Best things to do in Switzerland if you’re a first-time visitor
They say good things come in small packages, and this could not be more true of Switzerland. This small country is a magical land where cheese is sold by the tonne, chocolate is so smooth you’re convinced it was hand crafted by the Gods and wine is produced directly from the UNESCO vineyards overlooking Lake Geneva. Here are the best things to do in Switzerland if it’s your first visit:
From word class ski resorts and iconic musical festivals to hiking in the alps and swimming in any of its 1500 lakes; Switzerland is a traveller’s dream that can be enjoyed year round.My top picks of things to do:
Think fresh mountain air, après ski and charming chalets lining the cobble stoned streets. This little ski village is a car-free zone where the only way to get around is by foot, train or horse drawn carriage.
What to do:
- Gornergrat: You can’t go to Zermatt without taking Europe’s highest open-air cog railway to the top of the Gornergrat. Once at the top you have a 360-degree view of the Matterhorn and surrounding mountains. There’s also a restaurant for those who want to soak in the view with a glass of wine or a hotel for if you just can’t get enough and need to stay a while longer.
- Hiking: If you’re visiting in Summer, follow the several hiking trails which will lead you to the many lakes hidden on the mountain. I’d recommend taking the trail from Rifflesee to Riffelberg which takes you past one of the most iconic lakes in Zermatt. For those who are after a challenge, the 5-Seenweg (5 lakes walk) will take you on a 10km journey through the alps where you will discover the 5 main lakes all with views of the Matterhorn.
Zermatt has many mountains that sit at an altitude of over 4000m which can cause altitude sickness in people from areas of lower elevations. Drink plenty, sleep plenty and remember that alcohol has a magnifying effect when at altitude (just sayin’).
Often thought to be the country’s capital (Bern is the capital fyi), Zurich is Switzerland’s banking and finance hub. It’s where an old city with streets that reflect its pre-medieval history meets modern, with many new businesses running their operations out of Zurich. It is unique in that the Limmat River runs through the middle of the city before joining Lake Zurich.
What to do:
- Shopping: Experience Zurich’s first-rate shopping on Bahnhofstrasse, located in the picturesque old town. From luxury brands to iconic brands to local unknown brands, Zurich has it all. However, be warned that Zurich is ranked in the top 3 most expensive cities in the world.
- Lindenhof Lookout: For a view overlooking the river and the city, make your way to Lindenhof. It is located on a hill where a Roman castle once stood in the old town and is a very unique site.
- Eat: If you’re feeling hungry, head to the Fribourger Fondue Stübli for one of the most authentic and delicious fondues in the city. This small restaurant is owned by a local couple who make a genuinely mean fondue. Make sure to get in early as there is often a line outside the door.
This small and old city in central Switzerland may be the most touristy yet, however there’s a very good reason why travellers flock to visit. The city offers everything including a delightful and charming old town, one of the largest lakes in the country and the alps, all within approximately 5 kilometres of each other.
What to do:
- The Museum of Transports: This is Switzerland’s most popular museum. It exhibits all forms of transport and communications and even includes a Chocolate exhibit, because when in Switzerland, chocolate should always be included.
- The Chapel Bridge: The covered wooden footbridge spans diagonally across the Reuss river in central Luzern and may be one of the most recognisable landmarks in all of Switzerland. In summer the bridge is coated with flowers and in winter it is generally covered in snow, making for a very impressive looking bridge.
- Mt Pilatus: This is a must when in Luzern. Located just 15 minutes out of the city, take the world’s steepest cog-railway up to the top and prepared to be overwhelmed by the view. From the top of Mt Pilatus, you can see the 7 lakes that surround Luzern as well as an endless row of mountains.
- Visit the Lion Monument; a 10-metre long statue of a dying lion carved out of a rock face to commemorate the Swiss lives lost during the French Revolution
Lavaux Vineyard Terrasses- UNESCO:
Take a stroll through the 30km long vineyards that stretch from the Chateau de Chillon to the outskirts of Lausanne. I would recommend to visit in summer when the sun is shining, the lake is turquoise blue and the vineyards are ripe and green. Stop off at the Barron Tavernier for lunch and a glass of wine whilst you enjoy a panoramic view over Lake Geneva.
Montreux Jazz Festival:
This world famous festival takes place over 2 weeks every July in Montreux, situated on Lake Geneva. This festival has hosted artists such as Prince, Lana Del Rey, Ed Sheeran, Muse, Lady Gaga, Aretha Franklin, Mary J Blige, John Legend, Pharrell Williams, Emeli Sandé and Stevie Wonder just to name a few. From silent discos to strobe clubs, the event is the highlight of Switzerland’s festival season and is absolutely not to be missed.
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