Published on September 3rd, 2014 | by Ann Rickard0
Switzerland’s 10 Best to Do List
This small European country packed with postcard sighs is perfect in winter, glorious in summer, beguiling in autumn and vibrant in spring. There are hundreds of reasons to love Switzerland, but space dictates a limit, so here are the top 10, according to Ann Rickard.
1. Mountains, mountains and more mountains.
SWITZERLAND has grandiose mountains. As well as the Matterhorn, Eiger and Jungfrau, other haughty beauties include Mount Titlis. At 3000m, Titlis boasts Europe’s highest suspension bridge, which takes you across a 500m abyss for 150 heart-stopping steps. Snow is guaranteed even at the height of summer, so jump on a snowboard or tube and whiz down the slopes.
From the pretty lakeside town of Vitznau, take the cog train – Europe’s first mountain railway built in 1871 – for an almost vertical ride up Mount Rigi, the Queen of Mountains. The views leave even jaded travellers gasping. At the top, don a swimsuit (yes, really) and dip into the mineral baths.
2. Lakes of clean blue water.
A WALK around Lake Truebsee, half way up Mt Titlis, will give you a Julie Andrews experience that will make you want to sing “The hills are alive”. (I did.)
Yes, it is Switzerland, not Austria, but the extreme blue of the lake, the intense white of the mountain tops, the vibrant green of the grass, the purity of the air and the bloom of the wild flowers all make the world seem to rotate a little slower. Add the sound of cowbells tinkling around the necks of contented cows and who could not do a Julie Andrews?
3. History and culture
HISTORY is steeped in the cobbled stones of the streets, in the facades of handsome buildings, in ancient marketplaces, in old town squares, and in
the hundreds of fountains in every town and city.
In Lucerne at the Culture and Congress Centre, world-class concerts attract thousands from all over the globe.
In Basel, art is king, especially at the Foundation Beyeler Gallery, built from donations by art-loving couple the Beyelers, who gave their extraordinary private art collection to the city. It houses Monet, Picasso and the like.
4. Trains, trams and buses
SWITZERLAND is so organised there needs to be a new word for efficient. We never waited more than four minutes for a tram. Every train left exactly on time and arrived at the precise minute. Clean as well as efficient means rail is the way to go, especially with a Swiss Pass from Rail Europe, which gives unlimited travel on boats, trains and buses across more than 75 cities, as well as a 50% price reduction off most mountain railways and cable cars and free admission to more than 470 museums.
5. Food, friendship and wine
GIVE me a loaf of Swiss bread and I am culinary content. Crusty, and soft inside, this bread comes with every course in most restaurants. Culinary influences from France, Italy and Germany mean there are gastronomic opportunities on every corner.
A must-try is raclette: melted cheese on jacket potatoes, often with pickled fruit and onions. Then there is the fondue … never out of vogue in Switzerland.
As for chocolate, pastries and cakes – they’re all so luscious you must give in, enjoy, and join Weight Watchers on your return.
RANGING from the luxurious to the budget-friendly, there are myriad choices. We loved Hotel Basel in Basel’s old town.
Hotel Des Balances in Lucerne dates back to the 13th century and its facade with colourful mural is one of the most photographed of all Lucerne’s icons.
Hotel Waldegg is the place to stay in Engelberg (at the foot of Mt Titlis).
7. The Wilhelm Tell Express
ONE of the world’s most scenic journeys. It starts in Lucerne on board a paddle steamer.
Glide slowly along Lake Lucerne and beyond, enjoying a lazy lunch and take in the picture-perfect villages, pretty lakeshores and always, those rugged mountains. At Fluelen, change from paddle steamer to the panorama car of the Swiss Federal Railways for a spectacular ride passing yet more breath-sapping views.
8. Castles and culture
IN BELLINZONA in the south, perhaps Switzerland’s most Italian-like town, three UNESCO castles and their city walls rule.
Built in medieval times to block access to the Ticino Valley to northern populations, the castles are best visited on the little tourist train that trundles up to the top of the city and stops long enough at each castle to allow you to explore, absorb the history, enjoy the views and watch organisers set up stages for concerts in these magnificent surroundings.
9. Towns and cities
LUCERNE, with its centuries-old Chapel Bridge bedecked in flowers in summer, is home to historic buildings against a backdrop of mountain peaks. The old town is small, pedestrian and brimming with shops, cafes and bars. Basel borders France and Germany, and is known for Art Basel, the world’s premier modern and contemporary art show.
In Zurich, home to financial institutions and banking giants, the sense of money and power is palpable.
10. Shopping and people
FOR the ultimate shopping experience, even if it is only of the window kind, stroll Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich. It is one of the world’s most exclusive shopping avenues, with every designer label and big-name jeweller in the one location. Lust after Tiffany and Chopard, dream outside Chanel – then have a macaroon or truffle (or both) at Sprungli, possibly the most decadent cafe in the world.