Combining expansive greenery, slick cities and bucketfuls of fresh air, Switzerland is a stylish tourist destination offering countless outdoor adventures and contemporary urban breaks.
Switzerland's Alpine vistas are so picture perfect, they can appear plucked from the pages of a storybook. But these disarming landscapes are alive and kicking, as a spot of skiing, hiking or mountain biking will attest. Ski resorts like Zermatt (home to the lofty Matterhorn), Verbier and celebrity-studded St Moritz provide everything from big, bad Olympic runs to encouragingly gentle novice slopes. And when the snow melts at low altitudes, the white-tipped mountain peaks remain against a backdrop of blue skies, providing a superb setting for summertime hiking.
The ancient capital Berne provides almost endless opportunities for sightseeing, shopping and traditional folk entertainment, while Zurich leads the way in art, design and nightlife; from opera and world-class theatre to stylish bars and nightclubs. Geneva is the sleekest and most upscale of Switzerland's cities, acting as home to a thriving community of expats, many of whom work for the numerous international organisations that are headquartered there.
Yet Switzerland's cultural offerings don't stop there. When it comes to contemporary art, polished Basel reigns supreme, with more than 40 museums and galleries packed into this compact city. For a few days every year, it takes centre stage for the eminent Art Basel fair. French-flavoured Montreux also steals a moment in the cultural spotlight when it becomes the centre of focus for the jazz world during the Montreux Jazz Festival. Elsewhere, dotted around green foothills, are countless spruce towns and folkloric villages, where ancient farm culture survives and cattle still loiter amid flower-filled pastures.
Small, mountainous and wealthy, Switzerland is renowned for its enviable quality of life, with public services ticking along like clockwork. Come for the pungent cheese, smooth chocolate and luxury watches; stay for the exquisite culture, incredible scenery and sheer sense of fun.
When To Go
Summer is from June to September and has a pleasant climate for outdoor activities (except winter sports). The peak period is July and August. Try instead April, May and October when the weather is still good but there are less crowds. Winter in the Alpine resorts is from mid-December to mid-April.
- You'll have no problem finding an excellent pharmacy in the cities in Switzerland, but outside the bigger cities it will be difficult to get a prescription filled.
- Usually you are going to need a transformer or adapter to plug in your personal appliances, however some of the international hotels have special wiring to accommodate you.
- The official age to drink is 16.
- The penalties for illegal drug possession are very severe in Switzerland, more so than in the United States or Canada.
- If you bring a pet, you will need to have a certificate stating that they have been vaccinated against rabies, and not less than 30 days prior or not more than one year prior to entry.
- Tour du Mont Blanc for a trekking adventure to remember.
- Be sure to stop and visit the famous baroque castle of Stockalperschloss in the town of Brig.
- Go to Interlaken for a wide array of outdoor sports, such as skydiving or bungee jumping.
- Cycle from Andermatt to Genève for incredible views and a real feel of the palm-lined promenades and vineyards of Switzerland.
- Experience a Mediterranean style south of the Alps; eat in a café plaza, meet new friends, laugh, love, and find peace.