From the Middle Ages, Gex asserted its status as a border town between Switzerland, Franche-Comté and Savoy. The concept of the Pays de Gex territory and its status as a tax-free zone was inseparable from the town. This complex status was officially granted by Louis XV in 1775 at the request of the Bailiwick of Gex. Gex people considered their exemption from indirect contributions on salt and tobacco to be a customs and administrative enforcement based on their isolated geographic situation. However it placed them above the restrictions and obligations of the day.
Pivot and Passage
Instead of allowing this to hold them back, the people of Gex turned it into an asset in terms of development and power. As a political and therefore a military frontier, the Pays de Gex established itself as a political, military (Fort l’Ecluse)), commercial, religious and cultural hub for the entire region. This was a major transit and passage zone until WWII. Gex, situated at the heart of this area, is evidence that this area has always been a major economic and religious centre. Even today, it is here in the Franco-Swiss territory, that CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) decided to base the world’s largest centre for particle physics.
Green and Energetic
Walk up the narrow streets and turn back time as you immerse yourself in the historic centre of Gex and its fountains, including the 1743 “Quatre Goulettes” fountain which is a designated historical monument. Get your breath back and climb up to the Old Town and the remains of the Château des Sires de Gex, dating from the 13th century. From up here, Gex enjoys an unrivalled view over Lake Geneva and the Alps. The Pays de Gex boasts a grand window into Switzerland, but has a deep-rooted attachment to the Jura Mountains, and, moreover, has its own winter sports resort with Nordic skiing, cross-country skiing and a toboggan run. Beyond the Col de la Faucille pass, towering over the town to the west, is the aptly named resort of Monts Jura. Natural and even invigorating, the “heavenly waters” of the Jura Mountains are distilled in Divonne-les-Bains. There is a spa resort in the northern corner of the Pays de Gex.