If you guys are searching for the ultimate destination for a family weekend, Jura & the Three Lakes region is the place for you. It’s famous for its great variety of landscapes, unspoiled nature and its history and rich architectural heritage. It’s a perfect place to combine city sightseeing with some peaceful (or active – if like me, you can’t stay long in one place) time spent outdoors. That’s exactly what we did this weekend when we divided our time between the city and country life. Below you’ll find a few ideas of what to do in both, Neuchâtel and the Franches-Montagnes region.
Neuchâtel is a beautiful small metropolis in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Perfect for a summer break, with its medieval old town, turquoise lake and the Alpine backdrop. Here are a few things you can do this summer:
Discover the town of Neuchâtel
The town has a rich cultural and architectural past. With its lakeside promenade and the narrow cobblestone streets it makes for a perfect summer adventure. You can discover it either by walk or by tourist train (more info HERE).
Here are a few stops that shouldn’t be missed:
- the Castle and the Collegiate Church
- the park of the Palais Dupeyrou
- the lakeside promenade
- the Passerelle de l’Utopie
Cruise the lake
Get on a boat! A cruise on the Lake Neuchâtel is the best way to discover the largest lake of Switzerland, which is entirely located in Switzerland. Perfect for a romantic cruise, a bicycle excursion (you can transport your bike!) or a family adventure to admire the shores of the lake and unique vistas of the Jura chain. We did 1,5h round trip on the lake and I can really recommend it.
You can book and check the schedules HERE. A trip is included within your Neuchâtel Tourist Card if you stay in the region for at least one night (more about the NTC here).
Go up to Chaumont
Chaumont is Neuchâtel’s local mountain and you can get there with a funicular from La Coudre station (the ride is included in the Neuchâtel Tourist Card, same as the boat trip). If you come, head straight to the panoramic tower for the views of Neuchâtel, the Trois-Lacs, the Plateau and the Alps (bring 1CHF coin per person to enter).
I would say Chaumont is PERFECT for families: with the Adventure Park, huge playground (our girl loved it!), Topeka Ranch with horses and many hiking/ walking routes. All this with the scenic views over the lake and the Alps (more about Chaumont HERE).
Franches-Montagnes is known for its beautiful unspoiled nature, open pastures and pine forests. The region is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and families who crave nature. It has ideal conditions for all kinds of summer activities such as hiking, biking and horseback riding. Here’s what you can do:
Get to know the ONLY Swiss horse breed!
This part of Switzerland is the cradle of the only horse breed that originated in Switzerland – cheval franches-montagnes. We visited a farm and we learned so much about them. For example that the breed is approx. 130 years old and bred to be a lighter horse that can help on the farm, but also transport you from village to village. The horses are very friendly – we really enjoyed our time with them. You’ll find a wide range of activities that include horses here: horseback rides or tastings on a horse-drawn wagons. Here are useful links that will help you plan it:
- More about all of the horse activities in the Jura
- Visit at a horse-breeding farm
- Free horseback riding from 2 nights in the Jura
- The Jura Pass (guest card equivalent to the NTC but for the canton of Jura. By staying 2 nights in the canton of Jura, travelers get a free one-hour horseback ride, offer Tous en selle).
Visit the Maison de la Tête de Moine
Located in Bellelay, Maison de la Tête de Moine is a museum, an old-fashioned cheese dairy, a cage and a store selling local products. Here you can discover the history of cheese and learn about its production. A few meters away from the museum, you’ll find the Monastery of Bellelay – its monks were first mentioned in connection with cheese (as early as 1192). Fun fact: At that time they paid their annual rent on various properties, with cheese made in their abbey. Definitely worth a visit for a dose of history and some cheese tasting at the museum.
More info and opening hours HERE.
Cycle your way through the region and finish with picnic!
This is a great idea if you want to spend a day in an active and tasty way. Rent bicycles at Maison de la Tête de Moine, get a fondue set backpack and a map and head off on an adventure. Find a nice green field, prepare your fondue and enjoy the “dolce far niente” Swiss way – surrounded by pine forests and pastures of Franches-Montagnes and with delicious warm fondue made with cheese from the region.
There are many scenic cycling routes in the region and you can find some of them HERE. We went to a hill near “Clos Henri” (you can find it in the Google maps).
You can find more information about bike rental and booking HERE.
Where to stay:
In the city:
Hotel Palafitte – one of Switzerland’s coolest hotels and the only one in Europe that is built on stilts. Staying there feels like an exotic vacation – with its endless shimmering turquoise water wherever you look, waves crushing below you, a big sunny terrace and relaxing ambience. Tip: reserve a table and eat dinner at their restaurant. The food and service were perfect!
In the country:
Golf les Bois – beautiful small hotel at the golf course with a nice restaurant right in heart of Franches-Montagnes. Pretty idyllic views all around and a very relaxing atmosphere. Great as a base for exploring the region.
Hope you guys find this small guide useful. Since it was our second time in this part of Switzerland, I also recommend you to read my blogpost about our stay in the Watch Valley for more ideas on what to do in Jura & Three-Lakes region.
This blogpost was written in collaboration with Jura & 3 Lacs. All opinions are authentically my own.