Known as a summer and winter sports paradise (just look at those glistening white 4000m-plus Alpine peaks and glittering lakes), Switzerland is where people first skied for fun. Illustrious names evoke all the romance and glamorous drama of the mountain high life: Zermatt, St Moritz, Interlaken, Gstaad, the Jungfrau, Verbier and more. Cities like Geneva (the most cosmopolitan), Zürich (the most outrageous), Basel and Lausanne heave with heady artistic activity and sometimes incendiary nightlife.
Beyond the après-ski chic, edelweiss and Heidi lies a complex country of cohabiting cultures. It not only has four languages (Swiss German, French, Italian and Romansch), but the cultural variety to match. You could be chomping on sausages over beer in an oom-pah-pah Stübli one day and pasta over a glass of merlot in a granite grotto the next. And if over-indulgence becomes a problem try one of the country's thermal baths, from Yverdon-les-Bains to Scuol.
The grandeur of the finest churches, such as the cathedrals in Lausanne and Bern, contrasts with sparkling but lesser-known treasures like the frescoes of Müstair or the abbey complex of St Gallen (both World Heritage sites).
The list of enchanting towns is endless: from Lucerne with its covered bridge to Neuchâtel and its fountains; from Gruyères with its cheese, and Grimentz with its traditional timber houses to the sgraffito-blazoned buildings of Engadine towns like Scuol and Zuoz.
Ready to go?
These tours & activities make it easy:
- Trek around Mont Blanc
- Take in the alpine scenery around the Matterhorn
- Ride the cogwheel train to Europe's highest railway station
- Cycle along the banks of the Rhine from its source to Lake Constance
Last updated: Jan 17, 2013
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