The days are getting darker and colder, so what better way to escape the misty gloom than to discover some of Switzerland’s greatest museums. We’ve picked six of the best around the country, and quite deliberately haven’t included any art galleries. Out with endless rooms of paintings, in with hours of facts and fun; each of these museums offers a winning mix of information and entertainment. Following on from our articles on Zürich and Geneva museums we look at the best museums in the smaller Swiss cities:
Think of Switzerland and two objects that will most likely come to mind are watches and trains. The Swiss have taken both to incredible levels of perfection, so it’s only right that each has its own amazing museum.
Swiss Transport Museum, Lucerne
Swiss road signs at the Swiss Transport Museum
This isn’t just for trainspotters and petrolheads; even fairly normal people will love exploring the multitude of trains and boats and planes on display in Lucerne. Not forgetting the cars and cable cars too. From magnificent steam locomotives to dinky red biplanes, the exhibits are on such a huge scale you end up feeling rather small. The remedy for that is to the Swissarena, where you don patriotic slippers and glide across a giant map of Switzerland. It’s made up of 7,800 aerial photographs assembled together to create a huge national map. Possibly the best day out in Switzerland that doesn’t involve mountains or chocolate.
Vintage Swiss aeroplane at the Swiss Transport Museum
Open daily 10-5 (winter) 10-6 (summer) www.verkehrshaus.ch
International Clock Museum, La Chaux-de-Fonds
MIH © A.Henchoz
The famous Swiss watch industry had its beginnings in Geneva in the 16th century but it soon spread into the Jura hills along the border with France. Its unofficial capital is La Chaux-de-Fonds, built specifically with watchmakers in mind. Or at least rebuilt after a fire destroyed the town in 1794. At the centre of it all is the International Clock Museum, with its vast collection of 4,500 timepieces including over 700 wall clocks. It’s a calming place to visit, the only noise being the ticking of hundreds of clocks. And it’s fascinating to see the first wristwatches, developed for soldiers in the trenches of World War One, or the exquisite creations from gilded ages when watches and clocks were made as status symbols. Warning: this museum might induce severe watch envy in many visitors.
MIH © J.Hoffman
Closed Monday. Tue-Sun 10-5 www.chaux-de-fonds.ch (French only)