With snow-capped Alps, forested hills, fairytale castles,Renaissance cathedrals, shimmering lakes, stylish spas and luxuryski resorts, it's easy to see why Switzerland has been one of theworld's top tourist destinations for the past two centuries.
It is the country that fashioned tourism, so it's no surprisethat Switzerland caters to visitors all year round. In spring andsummer it offers lakeside chalets, mountain trails and spa resorts.In the sunny southern region of Ticino, near the Italian border,visitors will find palm-fringed Riviera-style resorts offering avariety of water sports. Those keen on hiking and mountaineeringwill find over 31,000 miles (50,000km) of mountain and foresttrails throughout the country.
In November the country's ski resorts begin opening, andvisitors pour in throughout the Christmas season and the crowds donot abate until the snow begins to melt with the onset of spring.With the highest pistes in Europe, Switzerland's ski runs offerreliable snow and breathtaking views. Most resorts also have plentyto do for those not so keen on skiing, making Switzerland theperfect destination for a winter fantasy of log fires, fondues andglistening snow.
Switzerland's cities are pristine and beautifully laid out withfamous Swiss precision. Zurich is widely regarded as theintellectual and artistic centre of the country, sportingincredible architecture and more than a thousand fountains, withmany museums and galleries to boot. Geneva is the principal cityfor the international community, and is home to hundreds of worldorganisations. Its setting on the shores of Lake Geneva gives it aromantic atmosphere, and the city has an exciting, if ratherexpensive, nightlife.
Sightseeing in Switzerland is a feast for the senses, withgorgeous, soul-stirring scenery and picture-perfect cities andvillages to experience. Switzerland is a country that exudes wealthof both the material and natural kind - after all, this tiny nationhas more millionaires and mountains per capita than anywhere elseon earth. Its many riches made the country one of the very firstglobal tourist destinations, and as a result, modern-daySwitzerland is extremely well prepared for foreign visitors.
Getting to Switzerland's many attractions is effortless, ifrather expensive. The rail network is clean and efficient, withother public transport filling the gaps in between. Alternatively,with impeccably maintained and signposted roads, renting a car isan attractive option, especially for travellers who value theirindependence while abroad.
With cold winters perfect for skiing and mountain viewing, andglorious summers to enjoy the exciting cities of Geneva and Zurichand the charming Alpine villages, Switzerland is truly a year-rounddestination. An obligatory stop on any grand tour of the continent,Switzerland is a sure bet for travellers looking to experience thebest of what Europe has to offer.
Of the church spires that characterise Zurich's skyline, thethin blue spire of Fraumünster is the most graceful. Overlookingthe historic old square of Münsterhof, the former pig market, thechurch was founded in 853 and its convent inhabited by Germannoblewomen until the 13th century. Important architectural featuresinclude the Romanesque choir and the enormous elaborate organ, butits chief attractions are the five beautiful stained-glass windowsdesigned by Marc Chagall in 1970.
A fascinating exploration of Swiss national history, the SwissNational Museum has an impressive and varied collection of ancientartefacts, providing visitors with a richer understanding of Swisslife and consciousness through the centuries. Housed in anexquisite castle-like building, with a distinctive tower, thepermanent collection contains a comprehensive anthology ofartefacts from the Stone Age to modern times. First stop is thearchaeology exhibit where tools and articles dating back to before800BC are on display. Highlights at the museum include theCelestial globe of Jost Bürg (1594), a groundbreaking symbol ofEuropean thought, religious reliquaries from the 13th to 16thcenturies and ancient wheels, considered to be among the earliestever found. Another major drawcard is the Armoury, where historicSwiss weaponry used in combat between 800 and 1800BC can be found.Visitors can expect to see crossbows, swords and suits ofarmour.
Interlaken, meaning 'between the lakes', is the tourist capitalof the Bernese Oberland. As a popular holiday spot it is superblysituated between the lakes of Thun and Brienz, offering a varietyof water-based activities during summer, and access to an endlessamount of winter sports in the surrounding mountains of the BerneseAlps and its valleys. Linked to numerous holiday resorts andvillages by a series of mountain railways and cablecars, Interlakenhas a myriad of slopes and trails in many different areas offeringskiing, snowboarding and hiking, as well as connecting to thefamous cog railway leading to the plateau of the Jungfrau Mountain.During winter, skiers can take advantage of the town's low prices,avoiding the in-season costs of higher altitude ski resorts. Withits many fine hotels, nightlife and dining opportunities, numerousexcursion possibilities and first-class transport connections,Interlaken is an ideal all-round holiday destination for bothwinter and summer, for skiers and non-skiers alike.
An excellent day trip from Zurich and close to the town ofSchaffhausen, the Rhine Falls (Rheinfall) is the largest andwaterfall in Europe, impressive not so much for its height of 75ft(23m), but more for the volume of water thundering over its broadbreadth. This natural wonder is especially remarkable duringspring, when the snowmelt adds to its volume. On the hill above thefalls is a medieval castle, Schloss Laufen, housing a restaurant,shops and a hostel. Rainbow-coloured mists rising from the forestand encircling the castle create an enchanting atmosphere. Insummer one of the highlights of a visit to the falls is a boat tripacross the white-water of the cataracts to the Centre Rock, with ashort climb up some stairs to the top for an exhilarating view ofthe rushing water. Breathtaking views can also be enjoyed fromthree different lookout platforms along a path leading from thecastle. The Känzeli Lookout, with a protruding platform at the baseof the falls, is the most spectacular.
The Rhine Falls is host to the fantastic fireworks display heldon Swiss National Day (1 August) that attracts thousands ofspectators every year.
Claiming to occupy the sunniest plateau in the Swiss Alps, thetwin villages of Crans and Montana are perched 4920 feet (1,500m)above the Rhone Valley. Crans-Montana provides the best of both amountain village and modern Swiss ski resort, offering an Alpineshopping paradise, and easy access to nearby attractions like themuseums of Sierra, the underground lake near St-Léonard, and theglacier at Plaine Morte. The resort has a glitzy reputation andenjoys a fashionable nightlife. Crans-Montana offers many summeractivities, including water skiing, swimming, mountain climbing,hiking, and a championship golf course.
According to legend, Bern was named when its founder, Berchtold,was advised to go on a hunt and to name the town after the firstbeast that he caught. The bear has remained the symbol of thecapital city ever since. One of the most charming cities in Europe,its Old Town centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site forthe preservation of its cobbled medieval street plan, with manyfountains, towers and a massive astronomical clock. With itsrelaxed atmosphere, farmers' markets and friendly people, it iseasy to forget that this is the Swiss capital, an important city ofpoliticians and international meetings. And with its interestingmuseums, theatres, long-standing monuments and landmarks, Bern is apopular base from which to explore the mountains and lakes of thenearby Bernese Oberland.
Devoted for the most part to 19th and 20th century artwork, theKunsthaus Zurich (Zurich Fine Arts Museum) is a cultural drawcardfor any art lover. Holding one of the largest collections of worksby Edvard Munch outside Norway, as well as works by renowned modernartists such as Chagall, Picasso, Monet, Rothko and theExpressionists, Kokoschka, Beckmann and Corinth to name a few,there is a whole host of quality artwork at which the visitor canmarvel. Visitors can also view the creative talents of cutting edgeSwiss artists such as the sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti,and well-known Swiss duo Fischli/Weiss. Situated in a sophisticatedbuilding with contemporary exhibitions, a trip to the KunsthausZurich makes for a very rewarding cultural day out.
Trains, buses, trams and bikes are common ways of getting aroundZurich. To get above the bustling streets and cobbled walkways,travellers should hop onto either the Polybahn or RigiblickFunicular for panoramic views of the city and Lake Zurich. Thetraditional Polybahn was first opened in 1889 to solve thetransport problem of students travelling from central Zurich to theUniversity of Technology, which is situated on the toweringZürichberg hill. The Polybahn has maintained its classic Swissappearance and continues to haul students and tourists to thePolyterasse viewpoint. Serving an attractive neighbourhood north ofZurich, the Rigiblick Funicular rewards travellers with a sweepingpanoramic view of the city and the unmistakable Mount Rigi(1797m).
Known for sophisticated designs such as the internationallyrecognised symbol of the Red Cross, it is no wonder thatSwitzerland has a museum dedicated solely to design. With fourseparate collections, visitors can indulge in the designs of thePoster Collection, Design Collection, Graphic Collection andDecorative Arts Collection, spanning the past century or visit oneof the temporary exhibits where works of acclaimed industrialdesigners, photographers, graphic artists and architects areregularly shown. Designed by the progressive Swiss architects AdolfSteger and Karl Egender as a Functionalist manifesto, the Museum ofDesign Zurich is a great example of modern architecture inSwitzerland and is a gallery not to be missed.
Situated in the old town, across from central station, thenarrow lanes of Niederdorf wind through towering 14th centurybuildings revealing small plazas where restaurants spill ontocobbled streets and buskers entertain diners and passers-by withmiscellaneous music. This charming district has an interestingarray of fashion stores, bookshops and antique dealers as well assuperb independent cheese, wine and pastry shops. In the eveningthe area transforms into one of Zurich's buzzing nightlife venueswith a wide selection of bars, restaurants and clubs to beexplored.
Unlike the dubious reputation of zoos worldwide, the Zurich Zoois refreshingly dedicated to nature conservation, maintainingecosystems and protecting animal species, with many projects ofreintroduction into the wild. Offering guided tours and in depthinformation tools, the Zurich Zoo does its best to educate thepublic. With over 340 different species and 4000 animals, visitorswill get the unique chance to view endangered animal species suchas snow leopards and red pandas. Recreating ecosystems from exoticMadagascar to the rugged Ethiopian Highlands and housing thevarious animals in spacious enclosures, a visit to the diverseZurich Zoo is a pleasurable and invigorating excursion. Travellersshould visit the website to see feeding times and which new pupshave been born.
The final work of the renowned Swiss architect who pioneeredmodernism and laid the foundation for Bauhaus, the Pavillon LeCorbusier in Zurichhorn Park is the epitome of modern design. Aconglomeration of his life's work, the former Centre Le Corbusierand Heidi Weber Museum unify Le Corbusier's architecture,paintings, furniture, sculpture and writings, all in one space.Created in the 1960s, the contemporary building has strongreferences to Mondrian and is a jumble of cubic structures made ofcoloured panels, glass and steel, protected by a detached angularroof. Initially designed as a private house, the many spaces of theCentre Le Corbusier have fared well as an exhibition and learningcentre. While travelling to this illuminating masterpiece, touristscan take a stroll alongside the Limmat River in picturesqueZurichhorn Park and should look out for the sculptures of JeanTinguely and Henry Moore.
One of the tallest fountains in the world, the Jet d'Eau is aGeneva attraction that cannot be missed. Projecting 460 feet (140m)into the air at a speed of 124 miles per hour (200km/h) and pumping132 gallons (500 litres) of water per second, the fountain wasinitially established to release pressure for hydropower generationon the Rhone River, but was so loved by the populace that in 1891the city created a permanent fountain. As Paris has the EiffelTower and New York has the Empire State Building, Geneva has theJet d'Eau. For a breathtaking and romantic sight, tourists shouldvisit at night, when the fountain is lit up.
One of the most creative and thought-provoking museums inEurope, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum bringstogether sculpture, installation, photography and film to highlightthe importance of human rights, the history of conflict in the 20thcentury and the humanitarian work the Red Cross has done inproviding aid to combatants and civilians caught up in both war andnatural disasters. Funded entirely by outside donors, the museum isappropriately situated on the hillside opposite the United Nations,within the headquarters of the International Committee of the RedCross. A significant stopover on a visit to Geneva, theInternational Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum provides insightinto the gross implications of war and the tragedy that surrounds,as well as the committed work of the volunteers and Red Crossrepresentatives alike. All the exhibits have an English languageoption.
Leysin has a reputation as one of the most family-friendly skiresorts in Switzerland, offering children's activities year-roundat more affordable rates than its fashionable neighbours in theRhone Valley. There are a number of off-piste diversions, includingexcursions to Lake Geneva, the museums and castles in Aigle, andthe igloos in Teepee Village. The mountain provides a spectacularsetting for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and rockclimbing in summer. There are a number of good restaurants,including the glass revolving Le Kuklos, which has a panoramic viewof the region, and a few bars in town. While the village is removedfrom the larger skiing areas, skiing in Leysin's 37 miles (60km) ofpistes provides challenges ranging from nursery areas to two blackruns for experts, and 24 miles (39km) of cross country trails.There is a ski school that arranges heli-skiing trips, and theglacier at Les Diablerets is included in the ski pass.
Leysin is a major snowboarding destination, with a snowboardpark and half pipe that have hosted many professionalcompetitions.
With initial construction commencing in 1160 and lasting nearlya century, St Peter's Cathedral has over the years become ahotchpotch of architectural styles with Romanesque, Gothic andNeoclassical features. A former Catholic cathedral, St Peter'sbecame a Protestant church in 1536 at the advent of the Reformationand was cleared of its ornate fittings such as altars, statues,paintings and furniture, but the stained-glass windows remained.Prominent theologian John Calvin preached at St Peter's Churchbetween 1536 and his death in 1564 and the church soon became thecentre of Protestantism. Recently, the remains of a fourth-centurychurch were discovered under the existing building, providing aninsightful look into early Christianity. Some of it is open to thepublic and can be viewed through the small museum on the site. Fora breathtaking panoramic view of Geneva and Lac Leman, visitors canclimb the 157 steps that lead to the summit of the cathedral'snorth tower.
Public parks cover over one quarter of Geneva providing thepopulace with a quiet haven of rolling lawns and tree linedwalkways. Dotted with many curious sculptures and attractions,there are a few parks worthwhile visiting. Bastion Park houses the328-foot (100m) Reformation Wall, a monument commemorating themajor figures and events of the Protestant Reformation, as well aslife size chess boards at the north end of the park.
To view the famous flower clock, a symbol of the Swiss watchindustry, head to the English Garden close to the water fountainand for outstanding views of Mont Blanc and the lake, Park Moynieris a firm favourite, with the History of Science Museum situated inthe centre. Twenty hectares of woodland and hiking trails is whatyou will find at Batie Woods on the outskirts of the city.
Opened in 1994, the cutting edge Museum of Modern andContemporary Art refuses to conform and as former museum directorChristian Bernard says, the museum 'is not here to present theacceptable face of contemporary art'. With modern works dating fromthe 1960s to the present day, exhibited in a turn of the centuryfactory, visitors to MAMCO will spend hours marvelling at the rangeof contemporary art that covers three floors. The Museum of Modernand Contemporary Art constantly reinvents itself, changing itsexhibits and interior construction three times a year. The works offamous Dadaist Marcel Duchamp are on display all year round.
Built between 1929 and 1937 to host the League of Nations, thePalais des Nations now houses the United Nations Office at Geneva,which was inaugurated in 1966 after the dissolution of the Leagueof Nations. The biggest United Nations station outside of theheadquarters in New York, the office at Geneva provides criticalsupport to the organization. Situated in 45-hectare Ariana Park,the extensive Palais des Nations is bordered by century old trees,and it is not uncommon to see peacocks darting around; the resultof a request by the former owner of the land who bequeathed it tothe City of Geneva on condition that peacocks may run freely on itsgrounds. Tours include the council room with frescoes by José MariaSert and the Assembly Hall. Identity documents are required.
Featuring a comprehensive collection of 7,000 artworks andartefacts from civilisations around the world, the Barbier-MuellerMuseum in Geneva is the outcome of the tireless accumulations ofJosef Mueller, whose collection began in 1907 and is continued tothis day by his heirs. Founded in 1977, the museum wanted topreserve and study the sculptures, fabrics and ornaments broughtfrom "primitive" civilisations that were once isolated communities.Visitors should look out for the megalithic monuments fromIndonesia, the statues and items of worship from Oceania,pre-Columbian art from the Americas and ancient masks and shieldsfrom Africa.
The cultural hub of Geneva, Place Neuve sits just outside theformer ramparts and is a great access point for the Old Town, whichlies on the other side of the high retaining walls. Home to threeof Geneva's regal performance and exhibition halls, the GrandTheatre (opera house), Conservatory of Music and Rath Museum, thePlace Neuve is worth visiting to witness the architecturalaesthetic of these buildings. In the centre of the square is theemblematic statue of Swiss general Henri Dufour, who was the firstperson to establish a map of Switzerland and also presided over theFirst Geneva Convention. The highest mountain in Switzerland,Dufourspitze, is named after him.
Comprising three sections, the captivating Museum of Art andHistory explores the passage of western culture and internationalcivilisations with over 7,000 pieces covering archaeology (Roman,Greek, Egyptian and Etruscan), fine arts (paintings from theRenaissance to modern times) and applied arts (found objects fromthe Middle Ages to the 20th century). One of Geneva's largestmuseums, the colossal Museum of Art and History was built at thebeginning of the 20th century, between 1903 and 1910. Whenvisiting, travellers should look out for paintings by legendaryartists Van Gogh and Renoir.
The museum offers a fascinating presentation of Genevese, Swissand European watches and enamels dating from the 16th to the early19th century, including a great number of masterpieces that haveleft their mark on the history of horology. Audiovisualmultilingual presentations of selected masterpieces animate theexhibit. Visitors can explore the roots of time-measurement througha visual timeline, which details the key events in watchmaking'sevolution from the Antique creations of the 1500s, through to thefounding of Patek Philippe in 1839, up to the present day. Theintricate details and designs, moving parts and beautiful coloursof the collection will provide hours of fascination.
The holiday destination of Grindelwald is a picturesque,traditional mountain settlement at the foot of the Eiger Mountain,surrounded by spectacular alpine landscapes. Popular as both asummer and winter holiday spot, it offers miles of slopes andhiking trails across the Alps, and for non-skiers there are a hugevariety of winter activities, from tobogganing to groomed winterhiking tracks. For skiers there are three distinct areas to choosefrom, with slopes for beginners, intermediates and the challengesof the Eiger glacier for the experienced; as well as lift links toWengen and Mürren, making this one of the best holiday resorts fromwhich to explore the Jungfrau region. Skiing in Grindelwald is bestsuited to intermediates, and there are plenty of long, gentle runsto keep them busy. There are plenty of options for true beginnersas well at the Bodmi Nursery slopes. While advanced skiers won'tfind much, Grindelwald boasts the famous Lauberhorn World Cupdownhill run, as well as the near-vertical Kanonenrohr.
The resort is part of the Jungfrau region, and shares mountainspace with Wengen. There are roughly 12 miles (20km) ofcross-country tracks.
The Alps contain some of Switzerland's most dramatic landscapes,in a country already well endowed with spectacular scenery andfabulous alpine vistas. Situated at the heart of the Alps,Switzerland shares the mountain range with France, Italy andAustria and provides winter and summer time enjoyment for skiers,snowboarders, walkers and climbers. Switzerland boasts the firstever ski resort, and since then over 200 first-class resorts haveattracted thousands of Swiss and international downhill andcross-country skiers as well as snowboarders.
The tradition of skiing goes back two centuries. Today, withmore than 1,700 mountain railways and ski lifts, renowned skischools and instructors, the best ski equipment in the world, andoutstanding slopes and facilities catering for all levels ofability, it deserves to be called 'Europe's winter playground'. Theideal resort for beginners or families is Grindelwald in theJungfrau region, while intermediates and snowboarders head for thetwin resorts of Davos and Klosters, with miles of excellent skiterrain and acclaimed to be one of the top snowboardingdestinations worldwide.
Expert skiers can enjoy the challenge of 7,200 ft (2,700m)vertical drops on the Klein Matterhorn at Zermatt, and the skivalley of Verbier is ideal for shoulder-season skiing as itslocation provides early snow that lingers late into the spring. Thestylish resort of St Moritz offers the most energetic and variednightlife out of all the Swiss resorts. The ideal ski season runsfrom January to late March, but is most crowded during theChristmas holidays and the month of February. Climbers and walkershead to the Alps between June and September when the weather iswarmer and more settled. There are more than 40,390 miles(65,000km) of well-marked and maintained hiking trails as well aslonger treks across the country that will reveal miles and miles ofunspoiled beauty.
Grindelwald has long been the capital of summer hiking in theBernese Alps, and more recently added a network of groomed trailsfor winter hikers. Climbers have long been lured by the challengesof the Matterhorn and there are some memorable hikes up to thecliffs below the summit. The Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) is the bestsource of information on mountaineering. The most accessible andvisited alpine area is the magnificent Bernese Oberland region inthe centre of the country with classic Swiss scenery - picturesquepeaks, quaint wooden chalets and charming mountain villages, greenpastures, lakes and the tinkle of cow bells. This is a fabulousarea for walking and provides exceptional winter sports.
When people in Geneva say they go to Museum, they mean TheNatural History Museum. This museum presents an educational look atthe world of nature with special emphasis on the ecological historyof Switzerland. Included is a life-size model menagerie of bears,foxes, alligators, aardvarks and other animals from around theglobe, as well as a complete collection of every mineral and plantindigenous to Switzerland. There is also a special children's area.A great place to bring the kids, the Musée d'Historie Naturellecontains numerous historical collections left to the museum byworld-renowned scientists, such as Lunel, Saussure and Fatio.Children will be amazed by displays of animals and specimensincluding a leatherback turtle, giant spider crabs, tiger sharksand even a coelacanth.
A visit to Aquaparc is a must for families on holiday in Geneva,especially with children. This water park caters to children of allages and features indoor and outdoor swimming and water adventurerides and slides in a tropical theme. Brave children will loverides such as the Devil's Fall and Morgan's Thrill, while parentscan indulge in a massage with thousands of bubbles in the hot tubs.The water and the air are heated to 28°C and some attractions areopen all year round. Regardless of the weather (if it's raining, ifit's windy or if it's snowing), Aquaparc is open.
Advertised as the 'slowest express train in the world', theGlacier Express is also the most panoramic, and is a breathtakingway to experience the magnificence of the Swiss Alps. The seven anda half hour journey begins daily from Zermatt. The red mountaintrain crosses more than 291 bridges, winds its way through 91tunnels and seven valleys and over the 6,670ft (2,033m) OberalpPass to the resort of St Moritz, in a spectacular feat of mountainengineering. The train is equipped with large windows for clearviewing and the scenery, including mountain panoramas, quaintvillages and wooden chalets, forests and alpine pastures, isstunning. A dining car provides lunch and the mini-bar containstilted wine glasses to counter the lean of the carriages along thesteep mountainous route. The train can be taken in eitherdirection, and if time is short it is possible to travel along ashort section of the route, but either way it is advisable to makeadvance bookings as the train is very popular. There are severaldepartures a day during summer and one a day in winter.
With panoramic views of the Rhone Valley, Veysonnaz forms a partof the Four Valleys ski area together with Nendaz, Verbier, Thyonand La Tzoumaz. A more affordable alternative to fashionableresorts like Verbier, the pretty town of Veysonnaz has managed toretain its Alpine charm with traditional architecture and eventslike the June Cow Processions. There are a range of activities fornon-skiers in both summer and winter, including attractions likethe pyramids of Euseigne and the Grande Dixence dam. The townitself has a number of restaurants and bars, as well as a few shopsand a recreation centre. The Four Valleys ski area has over 250miles (400km) of runs, which provide ample off piste opportunitiesfor experts, including the Tortin snow bowl. There are also runsfor intermediates and beginners, and the runs in general range from1,640 feet (500m) to 9,842 feet (3,000m) in elevation, thoughheli-skiing is available to the Pigne d'Arolla at 12,467 feet(3,800m). The 1936 Neypark at La Choux is a haven for snowboardingin Veysonnaz, featuring a skate-style pyramid and a good selectionof rails.
The temperature is moderate with no extremes of hot and cold, soSwitzerland can be visited at any time of year. Summer is warm tohot and lasts from about June to September and, although good foroutdoor activities, it is also the most crowded time for a holiday.Ski resorts open in late November and remain so until the snowbegins to melt in April.
Widely considered to be one of the finest restaurants inSwitzerland, perhaps even the whole of Europe, maestro chef RicoZandonella's award-winning reputation attracts the wealthy gourmetsof Zurich and boasts a celebrity list that includes the Swisspresident, singer Tina Turner (who lives nearby) and the emperor ofJapan. The restaurant is in the lakeside town of Kusnacht, about 15minutes from the city, housed in an elegantly decorated buildingthat was once an art gallery. The menu changes regularly, and caninclude outstanding speciality lobster dishes or a number of otherinventive dishes such as Tuscan dove, scampi lasagne in lemongrasssauce or stuffed squid with a fennel confit. All entrées, dessertsand cheeses are of exceptional quality, as is the wine cellar. Openfor lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Advance bookingessential.
One of Zurich's most famous restaurants, Kronenhalle is theplace to see and be seen, and over the years has attractedcelebrity greats such as James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, RichardStrauss and Yves Saint-Laurent. The interior is decorated withoriginal works of famous 20th-century artists including Picasso,Matisse and Miró. The fare is traditional Swiss and includes hugeportions of rösti, a delicious herring in double cream, veal steakand duck liver. Reservations are essential.
Originally the carpenter's guildhall, Zunfthaus Zur Zimmerleutenis one of the architectural showpieces of Zurich. Up a flight ofBaroque stairs, the elegant dining room serves up dishes thatcombine Zurich specialities with chef innovations, including theLake Zurich fish soup with garlic rouille or the triple filletaccompanied with rösti and cream sauce. Reservations recommended.Open daily.
The huge dining hall built in 1487, with thick stone pillars,wooden beams and a decorative ceiling, was originally the city'sarmoury, and the medieval character of the restaurant ishighlighted by the décor, with weapons and paintings from theMiddle Ages, and waitresses in old-fashioned costume. Known for itstasty traditional Swiss meals, the portions are hearty and servedwith local beer. Classic speciality dishes include the Zurich-stylesliced veal and mushrooms and rösti potatoes. Zeughauskeller alsooffers a wide variety of different types of sausage. Open dailyfrom 11.30am. Reservations recommended.
Situated on the site of a 300-year old mill, this slick modernrestaurant draws trendsetters from the advertising and arts scenewho are attracted by the modern approach to fresh ingredients andlight cuisine. Duck ('blaue ente' means 'blue duck') is the housespeciality and comes in various forms. Other dishes include fishand crustaceans, loin of lamb, vegetarian curry and pastas.Reservations recommended.
Established in 1325 as a wine cellar and a restaurant in 1551,Veltliner Keller evokes a sense of history and charm in itsdetailed wooden panelling. Originally used to store Italian-Swisswines that were transported to Zurich over the Alps, thisdelightful restaurant offers wholesome, hearty cuisine that willnot disappoint. The seasonal menu includes Swiss and Italian dishesas well as the traditional Zurich dish, kalbsgeschnetzeltes (slicedveal and mushrooms in a white wine sauce).
Located in the St Gotthard Hotel, the Hummerbar (Lobster Bar) isone of Zurich's top dining spots. The rich scarlet décor and darkwood creates the perfect setting for a romantic dinner. Freshcaviar, oysters and shellfish are flown in daily from Iran, andwoven into the menu of classical French cuisine with aMediterranean flair. Open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinnerand on Sunday for dinner.
This trendy cafe and bar, formerly a coffeehouse where thepre-revolutionary Lenin met intellectuals, has been transformedinto an art-nouveau eatery frequented by locals and tourists alike.Other celebrities to have dined here include the likes of Joyce,Einstein, Mata Hari and Mussolini. Nowadays it is thebourgeois-chic crowd who like to dine on fine pasta dishes andother delicious meals. This eatery remains open late so expect aneventful evening! Reservations recommended.
A trip to Switzerland would be incomplete without samplingtraditional Swiss fare. A country famous for cheese, most notablythe tasty Gruyere variety, communal dishes such as raclette andfondue are commonplace in both Swiss homes and upmarketrestaurants. Ideal for a wintery treat, travellers should head toChez Crettol, where these particular dishes are the speciality.With a selection of fondues to choose from, patrons can while awaythe time dipping, twirling and eating and finishing off with azesty local white wine. Those who can't handle more than a fewmouthfuls of bread can opt for raclette, a combination of boiledpotatoes, pickled onions and gherkins, drizzled with melted cheese,which is scraped off a melting block. For a heart-warming Swissevening, a warm crackling fireplace and an understated environmentthat looks characteristically similar to a Swiss dining room, ChezCrettol is the place. Open daily for dinner.
With one of the best locations in Zurich, the Seerose offers aromantic element to Zurich dining. Situated on the vast lake,guests are surrounded by water, quaint boats, city lights andmajestic snow-capped mountains. Whether travellers are looking fora sunny and crisp lunchtime venue or an evening out, with aEuropean flair, the Seerose will fulfil their expectations.Reminiscent of a yacht on the Mediterranean with elegant beachhousetrimmings, the Seerose serves up fresh cuisine ranging from seafoodto curry. Patrons can start with goat's cheese and honey on a saladbouquet or a Salade Noel, with chicory, nuts, fresh fruits and anIndian sauce. Popular mains include moule et frites and duckl'orange or for the more adventurous, a red beef curry. Open dailyfor breakfast, lunch and dinner, booking recommended.
Those in search of authentic Swiss cuisine prepared toperfection need look no further than the Les Armures. This renownedeatery located in the 5-star Hotel Les Armures features threedining rooms for patrons to choose between, namely the Terrace,Salle des Artistes and Carnozet and serves Swiss favourites with aFrench flair and elegance. Patrons should try the wild mushroomsoup, sliced breaded veal or the roasted duck breast served in araspberry vinegar sauce. Open daily for lunch and dinner.Reservations recommended.
A warm and friendly bistro situated opposite the Museum ofModern and Contemporary Art in the trendy Plainpalais district,Café des Bains serves fresh innovative dishes from all over theworld. With a varying daily lunch menu, patrons can expectmouth-watering quality dishes, prepared with only the finestingredients, which are creatively presented. They can take lunch atthe bar area where they can access free wifi or just sit back andenjoy a freshly brewed coffee. In the evenings patrons can choosefrom an attractive a la carte menu that is accompanied by a goodwinelist. For a relaxed dining experience in Geneva, travellersshould head to Café de Bains. Open Monday to Friday for lunch anddinner, and Saturday for dinner.
Popular with tourists and locals alike, La Perle du Lac is theonly restaurant in Geneva that is situated directly on Lac Leman.Known for its large flowered terrace overlooking the Alps mountainrange and the tranquil lake, guests at La Perle du Lac easilyunwind whilst relishing the flavours of their pan fried escalope ofduck liver with apple or the much loved slow-cooked lamb shanks.Situated in pretty Mon Repos Park, La Perle du Lac has been servingfive star French cuisine to diplomats and businessmen for over 30years. Open Monday to Sunday for lunch and dinner.
Situated about three miles (five kilometres) outside of centralGeneva, city slickers and tourists alike cannot help but gravitatetowards Café du Soleil. With a leafy outside sitting area dottedwith blood red tables and a simple interior with antique woodenchairs and elaborate framed mirrors adorning the bare white walls,the frank décor of Café du Soleil only highlights the scrumptiouscuisine. Regarded as one of the oldest restaurants in Geneva andone of the best fondue restaurants to boot, there is no uncertaintyover what to order. For a light lunch, patrons should try theirbrochettes or freshly prepared salads otherwise the sirloin andrump steaks are a good bet. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Ideal for a business lunch or gastronomic night out, Auberge deFloris is a sophisticated terrace restaurant overlooking the lakein the picturesque village of Anières, 15 minutes southwest of thecity. Claude and Inès Legras warmly welcome patrons to thisMichelin star restaurant known for its delectable seafood. Patronsshould try the tuna carpaccio starter drizzled with orange zest andolive oil and follow with pecorino-stuffed calamari in octopus inksauce with chorizo potatoes and steamed courgette flowers. Nextdoor is the bistro, offering less complex but still inventivedishes at slightly cheaper prices. Open Tuesday to Saturday forlunch and dinner.
A haven for wine lovers, Les Papilles de Lavinia is a new wineand tapas bar that combines the sweet and savoury dishes with awonderful selection of wines from leading producers around theworld. Guests can sit intimately at a table for two or join alarger group around the heavy wooden tables. With tasteful décorand a trendy wine bar atmosphere, Les Papilles de Lavinia is idealfor a sophisticated lunch or after-work drink. Open for lunch andearly dinner from Monday to Saturday.
The elegant Restaurant du Parc des Eaux-Vives is situated in ahistoric mansion dating back to the 18th century in the picturesqueParc des Eaux-Vives along the lake. The gourmet restaurant,decorated with two Michelin stars, is overseen by talented chef decuisine Julien Schillaci whose refined menu is composed accordingto the produce of the season. The art deco dining room iscomplimented with world-class wines and outstanding service. Insummer, the Parc des Eaux-Vives terrace is one of the mostbeautiful settings in Geneva. Ideal for business or leisure, theParc des Eaux-Vives is open daily for lunch and dinner.
Met by an ornate fountain in the entrance way and draped in richochre, red and orange décor, this cosy Moroccan restaurant featuresrugs, cushions, tapestries and belly dancers on Saturday nights. Apopular eatery with locals and almost always bustling, La Mamouniaserves traditional Moroccan dishes and delicious tagines. Roomswith different colours and décor can be booked for private partiesand large tables. The flagship dish, the chicken 'Mamounia' withtoasted almond sauce is not to be missed. Reservations accepted.Open daily.
Serving some of Geneva's finest French cuisine, Le Chat-Bottéboasts renowned chef Dominique Gauthier, who prepares innovativeand delicious gourmet food night after night. Located in the HotelBeau Rivage, this stylish and sophisticated restaurant istastefully decorated and boasts one of Switzerland's finestselections of wines. Patrons should try the tartar of slipperlobster with lime and ginger, coco milk and citronella gaspacho, orthe Pyrenean spring lamb and polenta fries served with a deliciouslight cream. Whatever guests choose to eat, Le Chat-Botte does notdisappoint. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservationsrecommended.
Located in the leafy green suburbs of Carouge, this bustlingclassic restaurant has fast become one of Geneva's favourites. Theever-changing art adorning the walls and wine list allows patronsto sample some exciting new additions while dining on traditionalFrench fare. Open Monday to Friday from January through August andMonday to Saturday September through December. Reservationsaccepted.
The official currency is the Swiss Franc (CHF), divided into 100rappen (German) or centimes (French). Although not part of the EU,many prices are nonetheless indicated in Euros and some merchantsmay accept Euros. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs arewidespread; many are equipped with the Cirrus or Maestro system.Banks offer the best exchange rates, but it is also possible toexchange money at major hotels, main train stations and airports.Banks are open Monday to Friday.
The four official languages are Swiss German, French,Italian and Romansch. Most people know at least three languages,including English.
Electrical current in Switzerland is 230 volts, 50Hz.Plugs are of the linear, rounded three-pin type, but roundedtwo-pin plugs will fit the outlet.
US passport holders require a passport valid for three monthsbeyond period of intended stay. A visa is not necessary for staysof up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
United Kingdom citizens require a passport valid for at leastthree months beyond period of intended stay, with the exception ofpassports marked 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing aCertificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by theUnited Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issuedby Gibraltar, which will be accepted if valid on arrival.
No visa is required for passports endorsed 'British Citizen','British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar,Identity Cards issued by Gibraltar, and 'British Subject'(containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abodeissued by the United Kingdom). All other British nationals areentitled to a maximum stay of 90 days without a visa, within a 180day period.
Canadian passport holders require a passport valid for threemonths beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not necessary forstays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
Australian passport holders require a passport valid for threemonths beyond period of intended stay. A visa is not necessary forstays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
South African passport holders require a passport valid forthree months beyond period of intended stay, and a Schengenvisa.
Irish nationals require a valid passport, valid for the periodof the intended stay, but no visa is necessary.
US passport holders require a passport valid for three monthsbeyond period of intended stay. A visa is not necessary for staysof up to 90 days within a 180 day period.
New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for three monthsbeyond period of intended stay. No visa is necessary for a stay ofup to 90 days within a 180 day period.
The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes thefollowing countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark,Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy,Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, TheNetherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain,Sweden, and as of December 2008, Switzerland. All these countriesissue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry optionthat allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all.It is highly recommended that travellers' passports have at leastsix months' validity remaining after the intended date of departurefrom their travel destination. Immigration officials often applydifferent rules to those stated by travel agents and officialsources.
Swiss medical facilities and health care are among the best inthe world, but very expensive and health insurance is recommended.Immunisation certificates are only required if the traveller hasbeen in an infected area within two weeks prior to arrival in thecountry. There is a reciprocal health agreement with the UK andmost EU countries, whose citizens are entitled to free or low-costemergency medical treatment on presentation of a European HealthInsurance Card (EHIC). Medical insurance is advised for othernationalities.
A 15 percent service charge is normally included in all hotel,taxi, bar and restaurant bills in Switzerland, and further tippingis not necessary, but small change left over is appreciated.
Switzerland has a low crime rate compared to other Europeancountries and is generally a safe country to travel in. However,there has been a recent increase in petty theft and visitors shouldbe alert to pickpockets and thieves, particularly in the citycentres and on public transport. Travellers should be aware ofrobberies on overnight trains.
Privacy and discretion are highly valued in Swiss culture, andstrangers generally do not speak to each other. The Swiss arenaturally reserved and conservative, and prefer structured rules togovern their daily lives. Littering is a serious social crime inSwitzerland, and visitors should also make an effort to throw theirrecyclables in the proper receptacle. French and German-speakingSwitzerland have different customs in some areas. When beingintroduced to someone, German-speaking Swiss will shake hands,while French-speaking locals may kiss on the cheek three times(generally left, right, left). While many Swiss speak English, itis considered polite to inquire before attempting conversation.
Swiss business culture is based predominantly on merit. TheSwiss are masters of building well-oiled machines. The businessworld reflects this and operates in a similar fashion. Efficiencyand organisation are prioritised. A formal, no-nonsense approach iscentral to business culture in Switzerland. There is little roomfor humour or lack of preparation in negotiations and businessmeetings. While the Swiss are slightly less pedantic than theirGerman or French counterparts, great value is attached toappearance and punctuality.
Dress codes for business people in Switzerland are quite formaland conservative, particularly in the banking sector where darksuits are the norm. Sports jackets and a collared shirt and tiewill suffice for businessmen while businesswomen in Switzerlandshould adopt corporate wear - either trousers or suit skirts areappropriate. Business and pleasure are entirely separate in theSwiss work environment. In keeping work and personalcompartmentalised, Swiss businesspeople even shy away from callingtheir colleagues by first names, which reinforces formality andboundaries between work and play. When invited to a Swiss businessassociate's home, a small gift such as flowers or a box ofchocolates is appropriate.
In Swiss business culture those in senior positions garner agreat deal of respect, but decision-making processes are oftenquite democratic. Switzerland is home to over 1000 multinationalsand has become something of a melting pot of business customs,regional influences and etiquette. English is the corporatelanguage in Switzerland particularly for multinationals. However,regional languages, such as French, German and Italian, aresometimes preferred in their respective areas. Swiss-Germanbusiness meetings are rarely over food and are often as brief aspossible with little small talk. But the Swiss-French andSwiss-Italians often meet over lunches and talk is not restrictedonly to business. Handshakes are common for addressing both men andwomen. Business hours are from 8am to 5pm on weekdays with a lunchbreak from 12pm to 2pm.
The international country dialling code for Switzerland is +41.Mobile phone networks operate throughout the country and wifi iswidespread.
Travellers to Switzerland over 17 years do not have to pay dutyon the following items: 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250gtobacco; 2 litres alcohol up to 15 percent and 1 litre alcohol over15 percent. The maximum allowance of wine is 20 litres, but dutywill be payable on this quantity. VAT is liable if the total valueof all goods exceed CHF 300. Restricted items include meat and meatproducts from selected countries. Prohibited items are absinth andanaesthetics.
Swiss Tourist Office, Zurich: +41 44 215 4000 orwww.myswitzerland.com
Swiss Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 7457900.
Swiss Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7616 6000.
Swiss Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 235 1837.
Swiss Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 452 0660.
Swiss Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6162 8400.
Swiss Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 218 6382.
Swiss Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 472 1593.
United States Embassy, Bern: +4131 357 7011.
British Embassy, Bern: +41 31 359 7700.
Canadian Embassy, Bern: +41 31 357 3200.
South African Embassy, Bern: +41 31 350 1313.
Australian Consulate-General, Geneva: +41 22 799 9100.
Irish Embassy, Bern: +41 31 352 1442.
New Zealand Consulate-General, Geneva: +41 22 929 0350.
One of the largest lakes in central Europe and shared by bothSwitzerland and France, Lake Geneva (Lac Léman to itsFrench-speaking inhabitants) has for decades drawn visitors to itsshores. Attracted by the alpine panorama, quaint wooden chaletvillages, vineyard-covered slopes and sailboats skimming across theblue waters, many famous writers, musical composers, actors andpoets came to settle and the area has become something of aninspiration to the arts. Situated in the westernmost district ofVaud, the region contains a diversity of attractions andactivities, from wine-growing villages and mountain ski resorts,picturesque castles, and magnificent cathedrals, to low-keylakeside resorts, boat cruises, and cosy fireside pots of fondue.Sophisticated shopping and cultural life can be found in the citiesof Geneva and Lausanne, with sweeping views across the sparklinglake to the Alps and the distinctive pinnacle of Mont Blanc. Amongthe vineyards and affluent villas clinging to the slopes lie thelakeside towns of Vevey and Montreux, the pearls of the SwissRiviera.
Scenic winding roads stretch along the shores, and train tripsoffer outstanding views, while below steamers crisscross the watersof Lake Geneva, offering a variety of ways to experience thesplendour of its location.
Located on the shores of Lake Geneva, the energetic city ofLausanne is built above the lake on a sequence of tiers connectedby a small metro. The upper or Old Town contains the grand Gothiccathedral, Notre-Dame; its turreted towers a well-known symbol ofthe city. The lower town on the lakeshore was once the smallfishing village of Ouchy and is now the prime waterfront area withoutdoor dining and cafés, promenades and sporting activities. Thegardens around the Quay d'Ouchy are home to the city's foremostattraction, the Olympic Museum, containing a wealth of sportingmemories and a collection of unique objects pertaining to theOlympic Games from its beginning until the present. Lausannerelishes its importance as the Olympic World Capital andheadquarters of the International Olympic Committee.
One of the best-maintained medieval castles in Europe, the13th-century Château de Chillon is the most visited historicalbuilding in Switzerland. With its stunning lakeside location nearthe chic town of Montreux, jutting out into the water and framed bymountains, it is one of the most photographed castles in Europe. Animportant fortress in the Middle Ages, it was positioned to controlthe narrow passage between mountains and lake, protecting the majornorth-south route. It was also the favourite summer residence ofthe Counts of Savoy; while later, it served as a state prison.Visitors can tour the dungeons where the castle's most famousprisoner was chained for four years, the priest François Bonivard:a supporter of the Reformation. The fortress became famous whenLord Byron wrote about Bonivard's fate in an inspired poem entitledPrisoner of Chillon. Besides the dungeons, visitors can wanderround the towers and courtyards, discover narrow secret passages,and see the grand knight's halls, frescoed chapel, luxuriousbedchambers and rooms containing medieval weapons, furniture andpaintings.