Roadtrips: SWITZERLAND BY VAN : FROM NEUCHÂTEL TO BERNE
Everywhere you go between Neuchâtel and Berne you’re surrounded by beauty. This Swiss road trip in a customised van starts at the van rental agency in Annecy. You will enter a 3-D postcard as soon as you get hold of your keys. Sparkling blue lakes, fabulous food and thousands of delighful surprises await the van traveller! Breathe in the rarefied air of the chic resort in Gstaad before setting off to contemplate the mythic mountain trio that is Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Journey’s end is the Swiss capital.
Sounds good ? Contact your agent who will give you plenty of tips on where to park for the night and what to do during the day throughout your island road trip.
SWITZERLAND BY VAN : FROM NEUCHÂTEL TO BERNE
In Neuchâtel, don’t forget to visit the Laténium. Situated in a dream setting on the shores of Lake Neuchâtel, the Laténium is Switzerland’s leading archaeological museum. Its modern and attractive exhibition covers an era from Neanderthal man to the Middle Ages.
The journey by van from Lake Neuchâtel to Lake Murten via Mont-Vully has everything to make you happy. You will start by crossing the Broye Canal: look out for the boats leaving Lake Neuchâtel here, you may come across them later at the entrance to Lake Murten. Take the time to enjoy the road up to Vully
Vully, from where there is a superb view of the Three Lakes. On the other side, the landscape is romantic as hell: admire the picturesque and charming winegrowing villages on the slopes of Mont-Vully, whose irresistible cellars await you for a little tasting.
On arrival at Lake Murten, take a short break in the medieval town of Murten, an ideal place to relax, feast your eyes and your palate. The winding streets of the old town, the pretty arcades, the picturesque taverns in the gardens and the fresh air from the lake make this town a must-see. From the almost completely intact city walls, which are the only accessible ones in Switzerland, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the roofs of the old town. But don’t leave too quickly, the sunsets with a view over Lake Murten to Mont-Vully and the Jura are one of the most enchanting sights to be seen in this region.
A short diversions to Avenches before heading back to Fribourg will allow you to discover a city of 20,000 inhabitants, with an amphitheatre, several temples and more than 5 kilometres of ramparts up to 7 metres high with 70 towers. Aventicum was the capital of Roman Helvetia 2000 years ago. The city is still proud of its remains and other witnesses to its ancient past.
Fribourg, city of the Dukes of Zähringen. The picturesque old medieval centre of Fribourg is spread over three levels and sits on a rocky spur hemmed in by a bend in the Sarine. Fribourg is proud of its 200 Gothic facades and its cathedral, whose 74-metre high bell tower offers a breathtaking view of the beautiful surrounding countryside.
In addition to these historical treasures, Fribourg also has a modern heritage, with real institutions such as the Tinguely Museum, which occupies a former tram depot. A university town, Fribourg has the particularity of being situated right on the famous Röstigraben, the so-called gap separating French-speaking and German-speaking Switzerland. Bilingualism is part of its daily life.
Si vous choisissez de passer par Romont, le trajet en van aménagé s’allonge de 13 kms. Romont abrite le Vitromusée qui permet d’admirer la plus grande collection au monde de vitraux et peintures sous verre. La peinture sur verre est un artisanat d’art allant bien au-delà du simple vitrail d’église : depuis le Moyen-Age, les artistes ont fixés leurs plus belles images sur le verre pour les illuminer.
Avant d’arriver à Gruyère, une halte s’impose à Broc pour visiter la Maison Cailler, célèbre chocolatier Suisse. Sentir, savoir, découvrir et déguster : le parcours interactif proposé par la Maison Cailler s’adresse autant à l’imagination qu’au cerveau. Il fait revivre l’histoire, sublime le présent et propose aux visiteurs un voyage dans le temps à la fois poétique, sensuel et doux-amer.
La petite cité de Gruyère est si belle qu’elle fait presque l’effet d’un décor de cinéma. Elle trône en majesté sur son éperon rocheux, dominée par son château et émaillée d’excellents restaurants. Et si son côté propret et ses fleurs aux fenêtres vous semblent un peu trop gentillets, poussez donc la porte du petit château de St Germain, dans la zone piétonne : ce lieu abrite une exposition consacrée à l’art fantastique de H.R Giger, le père d’Alien, oscar des effets spéciaux en 1980. Vous pourrez également admirer le Tibet Muséum, qui renferme plus de 300 sculptures bouddhiques. La fromagerie de Pringy, enfin, vous dévoilera presque tous les secrets du fameux « Gruyère AOP ». Incontournable, elle aussi, la Meringue de Gruyère accompagnée de double crème est tout simplement unique.
A quelques encablures de la cité de Gruyère se trouve le Moléson, considéré comme la plus belle montagne de la région de Fribourg. La vue dégagée plein ouest fait que ses couchers de soleil sont parmi les plus beaux qui soient. Mais le panorama vaut aussi le détour en journée : il s’étend jusqu’aux Alpes Bernoises et au Mont-Blanc. Le Moléson propose aussi de nombreuses attractions.
On reprend la route en van aménagé jusqu’à Gstaad dans l’Oberland Bernois. Avec ses magnifiques chalets, ses boutiques chics et son charme rustique, Gstaad est une station de vacances prisée. Nombre de stars et de célébrités y possèdent un chalet. La région leur offre, en plus de la discrétion légendaire de ses habitants, un cadre parfaitement intact. Voyez le Lauenensee, qui semble echoué dans l’écrin d’un marais d’altitude et qu’un chanson du groupe de rock-folk bernois Span a immortalisé. Ou encore l’Arnensee, qui lui aussi a de quoi inspirer les poètes. Les habitants des environs parlent volontiers de « petit Canada », allusion à ses environs romantiques et sauvages. Car dans le Saanenland, le vrai luxe, c’est la simplicité et l’authenticité.
On the way to Interlaken you will arrive at the shores of Lake Thun, still in the Bernese Oberland. Because of the many monuments that dot its shores, Lake Thun is often called the “lake of castles”. The most elegant way to discover it is to take a vintage steamer. You can stop off at the famous St. Beatus Caves, where the travelling monk from Ireland is said to have slain the dragon that haunted the region. The village of Spiez is also an excellent starting point for excursions, for example to the sparkling Lake Oeschinen or to the fabulous Blue Lake in the valley.
or to the fabulous Blue Lake in the Kander Valley. Near Adelboden, don’t miss the Choleren gorge and the impressive Engstligen waterfalls.
A short diversions to the Lauterbrunnen valley is a must. With its 72 thundering waterfalls, green alpine pastures and secluded inns, the Waterfall Valley is one of the most spectacular nature reserves in Switzerland. In spring, when the melt water gushes out of the rock, be prepared for a deafening concert. The Trümelbach waterfalls, which carry up to 20,000 litres of water per second, have the same atmosphere and noise.
The last stop on your van tour is the Jugfraujoch. What feats the pioneers of the railways were capable of a century ago! The cogwheel train up the Jungfraujoch is one of Switzerland’s main tourist attractions. Expect to be taken aback by the breathtaking views of the sea of ice, the north face of the Eiger, the Aletsch glacier and the peaks.
Return to Interlaken: this resort between Lakes Brienz and Thun is a little corner of paradise. Countless mountain railways, cable cars and chair lifts take you to an extensive network of hiking trails, the Shilthorn (James Bond’s Piz Gloria) or the mythical Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau ranges, not forgetting the Harder, the local peak.
Before heading back to Thun in a converted van, make a short diversions to Lake Brienz. With its steep shores, turquoise waters and majestic peaks on the horizon, Lake Brienz is a real gem. A short cruise on a paddle steamer gives you a front-row seat to this spectacle. With your hair blowing in the wind and facing the sun, watch the wonders of nature unfold before your eyes. The Giessbach Falls, for example, where the water rushes down 5,000 metres in a wild setting to fall into the lake. But the ride on Switzerland’s oldest cog railway is also worth a visit. It takes you up to the Rothorn, from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the lake and the Alpine peaks. It is one of the last two steam-powered rack-and-pinion trains in Switzerland, and it tackles a summit climb every day. The passengers enjoy the view of Lake Brienz and the Grimsel massif from a panorama car. At the top, a 360° panoramic view of the mountains can be enjoyed.
This is the most impressive way to experience the famous mountain panorama of the Bernese Oberland. The route starts at Untersee and heads towards the sun and the peaks, with a sparkling lake between you and them. It’s well worth parking your converted van against the cliff and soaking up the sublime view. After a somewhat austere passage, the bay of St. Beatus comes into view, from where a funicular leads to the Niederhorn, a front row seat to the Lake of Thun. Small harbours such as Merligen add touches of colour. And in Oberhofen, a beautiful beach offers a welcome break from the heat before exploring the city of Thun. You can also visit Oberhofen Castle (13th century), which houses a museum dedicated to housing and has one of the most sumptuous parks in the Alpine region.
You will then arrive in Thun, a beautiful town in the Bernese Oberland. The mighty castle and the church of St. Maurice stand proudly above the old medieval centre, as a reminder of the town’s former strategic importance. Today, Thun is the gateway to the Bernese Oberland, offering visitors a wonderful foretaste of the lake and the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau peaks. The city is also famous for the cosy atmosphere of its cafés and restaurants along the Aare, for the shops on Obere Hauptgasse with its characteristic high pavements and for the “Thun panorama” in the Schadaupark: this circular painting, the largest in the world, shows the city as it was around 1810.
The federal capital, Berne, sits proudly on a bend in the Aare River, looking out over the Alps. Its old town, a World Heritage Site, enchants visitors with its secret corners, pretty squares, warm atmosphere and numerous cultural venues. Walk through the picturesque alleys to the Zytglogge, the famous clock with its animated bears. The animal, the emblem of Bern, also exists in real life, in the park on the banks of the Aare. Add 6 kilometres of shaded arcades, a famous cathedral and tile roofs as far as the eye can see and you will understand why Bern is one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Europe.
The Paul Klee Centre is not to be missed. The discovery of this treasure begins with its setting. The museum building was designed by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano. It houses the world’s largest collection of works by Paul Klee, one of the great names in 21st century art, but also hosts concerts and conferences. There is even a children’s museum: the Creaviva.