If you like spending time in nature, but also wandering around big historical cities, Switzerland is a country you would surely enjoy exploring. It is famous for its breathtaking landscapes, with high mountains and deep lakes which leave nobody aloof. Although the Alps occupy the major part of the territory, the population of eight million people is mostly situated on the Swiss Plateau where the two famous cities are to be found – Zürich and Geneva.
1) Visit the capital, Bern
A good place to start your travel experience would be Bern, the capital city. It is situated on the Aare river in northern Switzerland, and if you are planning your trip in summer, you should definitely go for a swim in its crystal-clear water while enjoying the beautiful cityscape and breathing in the atmosphere of the city. After freshening up in the river, you can go exploring the town’s impressive medieval architecture which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. Bern is also often called the “City of Fountains”, owing this title to more than 100 fountains found on its streets and squares graced with historical figures and statues dating from the 16th century. In the city centre, you will stumble upon many bars and restaurants where you can make a mini-break and try traditional Swiss cuisine which bears witness to many regional influences, including French, German and Italian cuisines. Before leaving, make sure to visit a stunning botanical garden where a family of bears, the city’s symbol, reside.
2) Don’t miss the heart of Switzerland – Zürich
In Zürich, another medieval old town, you will experience the contrast between traditional and modern. There are numerous trending bars, cutting-edge clubs and restaurants in this largest Switzerland’s city. It is located in north-central Switzerland at the northern tip of Lake Zürich. The official language of Zürich is German, but it is worth mentioning that four official languages are spoken on the Switzerland territory – German, French, Italian, and Romansch. The city is famous for dozens of museums and art galleries, including the Swiss National Museum – a castle-like neo-Gothic building in which by far the most important collection of Swiss historic and cultural artifacts – more than 820 000 of them, are kept. A well-preserved old town is filled with medieval and Renaissance buildings with the river Limmat flowing through the centre. Zürich’s “Main Street” is the busy Bahnhofstrasse, stretching from the main train station (bahnhof) to the Bürkliplatz. The 1200-meter street is one of the most attractive shopping streets in Europe where you can not only go shopping, but also admire the view of public art and great architecture.
Do not miss the Zürich Zoo, one of the finest in Europe, with more than 360 different animal species. Animals live as close to their own environments as possible: snow leopards amid the rocky Himalayan landscape, penguins swimming in chilly water and Asian elephant family in an outdoor complex designed to resemble their natural Thai habitat. Trams and trains run to the zoo from the main train station and the Paradeplatz.
3) Get smitten by magical Swiss lakes
When people think of Switzerland, they usually imagine being surrounded by majestic Alps, but they forget the beautiful lakes which Switzerland has more than 100 (!). The largest among them is Lake Geneva which borders with neighbouring France. This lake is a favourite summer getaway for the rich and famous because you can see many yachts floating each summer. Visitors have the opportunity to take a cruise around the lake and see the nearby castles and vineyards on the shore. On the other side of the country, on the border with Italy is situated Lake Lugano. The lake is surrounded by mountains and Monte Generoso is the highest one at about 1700 metres. After doing a cruise around the lake, visitors usually take a rake railway from Capolago to the top of the mountain to get the most breathtaking panoramic view. Lake Oeschinen is perfect for ice fishing, tobogganing and skating since it freezes during winter period. The Blue Lake has a specific deep blue colour which puts it on the very top of the list as the most enchanting lake in Switzerland. It is situated in the of the Blausee Nature Park and it has been a favourite destination for those who want to get some peace and quiet during their vacation.
4) Conquer Matterhorn and Ruinaulta
For all the nature-lovers out there, the Matterhorn mountain is definitely a place to visit. This pyramid shaped giant is the most photographed mountain in the world and the most famous Alpine peak. It is 4,478 metres high and offers a variety of activities for tourists and locals in search for adventure. The Matterhorn glacier paradise is the highest summer ski region in Europe and is open 365 days a year. If you prefer hiking, you will enjoy a peaceful and quiet landscape with the view of Alpine panorama. Also, did you know that Matterhorn mountain is featured on famous Toblerone chocolate?
Another famous nature phenomenon is Ruinaulta – Swiss Grand Canyon, which can be reached by foot, over water, by train or by bike. It is heavily forested with the river Rhine flowing deep down through the gorge. The Rhaetian Railway runs through the canyon, where adventurers enjoy river rafting and observers make their way to the “il Spir” viewing platform. The region of the Rhine gorge is a place to be for all the hikers, bikers, rafters, canoers and explorers alike.
5) Enjoy the Swiss scenery in panoramic trains
If you are willing to spend seven hours on a journey through some of the most beautiful mountain passes, you should get on the Glacier Express. The train is also referred to as the slowest express train in the world. There is a good reason for this slow pace: the train squeezes its way through the Alps, travelling 170 miles from Zermatt to St. Moritz, crossing 291 bridges and moving through 91 tunnels. The trains are equipped with modern dining cars and large windows to view the spectacular scenery. Both 1st and 2nd class coaches have panoramic sealed windows all the way to the roof. You are not required to travel with the Glacier Express if you want to enjoy the scenery of this route. There are regular train services on the same line as well. The regular trains do not offer the panoramic windows and the same level of comfort, but other than that you can see the landscape just as well.