Switzerland is world famous for its amazing landscapes, especially in the mountains with summits at more than 4000m. It is a political example all over the world, being the only country that has a direct democracy system, while having 26 different states and 4 national languages within its borders. Its neutral political stance is the reason why many international institutions such as the United Nations Organisation, the World Trade Organisation and the World Economic Forum are based in Switzerland. What distinguishes this country from any other is also its location in the heart of Europe, its small size and its multiculturalism.
1. Alps & Graubünden
In this small pearl of a country, you can visit the Alps and the Graubünden, both mountain ranges renowned for their magnificent scenery. You can find the Glacier 3000 and its bridge over the mountains as well as the world famous Cervin in the Alps for an on the top of the world feeling, unless you’re stuck in the bathroom because you’re not good with heights.
Hidden between mountain summits in the Graubünden is a Carribean-sea-coloured lake, Lake Cauma. Between the villages of Laax and Flims, a short walk brings you to a rack gear lift. From there, you can either enjoy the lift and its unreal view or walk down to the lake.
You can also find some of the most luxurious hotels in the world in St Moritz (Badrutt’s Palace) and in Andermatt (the Chedi). Their impressive architecture is worth a look, even if your wallet won’t let you stay. All year long, the mountains have something to offer.
In summer, you can do long walks, camping and alpinism. During winter there is skiing, husky sledge trekking and, if you’re not such of a fan of the outdoors, you can still watch snow storms through the window while cocooning by the fire.
Just under the Graubünden is the canton of Tessin, which is the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. It can offer you a more Mediterranean lifestyle, with palm trees, lake activities and warmer and sunnier weather. Great pizzas can be find in Locarno and a boat tour on Lugano Lake will bring you to a hillside of fairy-tale-looking villages.
2. Zurich & Geneva
For a more urban trip, Zurich or Geneva will offer you their best. Situated on the French border, Geneva is famous for its institutions like the UNO, the Red Cross and many others. Not to miss: the emblematic and very instagrammable Jet d’Eau de Genève.
The city center is one of the best places for shopping in Switzerland, you will definitely find your favourite shops between Rhône St and Rive St, no matter what your budget is. Zurich also has its luxurious shopping street, the Bahnhof Strasse, which is worth an hour or two if you’re looking for a Swiss-quality watch. The lake is a perfect place to relax and you cannot miss the biggest waterfalls in Europe, the monumental Rhin Falls in Schaffausen.
3. Paleo music festival
If you catch a train along the coast of Geneva Lake in late July, you will find the town of Nyon, which has been hosting the world famous Paleo music festival for close to half a century. It’s one of the biggest music events in Europe having hosted Elton John, David Guetta and Robbie Williams, to name a few.
Further on the lake, a must-do for wine lovers is wine tasting in Lavaux vineyards, which is recorded on the UNESCO World Heritage List. At the eastern extremity of the lake, you can’t miss the town of Montreux, well known for its statue of Freddie Mercury and its vibrant music event, the Montreux Jazz Festival.
The castle of Chillon situated right next to the water is a great attraction for tourists and locals. In winter, the Christmas market will take you back to childhood, with its extravagant decorations, traditional live music and the rich aroma of spices in the air. Don’t forget to get a glass of hot wine to warm you up – a specialty!
4. Central Switzerland
In Central Switzerland, you can find the Luzern Bridge, built in 1333, which makes it one of the oldest bridges in Europe. The idyllic countryside around Luzern will suit anyone who’s looking for a peaceful and revitalising environment. You can even stay in farm, where you can choose to either help out with the animals or put them on your plate.
5. Where to stay in Switzerland
Accommodation in Switzerland will satisfy you no matter what your budget is and what your needs are. Zurich and Geneva, two bustling, cosmopolitan cities, offer a wide range of accommodation such as backpackers, hotels and house swaps (for a longer stay). The mountains and countryside, a perfect alternative for nature lovers and sporty people, offer you the opportunity to stay in farms, chalets and eco stays.
Wherever you stay in Switzerland, your lust for beauty will be satisfied, whether by the lakes or the mountains, the cities or the villages. A website I recommend to find great accommodation is http://www.reka.ch. Another tip – if you buy your train tickets on the national website https://www.sbb.ch/fr/, you can have them half price, depending on what time of day you travel. There are also offers that include accommodation.
6. What to eat in Switzerland
Switzerland is well known for its cheese, especially fondue and raclette dishes, which you will dream of more than your special one (sorry for the cheesy joke). The Swiss people from the mountains have been relying for centuries on these filling dishes to keep them warm and energized during winter. Often consumed with an entrée of cold meat and a glass of white wine, they’re very convivial meals.
Fondue also exists in chocolate version, which is an amazing combination of heaven and diabetes. As you can you see, Switzerland is the place to be for those who have a sweet tooth! The chocolate factory Cailler in the canton of Gruyère (also well known for its meringues and double cream) attracts large amount of people every year, with free tastings at the end of your visit. Concerning drinks, Switzerland has a large offer of wines that will satisfy every taste with its world famous wine brands.
To conclude, Switzerland offers a huge amount of enriching activities and unique landscapes with not a lot of travelling between them! After all, what other country offers you the opportunity to order your breakfast in German, your lunch in French and your dinner in Italian? If you’re not yet booking your flight tickets, I hope you’re at least eating Swiss chocolate.
By Cynthia Illi