Two hours to spend in Nyon
You only have two hours to spend in Nyon, and wish to explore the town by visiting a few attractions? If so, please let us guide you along a tour covering 9 attractions around the town...
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 currently houses the Museum of History and Porcelain. Pass through the medieval castle courtyard and see the fabulous view of the town below and Lake Geneva from the castle terrace. Cross over to the other end of the castle terrace, and walk down the few stairs that lead to 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, take 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. Go past the Place de Savoie and the boat harbour, and turn right into the path that crosses the Bourg-de-Rive Park. As you walk up the 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 Julius Caesar Esplanade is situated, and where a Roman basilica, discovered in 1974, was once located. It presently houses the Roman museum, which preserves and showcases ancient Roman remnants of Nyon and the surrounding region. Near the entrance is a replica of a statue of Julius Caesar.
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 this square housed the covered market with its lively hustle and bustle. 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 proceed along the Rue de la Gare to get back to the SBB train station.
If you still do have a few hours to spare…
Following your visit of the heart of Nyon, and you feel at heart that you must see more, you could take the train to the town of Rolle, located approximately 10 kilometres from Nyon on the lake Geneva shoreline. To do so, simply take one of the regional trains departing from the Nyon SBB train station for Lausanne every 30 minutes. After getting off at Rolle train station, walk down the Avenue de la Gare, and make your way to the Promenade des Amoureux via the Place des Bains. You will thus reach the Castle of Rolle located on the lakeshore. This castle, in spite of its mysterious origins, was most certainly built by the House of Savoy, most certainly during the third quarter of the 13th century. Jean de Steiger, a wealthy Patrician from Bern, purchased the castle of Rolle in 1558. His coat of arms still decorates the wall facing the courtyard. The Steiger family owned the castle and related seigniorial rights until 1798. The carefully restored halls of the castle are currently being used as administrative offices by the communal authorities of Rolle, and for exhibitions that are periodically organized here. It is therefore not possible to visit the inside of the castle.
Departing from the front entrance of the castle, turn left to stroll along the lake promenade and marvel at the crystal clear waters of Lake Geneva. When passing next to the Ruelle des Halles, you will see an artificial island known as the “ille de la Harpe” built in 1838, and upon which an obelisk was built to honor the memory of Frédéric César de la Harpe, a Swiss political leader and Vaudois patriot. At night, the illuminated trees give it a rather mystical and unique atmosphere. It is worth noting that the Ille de la Harpe is accessible to the public, albeit by one’s own means. Proceed along the Ruelle des Halles, and then along the Rue du Temple to make your way to the temple of Rolle, which has a Gothic church tower where the Roman influence can still be seen. The nave dates back to the 18th century and was rebuilt between 1789 and 1790. The stained glass windows placed inside the heart near the pulpit are remarkable and date back to the very end of the 19th century. The stained glass of the nave dates back to 1920.
Complete your tour by visiting the Maison d’Allinges, which in addition to the castle is one of the rare medieval remnants that have been preserved in Rolle. Based on its late Gothic architecture, the building probably dates back to the 16th century, and once served as a fortified house, which, quite amazingly, was located inside the village itself at the time.