When I was younger, I spent five years living abroad with my family just outside of Zurich, Switzerland.
And although it can be overlooked because of its small size, Switzerland is a great place to visit.
From breathtaking scenery to an amazing public transportation system, here’s why I think everyone should consider travelling to Switzerland.
The country is split up into three different regions: German, French, and Italian.
For being such a small country, Switzerland offers a surprising amount of cultural variety. It’s divided into three regions, which are determined by the countries they border, and has four official languages.
The German region of the country — the central and eastern part of Switzerland — is the largest and includes cities such as Zurich, Bern, and Basel. While the Swiss who live in this region are taught high German (proper German) in school, they prefer to speak Swiss German, a dialect of German that is not written and has very few grammar rules.
The western part of Switzerland is considered the French region and includes cities such as Lausanne and Geneva. Lugano is probably the best known city in the Italian — southern — region of the country. Besides German, French, and Italian, there’s also Romansch, a Latin language with heavy German influence that is spoken by a small group of Swiss who live in the eastern canton of Graubünden. Although there’s a definite Swiss influence throughout all of the country’s regions, the regions also have strong influences from the countries they border, so travelling from one to another feels like travelling to a different country altogether.
It’s incredibly clean.
Switzerland is not the kind of place where tourists fear using public restrooms; in fact it’s just the opposite. The bathroom you find in a train station is probably going to be just as clean as the bathroom you find in your hotel room. And it’s not just the public restrooms, it’s the country’s public transit, streets, water fountains — you can drink from most of them — and much more.
You can get pretty much anywhere using Switzerland’s public transportation system.
There’s really no need to rent a car when travelling to Switzerland. The Swiss have their public transportation system down to a science. The trains are on time down to the second — trust me, I’ve missed enough to know — and you can get across the whole country with just one ticket that works for multiple kinds of transportation.
If you’re travelling within a city, such as Zurich, you can take the tram, which is comparable to Boston’s T. Otherwise if you’re travelling between regions or cities or to different countries around Switzerland, the SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) is the way to go. It’s clean, quiet, and efficient; economy class is so nice that it feels like first class. If you’re looking for a more fun ride with a view, you can also take the ferry.
Switzerland is home to the Swiss Alps — and tons of other incredible natural scenery.
Switzerland has some of the most incredible scenery in Europe, thanks to the majestic Swiss Alps. Even if you’re not skiing or hiking in the Alps, just looking at them is life changing enough. Probably the most well-known of the Swiss Alps is the Matterhorn — it’s been named the most photographed mountain in the world — which towers over the border between Switzerland and Italy. It’s situated in the picturesque and luxurious town of Zermatt. For those who aren’t expert climbers, there’s the klein Matterhorn or little Matterhorn, which can be reached via a funicular ride.
Almost anywhere you end up in the country, you’re likely to have a view of something, whether it be rolling hills, fields filled with grazing cows, or snowcapped mountain peaks. Unlike in many other countries, the Swiss truly value and treasure their country’s land, and therefore work hard to preserve it.
The country’s castles are right out of a fairytale.
There are castles throughout all three of Switzerland’s regions, and they’re all breathtaking. Visiting them is like being transported to a different time period. Many of them are surrounded by scenic views such as the Chillon Castle in Veytaux, a small town in Switzerland’s French region. The castle offers spectacular views of all of Lake Genveva.
Switzerland has many gorgeous waterfalls.
If castles and mountains weren’t enough, Switzerland also has incredible waterfalls. First and foremost, there’s the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen, the largest plain waterfall in all of Europe. The crashing falls are not only a pretty sight, but also an impressive one because of their sheer size.
There’s also the Staubbach Falls, a high free fall of water that turns into a spray of mist when the breeze blows during the summer months, and the Giessbach Falls, a brook that flows down 14 steps before finding its way into Lake Brienz. There’s also an exquisite hotel near the falls that can only be accessed via funicular.
Swiss food is delicious — and fresh.
Along with being clean and eco-friendly, the Swiss are also very healthy, meaning you’re much less likely to find preservatives and unnatural ingredients in their food. Swiss food is fresh, and you can definitely taste the difference. One of the things I miss most about living there are the bakeries, which is where we would buy all of our bread and the more-than-occasional breakfast or afternoon treat.
Eating out is expensive, but it’s worth it. Some of my favourite traditional dishes include Rösti (the Swiss version of hash browns) and Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (slices of tender veal smothered in a sauce made with white wine, cream, onions, and mushrooms). Other popular traditional Swiss dishes include fondue and raclette (a local cheese that is grilled and then served hot over potatoes, onions, and pickles).
Switzerland is home to one of the most luxurious chocolate factories in the world.
Flickr / JLS Photography – Alaska
A Lindt & Sprüngli truffle.
Lindt & Sprüngli is headquartered in Kilchberg, the small town just outside of Zurich where my family used to live. So maybe I’m biased, but in my opinion Lindt makes the best chocolate there is. It’s the rich melt-in-your-mouth kind that makes any other dessert pale in comparison.
The company was officially founded all the way back in 1899, but founders Rodolphe Lindt and David Sprüngli-Schwarz were making chocolate as early as 1845. Lindt was actually the first to invent the conche, a revolutionary manufacturing technique that led to the “melting chocolate” we know and love today. I suggest either taking a trip to the factory or stopping by the Lindt & Sprüngli store at Paradeplatz in the heart of Zurich. Try one of the truffles — you won’t regret it.
The country is great for outdoor activities.
No matter what time of year, Switzerland offers a number of options for outdoorsy travellers. During the winter and early spring, there’s skiing and snowboarding. If you’re not skilled at either one of those, you can opt for taking a ride down one of the long sledding trails found at most of Switzerland’s ski resorts and towns. There’s only a little bit of steering involved, otherwise all you have to do is just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Besides winter sports, there’s hiking and paragliding, both of which can be done in the spring, summer, and fall. I recommend Interlaken for paragliding, a picturesque town surrounded by the alps, which makes for great views when you’re sitting up in the air.
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