Things to see and do in Switzerland
Attractions in Switzerland
See the Switzerland of old with a drive through rustic Appenzell, the most traditional canton, with its picturesque villages of ornately painted houses set in lush, rolling landscapes. Säntis is Appenzell's most famous peak, with memorable views over six nations: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. The mountain Hoher Kasten (1794m/ 5886ft) is also worth a visit.
Discover the ancient university and trading city of Basel. Straddling the Rhine between the Jura region, Alsace in France and Germany's Black Forest, Basel is a centre for both art and research. Don't miss the Art Museum, the ancient red sandstone Münster (Cathedral) or the kinetic wonderment that can be found inside the Jean Tinguely museum. Learn about papermaking and book printing at the Basel Paper Mill. Or, visit for the Basler Fasnacht, a pre-Lenten carnival with three days of grand masked parties, street parades with fancy costumes and an impressive lantern display, which is made even more illuminating with the city’s lights switched off. In front of the City Theatre there is a fabulous Tinguely Fasnacht Fountain.
Visit the the medieval, arcaded streets of the capital, Bern, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site situated on the Aare River. Famed for its Zytglogge, a 12th-century clock tower, here you can roam the city or get lost in the Bear Park - a woodsy, forested area that plays home to a family of bears (following the 2009 closure of Bern's iconic bear pits). A reminder of the capital's ursine emblem can be seen throughout Bern on flags, statues, stained-glass windows and souvenirs.
Bern, Bernese Oberland
Explore the Bernese Oberland, a major tourist area in the highlands of Bern that flourishes with spectacular scenery. Beset with some of Switzerland's most famous peaks, including Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger, you'll find mountain lakes, alpine streams and wild flowers too. As well as the Brienz-Rothorn-railway, which is over 125 years old, the region is home to such celebrated resorts as Adelboden, Grindelwald and Interlaken.
Discover Geneva's ancient city centre on foot, especially its crowning glory, the Cathédrale de St Pierre - a magnificent example of Romanesque architecture. Situated near Lake Geneva, the flower clock in the Jardin Anglais, with over 12,000 blooms, pays homage to Geneva's watch industry. You can also choose from guided tours that focus on themes like Geneva's beautiful parks and gardens, buildings of the UN and the International Organizations or on Geneva's old town with its long history.
Travel by train through stunning Alpine scenery on the Glacier Express, one of Europe's greatest rail journeys, which winds for eight hours and 291km (180 miles) over arching viaducts and through the Rhine gorge. At the very heart of Switzerland, ride from St Moritz to Zermatt (or vice versa) and enjoy the remarkable views. P.S. Don't forget your camera.
For a veritable 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 for their perfect skiing, snowboarding, and toboggan conditions. St Moritz also offers snow-polo, heli-skiing, the Olympic Bob run and the Cresta run.
Visit one of Switzerland's most photogenic medieval villages, Gruyères, home to the nation's most famous cheese. Here you can explore its castle, Château de Gruyères, as well as three museums and the La Maison du Gruyère cheese factory. Nearby, take a barge to the medieval ruins on the Isle of Ogoz.
Lausanne's highlights include the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Lausanne, the Musée Olympic (Olympic Museum) and the Musee de l’Art brut. While a stroll along the promenade of the old Port d'Ouchy reveals a slower pace of life, the city's vibrant side can be found among the contemporary architecture of Flon, where boutique shops, cinemas and evening entertainment have replaced derelict warehouses, buoyed by the town's two universities.
Chillon Castle 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 Mountain in the background. Built in the 13th century, visitors can see the famous jail and learn of François de Bonivard, the castle's most famous prisoner.
Elegant and ancient, St Gallen is blessed with a baroque cathedral whose famous Abbey Library is a UNESCO World Heritage treasure. Today the library is open to the public and also functions as a museum. St Gallen's old town is picture perfect and boasts a number of pretty, decorative town houses fitted with oriel windows dating back to the 16th until 18th centuries.
Enjoy a lake cruise or ferry trip on the likes of Lake Geneva, Lake Zurich, Lake Brienz, Lake Constance and the picturesque Vierwaldstättersee at Lake Luzern, where paddle steamers link up with various mountain railways and cableways. For a little more adventure, take a kayak out on Lake Zürich.
Explore the southernmost tip of Switzerland, the lovely, Italian-speaking region of Ticino. Follow Alpine mountain passes through Bellinzona with its three medieval castles; past the sweeping Contra Dam (the site of the James Bond Golden Eye bungee jump) to Locarno and Lugano's celebrated lake resorts in Southern Ticino. Or take the panoramic train Gotthard Panorama Express to Ticino through the Gotthard base tunnel.
Whether you climb up them, ski down or just capture them on camera, the Valais region (the valley) in southern Switzerland possesses lofty glacial peaks, such as the Dufourspitze (4,634m/15,217ft), Dom (4,545m/14,911ft), Weisshorn (4,505m/14,780ft) and the Matterhorn (4,478m/14,692ft). Popular resorts here include Saas Fee, Verbier and Zermatt, where you can take Europe's highest aerial cable car up the Little Matterhorn, then ski back to the car-free village on one of the longest ski runs in Europe. Those with the leg power will also want to cycle around the Matterhorn, a beautiful backdrop for rides with many trail entries beginning at over 3,000m high (9,842ft).
Join the Swiss in their favourite pastime: hiking. Strap on your hiking boots and stroll through the terraced Lavaux Vinyards in Vaud. These sweeping grounds date back to Roman times and are a UNESCO World Heritage site. They span for nearly 2000 acres, but you’ll have plenty of opportunity to rest with a glass of wine on the trail from St Saphorin to Lutry at a traditional cellar or pub.
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 and Nordic expressionist collections at the Kunsthaus Zurich. The Dada artistic movement began in Zurich; enjoy its quirky output at the Cabaret Voltaire bar.
Switzerland Tourism in the USAAddress: Swiss Center, 608 Fifth Avenue, New York City, NY 10020-2303
Telephone: (212) 757 5944.
Switzerland Tourism in the UKAddress: 30 Bedford Street, London, WC2E 9ED
Telephone: (020) 7420 4900.