Nature had one of her finest moments in Switzerland. Travelers come here for jaw-dropping scenery but are charmed by the many cultural attractions and mouthwatering cuisine.
The country is home to wavering lakes, greenish mountains, tiny walled medieval towns, soaring peaks, endless green fields you want to run through, delicious chocolate, and friendly people. Everything runs on time here, the country is safe, and everyone is super nice. The country rocks no matter what time of the year you visit.
Steeped in history, cities such as Zurich, Geneva, and Lausanne offer excellent museums and galleries, historic buildings, and renowned music festivals. The capital is Bern with a stunning medieval old town hugging the crook of a river. Germany, Italy, Austria, and France border Switzerland.
The country is also the leader in several global markets and a birthplace of successful products. ‘Swiss’ has become a synonym for quality, elegance and beauty when talking about certain things. Let’s look at why it is so famous.
The Matterhorn, Switzerland’s iconic pointed peak is one of the highest mountains in the Alps. On the border with Italy, this legendary peak rises to 4,478 meters, and its four steep faces lie in the direction of the compass points. The first summiting in 1865 ended tragically when four climbers fell to their death during the descent. Today, thousands of experienced climbers come here each summer.
Jungfraujoch: The Top of Europe
One of the most popular experiences in the beautiful Bernese Oberland is the train journey to Jungfraujoch, the “Top of Europe,” with an observation terrace and scientific observatory perched at 3,454 meters. The longest glacier in Europe, the Great Aletsch Glacier begins at Jungfraujoch, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nestled between Lake Thun to the west and Lake Brienz to the east, Interlaken is one of Switzerland’s most popular summer holiday resorts. In the centre of town, Höhematte is a marvel of urban planning with 35 acres of open space. Flower gardens, hotels, and cafés surround the Höheweg, the main boulevard through here with breathtaking vistas of the mountains. The mighty peaks of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau tower above the town providing excellent opportunities for alpine adventures.
Imagine a sparkling blue lake surrounded by mountains, a car-free medieval old town, covered bridges, waterfront promenades, frescoed historic buildings, and sun-splashed plazas with bubbling fountains. No wonder Lucerne (in German Luzern) is a top spot for tourists. The Culture and Convention Center is home to one of the world’s leading concert halls.
Lake Geneva, Europe’s largest Alpine lake, straddles the Swiss/French border, and laps at the shores of some of Switzerland’s most popular cities. The city of Geneva sits between pretty snow-capped peaks at the point where the Rhône spills into Lake Geneva. Promenades, parks, and gardens surround the lake, and the old town is a lovely spot to stroll among the historic buildings. The Jet d’Eau, a fountain in Lake Geneva shooting water 150 meters into the air, is a famous landmark. Cultural attractions include the Opera House and the Grand Théâtre, which stages international acts.
In a stunning location, perched on a peninsula of the River Aare, the Swiss capital of Bern exudes old world charm, and the city’s medieval old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Strolling along the cobbled streets, visitors can explore the tallest cathedral in Switzerland, with panoramic views from its tower; 16th-century fountains; the Zytglogge medieval clock tower with moving puppets; and six kilometres of shopping arcades, called “Lauben” by the locals. The Rose Garden (Rosengarten) offers beautiful views of the old town centre.
Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city, a major transportation hub, and a top starting point for travellers. The city lies at the northwestern end of Lake Zurich astride the river Limmat. Beyond its buttoned-up façade, this affluent banking capital boasts a rich line-up of cultural treasures. A great place to begin a walking tour is the cobbled streets of the Old Town with its quaint shops, cafés, and galleries. Mile-long Bahnhofstrasse, one of Europe’s finest shopping strands, beckons with designer stores selling fashion, watches, and jewellery.
The Rhine Falls
Spanning 150 meters, the Rhine Falls (Rheinfall) at Schaffhausen is the largest falls in Central Europe. The best time to visit is during June and July when the mountain snow melts, and the falls swell in volume to spill over a 21-meter-high ledge of Jurassic limestone. Boat trips up the Rhine provide excellent views of the falls as do the viewing platforms on both sides of the river.
Swiss National Park
Founded in 1914, Swiss National Park in the Engadine Valley is the oldest reserve in the Alps. The park encompasses more than 170 square kilometres of mountain pine forests, flower-dotted hollows, shrubs, fast-flowing rivers, and limestone crags. Nature-lovers can explore the region on the large network of trails, though veering off these paths is forbidden in an effort to preserve the natural ecosystems. More than 5,000 species of wildlife make their home here including marmot, red deer, chamois, ibex, fox, and more than 100 species of birds.
Into the Engadin
Evocative of a golden age of travel, Switzerland’s train journeys are some of the world’s finest. There are big mountain views on repeat aboard the Glacier Express, which negotiates the Furka, Oberalp and Bernina pass on the eight-hour ride between Zermatt and St Moritz in Graubünden’s Upper Engadin.
Chateau de Chillon, Montreux
On the shores of Lake Geneva, near Montreux, the Chateau de Chillon (Chillon Castle) has inspired artists and writers for centuries. Lord Byron, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Victor Hugo are among the luminaries who have written about this architectural treasure. Once the stronghold of the Counts and Dukes of Savoy from the 12th century, the complex encompasses about 25 buildings clustered around three courtyards. Highlights include the Great Halls, with magnificent views of Lake Geneva; the Gothic underground rooms; the Chapel, adorned with 14th-century paintings; and the Camera Domini, a bedroom occupied by the Duke of Savoy decorated with medieval murals.
Mirror-like lakes, glaciers, jagged peaks, alpine forests, and oodles of sunshine make St. Moritz one of the world’s top mountain destinations. Palatial hotels and pricey restaurants are par for the course at this chic resort town, which has hosted two winter Olympics. In an alpine valley 1,800 meters above sea level, the town is divided into two parts: St. Moritz Dorf sits on a sunny terrace overlooking the Lake of St. Moritz. The other part of town, lakeside St. Moritz Bad on the valley floor, is a health resort with less expensive lodging. Winter sports run the gamut, from skiing, snowboarding, skating, and bobsledding to tobogganing on the famous 1.2-kilometer-long Cresta Run.
The Customs and Culture of Switzerland
The Swiss have always maintained and nurtured their own local customs, and because of this, Switzerland is a country with an enormous wealth of cultural activity and living tradition.
Traditional Swiss dishes are made of simple ingredients and are regionally influenced by Italian, German, and French cuisines. Pizza and pasta are popular here. Swiss cheese and chocolates are famous across the world. Appenzeller, Vacherin, Emmental cheese are some of the most noted variants of Swiss cheese. Cheese dishes like fondue are popular in the nation. Muesli and bread with jam or butter serve as common breakfast foods. Quiches and tarts are also consumed. Traditional Swiss restaurants usually built in rocky terrain and surrounded by forests are called grottoes and they offer traditional local dishes to the customers. Rivella, a lactose-based drink, apple juice, Ovomaltine, a chocolate drink are some of the popular non-alcoholic beverages of Switzerland.
On the Alp
Alpine farming has a long history. It is believed that the pastures above the tree line were being farmed as far back as 4,000 BC.
The production of cheese in the summer enabled people to preserve milk and stockpile it for the long winter months. The practice of Alpine farming gave birth to various customs such as the festive processions up into the Alps and down from the mountains, the call to prayer, the Älplerchilbi carnival and the Chästteilet cheese sharing – traditions that have been carefully maintained to this day. From a distance, Alpine life looks romantic: cowbells, a blade of grass in the mouth, unlimited nature, sunsets over the mountain tops and candles on a wooden table. In addition, this lifestyle involves hard physical work and simplicity of life – which, in recent times, has attracted especially urban dwellers from both home and abroad.
Literature and Arts
Since Switzerland has no dominant national language, most literature in the country is written in French, German, Romansch or Italian. The novelist Robert Walser, the novelist and travel writer Annemarie Schwarzenbach, the playwright and novelist Friedrich Dürrenmatt and Max Frisch, the essayist Peter Bichsel are some of the renowned Swiss writers. Carl Spitteler and Hermann Hesse from Switzerland won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1919 and 1946, respectively.
The visual arts scene in Switzerland was significantly influenced by the Protestantism in the 16th century. Swiss artists of international repute include the ink wash and watercolour artist Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, Alberto Giacometti, sculptor Jean Tinguely who produced moving sculptures made from scrap, painter Paul Klee, and others. The Dada movement also originated in the country in the early 20th century. The country hosts a number of art museums with a considerable volume of art collections.
For a long time, Swiss sports customs were eclipsed by international types of sport – but recently, they have come back into their own.
While regional and local sporting traditions have often been neglected, there are some sports that have enjoyed increasing popularity. Major events such as the Swiss Wrestling and Alpine Festival ESAF are increasing in popularity; in 2010, the festival reached a new record with 250,000 visitors and became the largest Schwingen festival ever held. It is worth noting that no additional police were needed for the maintenance of order, and the authority of the public address announcer was sufficient. At these multi-day festive occasions, athletic wrestlers, sturdy boulder throwers and strong Hornussen players gave of their best.
Folk traditions throughout the year
Switzerland has many customs that are tied to the calendar – most are of pagan origin or have a religious connection.
The festivals celebrated in Switzerland differ considerably depending on the season and the region. Some are based on ancient traditions while others have emerged only recently. Many of them reflect the course of the agricultural year, such as the ringing in of the vineyard workers in spring, the Alpine ascent and descent during the summer months, and the Chästeilet cheese sharing. Because there was less for farmers to do in winter than in other seasons, there were more celebrations and customs during this time. Even today, the expulsion of winter and of evil spirits and demons forms part of the tradition – a tradition that is linked to the numerous carnival and year-end ceremonies. Other celebrations recall historical events such as important victories in historical battles.
Music and Dances Of Switzerland
Switzerland has produced world-renowned composers like Frank Martin, Arthur Honegger, and Othmar Schoeck. Another musician and composer from the nation, Andreas Vollenweider, has been recognized internationally with Grammy awards for his talent in harp music. The Lucerne and Verbier Festivals held in Switzerland celebrate international classical music. The Montreux Jazz Festival is also another famous music festival held in the country. Eluveitie is a Swiss folk metal band that has gained international recognition.
In the past, public dancing in Switzerland was only permitted on special occasions. However, following the World War II, rules changed drastically, and dancing became a popular leisure activity in Switzerland. Traditional dances like waltz, foxtrot, polka are popular among the Swiss and so are modern dance styles like breakdance, salsa, and rock and roll. The Trachtenvereine associations help preserve the folk dances of the country and perform such dances during folk festivals and other cultural events.
Religion in Switzerland
The federal state of Switzerland has no state religion. The majority of the population of the country are Christians. However, adherence to churches has steadily declined over the years. Most cantons of the country, however, recognize the Catholic Church or the Swiss Reformed Church. As of 2015, about 68% of the country’s population are Christians, 23.9% are non-religious, and 5.0% Muslims, and the rest are adherents of other religions.