Switzerland

Switzerland by CC user travellingtamas on Flickr

Introduction

Surrounded by a curtain of mountains and dotted with countless picturesque lakes, Switzerland is an intriguing travel destination in Western Europe.

Most visitors to the region come to admire and play in its mountains, whether they choose to hike in the summer or ski in the winter. Castles dot the landscape, denoting the many fiefdoms that existed here in the Middle Ages, while some of the continent’s best art can be found in its museums.

Split between five major languages, it is a major cultural crossroads in Europe, so take your time to soak up daily life during your time here.

Currency: Swiss Franc

Languages: German, French, Italian, Lombard, Romansh

Château de Chillon by CC user kosalabandara on Flickr

What To Do

While there are hundreds of castles scattered across Switzerland, the most spectacular of the lot by far is Château de Chillon. Located on an island in Lake Geneva, this keep is comprised of what was one hundred separate buildings that were conjoined over time.

With the oldest parts of the structure dating back to at least the 12th century, and the fact that it never was besieged by invaders has made it one of the most popular castles in Europe, as it is incredibly rare for such a structure to survive intact for nearly a millennia.

While the halls and courtyards of this chateau are definitely impressive, the stately appearance of this structure in conjunction with Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps make this site a must visit.

When in Zurich, don’t leave before setting aside part of your day to tour the Swiss National Museum, as it is considered one of the most important art museums in Europe, and arguably the world.

Profiling the art and culture of the nation from the days before recorded history to the present day, you will be stunned by the wide variety of artifacts and art pieces that have been created in this small mountain territory over thousands of years.

Objects of note to look out for include sculptures from the Gothic era, finely carved Christian altars, and rare coins dating all the way back to the Middle Ages.

If you prefer contemporary and modern art over works produced in the distant past, then head across town to Kunsthaus Zurich, which is this city’s leading institution dedicated to those on the cutting edge of the art world. While there are a few pieces from earlier years, the majority of their works come from the fuzzy space between abstract concepts that can elicit multiple interpretations and the cut and dry world of impressionist paintings.

Zermatt by CC user kosalabandara on Flickr

After soaking up all the culture that Switzerland has to offer, it’s time to head to the hills. In this nation, there are many mountain resort towns where a variety of outdoor activities are available for those looking to immerse themselves in nature.

Head to Zermatt first, which sits in the shadow of the Matterhorn, which is one of the world’s most iconic peaks. Alongside the Eiger, mountaineers flock here to scale their challenging slopes, while those looking to simply admire the scenery will find plenty of reasons to click their camera shutters.

Skiers and snowboarders looking to rip up the pistes of the Swiss Alps will find countless places in the country to do their thing, but the best place overall in our opinion is in Davos. Sitting at over 1,500 metres or 5,000 feet, it is the highest city in Europe, helping its resorts get more reliable snowfalls in an age of warming climates.

With 320 kilometres of runs spread over six ski areas, and a reputation for having one of the best apres ski scenes in Europe, it is no-brainer place to enjoy winter in Switzerland if you are having trouble deciding where to go.

If you are in the country during the summer, make time to hang out alongside one of Switzerland’s many stunning lakes. Lake Geneva is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe, and is encircled by mountains, vineyards and castles. Swimming is a popular activity here, as is yacht racing. Lake Lucerne has many excellent guided boat tours that ply its pristine waters, and has roads that encircle its many arms, making for a highly scenic road trip. Lake Zurich offers big city sophistication at its western end, and bucolic countryside experience further south and east.

rösti by CC user rhodes on Flickr

What To Eat

Those looking to have breakfast in Switzerland should endeavor to have Rösti at least once. It is a potato pancake, often flavoured with onion, cheese or bacon, but it is also had as is by many people.

A sausage for which this nation is famous is Cervelat. Originating from the French portion of Switzerland, this meaty treat used to made with pork brains, but its casings are currently filled with beef, bacon and pork rind. Cooked or eaten raw, this type of sausage is treasured by locals, as you will likely find out if you ask them about it.

When the time comes for a sweet treat, help yourself to some Bündner Nusstorte, which is a pastry filled with walnuts and caramelized sugar. Do as the Swiss do and have it with a cup of coffee or tea.

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