What’s so great about a Switzerland tour, you ask? Right from the mighty mountains and world-class museums to the fascinating train journeys and skiing experiences, there’s so much to explore in this charming European land! Spectacularly diverse, Switzerland houses some of the most cosmopolitan cities, along with fascinating centuries-old villages. True to stereotype, you’ll taste the best chocolates and cheese during your holiday in Switzerland. And yes, the Swiss are sticklers for punctuality. So, everything runs with clock-like precision.
To make the most of your Switzerland holiday, it’s important to go armed with a travel plan. Depending on your interests, you can choose from an array of exciting itineraries. Here’s looking at some of the best places to visit in Switzerland:
Imagine a town without motorized vehicles! Located at the foot of Matterhorn (4,478 meters), one of Switzerland’s highest mountains, Zermatt is a quaint little town, with horse-drawn carriage rides and enthusiastic pedestrians. Although it’s most renowned for skiing and mountaineering, the scenic train journeys are also a good reason to visit the place.
The picturesque region encompasses 63 mountain railways and more than 200 miles of slopes. In winters, skiing is the most popular pursuit, while summers see a lot of hikers, swimmers and bikers flocking to Zermatt. Want to make your Switzerland holiday truly memorable? Try summer glacier skiing.
Known as the banking capital and Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich offers an interesting mix of ancient culture and modern flamboyance. Art and history lovers can spend days exploring over 50 museums and 100 art galleries located on the northern shores of Lake Zurich, while nature enthusiasts can go hiking in the nearby mountains, or perhaps, take a boat ride on the splendid lake, surrounded by snow-capped Alps.
For unforgettable shopping and lively nightlife, there’s no place like Zurich! So, while you spend your days visiting the Swiss National Museum (located in a fairy-tale castle) and Kunsthaus Zurich (known for its impressive collection of fine arts), do make time to stop by at the cobbled streets of the Old Town and shop at some of Europe’s finest designer stores. And if you are travelling with children, the Zurich Zoo is not to be missed.
For travellers looking for a break from the concrete jungles of modern cities, Geneva comes as a breath of fresh air. With 20 per cent of its land devoted to parks, Geneva is the perfect European destination to explore at a leisurely pace. From housing several international organisations, including the European headquarters of the United Nations as well as the headquarters of the Red Cross, the place has much to offer.
Take a walk down the city’s old town, admiring its lakeside promenades and parks, before heading to the famous Cathedral of St. Pierre. Not to forget, the legendary Jet d’Eau (fountain with a 500 foot-high water jet), the one-of-its-kind Musée international de l’horlogerie (watch museum with a collection of jewellery watches and musical clocks), and cultural icons like the Grand Theatre and the Opera House (not just venues for top-notch performances, but revered institutions). Besides the city of Geneva, the Lake Geneva region houses some of Switzerland’s most popular cities, such as Lausanne, Lauvaux and Montreux.
If you are an adventure enthusiast, Interlaken – nestled between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz – is the place to be! An erstwhile watch-making centre, today hordes of travellers visit Interlaken to indulge in some world-class hiking, abseiling, skiing, paragliding and kayaking.
The adventure capital of Switzerland, with over 45 mountain railways, cable cars, chair lifts and ski lifts, is also known for offering the most amazing views of three famed Swiss mountains – the Eiger, the Jungfrau and the Monch. Cruises on Lake Thun and Lake Brienz aboard paddle steamers as well as strolls along the flower gardens and quaint cafes make Interlaken a must-visit destination on your Switzerland trip.
The Jungfrau Region
There was a time when only adventurous souls who wished to ski through Switzerland’s massive mountains braved the testing terrains of this Alps region. However, today, the Jungfrau Region is a staple of almost every Switzerland tour package.
Comprising four scenic towns (Grindelwald, Murren, Lauterbrunnen, and Wengen) and three magnificent mountains (Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau), the Jungfrau Region offers some of the most delightful rail trips in Switzerland. You cannot afford to miss the train journey to Jungfraujoch – better-known as the ‘Top of Europe’ – with an observation terrace and scientific observatory located at 3,454 meters. And then, there’s the Great Aletsch Glacier (Europe’s longest glacier and a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and many popular high-altitude trails to explore.
If you are an admirer of art and architecture, Basel will win you over with its historic landmarks and timeless grace. It not only houses 40 eminent museums – making it the city with the highest density of museums in Switzerland – Basel also hosts the acclaimed ART Basel festival every year.
Apart from major tourist attractions, such as Basel Art Museum, the Fondation Beyeler and the Museum of Cultures, Basel’s symphony orchestra, chamber orchestra and musical theatre, featuring international productions, also draw thousands of travellers to the ‘city of art’. Not many visitors are aware that Basel houses Switzerland’s oldest university. A walk down the large market square, with its richly decorated red sandstone town hall and the late Romanesque-Gothic cathedral, often features among the highlights of Switzerland travel.
Perched on a peninsula of the River Aare, the capital city of Switzerland is surrounded by misty hills and lush forests. The place takes travellers back in time to a world where cobbled lanes still house centuries-old sandstone buildings. Interestingly, the old town of Bern, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to the longest weather-sheltered shopping promenade in Europe (‘Lauben’, as the locals call it).
A visit to Switzerland cannot be complete without experiencing the grandeur of the Old Town’s charm, against the natural splendour of the Alps. From the tallest cathedral in Switzerland and 16th-century fountains to the lovely Rose Garden (Rosengarten) and the Renaissance-style parliament building (Bundeshaus), Bern has something in store for all kinds of travellers.
If you had to take just one photograph on your Swiss holiday, the 14th century Chapel Bridge and Water Tower in Lucerne is a great choice. Not too far away, in a small park, lies another worthy contender: the famous Lion Monument, a poignant sculpture carved out of rock to honour Swiss mercenaries who lost their lives in the French Revolution.
Your Switzerland itinerary cannot be complete without a visit to the Swiss Transport Museum, the funicular ride to the Dietschiberg, and the cable car cruise up to Mt. Pilatus, among the many adventures in store at the charming city with waterfront promenades and sun-splashed plazas. If time permits, do attend a music concert at the Culture and Convention Center. After all, it’s counted among the world’s leading concert halls.