From its pristine Alpine landscapes to cities where a real sense of innovation prevails, Switzerland is present and intangible at the same time, and a destination that continues to unfold the deeper you dive in. Here are five things you should know before you go.
Four cultures, one country. Within the same country, travelers in Switzerland can experience lederhosen, seven-course lunches in Italian grottos, the aromas of French patisseries and a five o’clock (on-the-dot) serenade from a long-horn musician. If you are looking to spend eight to ten days in Europe and want to squeeze in four different countries, but do not want the logistical headache of constant transit, Switzerland is your solution.
Switzerland has four official languages and cultural zones: German, French, Italian, and Romansh, a romance language spoken by about 50,000 people in the canton of Grisons. In fact, the national currency, the Swiss Franc, is traded in colorful banknotes that read “Swiss National Bank” in all four of the official national languages. Switzerland’s culture is both divided by these cultural zones, and brought together by the mixing of their best elements: Italian and French cultures, famous for their unhurried nature, can be enjoyed with Swiss efficiency.
Make time for a mountain town. In order to truly begin to understand Switzerland and its layered, elusive culture, one must head into the mountains. During foggy mornings, a few sips of Alpine air are so pure and sharp that they rival the caffeinated qualities of a double espresso. Travelers coming from highly populated and polluted city will revel in Switzerland’s divine natural environment, particularly the cool blue-gray Swiss Alps. The picturesque landscape is impossible to replicate even on the best camera, and renders even the most seasoned traveler speechless.
Planning some days in such mountainous towns as Zermatt, Lucerne or Interlaken is a highlight of a Switzerland itinerary. The moments spent among their humbling peaks, while hiking, skiing or reading on your hotel room balcony, force a traveler to pause, reflect and find serenity.
Travel by train. There is something to be said for a country that runs so efficiently that you do not notice the logistics of your trip. In Switzerland, precise punctuality is a way of life, and Swiss trains are the most pleasant form of travel. In fact, many of Switzerland’s wealthiest residents do not own a car, relying instead on the efficient transit system. Travelers can rest assured that your 5:01 train will depart promptly, allowing you to focus instead instead on the sweeping views of snow-capped peaks, Alpine homes and glassy lakes.
Indagare Tip: Purchase a Swiss Pass for unlimited access to all forms of public transportation in Switzerland, including steamboats. Contact your Indagare travel specialist for more information.
Families, solo travelers and groups of women should go. There are countless stories of travelers in Switzerland who left their wallet at a shop, a purse on a bus or even a suitcase on a train and came back, hours later, to find it sitting safely where they had left it. (In the case of the train, the suitcase made it to the end of route, and back to the traveler that evening). Many report feeling safer in Switzerland than in their own neighborhoods and cities, which can be linked to a general law-abiding culture and high quality of life.
Switzerland is also a good destination for groups as it offers so many different activities. Zurich, Geneva and Lungano, for instance, have great art galleries, museums, boutique shops, world-class spas and dining. For the outdoorsmen, hiking trails of varying difficulty are only as far as the closest snow-capped Alpine peak. The easy-to-navigate cities and public transportation systems allow groups to seamlessly split and reunite throughout their itinerary.
Switzerland is an easy add-on to your trip to Europe. If you are set on visiting Paris, Berlin, or another one of Switzerland’s neighbors, there are hundreds of high speed trains with scenic routes that traverse Switzerland. Easy add-ons include regions and cities in France, Italy, Germany and Austria. For example, Lugano, a Swiss lake escape for many Italians and a budding headquarters of high fashion, is a quick one-and-a-half-hour drive or train ride from Milan. In fact, many Italians commute to and from Lugano every day to their jobs in fashion and finance. Zurich also makes a good layover city for more far-flung destinations, like Tanzania and Thailand.
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