A Map of the French-Swiss Border at the Hotel Arbez

France-Switzerland, Hotel Arbez Map.png

Entrepreneurial Strangeness

Several of the borders I’ve documented have become tourist attractions even though there was no foresight that this would happen when they were created. The Hotel Arbez and the border it harbors under its roof is the opposite.

In 1862, France and Switzerland reached a deal to swap some land and adjust the border agreed to in a previous treaty. The new treaty would split the existing town of La Cure and some of its buildings between the two countries. Knowing this, the two countries stipulated that any buildings that lay across the border at the time of signing could remain in place. A local business man named Ponthus realized this would apply to new buildings as well and set about his plan.

He quickly built a 3-story building on his land that straddled the new border and then opened a grocery on the Swiss side and a bar on the French side. He seemed more interested in running two separate businesses than in a single “international” business. The building was later sold to the Arbeze family who turned it into the Hotel Arbez that has remained open to this day. 

Switzerland’s neutrality in World War II created a unique situation inside the building for the Germans in occupied France. They could enter the building from France but could not venture into the Swiss side. The staircase to the second floor started in France but ended in Switzerland. This effectively made the upper floors inaccessible to the Germans and made them something of a refuge for members of the French Resistance.

The Hotel has embraced their unique situation to this day. In an ironic, if not cynical, move, the bed of the Honeymoon Suite is located so that half the bed is in Switzerland and half in France. One could make a joke about international relations but I’ll refrain.

Sources: Amusing Planet , Wikipedia