White-capped mountains, rich wilderness, fairy-tale like castles, spectacular cathedrals, sparkling lakes, expansive greenery, top ski resorts, chic spas and bustling metropolitan – it’s no wonder that Switzerland is now one of the top tourist destinations in the world competing with France and Italy.
As a country that fashioned tourism, Switzerland is a place that offers countless outdoor activities and contemporary urban breaks. Verbier, Zermatt and the famous St. Moritz with its celebrity guests are just few of the top ski resorts you will find. Tourists can enjoy hiking on a summer day while at the same time marveling at panoramic snow-capped mountains at the backdrop.
Shop and be entertained in the city. Zurich is a good start with its way in arts, nightlife and design, from operas, theaters, beautiful fountains to museum galleries, chic bars and nightclubs. Drop by Geneva to lake Geneva, that gives the place a romantic aura. Or simply join the folks at Berne and be entertained the traditional way.
Small, rugged and wealthy, Switzerland’s products are among the best in the world, from delicious cheese, yummy chocolates to fashionable watches and sharp Swiss knives. So do not leave the country empty-handed and make sure you bring the best of what this country can offer.
When to Travel
The country’s climate is continental. Temperatures are affected by the winds off the Atlantic Ocean and the Swiss Alps may also cause a lot of weather discrepancies. Higher Alpine regions have low temperatures while the lower regions have higher temperatures and warm summer. Winters are cold and summers are hot and sunny. Switzerland is unlikely to experience extreme heat or cold.
Switzerland can be visited any time of the year. Summer months from June to September offers the best climate for fun outdoor adventures, except for winter sports. Canyoning is one of the adventure sports offered during this time. The wettest months of the year are also during this time, from June to August. Prices go up, accommodations are hard to come by and the country is crowded by the locals and tourists alike during the peak season from July to August. April, May and August are the best time of year for going to the countryside where flowers are in full bloom. Hikers will just have to prepare for the cold weather and snow up until June.
A good stay at Alpine resorts will be best around mid-December and highlights around Christmas. Ski resorts will close down around April when the snow begins to melt unless year-round glacier skiing is offered. August to October has fair weather and will be a comfortable time for a hike.
Swiss Cuisine and Drinks
Though influenced by its neighboring countries like France, Italy and Germany, the Swiss cuisine is quite unique. Because of the Swiss’ centuries of experience as country farmers, their dishes and specialties focus more on potatoes and cheese, as well as exquisite food like chocolate. The country is divided into four linguistic regions (Italian, German, French and Romansh) that have greater impact on the overall cuisine. Each have their own version of the country’s delicacy but finding them will not pose as a problem.
Swiss cheese is really famous. Brands like Emmental Cheese, Vacherin, Gruyere, and Appenzeller are some of the most sought in the world. Most liked dishes that are made of cheese are raclette and fondue. Dinners are always graced by bread and cheese. Another popular dish is the rosti made mostly of grated potatoes and then fried in butter or oil. Better not leave the country without tasting this national dish. Other specialties to look forward to are tarts and quiches.
Zurcher Geschnetzeltes is one of the regional dishes loved by the Swiss. It mainly consists of veal, sliced mushroom and cream sauce and is usually served with rosti. Pasta and pizza are also among the most popular. If you are looking for some chocolates, then you came to the right country.
Looking for a place to eat will not be difficult. In fact, there is a unique place to eat called the Grotto. The Grotto is old wine caves refurnished into restaurants and are mostly found in the rural areas, so rocky and forest backgrounds are expected. Grottoes serve traditional food but the main specialties are Luganighe and Luganighetta sausages.
The country also produces delicious wines. Riesling X Sylvaner and Chasselas are common white wine in the German and French-speaking region in the country, respectively. Pinot Noir and Merlot on the other hand are famous red grape wine.
Drinking Swiss chocolate drinks are pure bliss. Supermarkets and other stores even have a separate isle mainly for chocolates. Ovamaltine or what the world knows as Ovaltine originated in the country and aside from being a drink, it can also be enjoyed sprinkled on top of buttered bread.
So dig in the menu, and do not forget to taste the best dishes of Switzerland.
Popular Vacation Sights in Switzerland
Fraumunster Church- Visit Zurich and see the gothic church of Fraumunster with its five magnificent stained glass window designed by Chagall. This is the main attraction of the church along with the calming effect of Romanesque choir and the enormous elegant organ.
Rhine Falls- Head to the sleepy town of Schaffhausen and you will surely strive to stay awake just to see the spectacular Rhine Falls. Come face to face with the largest and most powerful waterfall in the whole continent of Europe. It may not be much of a looker with its 75 feet height but the raging volume of water that plummets down over its wide breadth will leave your mouths wide open. Add the magnificent site of a medieval castle overlooking the lake and you will really sigh with satisfaction.
Chateau de Chillon- Take a picture with the most photographed castle in Europe as the backdrop, the Chateau de Chillon. Built in the 13th century, this is also the most visited historical building in the country. It is the best maintained castle and is the perfect epitome of a medieval castle. The essence of an era where royalties rule is reflected in its luxurious bedchambers, grand knight’s hall and artistically-designed chapels.
Tourists can take a tour around the castle – searching the dungeons, exploring secret passageways, climbing the towers and wandering the courtyards.
Polybahn and Rigiblick Funiculars- Come aboard Polybahn and Rigiblick if you are tired of the monotony of bustling streets and paved sidewalks. Get a panoramic view of the city and Lake Zurich from above via Polybahn and see the magnificent Mount Rigi through Rigiblick Funiculars. Originally built for the purpose of transferring students from central Zurich to the University of Technology, the Polyhban is now hauling students and tourists alike for a breathtaking trip.
Jet d’Eau- Paris may brag about its Eiffel Tower and New York with its Empire State Building, but the Jet d’Eau of Switzerland is enough to make the Swiss stand with heads high. As the tallest fountain in the whole world, Jet d’Eau will not disappoint tourists with its 500 liters of water projecting 140 meters into the air with the speed of 200km/hr. Look for some companies and visit the fountain at night when everything else is lit up and you will surely be captivated by the romantic ambience faster than Cupid’s arrow.
Barbier-Mueller Museum- If you are into the quiet side of life, explore the Barbier-Mueller Museum with its jaw-dropping arrays of artifacts and artworks, not just from Switzerland but from civilizations around the world. The museum is the end product of Josef Mueller’s collection, whom the museum owes its name. Feast your eyes with the bountiful displays from Oceania’s statues, Indonesia’s megalithic monuments to different artworks from America and colorful ancient masks and shields from Africa.
The official currency is the Swiss franc (SFr) which is divided into 100 cents. There are six banknotes in the circulation in denominations of SFr10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 1000. There are seven coins in denominations of SFr1 and 2 and 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents.
ATMs called bancomats in banks and postomats in post offices are ever present anywhere in the country. They are commonly operating 24 hours a day and accept major international card networks. Credit cards can be used to withdraw Swiss Francs. Foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks, airports, major hotels, train stations and exchange bureaus. Exchange rates are pretty reasonable. Banks charge about 5% commission while some exchange bureaus do not charge at all. Although major establishments will accept euros, however you will still receive Swiss Francs for change.
Few tourists can use credit cards in the country since not all shops, hotels and restaurants will accept them. If you are lucky to come across establishments that do accept them, EuroCard/MasterCard and Visa are the best to bring. On the other hand, all major traveler’s checks are accepted. American Express, Thomas Cook and Visa are widely accepted in airports, banks and railway stations. To save yourself from any additional exchange rate charges, bring cheques in currencies of Pounds sterling, euros or pounds.
If you find yourself short of money while enjoying traveling around in the country, international transfers are very much possible as a solution. Western Union has a receiving agent in major towns. You can ask someone from home to send you money and you will be able to receive it without any hassles.