Don’t come to Martigny and expect everything Swiss. Come to Martigny and expect a hodgepodge of three countries found in one elegantly-beautiful area. Because it’s a junction of road that connects so many different influences – French, Italian, and Swiss – Martigny seems to have created this subculture that’s uniquely its own. How did this come to be? Historically, Martigny played an important role in connecting these three geographically. The Great St. Bernard Pass connects Switzerland to Aosta, Italy, while the col de la Forclax on the other end connects the alps to Chamonix, France.
Martigny is especially famous for its vineyards and orchards, reaping apricots, strawberries, and grapes. As such, it is also home to some really outstanding guesthouses and restaurants that serve really homey farm to table meals. Apart from the multicultural food, here are a couple of things you will want to check out in Martigny, Switzerland:
1. Take a licking at St. Bernard Dog Museum and Hospice
The St. Bernard has always been such an iconic breed. They’re considered to be noble animals and industrious work dogs, predicting avalanches and retrieving trapped victims buried underneath mounds of snow. The St. Bernard was originally brought to the Swiss Alps by one Bernard De Menthon, who cleaned up a treacherous pass from Mont-Joux of criminals and eventually set up a hospice for travelers to recover.
He was eventually canonized as a saint. St. Bernard dogs were eventually brought to the same hospice, now called the St. Bernard Museum, which was founded in 2006. There are outdoor enclosures where people of all ages can pet the four-legged friends. They also have a charming restaurant called Le Collier d’Or where you can relax and enjoy the scenery.
2. Hiking high above at Durnard Gorge
If you like the combination heights and hiking, then you’ll love Durnard Gorge. Other than the sights – the Durnand cliffs, water going down in different levels until reaching the valley’s bottom, and the hanging bridges attached to the gorge itself – you’ll also love the historical significance of the gorge itself. The hike will start in a former Roman settlement and will continue on to the small village of Bourg, as well as through the St. Bernard Pass. This is done through a series of tunnels, staircases, and galleries. Sounds like a perfect day out.
3. Getting lost at the biggest labyrinth in the world, Evionnaz Labyrinthe
Have you ever seen Pan’s Labyrinth, or the TriWizard Maze in Harry Potter’s Goblet of Fire? Labyrinths have often been portrayed as scary, dangerous places that more often lures, then traps those who dare to go through it from start to finish. However you won’t feel that vibe in the Valaisian town of Evionnaz between Martigny and St. Maurice, where a three-kilometer (1.8 mi) labyrinth is.
The labyrinth is made out of 18,000 Thuja trees planted closely together, which makes for a fun, challenging day out in the country. There’s also a climbing wall, miniature golf course, a trampoline, and many other things for visitors on a day out. They also have a restaurant, and a fast food court, or to complete the experience, just bring a picnic basket, and pick a spot.
4. Elevating your adrenaline at the steepest two-cabin funicular: Le Chatelard and Emosson Reservoir
This “park attraction” holds the world record of having the steepest climb that a two-carriage funicular can go through at an impressive 87% ascent, which is pretty impressive considering that the vehicle you are riding dates back to the early 1900s. On this trip, you’ll be riding four railways. Apart from the funicular, you’ll also be riding a 60-centimeter wide small train, and a Minifunic railway that’ll end at the Emosson reservoir where a 180-meter (590 foot) high dam wall and the majestic Mont Blanc region will greet the end of your journey.
5. Taking in the art and history at Fondation Pierre Gianadda
The Fondation Gianadda is an artist and historian’s playground. It combines archaeological exhibits, a vintage 50-car collection, outdoor sculptures from 20th-century artists, and several art collections in one area. Gianadda, an artist and engineer, wanted to build a house on the spot where the Fondation now is in 1976. However, in the middle of building, the construction team unearthed the oldest Gallo-Roman temple in Switzerland. Gianadda stopped construction immediately and recalibrated the structure to become a cultural center instead.
6. Playing prince or princess at La Batiaz Castle
La Batiaz castle is one of the early works of James of Saint George, or Master James of Savoy, considered to be one of the greatest architects of the Middle Ages, and who did many castles in Wales and Harlech. The castle is considered a Swiss heritage site of national significance. Apart from its stunning exterior, an interesting feature of this castle is the castle toilet or the garderobe, one of the first examples of a bathroom completely installed within the castle itself, and not a separate structure. This played a big role in how we design our homes today.
7. Battling vertigo at Trient Gorge/ Ravine
For those who want to take a day out of Martigny, the Trient Ravine is an ideal space to rejuvenate and commune with nature. It has wild mountain streams, a waterfall called Pissevache, which Goethe wrote about on his trip in 1779, and a ravine for climbers and nature lovers. The ravine itself makes it a must-visit, as well as the bridge overlooking the gorge. You can go by yourself, or take a guided tour where you can learn about the different Swiss flora and fauna in this part of Martigny.
Come for the food, stay for the heritage
If you’ll notice, there are more than enough natural and archaeological sites in Martigny to keep you busy for several days. Apart from those mentioned, the city also has a stunning Roman-era amphitheater, where cow fights are held during early autumn. Yes, it’s this type of quirkiness that sets this city apart. Heritage isn’t a far off artifact. They are actually staying, living, and breathing it every day in Martigny.