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Neuchâtel, Switzerland

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Neuchâtel, SwitzerlandNeuchâtel, Switzerland
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authorshipNicolas Bouillon
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Neuchâtel, the capital of Neuchâtel canton, is a city on the northwestern shore of Lake Neuchâtel in Switzerland. It covers 18.05 sq km (6.97 sq mi) and has a population of 33,000 people (2011 estimate).

Surrounding Neuchâtel are the ridges of the Jura mountains, known locally as Montagnes Neuchâteloises. This forested area is cut by deep ravines and valleys and sparsely populated. Neuchâtel is at the heart of Swiss watch-making industry, and is close to the famous watch-making towns of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle, both World Heritage Sites within Neuchâtel canton.

Many of the buildings in Neuchâtel are built with pale-yellow limestone, leading Neuchâtel to be described by author Alexandre Dumas as a city carved out of butter. The city today is a university town as well as a center for precision-engineering industries.

The warmest month in Neuchâtel is July, when the average high temperature rises to 24°C (75°F). Coldest month is January, when the average low temperature drops to -1.4°C (29.5°F). August tends to be the wettest month, receiving 97 mm (3.82 in) of precipitation.

Église Notre-Dame, also called the Red Church of NeuchátelÉglise Notre-Dame, also called the Red Church of Neuchátel
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Neuchâtel was founded by Rudolph III of Burgundy in 1011. In 1707, following the death of Marie d'Orleans-Longueville, rule over Neuchâtel passed to King Frederick I of Prussia. This helped to usher in a period of stability, enabling the town to develop as a center for commerce and industry, particularly the manufacture of watches and lace. Under Prussian rule, Neuchâtel was known by its German name, Neuenburg.

Neuchâtel passed into the hands of the French when Prussia was defeated by Napoleon I, at the turn of the 19th century. Under French rule, the city saw an improvement in its public infrastructure. It was ruled by Napoleon's fieldmarshal, Louis Alexandre Berthier, who became Prince of Neuchâtel, but he never actually set foot in the city.

Neolithic hut in the Laténium Archaeological Museum of NeuchátelNeolithic hut in the Laténium Archaeological Museum of Neuchátel
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When Napoleon was defeated, Frederick William III of Prussia proposed that Neuchâtel be integrated into Switzerland. This was accomplished on 12 September, 1814, and Neuchâtel became the 21st canton of the Swiss Confederation - while at the same time remaining a Prussian municipality. Neuchâtel was finally able to rid itself of Prussian authority on 1 March, 1848, declaring itself a republic within the Swiss Confederation.

Visiting Neuchâtel

You can easily reach Neuchâtel by train from Geneva, Bern, Lausanne and Zürich.

Cenotaph of the Courts of Neuchátel at the Église CollégialeCenotaph of the Courts of Neuchátel at the Église Collégiale
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Sights & Attractions in Neuchâtel

  1. Château de Neuchâtel
    This is the castle of the Counts of Neuchâtel. The oldest part, the west wing, dates to the 12th century. Today the castle houses the law court and cantonal government.
  2. Église Collégiale
    Collegiate church consecrated in 1276. It was built in a combination of Romanesque and Burgundian Gothic styles. A highlight is the cenotaph of the Counts of Neuchátel, with life-size figures of the counts.
  3. Hôtel de Ville
    Town hall, built in the Neo-Classical style in 1790, was designed by French architect Pierre Adrien Paris, the court architect to King Louis XVI.
  4. Laténium, Parc et Musée d'Archéologie de Neuchâtel
    This large modern museum showcases the history of early human settlement in the Neuchâtel area, particularly the prehistoric Celtic lakeside settlement of La Tène.
  5. Maison des Halles
    A turreted market hall, built in the Renaissance style in the 16th century.
  6. Musée d'Art et d'Histoire
    The art and history museum of Neuchâtel has a large collection of displays ranging from paintings by 19th to 20th century Swiss artists to exhibits on the history of Neuchâtel canton, figurines and automata.

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