Picture-perfect Switzerland is all about lakes, mountains and urban chic. It boasts great outdoors, perfect for skiing and snowboarding in the winter and hiking and biking when the pastures turn green. Get lost among the narrow valleys, glittering lakeshores and green vineyards. Take the train to the Jungfraujoch, also called the Top of Europe, which is considered the highlight of any Swiss holiday; taste traditional Swiss cheese and chocolate, learn to yodel or buy yourself a high-quality Swiss Army knife. The cities are a perfect complement to the rural beauty, with the capital city of Bern and its medieval old town and world-class modern art, deeply Germanic Basel and its bold architecture, shopping-chic Geneva astride Europe’s largest lake, tycoon-magnet Zug and cool Zurich, with its rooftop bars and atypical Swiss street grit.
The breathtaking mountains not only attract poets and painters worldwide, but also daredevils looking for thrills. The chic resort of St. Moritz in the Engadin has twice hosted the winter Olympics, and rightfully so, with 217 miles of pistes, the Cresta run skeleton track, and the oldest bob run in the world. Spending any amount of time here, where the action is endless, is the perfect athletic getaway.
Switzerland is a natural playground for kids and adults alike. Thousands of miles of hiking, cycling and mountain biking trails crisscross the country. Zermatt is an excellent place for hikers, with wonderful views of the Matterhorn. Switzerland is full of mountain railways, cable cars and gondolas - many of the most spectacular were built a century ago or more by tourism and hospitality pioneers. They continue to offer access to the mountains like nowhere else. So, even beginners can hike in high alpine terrain, as a gondola takes them up and a chairlift brings them back down to the valley again.
More than 450 varieties of cheese are produced in Switzerland. Connoisseurs will definitely know Emmentaler or Gruyeres. The region it was named for has a themed route that includes a museum-like dairy where you can see it being made. Don’t forget to try dishes like fondue, raclette, or alpen magrone. Combine your foodie tour with a visit to the Cailler-Neste factory in Broc. You will discover mysterious Aztec cocoa ceremonies, hear captivating accounts about François-Louis Cailler, the founder of the Cailler brand, handle roasted cocoa beans, smell fresh chocolate and taste the fabulous flavors of the best cocoa, milk from the region, and other delicious ingredients.
Although Switzerland is small, it’s diversity of landscapes, languages, customs, and cuisines will make you feel as if you’d stayed in its neighboring countries. In Ticino, the atmosphere is molto Italiano: its main city, Lugano, comes complete with pretty piazzas, al fresco cafés, Lombardy-style architecture, and Italian-speaking locals. In contrast, the canton of Geneva (which was once occupied by France and now seems to belong to Switzerland due to a cartographic quirk) oozes French élan. The canton of St. Gallen is a combination of beer, bratwurst, and half-timbered buildings that you'd typically expect in Germany or Austria.
The charming Altstadt of Zürich, which makes up a substantial part of the city center, is full of elegantly restored historic buildings, and the shopping is first-rate, both in exclusivity and uniqueness.
Zürich has a long history: as early as in the 12th century, it was a renowned center for commerce, and many of its diligent merchants made fortunes dealing in silk, wool, linen, and leather goods. Today, the Zürich stock exchange is the fourth largest in the world after New York, London, and Tokyo. But Zürich is far from being a stuffy business center – the city is vibrant, and multicultural, maintaining the cool, modern, and international elegance that the Swiss have brought to perfection.
At an altitude of 3454 m, the Jungfraujoch is a breathtaking viewing point, located between Mönch and Jungfrau, in the heart of the UNESCO Natural World Heritage area "Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn". You can reach it by cogwheel train, which will take you to the highest train station in Europe. Although the trip is rather pricey, it is definitely worth visiting: apart from the Sphinx Observatory, where you can enjoy a 360° view, you will be surprised by the number of excellent restaurants which also offer majestic views of the surrounding mountains. Apart from this, you will have a chance to admire ice sculptures in the Ice Palace. No wonder that Jungfraujoch is a popular Bollywood movie location.
Lucerne is simply magnificent and boasts all the things that make Switzerland famous: wooden bridges, breathtaking surrounding mountains and lakes. There is an iconic Chapel Bridge, built in the 14th century, and the Jesuit Church with a magnificent interior full of gilt and frescoes. The countryside here is tame, and the vast Vierwaldstättersee offers a prime opportunity for a lake steamer cruise. Apart from this, Lucerne is a convenient base for excursions all around central Switzerland. Mount Pilatus is just a short drive outside the city and accessible by cable car and cogwheel train.
The Titlis is another breathtaking Alpine attraction, with a magnificent viewing point. The cable car to Titlis departs from the town of Engelberg. The final section of the ride features a revolving cable car, allowing you to enjoy the views all around. Once you reach the peak, you will be amazed by the views of the high Alpine snow-covered world. You can take a walk into the Glacier Cave, which is an ice-carved tunnel, or walk across the spectacular suspension bridge. Several shops and restaurants are available. If you stop at the mid-station, at Trüebsee, you will find a number of hiking trails that either start or end here, or you can rent a row boat to explore the lake itself.
As far as the eye can see there is varied and intense beauty boasting from everywhere – colossal glaciers, raging falls, hidden valleys, and mountains over 4000m of altitude.
What is the first image of Italy that comes to your mind? Is it fashion, arts, capuccino or the delicious food? Would it be Collosseum, ferrari or a Gucci bag? Is it the gelato or Michelangelo's statue or maybe even the Pope?
Germany is the country that everyone knows, or better still think it knows. As there are surely hundreds of places worth seeing, beautifuly preserved and intact, full of tradition and culture yet modern in its interpretation.