Now that we have a car here in Switzerland, we can indulge in one of our favorite pastimes – piling into the funmobile and heading off for parts unknown with no idea where we might end up. On a random weekday, Travis got home from work while the sun was still shining with blue skies. We headed toward Lake Neuchatel less than 30 minutes from our house. We didn’t have a specific destination, but since we gravitate toward castles, it’s not surprising that we ended up at Switzerland’s historic Château de Chenaux, or Chenaux Castle, in the town of Estavayer-le-Lac.
Strolling the Shores of Lake Neuchatel
Leaving our car parked in the center of town, we meandered along the narrow cobblestone streets.
Travis dashed into a boulangerie for some fresh pastries while I waited outside with Touille, then we continued on down the hill until we found a trail along the shores of the lake.
The trail extends quite a ways in both directions around the lake from town. You can walk as much or as little as you want.
Relaxing at Estavayer-le-Lac Beach
Despite the clear weather, the temperature was bitingly cold with a wicked wind whipping off the lake.
We eventually ended up at a lake-front park.
It was clearly intended primarily for summer use with a sandy swimming area, miniature cabin rentals shuttered for winter, a giant iced-over water slide, and a bizarre pulley system in the water. Apparently it’s for water skiing without a boat. Pretty cool!
Sitting on a picnic bench in the sun, we watched the swans bobbing and enjoyed our apple and vanilla pastries while Touille chased sticks.
Bird Watching at The Grande Gouille
Just beyond the park, we stumbled across La Grande Gouille, a small pond a stone’s throw inland from Lake Neuchatel. The pond is a small section of the Grande Caricaie, the largest wetland in Switzerland, which stretches for about 40 km along the southern border of the lake.
Visitors to La Grande Gouille can climb an observation tower for bird watching and walk the boardwalk through the waving grasses surrounding the pond.
Exploring the Historic Chenaux Castle
The entire time we were wandering through town, we could see the spires of an imposing fortress or castle on the hill in town. We still didn’t know what it was.
We could see it from the lake’s edge, imposingly perched on the hill, and slowly zig zagged our way up residential streets until we found a long, narrow stairway up the hill.
The stairs spit us out near the castle, offering a fantastic view of Lake Neuchâtel and its affluent lakefront homes, replete with swimming pools, below.
Curving along a sidewalk sandwiched between the hillside with a steep drop-off and a concrete wall bordering homes, the Castle of Chenaux came into full view.
With the exception of a small plaque at the entrance that provided the date of construction, there’s not much information about the castle on site.
It’s currently in use as a police station, so we weren’t able to take a tour of the interior.
Since the exterior gates were open, we wandered throughout the grounds and marveled at the well manicured lawns, reflecting pool, and massive brick towers.
If you happen to have a chance to visit the beautiful little town of Estavayer-le-Lac, we highly recommend it. You can’t miss the imposing Chenaux Castle up on the hill, but it’s worth getting a closer look on your walking tour through town. Not only will you likely be the only tourists at a historic castle in Switzerland, but it’s worth it just for the views of Lake Neuchatel.
Looking for other things to do in Estavayer-le-Lac?