Estavayer-le-Lac: Switzerland’s Hub for Water Sports

Estavayer le Lac

If you’re looking for a unique getaway, consider a trip to Estavayer-le-Lac. This little village was settled by the Romans, pillaged by barbarians, and survived to become one of best places in Switzerland to enjoy the country’s pristine lakes as well as its fascinating history.

Where Is Estavayer-le-Lac located?

Estavayer-le-Lac is located on Lake Neuchâtel’s south shore in Southeastern Switzerland. It’s the capital of the district of Broye between Bern and Yverdon. The area is very picturesque and a small but upcoming destination for tourists.

Estavayer-le-Lac is an excellent side trip for travelers visiting Lucern or Zurich. It’s less than two hours by car from both cities.

Things to Do in Estavayer-le-Lac

Estavayer-le-Lac is a historical medieval town that showcases its history with buildings and monuments. In addition to historical sites and points of interest, as the name suggests, it has a nautical center with some of the best water activities you’ll find in Switzerland. Plan your itinerary to Estavayer-le-Lac with these best things to do in Estavayer-le-Lac.

Frog Museum

You’ll find the comical Frog Museum in a former estate home dating back to the 15th century. The building itself is fascinating. It was purchased by Humbert the Bastard, lord of Estavayer in 1406. Humbert the Bastard was also the half-brother of Amédée VIII, the count of Savoy. He lived in the house until his death in 1443. The house served as a school, tithe house, attic, and more before becoming a public building in 1927. Despite all the different functions, the home’s facade has virtually remained unchanged since 1408.

But the main attraction of the Frog Museum, as you may have guessed, is its hilarious collection of 108 stuffed frogs that dates from the middle of the 19th century. It’s a captivating collection of frogs in human poses performing their usual daily activities. Miniature furniture surrounding the frogs adds to the humor and charm.

The museum is nicknamed the Frog Museum for its rare collection of frogs, but there is more to the museum than stuffed frogs. It showcases regional and local collections of various artifacts that date from prehistoric times to the modern day. The collections represent the everyday life of former inhabitants with weapons, crafts, agricultural tools, and more.

Chenaux Castle

Chenaux  Castle
Chenaux Castle

The most historically significant building in Estavayer-le-Lac is the magical-looking Chenaux Castle. Adding to its charm is the site that overlooks Lake Neuchâtel and the Grande Cariçaie nature reserve with its thicket of reed beds. Visitors to the castle are immediately transported back to medieval times.

Chenaux Castle from below
Chenaux Castle from below

In 4132, Humbert the Bastard bought the castle and turned it into a fortress. Jacques d’Estavayer acquired the castle upon Humbert’s death and took over as ruler. Estavayer was taken by the Swiss Confederation forces in 1475. At that time, Fribourg occupied the castle and remains the owner today.

Inside Chenaux  Castle
Inside Chenaux Castle

Several renovations and expansions were done to the castle. Only one of the three original towers is still standing, and it serves as a dovecote, a structure for pigeons and doves.

Collégiale St-Laurent

The elegant Gothic Collegiate Church of Saint-Laurent stands on what used to be a Romanesque sanctuary that survived from 1379 to 1525. The bell tower of the stately church is an important part of the silhouette of the city. It has four projecting watchtowers and a spire. It houses one of the town’s best ringtones with eight bells cast between the 15th and 20th centuries. The bell founder was Charles Arnoux who ordered the bells to encourage the town as a permanent settlement.

Up until the electrification of the clock and bells in 1945, a bell ringer lived in the tower in a tiny bedroom. The carillon is programmed with a series of refrains that reflect the seasons and the liturgical calendar.

Inside the church are rare paintings from the 16th century and the molasse Annunciation from the early 15th century. Friborg sculptor Jean-François Reyff created the baroque high altar between 1638 and 1640. Genevan Mattelin Vuarser sculpted the priests’ seats and the seat of the celebrant around 1520.

The clergy of Estavayer acquired four books of liturgical chants from Bern Cathedral in 1530. The manuscripts are some of Switzerland’s most outstanding works of miniatures. Around 500 cattle were used to fashion the vellum so that it wouldn’t turn yellow.

Camping

Camping is a popular activity in Estavayer-le-Lac. Dozens of campsites are scattered along the sandy beach with family tents, dormitories, and pods to rent. The campsites are excellent for both a leisurely and active stay. They are loaded with amenities such as swimming pools, playgrounds, facilities for laundry, Wi-Fi, sanitary facilities, cooking facilities, restaurants, shops, and “feet in the water” bars.

The Nouvelle Plage campsite has a cable water-skiing installation that is unique to Switzerland and other water sports. The campsites are quiet and wooded and on flat, grassy sites on the edge of the river Indre. Parking is free.

Water Activities

La Nouvelle Plage
La Nouvelle Plage – © Estavayer-le-Lac/Payerne and Region

Visitors can engage in a wide variety of activities in and on the water at La Nouvelle Plage. It’s known as Switzerland’s best-equipped watersports center. Wakesurfing, wakeboarding, and water skiing are just a few of the summer water activities visitors enjoy on the southern side of Lake Neuchâtel with its wild, windy shoreline.

Windsurfing boards, catamarans, and pedal boats are available for hire nearby. However, the star of the show is the 800-meter-long water skiing lift. The unique ski cable is the longest one in Switzerland. It’s suitable for children 10 years and up who can swim.

The Nouvelle Plage (New Beach) has campsites, a restaurant, and a games area.

Estivale Open Air

One of Switzerland’s best festivals, the Estivale Open Air is an outdoor music festival that has been held annually in Estavayer-le-Lac since 1991. It takes place in July on the peninsula of Nova Friburgo Square. To get to the festival by car, head toward the A1 motorway and take the Estavayer-le-Lac exit. Follow the signs to the car park. To go by train, go to the Estavayer-le-Lac stop from Avenches, Fribourg, Yverdon-les-Bains, Payerne, and Morat. Using connections in these cities, residents from other countries can easily attend the festival.

Is Estavayer-le-Lac worth visiting?

With its historical attractions, excellent camping facilities, unique water recreation, and close proximity to major Swiss cities, Estavayer-le-Lac is well worth a visit.

Courtesy of Wikimedia for the image header.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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