Europe > Central Europe > Switzerland > Western Switzerland
Western Switzerland comprises most of the French part of Switzerland with the exception of the Valais. It includes the cantons of Geneva, Vaud, Neuchatel, Jura as well as the French speaking parts of the cantons of Fribourg and Berne. It stretches over all the three topological regions of Switzerland, from the Jura mountains in the Northeast, over the Plateau with among others Lake Geneva and Lake Neuchatel to the Alps in the Southwest.
The cities of the northern Jura are where the famed Swiss watch-making industry took off in the 18th and 19th centuries, and so there are a lot of interesting watch-making related things to see in the region. The Plateau is the most densely populated area, with the two important cities of Lausanne, known as a university town, and Geneva, famous for housing numerous of international organisations. Fribourg is known for its cheese making tradition, being the origin of both the Gruyeres cheese and the moitie-moitie fondue.
Regions and Cities
|Geneva (Geneva, Hermance)
The canton of Geneva with the capital of the same name: Geneva is the biggest city in western Switzerland.
|Vaud (Château-d'Œx, Lausanne, Montreux, Vevey, Villars-sur-Ollon, Yverdon)
This diverse canton with the capital of Lausanne stretches from the shores of lake Geneva up to the mountains of the Vaud Alps and Jura.
|Swiss Jura (Delémont, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchâtel and Saint-Ursanne)
The cantons of Jura and Neuchâtel as well as the French speaking part of the canton of Berne.
|Western Fribourg (Fribourg, Gruyères, Murten)
The capital Fribourg is home to the moitié-moitié fondue. The small town of Gruyères is where Gruyère cheese comes from.
The German speaking part of the canton of Fribourg is part of the Berne region.
The public holidays are different in each canton. These are the public holidays in addition to those observed in the whole of Switzerland:
- St. Berchtold (2 January, observed in Berne, Fribourg, Jura and Vaud)
- Establishment of the Republic (1 March, observed in Neuchâtel)
- Labour Day (1 May, observed in Jura and Neuchâtel)
- Corpus Christi (60 days after Easter, observed in most parts of Fribourg, in Jura and Neuchâtel)
- Commemoration of the Jura Plebiscite (23 June, observed in Jura)
- Assumption (15 August, observed in in most parts of Fribourg and in Jura)
- Jeûne genevois (Thursday after first Sunday of September, observed in Geneva)
- Lundi du Jeûne (Monday after the third Sunday of September, observed in the canton of Vaud)
- All Saints Day (1 November, observed in in most parts of Fribourg and in Jura)
- Immaculate Conception (8 December, observed in in most parts of Fribourg)
- Restoration of the Republic (31 December, observed in Geneva)
In the predominantly protestant See/Lac district of Fribourg, the catholic holidays of Corpus Christi, Assumption, All Saints and Immaculate Conception are not observed. In the canton of Neuchâtel 26 December and 2 January are observed as holidays if 25 December and 1 January are Sundays.
The western part of Switzerland is entirely French speaking, though you will also hear Swiss German, Italian, and English. While it might be hard to get around the country side without speaking French, Geneva and Lausanne are much more international and it is not uncommon for people around you to be having conversations in four different languages.
The only airport in this region is in Geneva (Genève-Cointrin). It is much smaller than the airport in Zürich, but very heavily internationally connected due to the UN's presence in Geneva. You can also easily fly into Zürich and catch an express train west.
The TGV Lyria from France stop in Geneva, Lausanne, Vevey, and Montreux as do the Eurocity from Italy. From Germany or Austria you will have to change in Basel or Zürich.
The region has an extensive network of train lines serving most towns. The main lines (IC and ICN trains) go along Lake Geneva from Geneva via Lausanne to Aigle (towards Valais), from Lausanne to Fribourg (towards Berne) and from Lausanne/Geneva via Yverdon and Neuchatel to Biel.
Most towns on Lake Geneva are served by the boats of the Compagnie Génerale de navigation (CGN). As well as modern boats, CGN operates five heritage paddle steamers built at the beginning of the 20th century. On some routes, boats are the fastest mean of transport (between Lausanne and Evian, for example). On most other routes though, boats are much slower than trains, but they often offer more scenic views.
- Les Paccots is a mountain resort in the Fribourg Alps in Switzerland.
- Papiliorama. A small zoo featuring an indoor butterfly habitat, and bird and monkey habitats simulating the jungles of Belize both during the day and at night. Kids love it, and parents too, though the extensive playground might take more parental energy than one wants to expend when travelling.
Like all of Switzerland, this region is laced with hiking trails (marked in yellow) and biking trails (marked in vermillion). You can buy first-rate hiking and biking maps (about Fr. 28) at tourist information offices in all towns of any size. For going up into the Jura, a map is strongly recommended; elsewhere you can get by without one.
- Visit the chocolate factory of Cailler in Broc in the Fribourg Alps. On the way there you can stop over at Gruyeres, a quaint town which gave its name to the world-famous cheese.
- Western Switzerland (together with the Valais) has a long tradition of making wine. Especially along the shores of Lake Geneva terraced vineyards are plentiful. The Lavaux wine growing area is even inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
- Absinthe originated in the area around Val-de-Travers in the canton of Neuchâtel. It was illegal for almost a century but has been legalised again in 2005 and locally produced absinthe can again be legally found in the area.
- Geneva and Lausanne are well connected to Berne and other major Swiss cities by train, bus and road. From Montreux you can ride the Golden Pass train to Lucerne and the Bernese Highlands.
- The region of Rhône-Alpes, France is both physically and culturally close to Geneva.
- You can drive to Aosta Valley, the northwesternmost part of Italy in 2-3 hours from anywhere in the region. Train and bus connections usually take a little longer as you need travel via France.