Switzerland things to see and do

Tourist offices

Switzerland Tourism in the USA

Swiss Center, 608 Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY 10020-2303, United States
Tel: (212) 757 5944.
www.myswitzerland.com

Switzerland Tourism in the UK

30 Bedford Street, London, WC2E 9ED, United Kingdom
Tel: (020) 7420 4900.
www.myswitzerland.com

Things to see and do

Appenzell villages

Drive through rustic Appenzell, the most traditional canton, with its picturesque villages of ornately painted houses set in lush, rolling landscapes. Säntis (www.saentisbahn.ch) is Appenzell's most famous peak, with memorable views over six nations: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

Basel

Discover the ancient university and trading city of Basel. Straddling the Rhine between the Jura region, Alsace in France and Germany's Black Forest, it is a centre of art and research. Don't miss the Art Museum or the ancient red sandstone Münster.

Basler Fasnacht carnival

Go to Basel for the Basler Fasnacht (a pre-Lenten carnival), with three days of grand masked parties and street parades with fancy costumes. There is even a Fasnacht Fountain in front of the City Theatre (www.fasnacht.ch).

Bern

Visit the capital city of Bern on the Aare River, with its medieval heart of unique 11th-century arcaded streets, its famous 13th-century clocktower, and ancient medieval bear pits, a reminder of the city's ursine emblem seen throughout Bern on flags, statues, stained-glass windows and souvenirs.

Berner Oberland

Explore the Berner Oberland (www.berneroberland.ch), a major tourist area that includes spectacular scenery including famous peaks (Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger), mountain lakes, alpine streams and wild flowers, as well as Europe's highest railway and such celebrated resorts as Adelboden, Grindelwald and Interlaken.

Chillon Castle

Chillon Castle (www.chillon.ch/en) is the most famous castle in Switzerland. It enjoys a spectacular location on the eastern edge of Lake Geneva, near Montreux, with the Dents du Midi (literally meaning the Teeth of the South) mountains in the background. Built in the 13th century on Roman foundations, Lord Byron visited the chateau and later wrote the poem 'Prisoner of Chillon' (1816) about the fate of François de Bonivard (1493-1570). Bonivard was the castle's most famous prisoner, incarcerated between 1530 and 1536 for trying to bring protestantism to Switzerland. The castle was once an important medieval fort, strategically located on an island to guard against invasion. Today, visitors can see the castle's famous prison, and also tour the Grand Hall, the Hall of Justice, the Armouries, the Grand Hall of the Count and the Duke's Chamber and Saint George's Chapel.

Cycling trails

Cycling is not necessarily as strenuous as the mountainous terrain might indicate. There are 3,300km (2,046 miles) of well-marked interlinked trails, and most of them offer easy cycling. Many railway stations offer bike hire (www.veloland.ch/en/welcome.cfm).

Geneva

Discover Geneva's ancient city centre on foot, especially its crowning glory, the Cathédrale de St Pierre; a magnificent example of Romanesque architecture. Near Lake Geneva, the flower clock in the Jardin Anglais, with over 6,500 blooms, pays homage to Geneva's watch industry (www.geneva-tourism.ch).

Glacier Express

Travel by train through stunning Alpine scenery on the Glacier Express (www.glacierexpress.ch), one of Europe's greatest rail journeys, from St Moritz to Zermatt (or vice versa) at the very heart of Switzerland.

Glaciers and peaks

In the Valais (www.valaistourism.ch) region ('the valley') see such lofty glacial peaks as the Dufourspitze (4,634m/15,217ft), Dom (4,545m/14,917ft), Weisshorn (4,509m/14,793ft) and the Matterhorn (4,478m/14,698ft). Popular resorts here include Saas Fee, Verbier and Zermatt.

Graubünden health resorts

For a virtuous holiday health kick, spend time at one of Switzerland's many climatic health resorts. The Graubünden resorts of Arosa, Davos, Klosters and St Moritz are renowned the world over. Interlaken, near Bern, is another celebrated health resort and the gateway to the Berner Oberland.

Gruyères

Visit one of Switzerland's most photogenic villages, Gruyères, home to the nation's most famous cheese, to explore its castle, Château de Gruyères (tel: (26) 921 21 02; www.chateau-gruyeres.ch) and various cheese factories.

Hiking

Join the Swiss in their favourite pastime: hiking. There are over 50,000km (31,070 miles) of marked trails to explore, with hiking times marked on signposts, and colour-coding according to difficulty. For more information visit Swiss Hiking (www.swisshiking.ch; French and German only).

Lausanne

Lausanne's highlights include the Cathédrale Notre-Dame and the Musée Olympic (Olympic Museum). A stroll along the promenade of the old Port d'Ouchy reveals a slower pace of life. For more information contact Lausanne Tourisme (tel (21) 613 7373; www.lausanne-tourisme.ch).

Little Matterhorn cablecar

Take Europe's highest aerial cablecar up the Little Matterhorn at Zermatt, then ski back to the car-free village of Zermatt on one of the longest ski runs in Europe (www.kleinmatterhorn.ch). Or, head to the small town and popular ski resort of Engelberg, where the world's first revolving cable car ascends Mount Titlis, the highest lookout-point in central Switzerland (www.titlis.ch).

Mountain sports

The mountains are the perfect place to get active, with ice climbing, ski touring, snowboarding, deep-snow skiing, heli-skiing and glacier walking close at hand. Top ski areas include Portes du Soleil, Davos, Klosters, Zermatt, Verbier, Saas Fee and glamorous St Moritz, which also offers snow-polo, the Olympic Bob run (tel: (81) 8300 200; www.olympia-bobrun.ch) and the Cresta run (www.cresta-run.com).

St Gallen

The elegant ancient city centre of St Gallen features the baroque cathedral and famous Abbey Library (www.stiftsbibliothek.ch) in the old Benedictine monastery, named a World Heritage Treasure by UNESCO. Go to the historic town of Brig for the most important baroque castle in Switzerland; see one of the country's most important historic buildings in Vaud; or head for the small town of Romainmotier (www.romainmotier.ch) to discover its 11th-century Benedictine monastery.

Swiss Lakes

Enjoy a lake cruise or ferry trip on the likes of Lake Zürich, Lake Geneva, Lake Constance (with visits to towns in Germany and Austria) and the picturesque Vierwaltstättersee at Luzern, where paddlesteamers link up with various mountain railways and cableways.

Ticino

Explore the lovely, Italian-speaking, southernmost tip of Switzerland, the region of Ticino. Follow the road from the Alpine valleys through Bellinzona with its three medieval castles to the Locarno and Lugano, the celebrated lake resorts of Southern Ticino.

Zurich

Explore Zurich, Switzerland's largest city. The old town, Altstadt, is especially picturesque. See the gothic Fraumünster, with its stained-glass windows by Chagall; the imposing twin-towered Grossmünster cathedral; the Swiss National Museum; and the modern art collections at the Kunsthaus Zurich. For more information visit:www.zuerich.com.

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