Updated: Oct 18
We spent a really fun family weekend in Chaux-le-Fonds. Famous in Switzerland as the heart of the watch-making industry, we were really excited to be invited to discover the town.
We started our visit with a trip to the Musée international d'horlogerie. We were able to park in a disabled space just outside the museum and headed up to the park area where the museum is located. Entry to this museum is free with your Neuchâtel Tourist Card which is given to visitors who stay one night or more in the area and includes free access to 28 museums, free transport including boat tours around the areas specified, as well as bike rentals and funiculars.
The museum is impressive from the moment you walk through the door. You are immediately immersed in the world of watches with lots of examples to look at. Alba was transfixed by all the sparkly watches whereas Jean was more interested in the technical intricacies of the timepieces on display.
We were very fortunate to have a guided tour of the museum with the wonderful Wolfgang who we all liked immediately. He took us through the beginnings of watchmaking and its English origins, to the evolution of accuracy over time and the wealth of different features which have changed the way we use our watches. We loved the story about the first “alarm” which was a small pin stabbing at the skin to alert the wearer that time was up. Some of the pieces we saw were absolutely stunning and Wolfgang's humour made the tour lots of fun for us all. The intricacy and attention to detail in some of the women’s watches was breathtaking and a real joy to look at.
We could easily have spent the whole day here but we had reservations for lunch so we had to drag ourselves away.
For lunch, we headed to L’Amuse-Bar which is housed in a beautiful building. The amazing thing about this bar is that it has more than 1,400 board games for customers to play while they are there. This is an excellent idea for families and I think we had our most peaceful family lunch ever! Jude and Alba played a game together while I fed Elio then they picked another for us to all play together which was lots of fun (even though Jean won!). The food is really good too. Jude and Alba had a nice plate of roast beef with salad and chips and Jean and I tried a tartare de boeuf which was excellent and full of flavour. We also tried some of their artisanal beer.
All of the staff we met were really kind and helpful and Vanessa took the time to help the children choose their games and explain the rules to us. We would have been happy to have stayed all afternoon but we had to get to our next destination.
Up next was Muzoo which combines a natural history museum and wildlife park not far from the centre of town. We started with the museum part and took the direction of the vivarium. The children were awed by the reptiles we could see in this part and we learned a lot about the characteristics of each one. You will see some Boas, Pythons and more.
In the main part of the museum we learned about the beginnings of life on the planet, ecosystems and diversity which was very interesting. We were shocked to see the exhibition about the number of species which had become extinct in recent history or were in danger of becoming so in the near future. It really made us all think. Moving on and we learned about the impact that human activity was having on the planet, from pollution and the damage we are doing to the oceans, to the global warming. There were lots of shocking statistics which gave us all food for thought. There is also an exhibition of photographs depicting the recent move of the museum which was very interesting.
Outside and there is a lovely wildlife park to discover where you can get in the enclosure with the goats, or stroke the donkey. You can see deer, wild boar and there are also plenty of chickens strolling about which is fun. It’s a really nice family outing.
For the evening, we were staying at the Grand Hotel Les Endroits which is close to the centre of town. We were given two connecting rooms so that there was space for all of us. Jean took Jude and Alba to explore the indoor and outdoor pools and they enjoyed splashing about while I stayed with Elio. There is also a nice spa area where you can book a massage. The hotel has a nice restaurant but we chose to try the room service because Elio was quite tired by this point and we were worried he might become agitated. We tried some of their charcuterie boards with local meats and cheeses while Jude tucked into a spaghetti bolognese. They were also able to blend a portion of spaghetti for Elio which was really useful.
We spent a good night and were all up early and ready for breakfast which had plenty of options for everyone.
Our agenda for Sunday morning was a scavenger hunt “Les Barons” around the town. We collected the clues from the Espace de l'urbanisme Horloger and set off to solve the mystery. Jean's competitive spirit really kicked in here and it was such fun to find solutions together. The hunt took us into museums in the area as well as lots of historical landmarks so it’s a really good way to explore. Jude and Alba really enjoyed trying to be the first to crack the clues. Unfortunately we didn’t get to finish the hunt because we had to leave for lunch. You should count at least 2 hours :-)
Our lunch goes on my list of favourites since we began the blog. Located in an old farm building, the restaurant La Ferme des Brandt is in a beautiful setting a short drive from the town. The location is gorgeous and the building itself is wonderful and full of original features and packed with charm. We were in a room conveniently located next to the play room so the children disappeared as soon as we arrived. The menu focusses on fresh and local produce with a wonderful seasonal selection on offer. Between us we tried the chicken, deer, beef and Alba had a children’s menu which was healthy and she really enjoyed it. Desserts were equally delicious and the service was excellent. We thoroughly recommend this wonderful restaurant.
We had been due to try a cruise on the Lac des Brenet but trips are temporarily suspended due to low water levels. It’s a shame because the cruise allows you to see the impressive Saut-du-Doubs waterfall, impressive cliffs and enjoy the beautiful blue water. Next time.
La Chaux-de-Fonds is a really great family destination. We felt that we had only discovered a fraction of the activities on offer and could happily have spent much more time exploring. Make sure to get your Neuchâtel Tourist Card :-).