Knowledge & culture

City tour La Chaux-de-Fonds

Visit to the watchmaking industry and Unesco World Heritage

Situated at an altitude of 1,000 meters above sea level, built as regularly as a chessboard, this city is marked by its unique watchmaking industry and tradition which is listed as UNESCO World Heritage site. If you climb up to the Espacité Tower or participate in a guided tour, you can appreciate this special chessboard design even better. It is well worth a visit, for fans of watches as much as for enthusiast of architecture. La Chaux-de-Fonds surprises with its unique cityscape and is the birthplace of «Le Corbusier», an icon of architecture whose work has featured on the prestigious UNESCO list since 2016.

By train, from Bern, it takes an hour directly to La Chaux-de-Fonds. 

Tip 1: Scavenger hunt – Les Barons

Scavenger hunt in the watchmakers’ town and its museums 

Uncle Louis, a respected watchmaker from the 1900s, had his last watch stolen. Will you be able to find the culprit and retrieve the watch which marked your family history? Enjoy this special adventure in the museums of La Chaux-de-Fonds and at typical sites of the watchmakers’ town.

This urban scavenger hunt combines historical and imaginary facts and requires no prior knowledge. Using the card game that is available at the tourist office, you will follow in the footsteps of the watchmaker to track down the culprit and reclaim the stolen watch.

Duration about 2 hours
Distance 3,5 km
Language french and german
Number of participants 1-6 participants
Starting point The game material can be picked up at the La Chaux-de-Fonds tourist office (Place Espacité) or at the Espace de l'urbanisme horloger.
 Participating museums International Museum of Horology, Museum of fine arts and Museum of History

Tip 2: Architecture and cityscape

Following a fire in 1794, the city was rebuilt in a chessboard pattern. The apartments and workshops were closely connected in those days, and the large windows of the manufactories attest to the key importance of daylight to the work done at the workbenches.

The cityscape is defined by watch-production sites, simple apartment blocks of at least three storeys for the “ouvriers” (workers), Art Nouveau villas for the “patrons” (owners), and also traces of the architect Le Corbusier. Thanks to the unique symbiosis of urbanism and the watch industry, the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009. 

  • International Watch Museum A fascinating journey through time
  • Espacité Tower The 60-metre-tall Espacité Tower offers the best view of the city’s chessboard pattern.
  • La Maison blanche from Le Corbusier Built for his parents in 1912, this was Le Corbusier's first project as a freelance architect. The house was decidedly avant-garde for its time – a work from the architect's youth that sheds much light on his later designs.
  • L’Ancien Manège – a unique residential building Behind an unassuming façade lies a splendid courtyard with frescoes, friezes and little fountains. The L’Ancien Manège, a former riding hall and now a residential building arranged around the richly decorated courtyard, today contains a restaurant on the ground floor.

How to get there

Travel comfortably by train to La Chaux de Fonds.

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