When they were dishing out natural beauty, Switzerland was right at the front of the queue. This is a country that's home to some of the world's most idyllic lakes and iconic mountains like Lake Geneva, the Eiger and the Matterhorn. The cities aren’t too shabby either with the likes of Bern and the medieval old town of Basel holding up against the very best of European architecture.
Throw in world class events like the Montreux Jazz festival, and the famously chic shopping in Zürich and Geneva, and you’ll realize there's a lot more to Switzerland than cuckoo clocks, yodelling and chocolate.
“I loved meeting all of the people in our tour group. We've stayed in touch since the trip (6 months ago at this point) and we're trying to plan a trip that we can all go on again! That truly is one of the greatest take aways from the Contiki trip, the invaluable and lasting friendships that were formed with people from all over the world. All and all, one helluva trip and can't wait for the next Contiki adventure!”
“I had the most amazing time on this tour. I made so many new friends and had many new experiences that I will never forget. The crew were amazing and I can't wait to go on my next trip!”
“This was an absolutely amazing tour! It was fast - paced and exciting. The memories I made on my trip will remain with me for the rest of my life. Our tour manager was excellent and so was our driver.
There is no doubt that Contiki is an organized, fun and affordable way for young people to travel the world!”
For such a small country, Switzerland isn't lacking places to go and things to see. Whether it's culture, sightseeing or winter sports, a Switzerland travel adventure will keep you busy. Here's our rundown of the best things to do in Switzerland.
Marvel at the iconic Sagrada Familla in Barcelona.
Gaudi’s majestic creation has been wowing crowds since it first began construction in 1882. Since then, multiple architects have taken up the reins on the project, some honouring Gaudi’s original designs, other’s redefining the creation completely. The multiple and varied facades of the building, plus its sheer size and majesty, make it a must do for any traveller visiting Barcelona.See all trips that visit Barcelona
Indulge in traditional Andalusian delicacies in Seville.
Seville is renowned for its gastronomic offerings, and whilst the traditional dishes may be simple to prepare, they’re bursting with fresh regional flavours. Gazpacho, Pescaito frito and Huevos a la Flamenca are all famed Andalusian specialities, or for those preferring traditional tapas, Seville has around 4,000 tapas bars to choose from – take your pick!See all trips that visit Seville
Live like a King in the Royal Palace of Madrid.
Get a glimpse of life as the other half live with a guided tour of the Royal Palace in Madrid. The largest palace in Europe, the Palacio Real de Madrid is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, though is only used formally for state ceremonies. Gorge your eyes on the many works of art by famed Spanish painters as you delve a little deeper into Spain’s rich history.See all trips that visit Madrid
Party till dawn in the clubbing mecca of Ibiza.
Nowhere on Earth will you experience clubbing quite like Ibiza. Home to some of the world’s most infamous clubs, come and join the party as night after night revered world class DJ’s play their hearts out to adoring crowds. Get into the mood with sunset cocktails at Café Del Mar then party till sunrise at Space, DC-10 or Ibiza Rocks.See all trips that visit Ibiza
Bask in sunlight on Barceloneta Beach.
Some cities are fortunate enough to have the perfect city/beach balance, and Barcelona is one of them. Whilst Barceloneta Beach may be man-made, the water is clear and refreshing and the beach is alive with travellers and locals alike chatting, swimming and generally loving life. Spend long leisurely lunches in the surrounding cafes and restaurants, hire bikes or rollerblades or just relax in the sunshine.See all trips that visit Barcelona
Explore the Islamic inspired fortress of Alhambra.
Rising from woods of cypress and elm, the Alhambra reigns supreme on the hillside of Gibraltar. Born in the 11th Century and then further developed over the 14th and 15th century’s, the fortress holds an extensive network of lavishly decorated palaces and irrigated gardens and gives those who visit it a glimpse into the rich history of the Spanish empire and the influence both Islam and Catholicism had on the Alhambra’s design.See all trips that visit Gibraltar
1. Montreux Jazz Festival – The second largest jazz festival in the world, the Montreux Jazz Festival has hosted some of the biggest names in music history, like Nina Simone and Ella Fitzgerald. Held on the eastern shore of the Lake Geneva, this two-week festival is a great place to get up close and personal with the artists. Festivalgoers can enjoy music workshops, concerts and boat rides with the charming backdrop of the Alps.
For more information on Montreux Jazz Festival, click here.
2. Art Basel – Each June, the beautiful Swiss city of Basel art enthusiasts and collectors from across the globe flock to Art Basel, a festival showcasing the works of thousands of the world's leading modern and contemporary artists. Visitors can admire a dizzying variety of works including paintings, drawings, sculpture, prints, video and digital art, installations, photography and more.
For more information on Art Basel, click here.
3. Paléo Festival, Nyon – This hugely popular six-day festival is Switzerland's biggest outdoor music event. Here you can catch practically any genre of music, from reggae to classical, rock and roll to hip-hop and world music, and everything else in between. Over 100 craft food stands and restaurants will keep the munchies at bay, and free camping is available. Just remember to bring your dancing shoes.
For more information on the Paléo Festival, click here.
4. Lucerne Festival – Lake Lucerne is a truly stunning location for a festival, with a roster of the best classical music performers from around the world. No wonder it packs em in each year. It's so popular, in fact, that they hold it on three separate occasions per year, with a slightly different emphasis for each installment.
For more information on the Lucerne Festival, click here.
5. Geneva Festival – One of the big Geneva attractions, this month-long city festival offers you the chance to catch one of hundreds of free concerts over four main stages and channel your inner-child with a ride on one of over 70 merry-go-rounds. All this without donning a pair of wellies or so much as setting foot in a muddy field. Don't miss the grand finale - a massive 55-minute firework display with accompanying soundtrack that lights up Lake Geneva.
For more information on Geneva Festival, click here.
1. Rietberg Museum, Zürich – Zürich's third largest museum, the Rietberg is the only museum in Switzerland dedicated to non-European art. Set in the beautiful Rieterpark in central Zürich, it offers a fascinating collection of art from Asia, Africa and Ancient America.
For more information on the Rietberg Museum, click here.
2. Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern – Zentrum Paul Klee is a museum dedicated to local hero Paul Klee, one of Switzerland's most famous artists. It's housed in an impressively modern building designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, and features almost half of the artist's lifetime works.
For more information on the Zentrum Paul Klee museum, click here.
3. Musée Ariana, Geneva – Another of the essential things to see in Geneva, this museum of ceramics and glass arts is worth the visit for its stunning architecture alone. Its collection of over 20,000 exhibits from the past twelve centuries will make you glad you took the time to visit, though it's worth noting that written descriptions of exhibits are in French only.
For more information on the Ariana Museum, click here.
4. Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne – One of the first museums in Europe dedicated purely to photography, Musée de l’Elysée houses over 100,000 photographs from the likes of Irving Penn, Ella Maillart and Sebastião Salgado. Housed in an 18th century mansion amidst beautiful gardens on the shores of Lake Geneva, its setting is as impressive as some of those mind-blowing images.
For more information on the Musée de l'Élysée, click here.
5. Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva – This four-storey behemoth is Geneva's largest art museum, and houses an impressive array of art from the Middle Ages through to the 20th century. Expect to see paintings by Rembrandt, Cézanne and Picasso and sculptures by Rodin, as well as a collection of Byzantine art, Mesopotamian artifacts and an ancient Egyptian mummy dating from the 9th century BC.
For more information on the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, click here.
As befitting a true mountain nation, Switzerland's food is all about comfort. Traditionally, its cuisine tends towards the simple and the hearty, with meats and cheeses - Emmental, Gruyère, Vacherin to name the big three - figuring heavily on dining tables throughout the country. Tarts and quiches are also a fixture of Swiss cuisine, as well as starches like polenta and the humble potato, the main ingredient of the famed Swiss rösti. Switzerland also gave the world muesli, and of course no discussion of the country's food would be complete without a mention of chocolate, which many reckon is up there with the best in the world.
Here's a selection of classic Swiss dishes to get make your mouth water.
Rösti – This simple, iconic Swiss dish is made of thinly sliced pan-fried potatoes. Perfect to eat at any time of the day, this is one food in Switzerland that you really cannot miss. Top it with salty bacon and eggs for a true taste sensation!
Best eaten at – Restaurant Le Mazot, Bärenplatz 5, 3011 Bern
Fondue – What's not to like about a giant pot of melted cheese infused with wine and garlic? Possibly the most famous Swiss food, fondue is best enjoyed in the frigid winter months. Grab some rustic Swiss bread and get stuck in!
Best eaten at –Pinte Besson, Rue de l'Ale 4, 1003 Lausanne
Zürcher Geschnetzeltes – If you've visited Switzerland without trying Zürich's classic dish, you've missed a trick. A ragout of mushroom and veal cooked with onion, white wine and cream, it's a hearty meal that's more than a match for any Swiss winter.
Best eaten at – Enrique Becerra, Gamazo 2, 41001 Seville.
Escudellia – This hearty stew made with meat, potatoes, beans, potatoes, cabbage and sometimes pasta is Catalan cooking at its finest.
Best eaten at –Zeughauskeller, Bahnhofstrasse 28A, 8001 Zürich
Raclette – Raclette is traditional Swiss food at its very best. A large wheel-shaped cheese made from cow's milk, it's heated in front of a special grill or an open fire until melting, then scraped onto diner's plates and served with potatoes, pickles, charcuterie and - for the true Swiss experience - a crisp and chilled white wine.
Best eaten at –Raclette Stube, Zähringerstrasse 16, 8001 Zürich
Meringue – While the argument still rages about exactly where meringue was invented, the small Swiss town of Meiringen has a fairly convincing claim. And not just for the name. With only two ingredients - egg whites and sugar - creating the perfect meringue is a real art form, with only a true master able to achieve just the right mix of air, crunch and chewiness. Serve with a generous helping of La Gruyère double creme for the definitive Swiss take on this wonderful dessert!
Best eaten at –Boulangerie Angélo Rime, Route de Botterens 147, 1652 Botterens
Hiking boots - It'd be a shame to ruin a good mountain hike with aching feet. If your boots are already nicely broken in, so much the better.
Sunscreen - Switzerland's lofty altitudes mean plenty of UV exposure. Take care not to get burned!
Swiss francs - Unlike almost all of its neighbours, Switzerland isn't part of the European Union hence it doesn't use the Euro. Swiss francs are the order of the day here.
An adapter plug - Switzerland uses its own 3-pin plug, but fear not! A European standard 2-pin adapter will do just fine here.
A camelbak - It's easy to become dehydrated when hiking the mountain trails. Make sure you drink plenty of water.