Switzerland

Overview

Perhaps best known for its mountains (Alps and Jura), Switzerland is your perfect holiday spot at any time of the year. Switzerland is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It borders France to the west, Italy to the south, Austria and Liechtenstein to the east and Germany to the north. The climate is temperate but varies with altitude. Switzerland has cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters and cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers.

Switzerland as a federal state has no state religion, though most of the cantons (except for Geneva and Neuchâtel) recognize official churches (Landeskirchen). One of the outstanding characteristics of Switzerland is its neutrality which has been honored by the major European powers. It also has not been involved in any military conflict since 1815. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations, but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.

Switzerland showcases three of Europe’s most distinct cultures, the Swiss-German-speaking Switzerland to the northeast, the laid back, wine-drinking French style in the southwest and the Italian-style piazzas to the southeast. These three cultures are distinct yet banded together by the Swiss mentality.

Start your tour of Switzerland by visiting Basel, often referred to as the traveler’s gateway to the German Rhineland and French Alsace. Visit excellent museums numbering about 40 and ART BASEL, the world’s largest art fair. Bellinzona, renowned for its medieval castles, world UNESCO heritage, pretty centre and capital of the canton of Ticino will set your heart rolling with its magnificent overlook of one of the few flat rural areas of Switzerland towards Lake Maggiore.

The breath-taking capital, Bern at the shores of the crystal-clear green-blue AareRiver has an amazingly well preserved old-town with arcades along almost every street; great restaurants abound, as do bars and clubs. Geneva is for lovers of arts and culture, an international city that is home to around 200 governmental and non-governmental organizations at the end of Lake Geneva. It is also the founding place of Calvinism and The Red Cross (ICRC).

Interlaken (the outdoor and action sports capital of Switzerland), Lausanne (home of scenery, dining, dancing, boating and the Swiss wine-country) and Zurich (the largest city in Switzerland at the end of Lake Zurich), a major centre of international banking and national major companies and media; great culture & arts possibilities are also major tourist destinations. You can also visit:

  • Grindelwald — the classic resort at the foot of the Eiger
  • Spiez— a picture postcard town with the loveliest bay of Europe
  • Rhine Falls— the largest falls of Europe, close to Schaffhausen
  • Zermatt — famous mountain resort at the base of the mighty Matterhorn

Swiss cuisine

Switzerland is known for its cheese and chocolate. Swiss cheeses, in particular, Emmental cheese, Gruyère, Vacherin, and Appenzeller, are famous Swiss products. The most popular cheese dishes are fondue and raclette. Rösti is a popular potato dish that is eaten all over Switzerland. It was originally a breakfast food, but this has been replaced by the muesli, which is commonly eaten for breakfast and in Switzerland goes by the name of “Birchermüesli” (“Birchermiesli” in some regions). For breakfast and dinner, many Swiss enjoy sliced bread with butter and jam. There is a wide variety of bread rolls available in Switzerland. Bread and cheese is a popular dish for dinner.

Souvenirs

Switzerland is famous for a few key goods: watches, chocolate, cheese, and Swiss Army knives. In fact, Switzerland is the watch-making capital of the world with renowned brands like Rolex, Omega, and Patek Philippe. “Swiss Made” on a watch face has long been a mark of quality.

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Latest Switzerland Articles

Tourism website: My Switzerland

Time zone: UTC/GMT: +02:00

Currency: CHF – Swiss franc

Official language: French, German, Italian

UNESCO World Heritage sites: 12

See more of the country in our Switzerland photo galleries.