The banks of the Rhône, with their deep Roman roots, gave rise to Martigny, a town between river and mountain, at the foot of the Franco-Swiss Alps.
Martigny is a place where history blends with a delightful landscape around a municipality of almost 25,000 inhabitants. If you’d like to find out a little more about this picturesque town with its timeless charm, then come and explore the history and geography of this town in the Swiss Valais with us!
History of Martigny
Martigny is a Swiss municipality in the canton of Valais, in the French-speaking part of the Swiss Confederation. The town was founded in Roman times on the site of the primitive fortress of Octodure.
The town gradually became a prominent centre in the Middle Ages, despite the transfer of the episcopal see to Sion, thanks in particular to the construction of the Bâtiaz castle in the 13th century to replace the Crête fortress*.
As a crossing point between the northern and southern Alps, on the way to the Great St Bernard pass, the town grew in importance over the centuries and began to develop as an economic and social centre.
Martigny’s official name dates back to the 12th century, gradually taking over from the original name Véragres d’Octodurum, the ancient fortified town that had a very active military base in Roman times.
From the 16th century until the end of the 18th century, Martigny underwent considerable development, with the construction of numerous noble houses. Even today, an impressive array of monuments such as castles, churches and bridges are a reminder of this rich history:
The Vivier amphitheatre, Notre-Dame de la Visitation church, the town hall and its glass roof, the Ganioz manor house, the Bâtiaz tower and bridge, and the Pierre Gianadda Foundation.
Geography of Martigny
Surrounded by the Alps and situated on the banks of the Rhône, Martigny is a charming town close to many tourist resorts, including the winter sports resort of Verbier.
Geographical location of the town
Martigny is in the canton of Valais, on the border between Switzerland and France. The largest neighbouring towns are Montreux on Lake Geneva and Sion on the banks of the Rhône.
The town is divided into several localities, including Chemin-Dessous, La Bâtiaz, La Verrerie, Le Guercet, Martigny-Bourg, Martigny-Ville and Charrat.
Location of Martigny
Agriculture, tourism and innovation
It also lies at the heart of a very active agricultural region. As well as orchards, there are vineyards on the slopes of the Dranse, a tributary of the Rhône.
The proximity of the resorts, the Rhone route and the Valais trade fair are a source of visitors and tourism in the heart of the town.
Martigny offers visitors a wide choice of activities depending on the season, including downhill skiing in winter, hiking in autumn and canyoning in summer.
There are also festivals, cultural and musical events and popular festivals to suit all tastes.
The town is also home to research centres in the fields of information technology, energy and pharmaceuticals.
Relief and landscapes of the region
Martigny lies at an altitude of 471 metres and is surrounded by mountain ranges including Grand Muveran, Luisin, La Crevasse and La Breya. The climate is mild in summer, with plenty of snow in winter for Nordic tourist activities.
The surrounding countryside is ideal for a wide range of outdoor activities, including skiing, cycling and hiking, depending on the season.
Population of Martigny
The town’s current population is estimated at 23,520 (in 2020), with a French-speaking majority (89%).
Over the last few centuries, the population has grown almost continuously since the end of the Second World War. The population has continued to grow since the turn of the century, thanks to the town’s socio-cultural and economic development.
In terms of population, Martigny is the second-largest town in the canton of Valais.
Climate and weather
Nestling south of Lake Geneva in the bend of the Rhône and surrounded by the foothills of the Alps, the climate is continental, both influenced and protected by the mountains.
- Detailed 5-day weather forecast:
- Official town website (French)
- Regional tourist office
- Train timetable, Martigny station
- The old castle of Crete in Martigny, L.Blondel (French)
- Map of the Rhône river
- Where to sleep (French) in the Rhône valley?
- Weather along the Rhône
- Taking the train in Switzerland and France
- Rhône road by bike
- Activities and leisure in Switzerland