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Small and exquisitely beautiful, Switzerland is a jewelbox even among Europe’s many exciting travel destinations. It’s as you’ve heard: the cheese and chocolate are beyond compare, and you’ll never find the like of a Swiss timepiece. The same excellence and attention to detail exercised in these areas by the Swiss are evident in other areas of life. Trains are comfortable and run on time, the chalets are nothing short of heavenly, and the people are welcoming and brilliant—Switzerland has four official languages, and many residents speak more than one.

Switzerland is the ultimate winter wonderland. With mountains covered in a layer of downy snow, gorgeous landscapes bedizened in ice, and every type of winter sporting you could possibly imagine, there are few places more attractive in the colder months. That’s not to say that summer doesn’t bring its own enchantments: outstanding hiking trails through gentle mountain foothills, pastoral beauty galore, and valley bursting with the bloom of thousands of Alpine wildflowers.

A steep exchange rate means that Switzerland is far from a budget destination, but this is one instance where visitors find that they certainly get what they pay for.

Top Sights in Switzerland

Bern

Undoubtedly the best of Switzerland’s urban centers, the Swiss capital is full of quaint charm. You’ll love to sit for a while at some cozy cafe and watch the world go by—people-watching is a great pastime in Bern. With its market squares and stately arches, Bern retains much of the medieval appeal that it always has. Its wonderful sense of history makes it a standout among European capitals. The old city of Bern is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the six kilometers of arcades constitute the largest covered shopping promenade on the continent! Worth a visit: the Berne Historical Museum and Einstein’s House.

St. Moritz

Long a playground for the rich and famous, St. Moritz is a winter resort town with glamour to spare, and sunshine for most of the year. From outstanding spa treatments (mud masques and massages) to long soaks in the mineral pools, the star treatment here will spoil and pamper you like you’ve never experienced. Gourmet restaurants offer delectable treats like caviar and truffles, and the nightlife is notably lively and high-end. Ice-skating is available all year long, the skiing is top-notch, and the walking and hiking trails are nonpareil.

Lausanne

Nestled in the heart of Swiss wine country, Lausanne is long on romance and beauty. The International Olympic Committee has its headquarters in Lausanne, and, accordingly, the world’s Olympic Museum can be found here. You also won’t want to miss the Musée de l'Elysée, an exceptional art museum. The wine-growing region of Lavaux has been tapped as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its exceptional castles and vineyards, and the scenery is rich and wonderful. The old town is splendid here, and every Saturday the streets turn into a huge farmer’s market. If you are looking to experience some of the best of Swiss cooking, this is the place to do it.

Zurich

The so-called “portal to the Alps” is Switzerland’s biggest city. Most Swiss visitors enter the country here, as the airport is large. Clean and modern, Zurich is like a shrine to the Swiss efficiency. But things aren’t all clinical—there are over fifty museums and one hundred galleries in Zurich, along with five hundred bars and fifteen hundred restaurants. If you love opera, ballet, or classical music, this is the place for you. The old town is the site of plenty of gorgeous old churches, as well as ample shopping on the promenade. The views from the meadow overlooking the lake are outstanding.

Interlaken

Switzerland’s outdoor sports capital is one of Europe’s great playground for the wealthy and vigorous. Named for its position between two deep, clear Alpine lakes (Brienzersee and Thunersee), Interlaken couldn’t be situated better to get your heart racing! Whether you want to ski, swim, sail, bike, or skydive, you are sure to find pulse-pounding thrills nearby… and all with a stunning view of the Alps in the background. It is a beautiful gateway to mountains, valleys, and lakes in the area. The glaciated peaks of Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn are located above Interlaken, and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Whether you prefer sledding, biking, skating, or BASE jumping, it is a guarantee that you will experience it on a whole new level here.

Quick Facts

Capital: Bern
Primary Airports: Zurich-Kloten Airport (ZRH), Geneva Airport (GVA), Basel-Mulhouse Airport (BSL)
Government: Federal Republic
Currency: Swiss franc (CHF)
Population: 8,474,000 (2013 est.)
Language: German, French, Italian, Romansh
Electricity: 2230V/50Hz (Euro)
Time Zone: UTC + 1
Switzerland
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