The mountainous, landlocked country of Switzerland is most famous for its world renowned ski resorts, Swiss watches and chocolate, cuckoo clocks and yodelling. Look beyond this and you will find that this small Central European country is also an economic powerhouse with Banking and Finance being key industries. Zürich, the largest, most cosmopolitan city in Switzerland is steeped in pre-medieval history. Bern is home to the Zytglogge clock tower and Lucerne, the wooden chapel bridge. Visit the land of four languages for a once-in-a-lifetime journey, heart-racing Alpine pursuits and buzzing urban culture.
SWITZERLAND TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
Zurich lies at the north end of Lake Zurich in northern Switzerland. While here go boating, stroll along the lake, or hike the Utliberg Mountain which offers a panoramic view of the entire city and lake of Zürich. A vibrant cultural hub with plenty of museums, art galleries, great restaurants and shops selling famous high-quality Swiss brands available albeit at a high Swiss price.
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 spending a few days, if only to eat pastries, drink hot cocoa and sit in a hot tub.
The Library in St Gallen
The Abbey Library of Saint Gall is a significant medieval monastic library in St. Gallen, Switzerland. This is not only one of the oldest collections in Europe, but also possibly the most beautiful and is the best example of Rococo architecture in Switzerland. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983 and houses expensive leather-bound books and hand-written manuscripts. Some good multilingual audio guides are available here along with slippers for you to wear to protect the ancient floor.
Bern, the capital of Switzerland, is built around a crook in the Aare River. Not many cities have managed to retain their historic features quite as successfully as Bern which traces its origins back to the 12th century. Wander the cobbled streets, admire the medieval architecture, ancient clock tower, churches and all the impressive buildings here such as the Federal Palace of the Neo-Renaissance that can all be found in the historic Altstadt (Old Town) of Bern.
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 this Medieval town is a Gothic Cathedral which is one of a kind in Switzerland and the city center of Lausanne is the perfect spot to wander about and enjoy Lausanne’s vibrant café culture. The scenic surrounding areas of Lausanne are breathtakingly beautiful so do venture outside of the city center.
Read more: Top 10 things to do in Switzerland
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SWITZERLAND TOP 3 FESTIVALS
Switzerland’s largest open-air festival, The Paléo Festival de Nyon (usually just called Paléo) is an annual rock festival held in Nyon and one of Europe’s biggest and most important music festivals. It started off small in 1976 as the Nyon Folk Festival. This dreamlike space is set in the meadow with colorful tents, stalls and bars.
International Hot Air Balloon Festival
The International Hot–Air Balloon Festival in Château-d’Oex is a hot–air balloons festival that has taken place every year over nine days at the end of January. Chateau-d’Oex draws thousands of travelers from around the world to this event so why not attend and admire the beauty of the dark night sky adorned by hundreds of 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 beautiful Alps.
Zurich Street Parade
The Zurich Street Parade is the largest annual event in Zurich and usually held in August. Electronic sounds make the city vibrate as hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists dance in the streets of Zurich. So pack your bags and join the techno parade if electronic music floats your boat.
Language: Switzerland is a mix of four languages; French, Italian, German and Romansha, the latter being a Romance language spoken predominantly in the southeastern Swiss canton of Grisons (Graubünden). The English language is used in many ski resorts and widely spoken in cities and large towns.
Visa: Visiting Switzerland will usually require a valid passport and visa for any travelers that are not from the European Union. Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa for Switzerland is required, which will depend on the country you are from, and if so, how long it will take to process your visa and the cost.
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 between 220 – 240 V (as is in the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). Buy a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each new country you visit.
Lonely Planet Switzerland: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN SWITZERLAND
Some of the most delicious, traditional dishes that you must try when in Switzerland are listed below. Don’t drool!
Rosti: Rosti (or rööschti) is a Swiss potato dish perhaps best described as a cross between hash browns and a potato pancake. It was originally a breakfast dish, commonly eaten by farmers in the canton of Bern, but is now eaten all over Switzerland and around the world. Eaten anytime of day and sometimes with fried eggs, salty bacon and raclette cheese.
Swiss Fondue: Cheese fondue is a traditional Swiss dish that originated in the Alps, mainly in and around the canton of Valais. 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 popular dish throughout Switzerland. Traditionally this haerty beef stew 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. Polenta is also a staple of Northern Italian, Slovenian and Croatian (where it is called palenta) cuisines.
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.
Raclette: Raclette is a Swiss dish thats based on heating the cheese and scraping off the melted part. Raclette is a semi-hard cheese that is usually made into a wheel of about 6 kg. The Alpine cow milk based dairy product is most commonly used for melting, but is also consumed as a slice. Modern raclette machines have made it easy for ordinary Swiss people to melt the cheese. People serve this dish in get-togethers teamed with local Fendent wine.
WHERE TO STAY
Switzerland is a reasonably affordable place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Switzerland is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget.
Hostels and dormitories make travel to Switzerland affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget. Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Switzerland will not disappoint you. A basic hotel room in Switzerland can cost less than 100 euros.
If you’re looking for accommodation that includes luxury amenities and comforts then there will be endless options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern and Lausanne.
Whatever month you choose to visit Switzerland, it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have been snapped up already. Switzerland is an extremely popular year-round destination with business travelers and backpackers.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Switzerland. However, if you are backpacking in Switzerland or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Switzerland very affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies where ever you go.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
BEST TIME TO VISIT SWITZERLAND
The best time to visit Switzerland is in May and June or September and October when the weather is reliably sunny. It is also less crowded at these times than the summer months of July and August which are high season and can be very hot, more expensive and extremely crowded, especially during the afternoons.
SWITZERLAND TRAVEL BUDGET
Switzerland is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Switzerland really depends on the level of comfort you want. If you are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between 50 to 100 euros per day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between 100 to 250 euros per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants then budget at least 250 to 500+ euros per day.
IS SWITZERLAND SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Safety does not need to be a huge concern for women travelers in Switzerland which is considered a generally very safe country to visit. As with any country you visit, always be extra careful when walking alone or at night. Some parts of Switzerland aren’t as safe as other areas so do your research before you go and avoid these places. Based on many years of travel in Europe I would never leave home without insurance and recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your Switzerland trip.
SWITZERLAND VISA CHECKER
SWITZERLAND FLIGHT DEALS
SWITZERLAND TOURS & ACTIVITIES
SWITZERLAND PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to Switzerland, like most other places in Europe, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to Switzerland.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our awesome finds with you.
If you’re visiting Switzerland during the warmer months it will be much easier to travel light. Pack mainly lightweight and breathable clothing but still be prepared for cold mornings and evenings depending on the month you visit. You’ll need to wrap up warm between November and February. So pack a warm sweater, waterproof coat, gloves, scarves and a wooly hat if you’re traveling during winter.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Switzerland include, most importantly, 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. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
So if you’ve found your travel inspiration, figured out the practicalities and got the travel gear it’s time to stuff it all in a bag and go right? Well, no, hold your horses, you see there’s an art to packing which we have (almost) perfected. Hop to our Travel Packing Tips for all of the latest on this topic.