The town of Biel, the metropolis of Swiss watchmaking, lies at the eastern end of Lake Biel, at the foot of the Jura in the delightful Lake Region. The charm of bilingualism, the intact old town and its location as the gateway to the three peripheral Jura lakes (Lakes Biel, Neuchâtel and Murten) make the town an attractive starting point, but also a destination for excursions.
Biel is the largest Swiss city in which German and French are equally spoken. One senses the relaxed mentality here resulting from the mixture of these two languages. In 2002, Biel was one of the four exhibition locations for EXPO.
Architecturally, Biel is a town of many facets. The modern part of the city with its high-rise buildings lies at lake level which then gives way, on a slight incline, to the intact old town with its gothic town church stemming from the 15th century. In 2004, Biel was awarded the Wakker Prize by the Swiss Heritage Society for the exemplary manner in which it conserved its, in part, outstanding stock of 20th century buildings. Examples can be found in the new town, where uniform districts built in the ‘new construction’ style came into being in the 1920s and ‘30s.
The town of Biel is a tradition-imbued watch metropolis in which this Swiss craft is still fostered. Swatch, Rolex, Omega, Tissot, Movado and Mikron are all located here. Biel has additionally also positioned itself in the field of other industries and in communication. Its location makes the town an attractive gateway to the excursion and holiday region around Lakes Biel, Neuchâtel and Murten – also known as the “Three Lakes Region” – with vineyards on the hillsides and extensive vegetable cultivation on the level areas. The options for rambling and cycling excursions are huge. On the North Shore of Lake Biel the vineyard trail and the viticulture museum in Ligerz attract visitors. Several attractive mediaeval small towns like Nidau, Twann, La Neuveville and Erlach are well worth an excursion.
The lakes and the Aare River can be cruised on various routes aboard regularly scheduled ships. The three-lake-cruise is particularly popular.
From the town on the linguistic divide, it is only a stone’s throw to the lush green, hilly landscape of the Jura with its broad forests and wonderful vantage points, as well as the sportsperson’s Mecca of Magglingen above Biel, and the Chasseral (1607m).
Tour of the old town of Biel
Off we go through the old town of Biel. This is the jewel in the crown of this town dating back to Roman times, which has been awarded the Wakker Prize by the Swiss Heritage Society. The tour is a trip back in time through the town’s history and features a number of interesting anecdotes.