Neuchâtel is about an hour and and half from Geneva and Zurich, and about forty minutes from Lausanne and Bern. Trains make a run almost every hour to Neuchâtel from these cities up until a little after 10:00 pm. On most trains it is a straight shot to Neuchâtel - you don't have to transfer trains, but check the trains schedule to make sure.
At the Neuchâtel train station are a number of shops including a café, a McDonalds outlet, a magazine and newspaper store, a bakery and a small grocery store. If you are spending any amount of time in Neuchâtel you may become more familiar with the bakery and grocery store than you might imagine. Most businesses in Neuchâtel, except hotels and some restaurants, are closed on Sunday, Monday mornings, and are not open weekday evenings pass 6:00. The grocery store and bakery, however, are usually open. They have helped me out of many a tight spot when I needed something desperately and nothing else was open.
In the sparkling glass cases of the bakery are croissants, rolls, cakes and pastries. On wall shelves behind the glass cases are various types, sizes and shapes of delicious Swiss French breads. Before I hop on a train for Bern, Zurich or Geneva I usually get a coffee to go at the train station café, and a scrumptious almond croissant at the bakery, walk to my train platform, climb onboard the train, find a seat next to a window, and sit down to a pleasant little treat. The croissant I eat deliberately and slowly, not only to stretch the joy of the moment, but also because the croissant is flaky. If I do not take care my lap and shirt are soon covered with croissant flakes.
The online Swiss train schedule of the Swiss Federal Railways is the best way to plan your train route and schedule. The online schedule will not only tell you the time of departure and arrival between points A and B, the number of the platform, the exact number of hours and minutes of the journey, and how many train changes you will need to make if any. It will, also, provide a simple graphic of your route showing the number of stops the train will make, and the name of one or more of those intermediate stops.
Clicking on the button Journey Guide on the Swiss Railways web page will list the name and time of arrival and departure of each these intermediate stops. You can print off the list and bring it with you. This is especially convenient if your personality is a bit on the neurotic side, and you ceaselessly worry if you have passed your stop or even if you are heading the the right direction. And, it beats sticking your head out the window in an attempt to catch the name of each station you speed by. It is, also, less dangerous. Just sit back and relax. The name of the next train stop will be announced on the intercom. To put your mind at ease take a quick look at your Journey Guide to verify you are heading in the right direction, and how far along you are on your route. The website provides other helpful information like special travel deals, savings on advanced ticket sales, and online city maps, and bus schedules.
If you may your trip on the spur of the moment (which is often the most fun way to travel) then go up to the ticket window of the train station and ask when the next train is to Neuchâtel, what platform you need to be standing on, and if you need to transfer trains. The ticket agents usually speak English.
You can also pick up a free booklet at or near the ticket counter that gives times of departure and return times to and from major cities and towns in Switzerland. The booklet is about 3x5 inches in size, and will have on the cover the name of the station you are departing from.
Upon reaching the Neuchâtel train station you may just want to walk to your destination. Most distances in Neuchâtel are not far. But, if you have a lot of luggage, and your feet are sore, then you can get close to any place in Neuchâtel by bus or tram. When you exit your train first make sure you have all your luggage and all your kids (if any). Then go down the ramp or steps to the passageway under the trains tracks. You may then walk left or right. If you look in one direction you will see steps and the escalator going up into the train station. If you walk in the other direction you will be taking a ramp up to the street level. Just in front of you are bus stops, one on each side of the street. If you are going into the center of town walk across the street and stand at that bus stop.
A bus should arrive within 15 minutes. Take bus 9 or any other bus that says Place Pury in bold letters on the front of the bus . Place Pury is one of the town squares and a major bus junction. From here buses leave for many destinations within and outside Neuchâtel.
You can purchase bus tickets from the bus driver, but many Neuchâtel bus drivers are grouchy even after their morning cup of coffee, and don't want to be bothered. Fortunately, most bus stops have machines where you can drop in coins for your bus ticket. A color-coded map on the front of the machine will give you travel distance and costs.