Nyon is a small historic town with chateau, Roman monuments, a few museums, excellent transportation links, and a family-friendly day-trip destination from Geneva and Lausanne.
Nyon is a small town on the shores of Lac Léman in Switzerland. Nyon is mostly visited for its lovely white castle, old town, Roman monuments, museums, a pleasant marina and lake-side promenades. The nearby Chateau de Prangins houses the Swiss National Museum in Romandie. Nyon is also a great destination for families with children as the town has many parks, play areas, and safe sidewalks and quays to explore. Nyon’s free beach and large swimming pool complex have the best facilities in the La Côte region.
Nyon has excellent road and rail links making the town a popular day-trip destination from Genève and Lausanne. It can also be reached by boat with passenger ferries operating year-round from Nyon to romantic medieval Yvoire on the French side of Lake Geneva.
Top Sights to See in Nyon on Lac Léman, Switzerland
Nyon (population 18,500) has a written history going back to the times of Julius Caesar. Since Roman times, it has frequently been an administrative center but the town has never been of real strategic or economic importance, which probably contributes to Nyon remaining such a pleasant town to visit or live in.
The top sights in Nyon are in two distinct geographical areas. The old town, with castle and Roman monuments, is in the upper areas overlooking Lake Geneva and the Chablais Alps in France including Mont Blanc.
Steep walkways and roads lead from the old town to the lakeside area referred to as the Rive district. Here, on the quays and promenades, Nyon’s monthly flea market is held. The area is popular for strolling, visiting cafés and galleries, as well as any activities involving the waters of Lake Geneva.
The small town of Prangins is around 2 km up the lakeside road towards Gland and Lausanne. It is mostly visited for the Chateau de Prangins, which houses the western Switzerland branch of the Swiss National Museum.
Chateau and Best Sights to See in Old Town Nyon
The best-known sight in Nyon is the characteristically white Chateau de Nyon. This small castle is built on twelfth-century foundations but most of it is from the sixteenth century when Nyon fell under Bernese rule.
The Chateau de Nyon houses the Historic Museum with Porcelain Exhibition. Apart from local art and applied arts, the museum also preserved the original prison cells in the roof area of the castle that were used up to 1979. The museum is also known for temporary exhibitions of contemporary porcelain art. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month.
Access to the courtyard and terrace of Chateau de Nyon is free. From the terrace, visitors can enjoy grand views of the roofs of the Rive district, Lake Geneva, Yvoire, the French Alps, and on a clear day Mont Blanc and even the Jet d’Eau in Genève.
The nearby Roman Museum is built in the cellars of the former Roman first-century basilica. The original foundations can be seen inside the museum, which is free the first Sunday of each month.
A few further Roman remains are scattered through Nyon’s old town. The most impressive is just down the road from the Roman Museum: the Porte Ste-Marie gate is part Roman and the three Roman pillars looking out of Lake Geneva and vying with Chateau de Nyon to be the true emblem of Nyon. The remains of a Roman amphitheater were found to the northeast of Nyon in 1996 but currently is mostly covered up and not freely accessible.
Rive and the Lake Front in Nyon, Switzerland
Several options are available for going from the upper town to the lakeside area in Nyon. The most pleasant is through the Parc du Bourg-de-Rive park below the Roman pillars. The easiest is by elevator – the glass and steel structure can be seen from the chateau. This option involves no stairs but some of the slopes near the chateau are certainly too steep for many wheelchair users.
Rive is without major historic monuments but the area is lovely for strolling with several cafés, restaurants, bars, and interesting little shops. The statue of Maître Jacques on a fountain with potable water is a copy of the 1547 original.
The Musée du Léman (Lake Geneva Museum) has an eclectic collection on all things related to Lake Geneva from a prehistoric wood carving to the original early nineteenth-century steam engines from a lake steamboat. The museum is popular with children and has many objects that may be touched and further examined.
The Rive area can be quite lively with music and other performances often staged here throughout the year. Nyon’s famous antiques and flea market is held here monthly – usually on the final Sunday of the month. A free ice-skating rink is set up each winter. During summer, various boats can be rented by the hour.
Promenading on the quays is popular – the best views of Nyon and its chateau is from the far left when facing the lake. To the far right is the small yacht marina and small fishermen’s houses where fresh fish is often sold.
Further to the west – walk along the lake or Route Suisse – is Nyon’s beach (free). Further down Route Suisse, past the head offices of UEFA, is Nyon’s swimming pool complex with beach. The facilities are amongst the best in the La Côte region.
Cultural Events and Entertainment in Nyon, Vaud
Nyon has a remarkably active events calendar for a town this small. Events range from local school performances – the Nyon music school has a good reputation – to major festivals attracting internationally famous performers.
The most famous events on the Nyon cultural calendar include:
- Paléo Festival – one of the biggest annual pop-rock music festivals in Switzerland, each end July.
- Caribana Festival – a large music festival held annually in Crans, near Nyon, in mid-June.
- Visions du réel – film festival held in Nyon late in April.
- Far° – an arts festival held in Nyon in mid-August.
Transportation to Nyon in Switzerland
Getting to Nyon is very easy by car, train, or boat. Nyon is only 20 minutes drive from Geneva Airport on Autoroute A1 (exit Nyon). A slower and more pleasant way is to use the lakeside Route 1 (or Route Suisse). Follow signs to the various parking lots.
Almost all trains traveling between Genève and Lausanne stop en route in Nyon. Generally, four trains an hour are available with traveling time from Genève-Cornavin 15 minutes (6 minutes longer from Geneva Airport) and around 30 minutes from Lausanne. Trains also leave from the NStCM station next to the main train station, for St Cergue and other resorts in the Jura Mountains.
Lake Geneva boats (pleasure cruisers and passenger ferries) frequently call at Nyon. Boats arrive from Geneva year-round and from spring to autumn from Lausanne and other upper lake destinations too. Passenger ferry boats leave from Nyon for Yvoire and Chens-sur-Léman in France year-round.
For More on Nyon See Also:
- Local History Museum in Chateau de Nyon
- Musée Romain (Roman Museum in Nyon)
- Musée du Léman (Lake Geneva Museum)
- Photos of Nyon on Lake Geneva, Switzerland