Situated between the magnificent natural setting of Mont-Chemin Forest and a hillside of terraced vines, Martigny (population 15'000) has been known since Roman times as a major commercial centre.
Numerous Gallo-Roman remains still bear witness to its past, in particular the amphitheatre. Dominated by the Bâtiaz Tower, a 13th-century fortress, the modern town has grown up on a bend of the Rhône, along the Dranse.
The older quarters have preserved their original character. Always a noted crossroads for the main routes across the Alps, Martigny is linked to Italy (Aosta 75 km) by the Great Saint Bernard Pass – used by Hannibal, Caesar, Charlemagne and Napoleon – and to France (Chamonix-Mont Blanc 40 km) by the Forclaz Pass or by a delightful train ride with panoramic views. As the artistic capital of the Valais – a gastronomic centre and producer of William's pear brandy – Martigny offers its visitors numerous cultural events.
During the summer, a charming little tourist train does a tour of the town, in particular enabling visitors to admire Martigny's distinctively different roundabouts, each decorated with the work of contemporary Swiss sculptors.
In the evening, floodlighting shows to advantage the town's monuments and other features.