Switzerland is the country of chocolate, cuckoo clocks, alpine scenery and so much more. It is believed, by some, to be the most beautiful place on Earth. An economic powerhouse sitting in the Alps travelers to Switzerland can witness the combination of serenity and power in Switzerland’s major cities.
Zurich, for example, is the perfect blend of a modern urban city in a landscape of rolling hills and fairytale splendor. The countryside is so beautiful that it appears right out of a postcard. The bright blue lakes, lush, fertile forests and snow-capped mountains make for a once-in-a-lifetime journey. Whether you visit Switzerland for the culture, cuisine, art, nature or shopping, it is sure to impress you.
Switzerland Travel Info
Language: Switzerland is a mix of four languages French, Italian, German and Romansha ( a Romance language spoken predominantly in the southeastern Swiss canton of Grisons (Graubünden). You will also find some locals speaking Latin. The English language is used in many Ski resorts and widely spoken in most cities and large towns. Still there’s no guarantees that you will find locals speaking fluent English all across Switzerland but most know the basics.
Visa: Switzerland is a member of the Schengen Agreement, which provides a free visa to travel to any EU country including the ones, not a part of Schengen as well as those approved by Schengen like America, New Zealand, and Australia for 90 days. Citizens of South Africa, Asia, and Russia, need to apply for Schengen Visa before going to Switzerland.
Electricity: In Switzerland the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. You can use your electric appliances in Switzerland, if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220 – 240 V (as in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Switzerland Festivals & Celebrations
Paleo: Experience the biggest outdoor music event which is hosted by some of the reputed and renowned artists from around the world, and is a priority for every music lover. This event starts on the last Tuesday of July and goes on for Six days. However, going by the previous year performance, this year’s festival is worth the wait.
International Hot Air Balloon Festival: Every January Chateau-d’Oex draws thousands of travelers from around the world by hosting the International Hot Air Balloon Festival. The best part of this event is that you can admire the beauty of the dark night sky adorned by many Hot Air Balloons. A hot air balloon ride won’t set you back too much so go for it and enjoy the view while floating over the scintillating Alps around Chateau-d’Oex.
Zurich Street Parade: Attended by hundreds of participants each year, the Zurich Street Parade is the largest parade on Switzerland. This year’s event is going to be in August, so pack your bags and join the techno parade if electronic music floats your boat. Some major international artists also take part in this event.
Safety In Switzerland
Just like most European countries, Switzerland is a relatively safe place to visit. Thefts and scams targeting tourists are prevalent in all big cities so always be mindful. Major cities like Zurich and Geneva are under the constant threat of a terror attack but security measures are in place and this should not affect your plans. Based on my own travel experiences in Switzerland I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is considered. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit Switzerland.
Top Things To Do In Switzerland
Be Wowed by the Rhine Falls
Rhine falls are the largest plain falls in Europe, 23 meters high and located in the town of Schaffhausen. Register for a boat trip up the Rhine to come closer to the falls and gape at their grandeur. If you are keen on seeing them from even closer, there is a unique viewing point reached by stairs towards the mountainside. Several guided tours are also available to visitors.
Zurich is at the foot of the Alps on the shores of the Lake Zurich. As far as the eye can see, you will find stunning landscapes and incredible scenic beauty. The highlights of the city include boating, strolling along the lake, or hiking the Utliberg Mountain. It is a vibrant cultural hub with numerous museums, hundreds of art galleries, top restaurants and great shopping with well-known Swiss brands available at a high Swiss price.
The Jungfrau Region
Whatever the season, the Jungfrau region of Switzerland never disappoints its visitors. During the summer you can go hiking, observe the wildlife and local plants or go climbing. In the winter, skiing is the preferred pastime in the region, and if the terrain allows, you can also go biking. The Jungfrau region comprises of three mountains and four Alpine towns and a mountain railway too.
Get adventurous at Interlaken
Interlaken is a unique resort town that started as watchmaking center. It has now transformed into Switzerland’s adventure capital with numerous adrenaline-filled activities to offer it’s visitors. All you need is plenty of time to find a watch that doesn’t break the bank. Once that is sorted try skydiving over the Alps, hiking, skiing and if you are not interested in any of these, Interlaken has many more choices for you. This place is a must-visit for all adrenaline junkies.
Lausanne lies in the Lake Geneva Region of Switzerland and is the headquarters of the International Olympics Committee which was founded in 1914. In the old area of the Medieval town is a Gothic Cathedral which is one of a kind in Switzerland and the city center of Lausanne is the perfect spot where visitors can wander and enjoy the café culture of the city. The surrounding areas of Lausanne are breathtaking as well so do venture outside of the city center.
Although Bern is a small city it’s still the capital of Switzerland. You can trace Bern’s origins back to the 12th century and throughout you can find well preserved medieval architecture. The cobbled streets, the ancient clock towers, churches and all the important buildings like the Federal Palace of the Neo-Renaissance are in the historic town center.
Visit Chaplin’s World
The inauguration of this museum took place in 2016, and it celebrates the work and life of the Charlie Chaplin, an Iconic film star born in London. The museum is divided between Manoir de Ban, the mansion where Charlie Chaplin spent a significant portion of his life and an interactive studio. There are multimedia displays, recreations of Chaplin’s film sets, excerpts from his films, family photographs, his trademark hat and cane, and other memorable items on display.
Visit the Library in St Gallen
The St Gallen’s Library is the oldest library in the world and is the best example of Rococo architecture in Switzerland. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and houses expensive leather-bound books and hand-written manuscripts. The library is a lavish collection of stucco, frescos, cherubs, and parquetry. Some good multilingual audio guides are available at the library along with felt slippers to safeguard the floor.
Skiing in St Moritz
St. Moritz is a luxury alpine resort town in Switzerland’s Engadin valley. An expensive and very glamorous ski resort popular with wealthy Europeans, St Moritz is well worth soending a few days, if only to eat pastries, drink hot cocoa and sit in a hot tub. Germans, French and English will be widely spoken here.
Switzerland is home to some of the most transparent and beautiful lakes in Europe. Take time out during your Switzerland trip to admire the crystal clear lakes. The best is Lake Constance which shares it’s borders with Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Lake Maggiore is known for windsurfing and Lake Geneva, a postcard-perfect beauty is surrounded by spa towns.
Other than these top things to do in Switzerland, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in Switzerland that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In Switzerland
Rosti: Deep fried crisp potatoes are everybody’s favorite and super yum. Rosti is Switzerland’s national dish and can be eaten anytime of day alone or with fried eggs, salty bacon and raclette cheese. Absolutely delectable and mouthwatering!
Swiss Fondue: Fondou might not originally belong to Switzerland but its intricately woven into Switzerland’s fabric. Rustic bread dipped in melted Gouda cheese, wine and garlic are infused and then bubbled over an open fire. Team your fondue with white wine or have it with schnapps for a warm winter meal.
Polenta and braised beef: Polenta is a cornmeal dish that is cooked to make porridge. Traditionally it is slow cooked over a fire in a copper cauldron until it thickens. During winters, savory beef is induced with wine and paired with polenta for a perfect winter meal.
Zurich style veal and mushrooms: Diced veal makes a warm winter lunch and is another famous, must-try national dish of Switzerland. Made from diced veal, sweetbread and calve’s kidneys sautéed in a gravy made of onions, mushrooms, white wine, butter, and cream, you’ll find this hearty dish on most menus in the country.
Raclette: Raclette is a kind of cheese that is grilled slowly over the fire and served with boiled potatoes, onions and pickles. Modern raclette machines have made it easy for ordinary swizz people to melt the cheese. People serve this dish in get-togethers teamed with local Fendent wine.
Where To Stay In Switzerland
Switzerland can be quite an expensive place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Switzerland is easy but finding affordable accommodation, if you’re on a tight budget, is the hard part. Luckily Switzerland hostels and dormitories make travel here really affordable for backpackers and anyone visiting Switzerland on a tight budget.
Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Switzerland will not disappoint. Still, a basic 3 star hotel room in Switzerland can cost about 50 euros a night. If you’re traveling to Switzerland during peak season (Europe’s summer time or during the Easter or Christmas holidays) or you prefer to stay in a luxury hotel then it’s wise to book your accommodation well in advance and expect to pay a high price.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. Switzerland is a very popular year-round destination with business travelers and sight-seeing tourists alike.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Switzerland.
If you’re backpacking in Switzerland or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Europe much more affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Switzerland Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Switzerland
The best time to visit Switzerland is between April and October, this is if you want mild, reasonably warm or if you’re lucky hot weather. If you want to see Switzerland with hot weather and blue skies then aim to visit between June and September.
Switzerland Travel Budget
Switzerland can be an expensive city but it’s still generally an affordable destination for travelers on a tight budget. The cost of your trip to Switzerland really depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between 35 to 50 euros a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between 50 to 100 euros per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Zurich or Geneva then budget about 250 euros plus a day.
- Budget: €35 – €50
- Mid-range: €50 – €100
- Splurge: €150 +
Meal For One
- Budget: €8 – €25
- Mid-range: €25 – €60
- Splurge: €60 +
Switzerland Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Switzerland, like most other places in Europe is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for Summer trips and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during Spring, Autumn and Winter.
Be prepared for the weather to get extremely cold during the winter. You will need high quality thermal wear and scarves, woolly hats, gloves and a thick winter coat. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in Switzerland. Prices are generally higher in smaller boutiques than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your trip.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Switzerland include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Switzerland check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Europe Packing List For Female Travelers.