Five Things First Time Travellers To Switzerland Should Know
- The Swiss don't speak Swiss. Switzerland's four official languages are French, German, Italian and Romansh. But if you don't speak any of those, most of the locals also have a basic knowledge of English.
- It's an expensive country. In fact, Switzerland has one of the highest costs of living in the world. Make sure you keep track of your finances to avoid blowing through your entire budget. It's also a good idea to look out for things like the ISIC card which lets you save up to 50% on admission to tourist attractions.
- The Swiss take recycling seriously. While in the country, you can expect to see at least eight different trash cans in public areas. If you're not sure which bin to use, ask one of the locals, and they'll be more than happy to help.
- Switzerland is not part of the European Union. The country doesn't use the Euro but instead has its own currency called the Swiss Franc.
- Bring a refillable water bottle. Buying water in Switzerland is expensive, costing around CHF 4 a bottle. Instead, drink from the tap, fill up as you go and keep your budget in check.
Best Time To Visit Switzerland
While Switzerland is an expensive destination all-year round, it does have a low season. From November to March, you'll find prices 50% lower than high season, helping to stretch your budget a bit further. The only downside about visiting during this time is that some attractions won't be open.
If you want to experience warmer weather without the hefty price bump, Switzerland's shoulder seasons are a good option. From April to June and September, you'll have better luck finding deals on accommodation. The countryside will also be in a state of bloom for spring, or you'll be in time for the annual grape harvest in autumn.
The most expensive time to visit Switzerland is from July to August. Travellers from all over Europe flock to the country for the summer holidays, driving up prices at tourist hot spots. If you're planning a trip during this period, book a few months in advance as everything from hotels to hostels quickly fill up.
Another high season spike is during the winter months. It's the busiest time of year at the ski resorts, and prices are at their highest. However, if you aren't planning on hitting the slopes, prices will be more reasonable in the other parts of the country.
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and is a top destination for culture vultures. It's home to more than 50 museums and over 100 art galleries. The most impressive is the Swiss National Museum, it's located in a castle and dedicated to the country's cultural history.
Spend your days exploring the winding alleyways of Old Town, window shopping and taking in the city's famous nightlife scene. When you're tired of the metropolitan bustle, you can head for the mountains and tackle one of the nearby hiking trails.
Located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, Geneva is the melting pot of the world. It's home to over 20 different international organisations including the United Nations and the Red Cross.
The city's top sights include the Cathedral of St. Pierre, the Palace of Nations and its dramatic natural landmark, Jet d'Eau. The best way to explore Geneva is to hire a bike, or if your feet are feeling wary, hop on board a boat in Lake Geneva.
Located on the banks of the Aare River, Bern is the capital city of Switzerland. Its history dates back to the 12th-century, and its Old Town is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bern's most famous tourist attraction is Zytglogge, a 13th-century clock tower complete with moving puppets. Other highlights include the Munster cathedral and the Paul Klee museum that houses the biggest collection of his art.
Top Attractions in Switzerland
The Matterhorn is the jewel of the Swiss Alps. Lying on the border of Italy, it stands at a staggering 4,478 metres tall and is the most famous mountain in Europe.
It's one of Switzerland's most popular treks, with thousands of climbers visiting each year to attempt the summit. In the winter, the mountain transforms into a skier's paradise with more than 300 km of slopes to shred.
If you're planning on spending a few days here, there is a village at the foot of the mountain. Zermatt is a resort town, famous for banning cars to preserve the air quality and instead uses horse-drawn carriages.
The Rhine Falls
Located near Schaffhausen, the Rhine Falls are the largest in Europe. Spanning across 150 metres, the water spills over a 21-metre drop to the river below.
One of the best ways to appreciate this natural attraction is with a boat trip. You'll sail past riverside castles, the basin and the famous boulder at the top of the falls.
There are also viewing platforms on both sides of the river that feel like you're hovering above the water. For the intrepid traveller, there's an adventure park, which will help you see the falls from a thrilling angle.
Swiss National Park
Established in 1914, the Swiss National Park is the oldest reserve in the Alps. Its 170 square kilometres are full of pine forests, wildflowers, limestone crags and pristine rivers.
The Swiss National Park is a must-visit for nature lovers who want to explore the best of Switzerland's natural heritage. The region boasts a large network of hiking trails and is home to more than 5,000 species of wildlife.
Some of the creatures you might see include red deer, fox, ibex and more than 100 different types of birds.
If one day is not enough for you, there's also accommodation inside the reserve. Stay in Chamanna Cluozza, a log cabin that dates back to 1910 situated in the beautiful Cluozza valley.
At 3,354 metres, Jungfraujoch is the highest train station in Europe. Fondly called the Top of Europe, it's one of the most popular experiences in Switzerland thanks to its breathtaking views.
But the ride there is only the start. Once you reach the station, there's an abundance of activities to keep you busy. Visit the Great Aletsch Glacier, the longest in Europe. Get a panoramic view of the mountains from the Sphinx observatory or enjoy a range of winter sports.
Once you've had enough of the snow, head inside and explore the famous Ice Palace and feast your heart out at the Lindt Swiss Chocolate Heaven.
Lake Geneva is Europe's largest Alpine lake. Straddling the borders of Switzerland and France, it shores are home to a range of activities that will please any traveller.
In summer, the lake comes alive with paddleboarding, kayaking, and cruises around its beautiful waters. Back on land, a variety of festivities take place such as Oktoberfest and Halloween parties.
In winter, Lake Geneva still has plenty to offer. Many travellers head into the surrounding wilderness to tackle snowshoe hikes and go sledging through the snow.
The lake's most famous attraction is the Jet d'Eau, a fountain that shoots water 150 metres up into the air.
Major International Airports in Switzerland
- Zürich Airport
- Geneva Airport
- EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg
- Bern Airport
- Lugano Airport