Think of Switzerland and you’ll probably conjure up images of breath-taking mountain scenery, crystal clear lakes and dense pine forests – and you wouldn’t be wrong, but there is also a fascinating other side to this small Alpine country.
It may be a land in which four languages are spoken, but it is also, very much, a country of two halves. While the rural landscape is steeped in agricultural tradition, its cities are modern, bustling places, neatly combining historic architecture with contemporary buildings, and traditional culture with current trends.
Landlocked between France, Germany, Italy and Lichtenstein, Switzerland may have adopted its neighbours’ languages (French, German and Italian are all spoken, as well as the local Romansh), but it proudly retains its own distinct identity.
What to Do
While many think of Switzerland as one of the world’s leading ski destinations, there is plenty to do here all year round. If you decide you want to take in the stunning scenery of the Swiss Alps during the warmer months then there are a plethora of outdoor activities on offer, ranging from hiking and mountain biking to white water rafting. But if a cultural city break is more your style, visit one of Switzerland’s four main cities (Bern, Geneva, Zurich and Basel) – each offering a unique urban experience.
Those who dream of exploring a stunning Alpine landscape should take a trip to the picturesque town of Zermatt for the best views of the Matterhorn. At 4478m, it is a mecca for skilled climbers wishing to test themselves against its sheer, daunting faces – for the rest of us it is a beautiful monolith to the magnificence of nature.
Fans of Gothic architecture should definitely put the Swiss city of Lausanne on their bucket list in order to marvel at the city’s striking cathedral. Built in the 12th Century, it is considered one of the best examples of the Gothic style in the region. While you’re there, make time to take in the city’s many museums and art galleries for a truly cultural getaway.
I could hardly talk about Switzerland without mentioning skiing! With its quaint chocolate-box Alpine villages, the Swiss skiing experience is like none other. There are a variety of excellent ski resorts across the Swiss Alps, from the glitzy Gstaad and Verbier to the cosy Saas Fee, with its wide selection of pistes, and the family-friendly Villars.
Switzerland has a rich, vibrant culinary scene which ranges from traditional rustic Alpine fare to cutting edge, contemporary cuisine.
Drawing on its neighbours for much of its culinary influences, the traditional food of Switzerland encompasses French, Italian and German cuisine. While traditional dishes vary from region to region, they all have one thing in common: they are hearty, warming, mountain fare.
One of the most important foods in Switzerland, and a key ingredient in many of its national dishes, is cheese. Each region creates its own speciality cheeses and uses them melted in dishes like fondue, raclette or älplermagronen.
Visit one of the many local weekly food markets across the country’s towns and villages and you will be able to buy an excellent variety of cheeses, all produced in the surrounding area.
Another great Swiss foodstuff is, of course, chocolate. Whether you buy the mass-produced Toblerone, fashioned to resemble the Matterhorn, or visit one of the many small chocolatiers across Switzerland’s cities, towns and villages, sampling Swiss chocolate is a must for chocolate lovers visiting the country.
The cities, and the more exclusive ski resorts, also attract some of the world’s greatest chefs, with three restaurants in Switzerland holding the coveted three Michelin stars. So if you’re looking for a culinary adventure, seek out some of the world class restaurants the country has to offer.
If you’re feeling inspired you could even try cooking up the flavour of Switzerland at home with some traditional Swiss recipes.
For such a small country, Switzerland has an amazingly varied climate thanks to the Swiss Alps, which dictate their own weather conditions. Cities like Zurich, Geneva and Berne tend to be mild during the summer rather than hot (average temperatures are around 19ºC), but they can get very cold in the winter. In the Alps, the temperatures remain lower throughout the year, and above 4000m there is likely to be snow cover even in the summer months.
How to Get There
Switzerland has a good rail and road network, making it easily accessible from its neighbouring countries. From the UK, the easiest way to get there directly is to fly to one of its major airports, served from the UK by Swiss Air, British Airways and easyJet:
From each of these airports it is possible to arrange an airport transfer with Shuttle Direct. Book in advance and you can be guaranteed that a friendly driver will be waiting for you when your flight arrives. Choose from a selection of transfer options, including group minibus pick-ups and luxury private transfers, according to your budget.
Travelling to Switzerland? Don’t Miss…
- The Train to Jungfraujoch – Take this scenic rail journey to the ‘top of Europe’, over 3,454m up. Stay and take in the stunning view of Europe’s longest glacier, the Great Aletsch, or use this as a starting point for tackling the famous Eiger Trail.
- The Medieval Town of Lucerne – Walk along the 14th Century covered Chapel Bridge across the city’s beautiful lake, take in the impressive architecture and then relax with a hot chocolate in one of the many lakeside cafes.
- A Tour at CERN – Home of the world largest machine, the Large Hadron Collider, the laboratory at CERN is at the very cutting edge of research into particle physics. There are two exhibitions and extensive guided tours available in English, although even that might not be enough to help you understand the science involved!
About Shuttle Direct
Shuttle Direct has become a market leader in pre-booked transfers across Europe thanks to its friendly, professional service and dedication to taking its customers wherever they need to go.