Highlights of Switzerland
Switzerland’s main cities are all quite different, with each of them offering up their own distinct range of culture, entertainment and nightlife. German-speaking Zurich is the nation’s banking capital but also the most outrageous. Basel, with its medieval old town, is also the place for carnivals and world-class art museums. On the French-speaking side, Geneva is the most cosmopolitan. It is the site of the headquarters of several international organisations. Lausanne, situated on the northern banks of Lake Geneva, is perhaps the most picturesque. It is built on three hills and surrounded by slopes covered in vineyards. They are all just a short drive to various parts of the Alps.
Winter sports paradise
If you’re into skiing, tobogganing or skating, this is certainly the country for you. The ski season is generally considered to last from early December to April, although mid-January usually provides the best snow. You can choose from a range of larger resorts, or lesser-known small villages. The bigger ones are some of the best you can get. The best known and most upmarket is St Moritz, the world’s first winter ski resort. You can also come here for your Heidi fix. Visit the Heidi Hut, where the film was shot or Grindelwald in the Jungfrau region. This charming mountain village is home to the towering Wetterhorn and Eiger mountains and only a short drive from Interlaken. Some of the country’s best-kept secrets primarily cater to Swiss weekend skiers. Kandersteg is one. It is perfect for the more experienced skier looking for a bit of peace and quiet. Andermatt is another option. Experience its old-fashioned, tranquil atmosphere now while it’s still relatively undiscovered.
A very Swiss summer with Avis car hire
In the summer, the ski resorts are transformed into a retreat for hikers, alpinists and other nature-lovers. At this time of year too, Grindelwald is one of the most beautiful areas. Hike the rock balconies and tunnels of the impressive Grindelwald glacier. If you’re looking for a bit more adventure, you could always join the climbers and canyon jumpers. But it’s not just about peaks, there are some beautiful lakes too. Why not hike through the meadows and forests surrounding Lake Klöntal.
The cities offer great swimming. There are several lakeside lidos in Zurich. Even a City Beach, complete with sand, decking and palms. In Bern, the crystal-clear Alpine waters of the River Aare are nothing short of idyllic. Jump in upstream and let the flow take you. Swimming in Geneva is pure urban chic. The place to be is the Bains des Pâquis, with a café, pool and beach for taking a dip in Lake Geneva.
Annual events and celebrations
Art lovers should make pay a visit to Basel in June. Art Basel – otherwise known as the Olympics of the art world – is one of the world’s most important art fairs for modern and contemporary art. The prestigious temporary museum features up-and-coming artists from all over the world, alongside greats such as Picasso, Miró and Warhol.
Swiss National Day on 1st August is celebrated throughout the country, with fireworks in the evening. There is a particularly spectacular display over the Rhine Falls.
If you’re in St. Moritz in February, don’t miss the International Horse Races on the frozen lake. These so-called White Tuft events also include the world's only Skijöring Race - men on skis pulled along by galloping horses. Place a bet and enjoy a week at the races at 6,000 ft above sea level.