Nyon, Park du Bourg de Rive. Foto/Photo: TES

Colonia Iulia Equestris or Nyon, the oldest town of Switzerland

The foundation of Colonia Iulia Equestris, today’s Nyon (canton of Waadt), in 45 BC was one of Julius Caesar’s last political decisions. This Roman general had defeated the Celts at Bibracte, near present-day Autun in France, in 58 BC. 

Several Celtic tribes, including the Rauraken and Helvetic tribes, moved towards Burgundy that year to settle far away from the Germanic tribes. At this time, Rome had not yet occupied this part of France (Gaul), and Celtic tribes lived there, too. 

The bad luck for the ‘Swiss’ Celts was Caesar’s ambition to conquer Gaul, and new Celtic tribes in Gaul did not fit into this picture. The defeated ‘Swiss’ Celts returned to their territory and concluded treaties with the Romans. Caesar wanted Roman strongholds at two strategic locations: the Colonia Iulia Equestris on the shores of  Lake Geneva and Augusta Raurica (founded around 45 BC) along the Rhine. 

Nyon’s rich Roman history can be seen in the city centre, the Roman museum and the site archéologique majeur, which includes the foundations of an amphitheatre, forum, basilica, aqueduct, bathhouses, insulae (residential areas), and the street plan.

After the Romans left in the fifth century, Augusta Raurica decayed into two small fishing villages, Augst and Kaiseraugst, with a few hundred inhabitants. However, the Colonia Iulia Equestris developed into a monumental regional town of significance.

The Dukes of Savoy ruled Nyon for centuries, using the castle (12th century) as their administrative centre. Nyon had an important strategic location on Lake Geneva, between Lausanne and Geneva and on trade routes.

Bern conquered the Pays du Vaud and Nyon in 1536. The castle was the residence of the Berner bailiff until 1798 (French invasion). Today, the castle is a museum.

Another important monument is the Temple de Nyon, built in the 12th century. It has been a Protestant church since 1536. 

Le Temple de Nyon

The Park du Bourg de Rive on the edge of the lake and of the old city walls proudly displays the (later installed) Roman columns. The monastery of the Friars Minor (Frères mineurs) in the park dates from the 13th century and became a hospital in 1537. Today, it is the site of the Musée du Léman.

Musée du Léman

Above all, Nyon is a perfect city for strolling and a good starting point for visits to Aubonne and the countryside, other cities such as Lausanne, Geneva, Rolle, or Morges, and views of the Alps and Lake Geneva.

(Source and further information: www.nyon.ch)


Tour de l’Horloge

Park du Bourg de Rive