With a population of about 33,600, the French-speaking Neuchâtel (German: Neuenburg) is the capital of the canton of Neuchâtel. The town is located at the heart of the Land of the Three Lakes, on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel (the other lakes are Biel and Morat), facing the Alpine peaks. Since the 17th century Neuchâtel has been the cradle of watchmaking. It was also the birthplace of the Suchard chocolate factory. Today, the town’s development is focused around the CSEM (Swiss Electronic and Microtechnical Centre). It is also home to a branch of the EPFL, the Federal Technical University in Lausanne. Other prominent companies based in Neuchâtel include Philip Morris and Bulgari, a watchmaking firm. The University of Neuchâtel and its four faculties (Literature, Science, Law and Economics) add to the town’s prestige and make it even more vibrant with a large number of students. The rich past of the town is reflected by its medieval centre and architectural heritage. The characteristic, yellow buildings are made of Hauterive limestone extracted in the Jura Mountains. The must-see attractions include the castle that once served as the seat of the canton’s government, a 12th century collegiate church and a Gothic church.
The city extends on the hillside, along the lakeshore, which adds to the charm it exerts on tourists. The promenade on the shores of the lake attracts strollers, while the beaches and picnic areas pulsate with life in summer. In the medieval heart of the city, the beautiful Place des Halles, lined with 18th century façades, attracts customers several days a week with the local market. The neighbouring hill, Chaumont (1171 m) offers a view of the Land of the Three Lakes and the Alps. Before you set off for a walk, you should know that the town is full of stairs and sloping streets, so you may need good shoes and strong legs. However, some districts can be reached by one of the three funiculars, the Fun'ambule, Chaumont and Écluse-Plan. The town has a relatively large housing stock, which makes it quite affordable when compared to the Swiss average. Chocolate lovers will feel at home here, even more than in the rest of Switzerland. In November, the city and its chocolate makers organise Chocolatissimo, a week-long festive event that attracts a large audience. Finally, thrill-seekers should also try the traditional torrée neuchâteloise, i.e. sausage and potatoes cooked in bonfire ashes.
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