Travellers musing over their next European break should take the time to look behind Switzerland’s facade of deliciously decadent chocolate, army knives and cuckoo clocks. The real Switzerland offers a harmonious blend of epic, natural landscapes and bold, cosmopolitan cities that lay on a banquet of experiences for holidaymakers to indulge in. Whether you’re looking to lace up those hiking boots for a trek beneath glittering mountain peaks, sip sophisticated cocktails in a rooftop bar in Zurich or absorb the traditional Alpine culture of tiny medieval towns in the countryside, Switzerland has all your boxes ticked.
Some might say that every silver lining has a cloud, and in Switzerland’s case this smudge on the horizon comes in the shape of the high price tag the country is renowned for. However, once you’ve feasted your eyes on the glacial lakes, soaring peaks and endless green fields (designed for full-throttle yodelling), you won’t feel short-changed. Plus, the country has been recognised as one of the happiest countries in the world, according to the World Happiness Report – Switzerland took the top spot in 2015 and the second last year.
1. Explore vibrant Zurich
If you find it hard to choose between natural beauty and the buzz of the city, opt for both with a visit to cosmopolitan Zurich. Set by a glittering lake, fringed with dramatic mountains, this international city is a favourite amongst students and expats, thanks to its historical centre, leafy green spaces and cutting-edge art exhibitions.
2. Listen to jazz in Montreux
This traditional resort town, once home to Freddie Mercury, is perched on the banks of Lake Geneva with an ambience steeped in romance and inspiration. The beautiful castle, Chateau de Chillon, dates back to the 11th century and is said to have stirred the creative juices of Lord Byron, Mary Shelley and more. Time your visit right to experience the world-famous jazz festival, which takes place here in early July.
3. Ski the Matterhorn
Switzerland boasts some of the world’s best skiing and you can’t mention Swiss outdoor pursuits without a nod to the mighty Matterhorn. From skiing in this dazzling, pollutant-free zone in the winter (no cars allowed near the Matterhorn) to hiking the hills in the summer months, make sure you bring your camera phone as you’ll see some of the best scenic views Switzerland has to offer.
4. Discover Geneva
Foodies flock to the third largest city in Switzerland, thanks to the diverse selection of international restaurants Geneva plays host to. Additionally, history buffs will be happy to explore the collection of quality museums and the city’s stunning historic centre.
5. Hike Mt Pilatus
Situated just outside Lucerne, this magnificent mountain offers Alpine vistas worthy of any Swiss postcard. Those that enjoy getting outside and active will embrace the opportunity for hiking the mountain trails whilst those that simply want to soak up the scenery might prefer to take the cable car to the summit.
What to eat and drink
The epicurean traveller will find themselves in food heaven in Switzerland where international restaurants are par for the course in the big cities, and the local cuisine takes inspiration from German, French and Italian influences. Top Swiss specialities include the delicious cheeses that are a huge part of Swiss heritage and the base ingredient of gooey fondue – the national dish of Switzerland – as well as the crisp hash-brown rösti and the dumplings known as spätzli. Fresh Alpine fish dishes are also prevalent throughout Switzerland, as are country-cured sausages and delicate cakes and confectionaries. Mental note: always leave room for dessert!
Although alcohol can be expensive in Switzerland, Swiss wines are top-notch. Most are white but some aromatic reds and quality rosé wines can be found too; bear in mind that, unlike French wines, those produced in Switzerland are best consumed when new. Beer drinkers will also find themselves well catered for – Helles is the light beer of the country whilst Dunkles is the dark.
When to visit
When’s the best time to visit Switzerland? The short answer is: any time! Switzerland’s attractions change with the seasons with the winter months being the obvious choice for snow-seekers, winter sports enthusiasts and those craving cosy city trips. Visit in spring or autumn to take advantage of the quieter months and scenic train rides or visit in summer to fully indulge in excellent hiking and relaxing in and around the lakes.
Packing for Switzerland might depend on the season but one essential is required all year-round: travel insurance. Let Medical Travel Compared help you find the right policy for you and your medical circumstances.
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