There are so many things that make Switzerland popular with tourists, and we can list five of them from top of our heads: mountains, lakes, chocolate, cheese and watches. Switzerland is famous for its breathtaking mountain landscapes and scenic lakes dotted with picturesque villages that can host a story of a fairy tale without much trouble. Production of chocolate, cheese and watches is something Swiss are very proud of and they became synonyms with quality in those industries.
But, there is much more than that. This small European country is also well known for its neutrality (Switzerland was not in a war for centuries), banking sector (one of the world’s financial hubs), Switzerland is founder of Red Cross, and is a host of diplomatic and international community in Geneva, among others. So, if you don’t visit as a tourist, you might go there for work!
Switzerland is also very diverse country – there are four languages spoken throughout the country within various communities spread out in Swiss cantons (there are total of 26 of them), and almost every fourth inhabitant is a foreign national, which makes it a country with highest percentage of expats. Such diversity comes with very organized and affluent way of life – Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world. But, don’t worry, we always have some travel offers to get you covered! Enjoy!
1. Quick facts
- Official name: Swiss Confederation
- Capital: Bern
- Population: 8.3 million
- Area: 41,284 sq km (15,940 sq miles)
- Major languages: German, French, Italian, Romansch
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 81 years (men), 85 years (women)
- Currency: Swiss Franc
2. Where is it?
Switzerland is small, central European country bordering with five nations: Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, Italy and France. By its size, Switzerland is ranked as 132nd country in the world and 31st in Europe.
3. Visa requirements
As with many countries, your passport must be valid for at least three months after you complete visit to Switzerland, so please plan ahead. Switzerland is part of Schengen agreement and visa for any of the countries from the Schengen group is also valid for Switzerland.
4. Getting there
Getting to Switzerland is the best via one of several international airports, such as Zurich (ZRH), Geneva (GVA) or Bern (BRN), or via train, bus or car from neighboring country. If you have plenty of time, then driving throughout any of the scenic routes is the best choice.
Here are some flight offers to Switzerland from the US:
- Washington — Zurich from $193
- New York — Zurich from $249
- New York — Geneva from $322
- Miami — Zurich from $324
- San Francisco — Zurich from $407
- Washington — Geneva from $456
- Houston — Zurich from $502
- Los Angeles — Geneva from $577
- Philadelphia — Geneva from $974
- Los Angeles — Lugano from $3 005
More cheap flights and hotels in Switzerland:
5. Where to stay in Switzerland?
Depending on where you want to go visit in Switzerland, and what is your budget and preferences, your options for accommodation can go from standard hotels or Airbnb rentals, hostels, but also unique lodging offered throughout the country, such as luxurious accommodations and farm stays.
It is up to you and your budget and personal preferences. For budget (and young) travelers, there are plenty of cheap accommodation to choose from in hostels.
For latest offers on hotels from our providers use search form below:
6. Moving around
Switzerland’s public transport system is comprehensive, reliable and efficient. You can use trains, trams, buses and even boats to move around the country. There are also extensive cycling routes. In 2015, Swiss Pass was introduced to unify payment system for entire transport system, which makes it much easier for tourists to move around.
To move between cities you can also rent a car, which you can do online from our website or from many car rentals.
7. Food in Switzerland
Swiss food is as diverse as Switzerland is as a country, since various communities brought together their dishes and recipes and created melting pot (no pun intended) of flavors and cuisines.
Cheese fondue is not specifically Swiss food, but with almost 450 types of cheese produced there, this was inevitable. It is basically melted cheese in a pot with different ingredients, such as garlic, corn starch and white wine and it is eaten with a stick with piece of bread being dipped into a pot. It can be very social meal, people dipping bread, sitting around the table.
Rosti is typical Swiss food, finely grated potatoes, pan fried until crisp and served with bacon, fried egg, and melted raclette cheese. Speaking of raclette, this is also typical Swiss snack and add-on to the main meals, mostly grilled and melted.
Älplermagronen resembles macaroni and cheese, but it has more ingredients and it is very fulfilling. It has macaroni, cheese, potatoes, tomatoes, onions and apple juice. Sometimes served with bacon as well. You get the idea. Berner platte, or Bernese platter in English, is basically meet lover plate, mixing all types of meet on a platter. Includes, but not limited to: beef, ham, smoked bacon, smoked beef, pork tongue, spare ribs, pork knuckle, pork loin, shoulder, and also served with side of potatoes and pickles.
Zopf is basically a white bread loaf, but shaped into a braid (Zopf = braid). Legends says tradition in making this type of bread is to commemorate when widows were cutting their braids and burring them with their husbands. The more you know.
From the sweet side of Swiss menu we have Basler Leckerli, glazed (and decorated) gingerbread balls, with recipe originating from 600 years ago, a Nusstorte, a rich nut tart/cake and Bűndnernusstorte, caramelized version of Nusstorte.
There is also wide selection of Swiss wines and liquors that goes well with above food. Enjoy!
How safe is Switzerland for tourists and to move around? Switzerland is very safe country overall. Tourist areas are generally safe, both for single tourists and groups or families, but extra caution for pickpocketers is advised. More details about safety in Switzerland you can find here.
Switzerland is quite expensive destination, as a matter of fact, it is ranked as number 5 on the list of most expensive countries in the world. If you travel there on a limited budget, it will be difficult to always find great deals on accommodation, meals and attraction tickets.
Prices throughout Switzerland vary from place to place and Geneva and Zurich are the most expensive city for general tourism.
Switzerland has moderate weather without extreme temperatures in winter and summer. The weather can become more unpredictable in the mountains, which is understandable and you can expect rain there between May and August and snowfall in winter.
11. Best time to visit Switzerland
High season for visiting Switzerland is period June-September for regular visits, but for visiting Alpine ski resorts, high season is, of course, winter – December-March. Cities like Geneva, Zurich and Bern are not depending on tourist visits so there is not a particular high season for the visit.
12. Money matters
Switzerland is in Europe, but it is not part of Eurozone, they have Swiss Franc as a currency. Exchange rate is very similar to Euro, so you can use it as a reference when comparing prices. Switzerland is known globally as a banking and financial center, so you won’t have problem using credit cards or withdrawing cash while there. Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but please do check card charges from your bank in foreign countries before the trip. It is always good to have some cash on you, especially when leaving a tip in the restaurant or for taxi ride. There are ATMs and banks on every corner and cash withdrawals are in Euros with a fee. Major banks don’t charge ATM fees to foreigners, but privately operated ATMs may sometimes charge high fees. However, machine should warn you about the charge so you have a choice to cancel the transaction before committing to it.
13. What to see in Switzerland?
Switzerland is a small country, but with so many places to see that it would be difficult to go around all attractions. We are listing here only most notable, there is always more to add to this list.
Jungfrau. (‘Maiden’, ‘Virgin’) Mountain summit in Bernese Alps, in center south of Switzerland. The peak is 4,152 meter (13,642 feet) high.
Jungfraujoch. A glacier saddle in the Bernese Alps, connecting the two peaks Jungfrau and Mönch and accessible by train.
Pilatus. Over 2,100 meter high mountain overseeing Lucerne, offering spectacular views and accessible with cable cars and a railway.
Chillon Castle. Medieval castle on the east shores of Lake Geneva. Featuring underground vaults, various art exhibitions and hosting of cultural events.
Chapel Bridge. Original called Kapellbrücke, this unique covered wooden bridge is crossing the River Reuss in Lucerne in central Switzerland.
Rhine Falls. This Europe’s largest plains waterfall (and largest in Switzerland) is 150m wide and 23m high, located on River Rhine in the northern Switzerland. Boat rides and guided tours offered.
Lake Lucerne. Most scenic views can be experienced on this centrally located lake in Switzerland. It is fourth largest lake in the country and offers boat trips.
Titlis. Famous mountain, over 3,200 meters high in central Switzerland, featuring world’s 1st cable car.
Eiger. Almost 4,000 meters high mountain located in south of Switzerland, popular with experienced climbers.
Glacier Express. A unique experience, a train route connecting two major mountain resorts of Zermatt and St. Moritz in the center of the Swiss Alps.
Bernina Express. The highest railway in the Swiss Alps, reaching over 2,200 meters high attitude and crossing 196 bridges. Offers spectacular views along the way.
Rigi. Mountain in central Switzerland, surrounded by lakes. Popular for hiking and winter sports and offering great views of surrounding lakes.
Aletsch Glacier. Located in the area of eastern Bernese Alps, this is the largest glacier in the Alps,
Schilthorn. Almost 3,000 meter high mountain, accessible with cable cars, offer mountaintop revolving restaurant with amazing views. Popular for hiking as well.
Lake Thun. Alpine lake in Bernese Alpine area, with picturesque town of Thun and villages around its shores, popular for kayaking and other water sports.
Kleine Scheidegg. A mountain pass with a train station, offering spectacular view, both in summer and winter.
Lake Zurich. Located in the south side of Zurich and stretched over 40 km in a banana shape, this lake is popular for boating and swimming. Very popular during summer with hikes and mountain views.
The Geneva Water Fountain. Originally designed in 19th century to solve energy problems for local manufacturing, nowadays this is famous attraction admire by tourists by pumping water 140 m into the air.
Gornergrat. Rocky ridge in the Pennine Alps in the south of Switzerland. Reachable by the highest railway system in Europe, offers views of famous Matterhorn and the Gorner Glacier.
Lake Brienz. Turquoise lake, located next to Lake Thun. Offers boat cruises, waterfalls, walking trails and scenic Alps views.
Mönch. Standing at the height of more than 4,100 meters, this magnificent mountain is part of the Bernese Alps, in Switzerland.
Grossmünster. Landmark 12th-century cathedral in Zurich, one of the four churches in the city. Legend mentions its name all the way in 8th century.
Golden Pass Railway. Classic railway line offering upscale travel experiences throughout scenic countryside, originating in Montreux.
Fraumünster Church. An 11th century church, built on remains of the abbey from 10th century. Featuring stained glass decoration by Marc Chagall.
Trümmelbach Falls. A system of ten waterfalls, fed from glaciers from nearby mountains, located in the municipality of Lauterbrunnen.
Gotthard Pass. High elevation (over 2,100 m) road through the mountains. This mountain pass was connecting northern and southern Switzerland since the 13th century.
Männlichen. A 2,343 meter high mountain in the Alps, just southwest from Interlaken. Accessible via cableway and offering amazing views from the top.
Bahnhofstrasse. Main street in Zurich lined with high-end shops and designer boutiques.
Aare. The longest river that both rises and ends entirely within Switzerland, totaling in length to 292 km.
Klein Matterhorn. (English: Little Matterhorn) Snow-covered, almost 4,000 m high peak, accessible with the Alps’ highest cable car ride. Offering a restaurant and Matterhorn views.
Lion Monument. Monument of dying Lion carved from the rock, located in Lucerne. Dedicated to Swiss Guards who died during French Revolution.
Swiss Museum of Transport. An interactive transport museum with artifacts and shows, including locomotives, ships and aircrafts. Located in Lucerne.
Swiss National Museum. Founded in 19th century, this museum exhibits about Swiss history, crafts and furnishings. Located in Zurich and featuring many interactive exhibits.
Harderkulm. A 1,320 meter high observation deck offers spectacular mountain and lake views. Located above Interlaken.
Uetliberg. Mountain above Zurich, famous for hiking and beautiful view of the city and Zurich Lake.
The Olympic Museum. A permanent exhibition dedicated to Olympics, located in Lausanne.
Oeschinen Lake. Scenic Alpine lake with turquoise-colored water. Popular for hiking, winter sports and ice fishing.
Zytglogge. A 13th century hour and astronomical clock tower and one of the famous landmarks of Bern.
Schynige Platte. Mountain ridge accessible by train. Popular for hiking and featuring great views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Valle Verzasca. Scenic valley in the Locarno district of the Canton of Ticino, in the south of Switzerland. Perfect for one day trip.
St Pierre Cathedral. A 12th century landmark cathedral in Geneva. World famous as the home church of Protestant Reformation leader John Calvin.
Bachalpsee. A high altitude (over 2,200 m high) tiny, scenic mountain lake, popular for hiking. Located south east from Interlaken.
Matterhorn. One of the highest mountains in Alps and in Europe (4,478m). Located between Switzerland and Italy and immortalized on the design of famous chocolate bar Toblerone.
We will add more recommendations in the future about what to see in Switzerland, so stay tuned!
14. Interesting facts about Switzerland
- Helvetica, very popular font used everywhere, is designed in Switzerland.
- The Red Cross is founded in Switzerland.
- Everybody knows about Swiss chocolate and watches, but Switzerland is also famous for its cheese variety – around 450 different types are made there!
- Switzerland has 7,000 lakes!
- Less than 15% of Alps are part of Switzerland.
We hope you enjoyed reading about Switzerland!