Things to do for families in Neuchâtel
Neuchâtel, which is part of the three lakes region with Murten/Morat and Biel/Bienne, is a small and safe location for families. It's natural and cultural resources offer a wealth of activities within easy reach for families with children of all ages. You can easily pop over to France to do a bit of shopping as the French border is only about 40-45 minutes away by car.
Keep an eye on the Hello Switzerland Events page to learn about upcoming events in your area. Neuchâtel Tourism and local newspapers also provide information about fun things to do while MySwitzerland provides excellent advice for exploring all of Switzerland. With a small yearly membership you can also take part in the regular meetups for English speaking parents and children organised by Neuchâtel International Club.
Outdoor family activities in Neuchâtel
Residents of Neuchâtel are spoiled for outdoor entertainment with the Lake of Neuchâtel and the Jura mountains in such close proximity. Le Jardin Anglais, next to the university (FR), has a great play park for children and the Place du Port regularly hosts outdoor events and funfairs. The Botanical Garden (FR) is open to the public and free of charge or you can head to nearby Auvernier (FR) to enjoy the lakeside playground there.
In summertime, the area is ideal for hiking and swimming. The website of Jura Tourism has lots of great hiking route recommendations and there are several picturesque beaches and ports surrounding Lake Neuchâtel. The city has two public pools that are both family friendly. Serrières is open in the summer and is free. Nid-du-Crô is open all year round and has both indoor and outdoor facilities. There are boat trips traversing all three lakes and departing from the port. Youth ages six to 16 travel for free on these cruises and there are also discounted family prices.
The infrastructure for summer camps is outstanding but it is necessary to book early in the year. Check Passeport Vacances (FR) for camps in the Neuchâtel region. The ages for these camps are usually between eight and 15 years.
Jura tourism has several maps, routes and destination suggestions for various types of sport. For rollerbladers, try skating between the communes of Hauterive (FR) and Auvernier (FR) (about 10km/6.2mi). Or try the route from Colombier to Bevaix (about 8km/5mi), which goes through La Pointe du Grain and Petit-Cortaillod and is one of the most beautiful sections of the lakeshore.
Lake Neuchâtel is the largest is the largest in Switzerland. One long bike path extends around its entire perimeter (98km/61mi) and there are several other bike routes for varying skill levels in the area. Cycling is a wonderful way to discover this region, whether you spend an afternoon or a few days, there is so much to explore. Another idea is to bike from La Chaux-de-Fonds to Le Locle (FR) to enjoy the view of all three lakes as you ride along the cliff. Roundtrip this route is about 36km/22mi.
Another fun outing begins in Yverdon-les-Bains (FR). From there, take a small, short train ride to reach St. Croix and walk (or snowshoe in winter) to Le Chasseron. There is equipment for hire in the village of Les Rasses. The walk from Les Rasses is about an hour and the level is medium difficulty. At the top you will find Le Chasseron, a hotel and restaurant where you can stop for a typical fondue from the region (moité-moité with delicious Mauler wine).
St. Croix is also an excellent ski destination for families as it has small slopes suited to beginners. Tête-de-Ran (FR) is another good winter destination. They have a ski school, toboggan run and restaurant. There are hourly trains from Neuchâtel through the Val de Travers valley. Hop on a chairlift up to La Robella for a day of skiing. Or go for a hike in the region during the summer months. From October to March, enjoy ice skating in the covered Lakeside Ice Rinks Complex (Patinoires du Littoral).
Rainy day activities with children in Neuchâtel
Although not a large city, Neuchâtel has 5 cinemas! There are also several museums and theatres to choose from. The Art and History Museum and the Natural History Museum are good options for children. Laténium park and archaeology museum is another wonderful choice. On a nice day, enjoy strolling through the beautiful lakeside park or if the weather is less inviting, soak in some history from the well-curated collection. The article Enjoying Neuchâtel has many more good suggestions for activities in the area.
For older children Laser Games and Bowling at nearby La Chaux-de-Fonds provide entertainment indoors. Grandson has a medieval castle which also houses a classic car museum in the dungeon. This is an excellent location for kids' birthday parties and they also organise fun scavenger hunts in French, German and English for five to 11 year olds.
Babies and small children
Activities for new mothers and small children are listed on the Neuchâtel Famille (FR) website and include swimming and music classes for babies in the region. Create an account and find the agenda for baby activities in several neighbouring cantons.
Essential tips for planning family activities
- Check with SBB/CFF for special discounts and family tickets. SBB/CFF trains also sometimes have family carriages.
- Become a member of the Touring Club Suisse (DE/FR/IT) for security while travelling by car.
- Check the Swiss weather forecast in order to plan your activities.
Photo: swiss-image.ch/Christof Sonderegger