Switzerland


Overview

Switzerland travel guide, including map of Switzerland, top Switzerland travel experiences, tips for travel in Switzerland, plus the country's best treks

Visit Switzerland’s cities like swank Zurich or laid-back Bern to embrace their mix of rich history and modern culture.

Relax at lakes like Lago Maggiore or Lago di Lugano and go hiking, climbing, mountainbiking, skiing or snowboarding in the Alps. For more experienced skiers, it can be very rewarding to do your research and find a more remote area to stay in than a ski resort – far more peaceful, and you'll have a more personal experience in a smaller community than you would in a hotel.

Switzerland is generally an expensive country, but you can keep costs down by avoiding high season and pricey resorts.

Wanderlust Recommends

  1. Pump up your adrenaline by climbing the Engelberg’s via ferrata or join Indian tourists photographing Bollywood film locations
  2. Go cycling in the Valais region, following the Rhône River to the shores of Lake Geneva, and reward yourself with glass of local wine
  3. Relax on your way up Mount Rigi while a little red locomotive does all the climbing and gaze down at Lake Lucerne from its top
  4. Enjoy the view on a ride with the Swiss Glacier Express – place seven of the Wanderlust Travel Awards 2010 Top Rail Journey
  5. Go skiing or snowboarding in Zermatt, breathtaking views of the 4,478m high Matterhorn included  
  6. Unwind at the lakeside in Zurich after dancing the night away in a stylish nightclub

Wanderlust tips for travel in Switzerland

If you plan to travel around a lot, buy a Swiss Pass, a ticket that allows you to use trains across the country and public transport in many Swiss cities. You will also get discount on cable cars and free entry to many museums. Find more information on the Switzerland Travel Centre website.

Further Reading

Travel in Switzerland vital stats

  • Capital of Switzerland: Bern
  • Population of Switzerland: 7.9 million
  • Languages in Switzerland: German, French, Italian, Romansch
  • Time in Switzerland: GMT +1(GMT +2 Mar-Oct)
  • International dialling code for Switzerland: +41
  • Voltage in Switzerland: 230 AC 50 Hz
  • Visas for Switzerland: Visas for Switzerland are not required by UK nationals. Find out more here.
  • Money in Switzerland: Swiss Franc (CHF). Credit cards are widely accepted, though some smaller establishments might take cash only. ATM are plentiful throughout Switzerland. Tips are included in hotel and restaurant bills, but it is common to tip around 10-12% for services like luggage handling and to give a few extra francs if you were happy with the service in restaurants.
  • Switzerland travel advice: Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Switzerland tourism board: Switzerland

    When to go to Switzerland

    There is not a ‘wrong’ time to visit Switzerland. Generally, Switzerland has central European weather, which is cold from November to March and warm from April to September. But the climate is affected by altitude and varies widely.

    The Jura region gets high rainfall in spring and can be very cold in winter. Ticino in the south has warm Mediterranean weather. The skiing season starts in December and higher pistes stay open till April.

    The summer is good for hiking. In autumn, the rainfall is generally higher, but fewer crowds, colourful trees and clearer views make it a good time to visit.

    International airports

    Bern (BRN) 9km from the city, EuroAirport (Basel/Mulhouse/Freiburg) 12km from the city of Basel, Geneva (GVA) 5km from the city, Zurich (ZRH) 11km from the city

    Getting around in Switzerland

    By train: Switzerland’s public transport system is excellent and trains connect most cities and towns. High-speed rails link Switzerland with France and Italy.

    By road: Hiring a car is usually cheaper when arranged in advance. To access Swiss motorways, you have to buy a vignette and stick it onto the windscreen. A comprehensive bus system gets to many villages and hamlets.

    For more information on public transport and available travel passes see Switzerland Travel Centre.

    Switzerland accommodation

    Switzerland is full of excellent (and expensive) hotels, including lots of spas. A more rustic and cheaper option is to stay in a mountain inn (Berggasthof) or at a farm (Bauernhof).

    Self-catering chalets and apartments are also widely available, but tend to be booked out early. Visit the tourist board website for reservations. The main hostel association is Swiss Youth Hostels, part of the International Youth Hostel Federation. Many hotels and inns hand out guest cards, with which visitors get discounts for local attractions and transport.

    Switzerland food & drink

    Swiss cuisine has a range of regional specialties, often using local produce and being influenced by its French, German and Italian neighbours. A number of dishes in the Alpine region feature cheese and other dairy products, such as the Suisse-Romande specialty cheese fondue or Älpler Magrone (macaroni with cheese, onions, potatoes and cream).

    In German Switzerland, Rösti is very popular, a large fried potato pancake. In the Ticino canton you will find Italian dishes like risotto and gnocchi.

    Exquisite restaurants cater for gourmets, especially in the major cities. But eating a hearty meal at a simple family-run inn is often the better and more authentic experience. To sample superb farm produce, head to one of the many local markets.

    Health & safety in Switzerland

    There are no major health hazards, but tick-borne encephalitis can occur in some areas. Consult your GP or travel health clinic about vaccination.

    Good health care is readily available throughout Switzerland. EU citizens should carry a European Health Insurance Card to access free hospital treatment.

    Tap water is safe to drink throughout the country.