Europe, Switzerland

Swiss Weekend, part II: La Chaux-de-Fonds & Le Locle

We had a full itinerary for Saturday, I can barely write it all down! It all started with a morning walk in this beautiful winter wonderland.


The photo of the house is actually a house-museum that Le Corbusier built it for his parents (he is a famous 20th century architect and designer). In case you didn’t realize by now, I studied Art History at university and lucky for me so did Léonore. A match made in nerdy heaven!

Read more from UNESCO: The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement


The photo above gives you a glimpse into the reason La Chaux-de-Fonds and its neighbor, La Locle are a joint UNESCO Site: watchmaking. How does this photo come close to showing that? Well, since you asked…watchmaking here dates to the 17th century but there was a fire that razed the two towns to the ground and the city officials used this as an opportunity for some urban planning upgrades. Each row of houses are accompanied by a garden, these gardens force the buildings to be wider apart, therefore allowing in more light (especially in the dark winter days) which was needed for the meticulous and tiny watchmaking craft. Have you ever looked inside a mechanical watch!? They certainly needed the light in days before electricity! Similar to a previous UNESCO Site I visited, Crespi d’Adda, these were “factory-towns,” where people lived and worked in the same space and the whole urban planning reflected their main industry.

Read more: Bergamo & Crespi d’Adda: Cities of mountains, industry, and lots of walking

In the same day we went to a watch museum, traditional Swiss farm house-museum, and underground mills in Le Locle. The mills were one of the strangest, most innovated things I’ve ever seen.


Brief story of the mills: there was a river that flowed underground and townspeople wanted to harness its hydro-electric force to power mills for grinding grain, so they built water mills underground and created a mill/workshop in these caves.  I’m doing a terrible job of explaining the awe these mills inspired but imagine you found Santa’s workshop in an underground cavern – same feeling.

The mills were used for many many years but when they were decommissioned, people started dumping tons of animal fat down the caves (disgusting I know). A group of volunteers (brave ones) decided it was a shame these historic mills were being used as a dumping ground, so they shoveled out all the fat (which there were feet and feet of) to create this interesting museum. Thank you to those brave souls!

After the tour of the mills we went on a drive up the mountain because Léonore’s dad wanted to show me a beautiful view where I could see France across the river. Well…this is what I saw:


But! It was a beautiful winter wonderland ride and we stopped in a lonely restaurant for some spiced hot wine (delicious!) and the most amazing, gaudy, kitsch, Christmas extravaganza I’ve ever seen, and I never thought I would say that outside of America. Enjoy the photos but know there is nothing like being in the middle of it!



Almost done! Last but certain not least I bought lots of chocolate (Merry Christmas family! I’m saving them for you!) and ate cheese fondue for dinner!



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