isn't the most obvious of Swiss tourist destinations: It doesn't have a medieval
center, a lake, alpine ski slopes, or chalets in the middle of town. But if
you're interested in architecture or 19th Century urban design, La
Chaux-de-Fonds deserves a place on your Swiss travel itinerary.
With 37,000 inhabitants, La Chaux-de-Fonds is the third-largest
city of Suisse Romande (a.k.a. French-speaking Switzerland). In the 1700s, it became a world center of the watchmaking industry, and the
town's prosperity--combined with the education and enlightened attitudes of its
French Huguenot and Jewish settlers--led to a golden era of culture and
architecture in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. Today, La Chaux-de-Fonds
remains a livable city of hidden treasures and public pleasures--and one that's
easy to reach, thanks to twice-hourly train service from Biel/Bienne on the main
railroad line between Zürich, Neuchâtel, and Lausanne.