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The cows and goats really do wear bells in Switzerland, you really can feast on chocolate and fondue (or chocolate fondue!) and best of all if you’ve over-indulged you can still reach the summit of a Swiss alp with no effort at all.
Switzerland is synonymous with mountains, and although you can get to the top the hard way, part of the charm of this landlocked nation is to reach the summit by other means. The world’s steepest cog railway will take you all the way to the peak of Mt Pilatus, or watch awe-inspiring scenery slip by on a train journey between Zermatt and St Moritz. In Zermatt board one of the highest cable car rides in Europe to the summit of Klein Matterhorn where you can get one of the best views of the famous Matterhorn - and on a clear day you can see more than 40 peaks over 4000 metres high. Then there’s the Jungfrau Railway in the spectacular Bernese Oberland and the incredible trip to the highest train station in the world at 3454 metres – a journey of tunnels, glaciers and icy grottos.
Back closer to sea level, its cities too are distinctively different – lakeside Lucerne has its iconic covered bridge; cosmopolitan Geneva has the United Nations in residence; Zurich, famed for its bankers, is surprisingly trendy, and of course where could be more fashionable than Montreux and St Moritz? Cheese lovers will make a pilgrimage to Gruyère perhaps, but there are many other villages to explore too, such as picture postcard perfect Appenzell and Andermatt, or Morcote on the shores of Lake Lugano.
Set at the picturesque northern end of Lake Zürich with the Limmat River running through the heart of the Old Town. Jump on a free rental bike to explore at your own pace, reward your efforts at the world-famous Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate factory. You’re in the wealthiest city in Europe, so take a stroll down Bahnhofstrasse where you’ll find boutiques touting everything from porcelain to furs, but it’s more fun to imagine what lies beneath the street in the city’s bank vaults. On a fine day take a ferry ride on Lake Zürich to see the city from a different perspective.
Complete with gable paintings, the covered medieval wooden Chapel Bridge forms the centrepiece of Lucerne’s townscape and is considered to be one of the oldest in Europe. Historic houses decorated with frescoes and spired churches line the picturesque town squares. The figure of a dying lion, hewn from the face of a rock, is one of the best-known monuments in Switzerland. Lucerne is the ideal starting point for many excursions to the highlights of this stunning mountain region. A trip up the Pilatus mountain is a must, but a steamship cruise on Lake Lucerne is certainly no less worthy.
Lying at the southern tip of expansive Lake Geneva, surrounded by the Alps and Jura mountains, with dramatic views of Mont Blanc. On the French border the French influence is widespread, from the language to gastronomy and bohemian districts like Carouge. Home to watchmaking, make sure to check out the Flower Clock and the watchmakers’ shops, and pick up some Swiss Chocolates here as this is where you’ll find the greatest Swiss chocolate makers.
In the Bernese Oberland between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz and presided over by the three mighty mountains of Eiger, Mounch and Jungfrau, Interlaken is the starting point for many activities and excursions. Historic paddle steamers glide around the lakes, there are over 45 mountain railways, cable cars, chair lifts and ski lifts that take you straight onto snowy pistes, hiking trails and up the impressive mountains.
Delve into Switzerland’s colourful past on a walking tour of Zurich. Head towards Lindenhof and discover landmarks including the City Hall, St Peter Church and Limmat River. Gain insight into Zurich’s 16th century silk industry in Schipfe.
Start with a tour of Zurich, then pass by the beautiful Limmatquai and the Fraumunster Church, before reaching the outlet shop of the famous Lindt & Sprungli Chocolate. Visit the cheese factory at Stein where the famous Appenzeller cheese is made.
Travel through the Northern Switzerland wine growing region past charming villages and landscapes to admire the medieval Laufen Castle and majestic Rhine Falls. Take a thrilling optional boat ride to get a closer look.
Being a compact city makes Lucerne ideal for touring on foot. Enjoy the wealth of historic sights like Chapel Bridge with its gabled paintings of old battles, the majestic Water Tower, the treasures of its many churches, the quaint maze of cobbled lanes and the waterfront promenade.
This trip to one of the highest vantage points in central Switzerland is not for the faint-hearted! Start with a pleasant ride by deluxe motor coach to the mountain resort of Engelberg. From here, board the aerial cable way for a 45 minute journey for stunning 360 degree views of the Alps.
The mountainous Jungfrau region is a wonderful holiday destination, and a highlight of every visit to Switzerland is a trip to the Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe. This is Europe’s highest-altitude railway station with the cogwheel railway travelling through rock tunnels to reach the UNESCO World Heritage Jungfrau-Aletsch, a world of eternal ice and snow at 3454 metres above sea level. The Jungfrau Travel Pass lets you explore the area for 3-8 days or purchase a return day ticket from Interlaken, Grindelwald or Wengen.
The Schilthorn was transformed into the “Piz Gloria” for the filming of “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” The modern aerial cableway gliding to the summit lets you follow in James Bond’s footsteps where you can visit the interactive adventure exhibition “Bond World 007” or the new “007 Walk of Fame”. Over 200 mountain peaks in a spectacular landscape are revealed as the world’s first revolving mountaintop restaurant slowly turns. Unusual and truly bottomless perspectives open up on the “Skyline Walk” and the “Thrill Walk” at Birg.
Mt. Pilatus offers a unique excursion with the world’s steepest cogwheel railway, spectacular Dragon Ride cableway, and modern panorama gondolas. The highlight is the magnificent view from 2132 metres above sea level. As you arrive at the Pilatus summit, you’ll be surrounded by a 360 degree view of 73 Alpine peaks, 5 lakes and the Midlands. Your ticket entitles you to a round-trip to Mount Pilatus from Alpnachstad by cogwheel railway (operates from mid-May to mid-Nov) or from Kriens by panorama gondola and aerial cableway.
Glacier Express crosses 291 bridges, 91 tunnels, and climbs the 2045 metre high Oberalp Pass between Zermatt and St. Moritz; the Chocolate Train is a 1951 vintage Pullman car from Montreux to Gruyeres to the cheese factory and castle then onto Broc and the Nestle chocolate factory; Golden Pass Line winds along the Swiss Riviera past vineyards, grazing cows and quaint chalets to climb onto the Brunig Pass.
Leave the beautiful cities behind and head into the Alpine villages for a taste of “Heidi”. Covered in a layer of snow in the winter with many activities like tobogganing, skiing, ice skating and in summer, gentle rolling meadows perched on and around the mountains have hiking trails for all levels of fitness. Grindelwald is a popular holiday spot with easy to reach activities; the sheer beauty of picture-perfect Guarda cannot be underestimated; Grimmelwald is halfway up a mountain in the Bernese Oberland, a car-free village with mountain and waterfall views and an idyllic retreat.
Here's a taste of some of our favourite hotels and lodges in Switzerland.
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Are you planning your next trip to Switzerland? Want to learn more about this destination? Or looking for ideas and inspiration for your next holiday? Here is where you can find our featured articles on Switzerland.
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