Switzerland Schilthornbahn

Switzerland - the alpine country offers great travel experiences

Switzerland bears the official name "Swiss Confederation". The country is a democratic, federalist state in the heart of Europe. With an area of 41,285 square kilometers and 8.7 million inhabitants (as of 2020), Switzerland is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe.

Find out more about Switzerland

Switzerland is an extremely diverse country. Apart from sea access, you will find almost everything your heart desires here. Besides stunning landscapes for all kinds of outdoor activities all year round, you will also find medieval cities, interesting museums, historic castles and much more.

But Switzerland is also known for inventions like milk chocolate, the Swiss army knife and big banks. Don't let the manageable size of just over 40,000 square kilometers fool you. Even if you travel through the country for two weeks, you will never see everything and you will definitely not get bored.

Excursions and attractions Switzerland

There is an incredible amount to discover in Switzerland. Whether you're looking for a medieval castle or a breathtaking glacier, whether you want to stroll through a lush vineyard or a dreamy old town alley, or whether you want to glide across a turquoise blue lake aboard a historic paddle steamer or sportily in your own kayak, Switzerland leaves nothing to be desired.

Mountains and glaciers Switzerland

Switzerland is characterized by the Alps, which make up more than half of the Swiss land mass. A total of 48 mountain peaks have an altitude of over 4000 meters. It is therefore not surprising that mountain peaks are a popular destination for excursions

Many mountain peaks are accessible by mountain railroads and are suitable for a visit at any time - regardless of age, fitness level or time budget. The world-famous mountain peaks such as the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, the Matterhorn or Pilatus make up only a small part of the Swiss mountain landscape. There are numerous other candidates that await you with stunning beauty and a wide range of activities.

Of course, the numerous glaciers that continue to characterize Switzerland should not be missed. Most of the glaciers are located in the Grisons and Valais Alps, as well as in the Bernese Oberland. On them you can walk, hike, ski and climb.

Jungfrau Railway in summer (Photo: Jungfrau Railways)Jungfrau Railway in summer (Photo: Jungfrau Railways)
Mountain biking in summer in Grindelwald (Photo: Jungfrau Region)Mountain biking in summer in Grindelwald (Photo: Jungfrau Region)

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Waters Switzerland

In total, there are over 1500 lakes in Switzerland, which means that mathematically you are never more than 16 km away from a lake. A large part of these lakes is connected by rivers, streams and canals, which reach a total length of about 61,000 km when strung together.

Numerous lakes such as Lake Constance, Lake Geneva, Lake Lucerne, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, to name but a few, can be comfortably explored aboard a passenger ship. But Switzerland also has more than enough mountain lakes to make the storage space on your camera overflow.

On the rivers, in addition to canyoning, rafting or kayaking, one activity is especially popular: the Böötle. When the weather is nice, hundreds of inflatable unicorns and SUP boards are made river-ready and carried to the water, where they are floated down the river by the current. The most popular river to Böötle is undoubtedly the Aare. But also the Rhine, the Rhone, the Thur and many other rivers are suitable for this activity.

Switzerland spares as little with waterfalls as it does with cheeses. The Lauterbrunnen Valley calls itself "the valley of 72 waterfalls," and with the Rhine Falls outside Schaffhausen, Switzerland is home to the widest waterfall in Europe. Whether in molten, liquid, roaring, still or flowing form, Swiss waters are a joy to visit year-round.

Lake Walen (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Roland Gerth)Lake Walen (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Roland Gerth)
Staubbach Falls in Lauterbrunnen (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Iris Kuerschner)Staubbach Falls in Lauterbrunnen (Photo: Switzerland Tourism Iris Kuerschner)

Nature Switzerland

Apart from water and mountains, Switzerland offers numerous other natural beauties. One of these is the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Lavaux. More than 800 hectares line up north of Lake Geneva and form the largest contiguous wine-growing area in Switzerland. In addition, there are numerous nature parks, caves, gorges, grottos, bogs and swamps to be found, which always make for a varied visit.

Cities Switzerland

The diversity does not stop with the natural beauty, but continues in the cities. Busy cities such as Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Lugano shape the image of Switzerland just as much as baroque Solothurn, dreamy Locarno, much-visited Lucerne or cozy Schaffhausen

With La Chaux-de-Fonds and the federal city of Bern, two cities have made it onto the UNESCO World Heritage List. St. Gallen has also secured a place on this coveted list with its charming abbey district.

Not to be ignored are the countless small towns that exude an amazing amount of charm. The narrow streets of Stein am Rhein, Gruyère, Rapperswil or Appenzell let you forget the world around you for a moment and transport you into a fairy tale world.

Waterfall in Lauterbrunnen (Photo: Switzerland Tourism)Waterfall in Lauterbrunnen (Photo: Switzerland Tourism)
Lavaux vineyard on Lake Geneva (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)Lavaux vineyard on Lake Geneva (Photo: Seraina Zellweger)

Attractions Switzerland

The choice of attractions is extremely diverse in this small country. With over 1000 museums nationwide, a remarkable breadth of scientific, cultural, artistic and other topics is covered. Be it the Technorama in Winterthur, the Museum of Communication in Bern, the Swissminiatur in Melide, the Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne or the numerous natural history or art museums.

On the culinary side, chocolate factories, show dairies, wineries and breweries adorn the landscape. And if you like castles, you'll get your money's worth in Switzerland, too. Chateau Chillon on Lake Geneva is a must-see if you're in the region, and a wide range of castles await you, especially in the canton of Aargau

A popular attraction that is not in Switzerland but can easily be visited in a day trip from Switzerland is the Europapark in Germany. This amusement park leaves nothing to be desired in terms of roller coasters and the newly opened water world "Rulantica" is a dream for water rats.

Läderach chocolate factory with three-part chocolate fountainLäderach chocolate factory with three-part chocolate fountain
Chillon Castle on Lake GenevaChillon Castle on Lake Geneva

Culture and History Switzerland

The first traces of human settlement in Switzerland can be traced back to the Paleolithic Age. But it is only with the end of the last ice age that a larger number of sedentary people is detectable in Switzerland. They have left their traces in the almost 60 discovered sites of prehistoric lake dwellings in Swiss lake landscapes. Today, these are part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. On Lake Zug in the canton of Zug alone, there are remains of around 50 settlements.

After settlement by some Celtic tribes, the Helvetians in the Swiss Plateau and the Raetians in eastern Switzerland being among the best known, the Romans also extended their empire over Switzerland and Romanized the population.

After the Romans came the Franks, then the Swabians, the Burgundians and the Alemanni. As early as the 13th century, a 1st Confederation was formed from the original cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, which had united to protect their freedoms.

The Rütli Oath - Founding of Today's Switzerland

The founding date is considered to be August 1, 1291, which is why August 1 was designated as Switzerland's national holiday. The letter of alliance issued at that time as a founding document is kept in the Bundesbriefmuseum in the municipality of Schwyz.

After the end of the so-called Sonderbundeskrieg and with the Federal Constitution of 1848, Switzerland began its rise to a modern federal state, which today is one of the 20 largest economies in the world.

The Swiss Confederation is characterized by direct democracy, a high degree of regional and local autonomy, special participation of the population in joint decision-making, and the principle of self-imposed neutrality. The government consists of a Federal Council with seven Federal Councillors, headed by a Federal President. The office of president changes every year, which means that a different federal councilor always takes office.

Lake Lucerne (Photo: Vierwaldstättersee Schifffahrt)Lake Lucerne (Photo: Vierwaldstättersee Schifffahrt)
 Excursion to the Rütli (Photo: Vierwaldstättersee Schifffahrt) Excursion to the Rütli (Photo: Vierwaldstättersee Schifffahrt)

Customs Switzerland

Many customs have a long history behind them and it is hard to imagine Switzerland without them. Starting with alphorn blowing, through the story of Heidi and ending with flag-waving. Traditions are deeply rooted in Switzerland and often have a strong regional connection. While in some cantons the carnival is an important folk festival, in other cantons the alpine procession or yodeling are strongly celebrated

Music Festivals Switzerland

The Swiss Top Events list includes festivals of all musical genres every year. The Lucerne Festival, for example, falls into the classical music category. The annual jazz festival in Montreux should also be mentioned here.

One of the oldest festivals in Switzerland is the Open Air St. Gallen, which takes place every last weekend in June. Zurich's Street Parade, the world's largest open-air techno party, also attracts millions of visitors. In addition, traditional Swiss festivals featuring typical Alpine folk music are an important part of the Swiss events calendar.

Folklore evenings, alphorn concerts, shepherd festivals and alpine processions take place in the rural regions of Switzerland. If you like disguises and loud music, you should come at the time of Fasnacht. Then, starting on Ash Wednesday, the streets and alleys are filled with carnival parades and Guggen music.

Languages Switzerland

As far as languages in Switzerland are concerned, there is no typical Swiss dialect. There are four official languages and each village and valley seems to have its own dialect.

While the west on the border with France is assigned to the French language area, in the south on the border with Italy it is the Italian language and in a few small areas in the southeast it is Rhaeto-Romanic.

Most of Switzerland, about 17 cantons, use German as their official language. Some cantons are also bilingual or multilingual. However, Swiss German cannot be compared with "pure" German. The dialects sometimes deviate strongly from written German, so that the northern neighbors hardly understand the Swiss, or not at all.

To illustrate the diversity of languages: In German-speaking Switzerland alone, there are 5 different expressions for ordering a small 0.3 beer - Becher, Chübeli, Kleines, Rugeli or Stange.

The languages of Switzerland (Photo: Wikipedia Chubby)The languages of Switzerland (Photo: Wikipedia Chubby)
Ascona is located in the Italian speaking part (Photo: Basecamp Europe)Ascona is located in the Italian speaking part (Photo: Basecamp Europe)

Activities Switzerland

The scenic diversity of Switzerland allows for an abundance of activities at any time of the year. These make the heart of active vacationers, families with children, nature lovers and cultural travelers beat faster

Whether you are looking for relaxation, want to enjoy a family vacation together, want to feel the wild and romantic nature up close or come to Switzerland for a short city trip - the possibilities for activities in Switzerland are almost limitless.

Summer activities

In summer, numerous outdoor activities are possible in Switzerland. Above all, the many bodies of water entice you with relaxing and exciting experiences. Whether you take a leisurely SUP ride on Lake Geneva or plunge down the Vispa River on a river rafting trip is up to you

The list of summer activities in Switzerland is long and includes the following:

Grindelwald First Flyer Tyrolienne (Photo: Jungfrau Railways Management AG)Grindelwald First Flyer Tyrolienne (Photo: Jungfrau Railways Management AG)
Allmendhubel flower labyrinth (Photo: Schilthorn)Allmendhubel flower labyrinth (Photo: Schilthorn)

Winter activities

Even in winter, outdoor fans get their money's worth. Especially if you like snow activities, you've come to the right place. Switzerland has an incredible density of ski resorts. There are over 300 of them in total. But also for other sports in the snow like tobogganing or snowmobiling you will find it in Switzerland

The list of winter activities in Switzerland is long and includes, among others, the following activities:

Year round activities

Of course there are also activities that are not bound to one season. You can find a non-exhaustive list here:

Action at the Snowtuben on the Titlis (Photo: Best of Switzerland)Action at the Snowtuben on the Titlis (Photo: Best of Switzerland)
Skiing on the Schilthorn (Photo: Schilthornbahn AG)Skiing on the Schilthorn (Photo: Schilthornbahn AG)

Year round activities

Of course, there are also activities that are not tied to one season. You can find a non-exhaustive list here:

Regions of Switzerland

The Swiss territory is roughly composed of three major geological regions: the Alps, the Jura and the Swiss Plateau. The Alps are composed of the pre-alpine region, the high alpine region and the southern side of the Alps

The three major regions are in turn divided into 26 cantons, which in turn are divided into several political districts and municipalities. These cantons, also known as estates or states, enjoy a high degree of autonomous self-determination and are administered by their own cantonal governments.

All state functions concerning administrative law, health, education, finance, justice and policing fall within the remit of the cantonal parliaments. However, intercantonal concordats have been concluded over the centuries in order to create regulations that are as uniform as possible throughout the country.

The cantons of Zurich, Bern, Vaud and Aargau are among the most populous Swiss cantons, while the cantons of Uri and Appenzell-Innerrhoden are the smallest Swiss cantons.

The Swiss cantons are grouped into the following 13 tourist regions according to morphological, cultural and culinary similarities:

Lavertezzo (Photo: Basecamp Europe)Lavertezzo (Photo: Basecamp Europe)
Tourism regions of Switzerland (Photo: FSO Admin)Tourism regions of Switzerland (Photo: FSO Admin)

Food and drinks of Switzerland

When it comes to food, there are specialties that are attributed to all of Switzerland. One example is the delicious Swiss cheese fondue, which is a favorite all over the country. However, depending on the region, it includes different Swiss cheeses such as Emmentaler, Gruyère and Appenzeller.

Almost at every breakfast buffet in European hotels you can find Birchermüesli, which is prepared with yogurt, oatmeal, hazelnuts and raisins. This invention was created by the Swiss doctor Maximilian Oskar Bircher Benner and once had the purpose of sparing malnourished sailors from the disease scurvy.

Delicious are also the Zürcher Geschnetzeltes with Rösti, the Engadiner Nusstorte and the Älplermagronen. The latter are macaroni and potato baked with cheese and eaten with applesauce.

Moreover, each region has produced its additional local specialties. You can also try these culinary delicacies at the respective folk festivals or farmers' markets.

And what counts as typical Swiss beverages? While Swiss wine, which is grown in more than 10 cantons, is rarely available outside of the Alpine country, Swiss spirits such as the dark Alpenbitter are especially well known abroad.

The Feldschlösschen brewery holds the largest market share in the beer sector. But like everywhere else in Europe, many small private breweries have sprung up, especially in recent years. Around 600 of them are counted throughout the country.

The most popular soft drink among the Swiss is Rivella - a carbonated soft drink made from whey, which is now available in several flavors. Produced near Rothrist in the canton of Aargau, the Swiss national non-alcoholic drink is also exported across borders.

(Photo: Lake Lucerne Navigation)(Photo: Lake Lucerne Navigation)
(Photo: Forellensee Gastro)(Photo: Forellensee Gastro)

Travel and mobility Switzerland

Getting to Switzerland is possible in many ways. Those traveling by car use the excellently developed highways, freeways and main roads as well as the pass roads in Switzerland. These create a connection to all neighboring countries.

Since 2008, Switzerland has been a member of the Schengen area, which means that although border controls are eliminated when traveling to and from Switzerland, goods controls are not.

It is convenient to travel by plane to the three national airports of Zurich, Geneva and Basel-Mulhouse. There are also 11 regional airports and 44 airfields for private air traffic.

The Swiss government invests a lot of money in public transport, which is why traveling to Switzerland by train is also a relaxing way to get around. Most of the railroad lines are operated by the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB). Remote places that are not connected to the dense Swiss railroad network can be reached by post buses and regular buses.

In the wild mountain worlds, you can best get around in the numerous mountain railways, which even reach the highest peaks. At the Jungfraujoch, the highest train station in Europe was built at an altitude of almost 4000 meters

In the tourist lake areas there are passenger ships and passenger ferries, which are also excellent for getting from one place to another.

The bicycle lanes, which have been increasingly developed in recent years, allow you to reach every corner of a city in a very short time, without getting stuck in the nerve-racking traffic jams. Also in the vacation regions the bike is an ideal means of transport and the best way to get to know an area in a special way.

By boat on Lake Lucerne (Photo: Vierwaldstättersee Schifffahrt)By boat on Lake Lucerne (Photo: Vierwaldstättersee Schifffahrt)
By train through Switzerland (Photo: Swiss Travel System)By train through Switzerland (Photo: Swiss Travel System)

Don't be fooled by the small area of Switzerland. Although Switzerland is a very small country, it offers an incredible number of ways to spend your vacation.