet in English, and for SF5 you can rent an hour-long audio guide in English. There is a free shuttle-boat service to Hauterive from the port in Neuchâtel that runs Friday–Sunday in April and May and Tuesday–Sunday from June to September.

    Espace Paul Vouga, Hauterive, Neuchâtel, 2068, Switzerland
    032-8896917

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF9, Closed Mon.
  • 20. Maison Cailler

    On the way from Fribourg to Gruyères, chocoholics should consider stopping at this tantalizing chocolate factory in the otherwise unassuming town of Broc. A name...

    On the way from Fribourg to Gruyères, chocoholics should consider stopping at this tantalizing chocolate factory in the otherwise unassuming town of Broc. A name in Swiss chocolate since 1819, Cailler offers a 90-minute tour complete with chocolate tasting.

    7 rue Jules Bellet, Broc, Fribourg, 1636, Switzerland
    026-9215960

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: SF15

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