Little, mountainous, efficient Switzerland is one of Europe's most appealing destinations. Wedged neatly between Germany, Austria, France, and Italy, Switzerland melds the best of all worlds — and adds a healthy dose of chocolate, cowbells, and cable cars. Fiercely independent and decidedly high-tech, the Swiss stubbornly hold on to their quaint traditions, too. Join cheesemakers in a high valley, try to call the shepherds on an alphorn, and hike through some of the world's most stunning mountain scenery.
Places to visit:
▲▲▲ Gimmelwald and the Berner Oberland Rustic village spectacularly perched on a cliff in this mountainous region — popular for its alpine towns and scenic hikes, lifts, and train rides — with touristy Interlaken as the gateway.
▲▲▲ Bern Cozy capital of Switzerland tucked in a sharp river bend, with arcaded shopping promenades, medieval clock towers, and museums devoted to Albert Einstein and artist Paul Klee.
▲▲ Zürich Bustling cosmopolitan city — Switzerland's largest by far — with upscale shops and a charming riverside old-town quarter full of pointy church spires and pealing bells.
▲▲ Luzern and Central Switzerland Touristy yet worthwhile town of historic wooden bridges, picturesque streets, and vintage steamships that ply lovely Lake Luzern, ringed by mountains with stunning vistas accessible by high-altitude lifts.
▲▲ Murten Quaint, small walled town sitting right on the German/French linguistic fault line, with nearby Roman ruins and museum in Avenches.
▲▲ Lake Geneva and French Switzerland Small-but-sophisticated lakeside city of Lausanne, Switzerland's best castle experience at Château de Chillon, the cute cheesemaking center of Gruyères, and pleasant scenery of the surrounding countryside.
▲▲ Appenzell The most traditional Swiss region, known for pastoral scenery, small towns, cows, folk museums, and, just a cable-car ride away, the rustic retreat at the cliffs of Ebenalp.
▲▲ Scenic Rail Journeys Four famous train rides, each offering panoramic views and crisscrossing the country.
▲ Zermatt and the Matterhorn Glitzy ski resort still sporting some traditional old-fashioned touches, in a valley at the foot of the famous Matterhorn.
▲ Lugano Leading city of Italian-speaking Switzerland, with a tidy if dull urban core, scenic boat trips on Lake Lugano, and mountain lifts to lakeside peaks.
▲ Pontresina, Samedan, and St. Moritz Romansh-speaking mountain resort region, anchored by three towns: touristy Pontresina, humble Samedan, and swanky St. Moritz.
Swiss Travel System:
The Swiss Travel System offers you 26,000 captivating kilometres of public transport. We offer the densest public transport network in the world. And exclusively for visitors to Switzerland a unique choice of travel tickets which cover the entire country. Trains, buses and ships are ready and waiting to take you in comfort to your desired destination.
Just imagine. A country where travel by public transport is as exciting as it is relaxing. All you have to do is come aboard!The Swiss Travel System offers you 26,000 captivating kilometres of public transport. We offer the densest public transport network in the world. And exclusively for visitors to Switzerland a unique choice of travel tickets which cover the entire country. Trains, buses and ships are ready and waiting to take you in comfort to your desired destination.
Switzerland is located in the heart of Europe and linked to the continent's high-speed rail network. Travellers by train will find a range of excellent rail connections. Whether from neighbouring Austria, France, Germany or Italy, or from the Netherlands and Spain – international trains operate daily to Swiss cities. Most trains include a dining car, and/or bar and other services to enhance the travel experience.
Just imagine. Discovering the diversity of scenic Switzerland in one train – and all in one day. From snow-capped summits and icy glaciers to palm-lined lakes and Mediterranean-like magic. And along the way enjoying a delicious freshlyprepared lunch. Our panorama trains are truly super stars. Simply step aboard and discover the harmony between high-tech and heavenly nature – a captivating combination which never fails to fascinate.
Here are ten good reasons why your next vacation destination should be Switzerland!
10 Best reasons to visit Switzerland
1. The Matterhorn
You’ve seen it on boxes of chocolates and calendars (and possibly in an amusement park, too!), but visiting this mountain in person is something truly breathtaking. The Matterhorn is recognized around the globe as the proud symbol of Switzerland. Standing at a staggering 14,692 feet, it challenges mountaineers worldwide and welcomes less energetic visitors as well, to enjoy its tranquil beauty. Whether you’re traveling in the winter or summer, a ride on the Gornergrat railway from the village of Zermatt takes you to the starting point of an unforgettable tour that’s focused on the legendary mountain.
2. The Waterfalls
An inspiration to poets and painters, Switzerland’s waterfalls are among the highest and biggest in Europe. Goethe and Byron wrote about the Staubbach Falls in the Bernese Oberland, just one of 72 spectacular falls in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. In the same valley are the mysterious Trümelbach Falls, which are inside the mountain, but open to visitors. The largest waterfall is the Rhine Falls, where you can take pictures from the top. If you dare you can even venture through the mountains and visit the waterfall at night!
3. Mountain Adventures
Visiting the Swiss mountains is a must, and now you have the opportunity to ride high for a low price. Many of Switzerland’s peaks are accessible to visitors by cable car or cog railway. If you purchase a Swiss Pass, you benefit from a discount off the price of most trips. You’ll be able to see and experience Swiss mountaintops like never before.
4. Ticino (Switzerland’s sun lounge)
Although not a sizeable country by area, Switzerland is huge in terms of diversity. Situated between Germany, France, Austria and Italy makes for some pretty different cultural activity no matter where you decide to unpack. If you’re looking for Italian flair, venture to the southernmost canton of Switzerland, the Ticino. Ticino is a “land of culture,” with plenty of things to do—from both Swiss and Italian food, to music and art performances around every corner. It’s also a great region for cycling—from the stunning mountainous scenery and sparkling lakes to the red-roofed village houses clustered along the shores.
5. Swiss products
If it’s your first time in Switzerland, the question isn’t—where can I find a Swiss watch, but rather, which one should I choose? Swiss watches are crafted with ingenuity, precision, and quality, and as far as competitors go, Switzerland crushes the competition. Swiss watches are sold pretty much everywhere, but specifically in the Watch Valley in western Switzerland you’ll find a particular acumen for the various brands. Whether it’s a souvenir or the treasure of a lifetime, a Swiss watch means something to everyone.
6. Winter sports
What kind of guide would this be if we left out winter sports? The breathtaking mountains not only attract poets and painters worldwide but also daredevils looking for thrills. The chic resort of St. Moritz in the Engadin has twice hosted the winter Olympics—and rightfully so, with 217 miles of ski pistes, the Cresta run skeleton track, and the oldest bob run in the world (which is constructed every year of natural ice). Spending any amount of time here, where the action is endless, is the perfect athletic getaway.
7. The Geneva Festival
Maybe you’re visiting family this winter and can’t get away until the summer. No worries! Fêtes de Genéve (Geneva Festival) runs from July 17-30, 2014 and is one of the city’s annual events that brings people from all over together. Set in Geneva, Switzerland’s most cosmopolitan city, this festival highlights music of all kinds—classical to country, rock to reggae with over a hundred different concerts. Complete with fireworks and the chance to sample local food, this is truly a summer event not to miss!
When you want to relax, do you envision going somewhere that will be your Zen hideaway when you’re stressed at home? The Pfäfers hot springs in the Tamina gorge near the Bad Ragaz canton has been known for centuries (since 1535 when the doctor, Paracelsus, wrote of its virtues) to aid with ailments. The old spa in the romantic gorge is open to visitors but those wanting to experience its therapeutic mineral springs can stay in the luxurious surrounding hotels.
There’s no better place than Lausanne to party and there is a club for every age and every taste, some with well-known DJ’s that have the grooves down. The variety of bars, cafes and music clubs is astounding – and the city itself isn’t exactly forgettable. Among the most popular is the Bleu Lezard (Blue Lizard), an artistic and lively bistro-bar and nightclub—which is quite popular among both locals and tourists.
Here’s something a little different. Why not experience Swiss nature to the max and stay in a hayloft? 200 farms throughout the country offer this adventure to tourists. It’s an especially great opportunity for kids, who’ll get the chance of a lifetime to cuddle with some irresistibly cute farm animals that’ll almost make them forget the family cat. And of course, the animals are more than happy to share their bunks for a few nights. You’ll get to discover a rural and serene side of Switzerland that you’ll never forget.
How To Visit Switzerland Without Breaking The Bank, tips for saving money ))
1. Buy a rail pass. Swiss trains are pleasant, punctual and practical—better than a car for traversing narrow mountain passes, or visiting auto-free towns. Though fares can be expensive, hardly anyone, Swiss or foreigner, pays full price, since there are a variety of discount rail passes available. Another benefit of a rail pass is access to discounted fares on most cable cars and gondolas.
To choose the best pass for your journey, first map out the distances and the number of days you will be taking long train trips. For long distances, consider an unlimited pass such as the Swiss Pass or Swiss Flexi-Pass. With these passes, you essentially prepay your travel at a discounted rate. The Swiss Pass gives you unlimited travel (for 4, 8, 15 or 22 days; or for an entire month), while the Flexi-Pass can be used any day (from 2 to 6) within a 30-day period. Both also entitle you to a 50% discount on days when you don’t use the pass (for example, if you are doing a series of short hops).
There is also a Swiss Transfer Ticket which is good from the Swiss border or from a Swiss airport to your final destination and back. This ticket is probably the best deal if you spend your time in one location. For a bit more, however, you can get a Swiss Card which gives you all the benefits of the Swiss Transfer Ticket plus unlimited other tickets at half price.
2. Ask your hotel to meet your train. Many provide this service gratis if you ask, which can save you the $25 it can cost to travel about 5 miles by metered cab in some locations.
3. Eat a hearty breakfast. Hotels often include this in the room rate, with buffet spreads representing all five food groups. Instead of loading carbs, fill up on high-protein, pricier items like deli meats, smoked salmon and eggs; and avail yourself of whatever fruits, vegetables and beverages are part of the deal.
4. Shop like a local. Migros and Coop are the two major supermarket chains, offering a wide array of food, beverages, and supplies at affordable prices. Provision yourself there with fruit, cheese, bread and wine, then find a scenic overlook for your picnic lunch or dinner. If you’re buying cured meats like salami and prosciutto, look for the Italian brands, which are less expensive than the Swiss ones. (Ditto the wine.) Vacuum-packed Scottish smoked salmon is also a good value. Coop’s house brand chocolate is delicious and perhaps one of the few bargains in Switzerland.
5. Negotiate hotel rates. Last-minute bookings generally get you the best deals. If hotel operators won’t budge on the room rate, ask about freebies. Examples: breakfast, Wi-Fi, taxi transfers; use of their swimming pool or one at a nearby fitness center; and a free pass on a nearby gondola. (For other tips from an experienced traveler, see FORBES contributor Wendy Goffe’s post, “How To Get The Best Hotel Deals.”)
6. Pay in cash. ATM machines are abundant, and work the same way they do back home. (Remember to let your bank know you’re going overseas.) If your bank charges an exchange free, open a checking account at one that doesn’t. With credit cards you can get stuck with these fees plus foreign transaction fees. (See my post, “How To Cope With Post-Vacation Credit Card Bills.”) Carry a credit card that doesn’t charge either. If you’re thinking of opening a Swiss bank account, read Jochen Vogler’s guest post, “Most Foreign Banks Don’t Want U.S. Clients; How To Find One That Does.”
7. Come well equipped. There are no bargains on hiking equipment in Switzerland — even Swiss brands are more expensive than they would be in the United States. So take your boots for a test run before you leave home. And don’t forget to give them a good waterproofing treatment at least a few days before departure. If they’re getting on in years, do as the Swiss do and carry a roll of duct tape for on-trail repairs.