Half a day in Nyon
You only have half a day to spend in Nyon, but you would nevertheless like to see the town and its cultural heritage? Then let us guide you on a tour through quaint lanes, parks, museums, and historical monuments...
Starting out at the Nyon SBB train station, walk down Avenue Viollier where you will see the communal library on your right, just before you reach the tourism office. Take a few moments to stop in front of this former tannery, located where a Roman construction once stood. This is a good example to draw your attention to the fact that Nyon, which was known as Noviodunum in a long gone past, has significant Roman origins that you will gradually discover with the historical monuments scattered around the town.
Continue walking along Avenue Viollier and turn right into the Rue St-Jean, which takes you into the old town. A little further down the street, turn left into the Place du Château, where you will see the town’s castle in front of you. It was built in the mid-17th century, and was entirely renovated between 1999 and 2006. It now houses the Museum of History and Porcelain. Visit the museum to see the collection displayed, and use the opportunity to have a look at the inside of the castle as well.
After leaving the museum, proceed through the castle courtyard to see the fabulous view of the old town below and of Lake Geneva from the castle terrace. Cross over to the other end of the castle terrace, and walk down the few stairs that lead towards the gardens of la Duche. Stroll among the perennial plants and local fruit trees before going down the stairs of the Duche to get to the lakeshore. At the bottom of the stairs, turn left into the Rue de Rive and stroll along the street where you will also find several shops to look at. In the middle of the street, have a look at the Hotel Beau-Rivage, the history of which can be traced back to the Savoy era. Imagine yourself for an instant in the clothes of Goethe who stayed at this hotel in 1779, accompanied by Charles-Augustus, Duke of Saxe-Weimar. Returning to present times, proceed to the end of the street and marvel at the Maitre Jaques fountain before exiting towards the Quai des Alpes.
From here, turn right and stroll along the lake promenade and its terraces. Once you are parallel to the stairs of the Duche, cross the main road and enter the Musée du Léman, which displays all the cultural and natural heritage of Lake Geneva, one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. See stunning aquariums, model-sized ships, a fishermen’s hut, the works of art of painters and scholars from the lake Geneva region, as well as a variety of temporary exhibitions that take place here.
After leaving the museum, turn right and proceed along and up the path that crosses the Bourg-de-Rive park. As you walk up this path, marvel at the flower patchwork to your right. Consisting of 20,000 plants on average, it draws its inspiration from mosaic stonework. At the end of the path you will reach the fontaine des Lavandières, and going a little further along takes you to the Esplanade of the chestnut trees where you will see three Roman columns. Two of the complete columns, which were originally part of the sacred area portico of the forum, were moved here in 1958 to celebrate Nyon’s 2000 years anniversary. The columns are a testimony of the time when Nyon was part of the Colonia Iulia Equestris, founded by Julius Caesar. It is worth noting that Noviodunum was the first Roman town built on territory that is now part of modern-day Switzerland. From here, and if you still have time, look right towards the far end of Lake Geneva to see a small vertical white line heading up from the horizon. Can you see it? This is the Jet d’Eau, the famous water fountain so symbolic of Geneva.
Leave the esplanade via the Porte Ste-Marie, a medieval machicolated arch that was restored in 2010, and proceed along the promenade du Jura before turning left into the Rue du Prieuré. Here you will see the temple of Nyon, an old Notre-Dame church dating back to the 14th century, with foundations that date back to the Roman era. Marvel at its Roman-styled heart windows with a rose window above them. After leaving the temple, turn right into the Grand Rue, then turn right into the Rue Nicole, and keep going until you reach the Rue du Vieux-Marché. It is in this street that the Jules Caesar Esplanade is situated, and where a Roman basilica, discovered in 1974, was once located. Enter the Roman museum at this very location, and embark on a discovery tour of miscellaneous Roman remnants unearthed in Nyon and its surrounding area. Do not forget to look at the replica statue of Julius Caesar near the main entrance.
Subsequently return to rue Nicole, and turn right into the Grand Rue to reach the Place du Marché (8). Immerse yourself in the Roman era when the covered market with its lively hustle and bustle this square was located here. It is here that a street market still takes place on Wednesdays and Saturday mornings. On one of the corners of the square (at no.1 of Rue Delafléchère), look up at the House of Rousseau, the name of the father of the famous writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau who lived here in the final years of his life as a watchmaker. Ending your tour, turn right into the Rue du Collège, then turn left, and walk along the Rue de la Gare to get back to the SBB train station.