Switzerland Travel Info
A chocolate box of treats await in Switzerland. With world-coveted exports including cheese, watches – and of course chocolate, Switzerland is a land where style certainly meets substance. From slick urban cities to quaint Alpine villages, not forgetting elite ski resorts like Zermatt, Verbier and A-list magnet St Moritz, Switzerland is a country where the style, slick organisation and impeccable quality of life is every bit as sharp as its famed army knives.
There are palm trees in Switzerland.
You’re never more than ten miles away from a lake.
60% of the country’s electricity comes from hydroelectric power.
The typeface Helvetica was created in Switzerland.
The average Swiss eats 23lbs of chocolate a year.
What to see
Located on the northern tip of Lake Zurich, there is much more to the city than its history as the centre of Swiss banking. Explore the Old Town and you’ll uncover a deeply bohemian and artistic heart, complete with cool shops, nightclubs and restaurants.
Postcard-perfect Geneva is one of Switzerland’s most beautiful cities – which is certainly saying something. Surrounded by snow-draped mountains and located around the southern perimeter of the glistening Lake Geneva it’s a lively melting pot of different cultures and cosmopolitan attractions.
Bern is home to one of the most spectacular medieval townships in Europe, which was marked out as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. Dotted along its magical streets you’ll find an imposing cathedral, a medieval clock tower and fascinating criss-crossing arcades. Bern is also considered to be the main entry point to the Alps, the Bernese Oberland and the Swiss Mittelland.
Davos is one of the world’s longest established ski resorts and hailed as one of the best in Europe. Go off piste and you’ll find a host of luxurious health and spa facilities too. Davos is in a hard-to-reach setting in Graubünden, adding to its overall vibe of prestige, seclusion and authenticity.
Top experiences / sites of particular interest
Visit the pretty villages of Appenzell to see beautifully painted houses set alongside emerald-green, daisy-dotted meadows. Mountaineering types may also fancy tackling Säntis, for panoramic views over Austria, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
The Basler Fasnacht is a pre-lent three-day festival that’s a lively crowd-puller of street parties, masked balls and parades.
This major tourist area is home to some of Switzerland’s most spectacular alpine scenery and most famous peaks, including Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger.
Switzerland’s most famous castle, and setting of Lord Byron’s poem Prisoner of Chillon, Chillon Castle is a 13th century fortress located in a spectacular setting on Lake Geneva and boasts a fascinating prison, hall of justice and armoury.
Home to one of Switzerland’s most famous exports, Gruyères is a pretty medieval village, with a 13th century castle, romantic landscapes that inspired artists such as Corot and Menn, and of course, numerous cheese factories.
When to go
Weather and Seasons: Ski season tends to run from December to April, when the Alpine snow is at its very best. High summer is during July and August, when things tend to get very busy in the major cities. Consider a visit during May or September if you want to escape the crowds and bear in mind that the Alpine region temperatures tend to be colder than those found in the lower-lands of the north.
Important Dates and Festivals: Switzerland hosts many music festivals including Jazzfestival in March, http://www.worldtravelguide.net/basel/les-museiques chamber music festival in April and the citywide Geneva Music Festival in June. One of the most important dates in the Swiss calendar is Swiss National Day, celebrated on 1st of August. It’s a patriotic event marking the union of Switzerland’s three states with fireworks, bonfires and paper lanterns. Fans of leftfield festivals might enjoy the Onion Market, held during November in Bundesplatz, where local farmers bring over 50 tonnes of onions to the festival.
Getting there / around
Flights: It takes around 1 hour 50 minutes to reach Basle, Bern, Geneva or Zurich from London.
Rail: You can take theEurostar through the Channel Tunnel to Paris and catch a through train from there to Switzerland.
Tram: Swiss public transport is an example for other countries. Tramways and light railways operate in Basle, Bern, Geneva and Zurich, with tickets widely available from automated machines.
Train: Train is an excellent way to cover more ground, and services run at least every hour from all major cities. There are many mountain railways for accessing more remote areas, offering jaw-dropping scenery from dizzying heights.
Car: Swiss roads are generally of a good quality. However, mountain roads are often winding and narrow and frequently close during adverse conditions. Chains and snow tyres may be required.
Short Trips: A week should give you enough time to take a whistlestop tour of Zurich, Lucerne, Bern, Lausanne and Geneva.
City Break: At just under two hours away, Zurich and Geneva are both excellent destinations for a weekend city break.
Longer Trips: Start in the French-speaking city of Geneva, visiting the quays and the attractions of the Old Town. 100km to the east lies the resort of Lac Léman, home to Chillon Castle. A short, and worthwhile, detour northwest takes you to Lausanne and Vevey. Next, travel northeast to Lucerne to sample the vistas Mount Pilatus and Riga before heading to Appenzell, the most folkloric town in northeastern Switzerland. From Appenzell, journey west to Zurich to visit the Swiss National Museum and the Romanesque splendor of the cathedral of Grossmünster.
Prepare to feast onfondue made with Gruyère, Emmental and Vacherin cheeses, and artisan pork sausages and pâté washed down with specialty Swiss beer or kirsch. Other dishes to look out for include Pieds de porc (pigs trotters), potato-based rösti and Leckerli, delicious spiced-honey cakes topped with icing.
Classical music concerts are something of a national tradition, and most major cities boast their own symphony orchestra. Live music is everywhere, and can be heard spilling out onto the streets in most towns and cities, from folk concerts to restaurant serenades. Clubbers should head to Zurich, whose bohemian club scene and bars are a cut above, with Geneva and Lausanne tying as a close second.
German, French and Italian. English is widely spoken.
Three-month visa-free stays are available to EU citizens.
No particular vaccinations are recommended.
Safety, FO travel advice
FO travel advice: Generally safe.
Useful Telephone Numbers
Swiss country representatives can be found
in the UK at16-18 Montagu Place, Marylebone, London. Tel: 0207 616 6000
and in the US at 2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W. 20008-3499 Washington, DC District of Columbia. Tel: 202 387 2564.
There is a tourist board
in the UK atSwitzerland Travel Centre Ltd. 30 Bedford Street, London, WC2E 9ED UK. Tel: 020 7845 7680 or 020 7420 4900.
For more information visit www.swissembassy.org.uk , www.swissemb.org and www.myswitzerland.com .