Switzerland is a small country that sits smack dab in the middle of the Alps, making for 360-degree scenery wherever a person finds themselves. Numerous lakes also add to the picture postcard look of this country, whose most famous citizen may have been the fictional Heidi. From banks to bucolic alpine meadows, Switzerland has it all. An overview of the best places to visit in Switzerland:
Interlaken used to be known as a watch making center, but today it’s more popular as a tourist resort. Tourists started coming to Interlaken in the early 1800s to breathe in the mountain air and partake of spa treatments. Its popularity only grew from there. Offering spectacular views of three famous Swiss mountains, the Eiger, the Jungfrau and the Monch, the city is also a popular base camp for outdoor acitivites in the surrounding Bernese Oberland Alps. Travelers looking for something different to do might want to sign up for a class or two at a woodcarving school. Hungry tourists may want to try raclette, a classic Swiss dish made from cheese.
Athletes with Olympic aspirations may enjoy a visit to Lausanne, a scenic city that is the second largest on Lake Geneva, as it is home to the International Olympic Committee. Lausanne also is the gateway to some of the world’s best ski slopes. A part of the Swiss Riviera, Lausanne has been popular with writers over the centuries, include Lord Byron, the Shelleys and Ernest Hemingway. Located in the French-speaking sector of Switzerland, Lausanne boasts an impressive cathedral and wonderful outdoor markets.
Geneva is a city where international influences reign supreme. It is home to the International Red Cross Committee and the European headquarters of the United Nations, as well as 20 other international organizations. Environmental travelers will enjoy the fact that Geneva is a “green” city, with 20 percent of its land devoted to parks, earning it the nickname of “city of parks.” Top sights include the Cathedral of St. Pierre where John Calvin gave famous sermons, and the United Nations headquarters. Geneva also is a good city explore by bike or rest weary feet by taking a boat ride on Lake Geneva.
Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich, will appeal to travelers with an interest in culture since it boasts more than 50 museums and over 100 art galleries. When visitors get tired of shopping for internationally famous Swiss brand-name goods, they can take a boat ride on Lake Zurich or go hiking in the nearby mountains. The city also boasts an impressive number of clubs for travelers who enjoy going out at night. Not to be missed is the Swiss National Museum, located in a fairytale castle, it is dedicated to Switzerland’s cultural history.
Zermatt is a small town that is famous for skiing and mountaineering due to its proximity to the Matterhorn, one of Switzerland’s highest mountains. Cable cars whisk skiers up surrounding mountains in the winter and hikers in the summer. Zermatt is a good town for walking to various sites, since gasoline-driven vehicles are not permitted; any vehicles within the city limits must be battery-operated. Fortunately, for visitors, it takes 30 minutes or less to walk between sites. The town is accessible via scenic train routes that connect it with the outside world.
The Jungfrau Region is one of the best places to visit in Switzerland, both in summer and winter. A century or two ago, this Alps region was only visited by hard-core adventurers who wanted to ski or climb through the mountains. Now, thanks to an extensive network of railways and well-maintained foot and bike paths, the area is accessible to many types of travelers. The Jungfrau Region consists of four picturesque towns: Grindelwald, Murren, Lauterbrunnen, and Wengen, and three imposing mountains: Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. One of Switerland’s most scenic rail trip, the Jungfraubahn takes visitors from the Kleine Scheidegg mountain through the Eiger and Mönch up to the Jungfraujoch.
Lugano has been nicknamed the “Monte Carlo of Switzerland,” because of its growing popularity with celebrities. The city is located on Lake Lugano, in the Italian speaking section of this alpine country. Lugano, which is blessed with warm summers, dates back to the 9th century. The city is home to a large number of Swiss heritage sites, including three cathedrals, two libraries and several museums. Home to numerous financial institutions, the city also hosts an annual classical music festival, the Lugano Festival, in the summer.
One of the largest lakes in Europe, Lake Geneva lies on the course of the Rhone river on the frontier between France and Switzerland. Aside from the city Geneva most destinations in the Lake Geneva region are in either the Swiss canton of Vaud or the French department of Haute Savoie. The geography is varied, with the Jura mountains in the north, a hilly plain in the center and in the southwest the Alps. The main attractions here are the elegant cities and towns surrounding the lake, the opportunities for skiing and hiking in both mountain ranges, and of course the lake itself.
Lucerne, located in the German-speaking section of Switzerland, is a city that has it all: city life, a lake and mountains. Considered one of the world’s prettiest cities, Lucerne is most famous for its 14th century Chapel Bridge and Water Tower, which is said to be the most photographed monument in Switzerland. Another famous monument is the Dying Lion, which was carved out of rock to honor Swiss mercenaries who died in France in 1792. Hungry visitors may want to try Luzerner Chügelipastete, a local specialty made from puff pastry, veal and mushrooms doused in a cream sauce.
Bern is a picturesque medieval city with a history that dates back to the 12th century, though it did not become a part of the Swiss Confederacy until the 16th century. Its most famous attraction is the Zytglogge, an ancient clock tower with moving puppets. Other popular sites in Bern include the Munster, a Gothic cathedral that rises from the old town, and its town hall. The bear is the symbol of Bern, with several being kept in an open-air pit. Shoppers will appreciate the old town that boasts four miles of arcades, making it one of the longest covered shopping areas in Europe.