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Squeezed between Burgundy, Alsace and the Swiss border, the Jura has an economy that essentially revolves around producing outstanding cheese, wine, and watches. It’s stunningly beautiful, lots of tiny villages, history, long stretches through beautiful countryside. Not “exciting” but perfect for a low key weekend within 2-3 hours of Vevey. Also huge for road biking and hiking. Packed with amazing driving roads in excellent condition.

Jura trivia: the Jurassic is named after the Jura Mountains within the European Alps, where limestone strata from the period were first identified.

Also see the Jura France section in the France guide.


La Chaux-de-Fonds

La Chaux-de-Fonds, the birthplace of Le Corbusier and Louis Chevrolet, was the world capital of the watch-making industry for over a hundred years. The cityscape of La Chaux-de-Fonds, which was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009, is characterized by a chessboard design that was created at the beginning of the 19th century after a catastrophic fire. 

The city is quite down at the heels, but the story behind the design is quite interesting. There are a series of major walking tours (maps available at the TI) covering the stained glass/architecture details, watchmaking buildings, and influences on Le Corbusier.

  • The international watch museum **Musée International de l’Horlogerie is entirely dedicated to the history of time measurement. It houses over 4,500 exhibits, including 2,700 watches and 700 wall clocks. It’s very overwhelming, packed with stuff.
  • ***Espace de l‘Urbanisme Horloger has a short and fascinating overview about the design of the town. Definitely worth it.
  • Just outside town, ***La Chaux d’Abel is a classic place on a beautiful road. Very popular, call ahead for a table.
  • In the other direction, ***Auberge du Vieux Puits in La Chaux-du-Milieu was excellent (and on a beautiful road). It’s very local, high-end “grandmother’s food.”

Lac de Joux

Tucked up in the Jura range, Lac de Joux is a small and popular winter and summer destination. It’s not “fancy,” but it’s a pretty spot. Also extremely popular with motorcycles and cars – the drive up from Cossonay is top notch. We completed a bike ride around the lake in about 2 hours. If you walked it, stick to the more scenic north side and take the train back to your starting point.

If you make it more than a day trip, the camping area around Rocheray, and the lakeside houses around L’Abbaye looked the most appealing. For restaurants, Hotel de la Truite, Restaurant Les Esserts-de-rive, and Restaurant Bellevue le Rocheray were the most attractive.

The area is known for manufacturing watches – Jaeger Lecoultre and others.


Les Rasses

Technically in Vaud but very much part of the Jura range, Les Rasses has a small tow lift and miles of well groomed trails. I’d like to go back in the summer for a more series hike.

In the winter, there’s a lovely snow hike from Les Rasses to Les Cluds. It’s a wide open space, flat the whole walk, with exceptional views of the Alps, from the Eiger to Mont-Blanc. Definitely (in any season) take the time to hike to ***Le Chasseron, a special place, worth the uphill climb to experience. Great views in every direction, huge drops into France. Watch out for chamois!

We stayed at the **Grand Hôtel des Rasses – it’s totally fine, definitely a bit tired. Not very expensive and the best hotel in the area.


Porrentruy

Porrentruy, a small medieval town (second largest in the Canton), is dominated by an impressive castle and surrounded by rolling hills. It’s really small – walk from one side to the other in 10 minutes small – but it’s charming in a very local French way. Very tidy, despite a clearly struggling economy. It’s very different from nearby Saint-Ursanne, which is much more tourist-oriented. Next time we’d visit Porrentruy and stay in Saint-Ursanne.

If you go, stop at the T1 and buy the “Circuit Secret” pass. It’s a map of discovered Roman architecture around the town in surprising and not particularly accessible places, like in the basement of an apartment block.

Sites of Interest:

  • [didn’t go – check open hours first] Hôtel-Dieu, a museum with historic apothecary and medieval church treasury housed in the beautiful former hospital dating from the late baroque period. 
  • **Jurassica Botanical Gardens – 200-year-old botanical garden, Switzerland’s oldest, exhibiting 800 plants from the Jura region, medicinal plants, old vegetable and fruit varieties and 600 varieties of cacti. It’s pretty but small and less specific than some other Swiss options.
  • The **Château de Porrentruy, which is a functioning jail at the moment. You can (and should) climb up the Tour Réfous, a round tower built in 1271. Great views.
  • ***Lamborghini Porrentruy makes no sense whatsoever – one of the largest exotic car collections I’ve ever seen (including a major classic section). It’s worth the trip and we’d love to understand why it’s there.

Food & Lodging:

  • ***Le Secret (Bar): This was a nice surprise – modernish front room with a hidden cave bar behind (including a visible roman well). Owner is French and young, very nice. Sweet cocktails and beer/wine.
  • **Hôtel de la Gare: Expensive-ish, pretty good food. Very brightly lit, not the most romantic setting, but nice for the area.
  • (Hotel) **Aux Pres De Chez Vous: this was acceptable and very central. Not exactly a hotel (though it claims to be), closer to an AirBnB. Our room was quite nice, but it had a shared bathroom. I would not stay here again.
  • [haven’t been] Auberge du Mouton is the nicest hotel/restaurant in town. Books out, so call in advance. 

Roches-de-Moron

An especially fine vista over the Doub River and the Swiss/French border. It makes for a nice hike (straight up/straight down), or a very easy drive. The best view is at the restaurant parking lot. **Restaurant Les Roches-de-Moron is quite good, with a huge ice cream menu and clearly is very popular with the locals.


Saint-Ursanne

Adorable & quaint, with a nice Germanic-French architectural combo. Would be a pleasant overnight. We did ***this trail from Saint-Ursanne to Soubey by bike (both ways, easier in the Soubey east direction). Not particularly easy, but doable for people of average fitness level. Beautiful scenery, farms along the entire route. Soubey was a fine place to stop but not much of a destination.

Coming from the south west, take route 18 – a major driving fan route.


Vallorbe

Not exactly nearby, but not horribly far if you’re in the area is the ***Grottes de Vallorbe. We were all pretty impressed – much bigger, more epic, cavey- and with great rock formations. Definitely worth it if you like that sort of thing. About an hour total to tour. https://grottesdevallorbe.ch/en/itineraire/

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