Imran sent an email to me awhile back, talking about all of the best things to do if we ever visit Switzerland. At the beginning of the email, Imran mentions that Switzerland has not one, but four national languages: German, French, Italian and Rumantsch! There is also a wonderful rail system there, so you don’t have to rent a car if you would rather not. Without further ado, here are Imran’s recommendations.
- Geneva (French-speaking) – Geneva is the home of many international organisations : WTO, WHO, UN, and the Red Cros. This is the most international city in the country. There are interesting museums, including the Red Cross Museum and the Patek Philippe Museum (one of the most prestigious watch makers). And it’s nice to just stroll around the city center, where you may find various kinds of shops. And there’s an Apple Store too ! Home of the Protestant movement and Calvin, you will want to see the Reformation Wall.
- Lausanne (French-speaking) – About 50 km away from Geneva, still on the Leman Lake, this city is home of the IOC. You definitely want to check out the Olympic Museum, which is situated right on the lake’s shore, with a permanent collection tracing back the whole history of the Olympic Games, and a temporary exhibition which covers various subjects. And strolling around the city is a blast, but you might be warned : the city is built on several hills, so you won’t stop walking up and down.
- Leman Lake – A very nice thing to do is to board a steamboat and
> sail all around the lake – that’ll take all day, so maybe you’ll want to just go to another city on the lake shore (like Vevey – home of Charlie Chaplin towards the end of his life – or Montreux). And every time you see a lake in Switzerland, try and see if you can sail on a steamboat, it’s worth it, especially in summer.
- Canton Valais (French speaking (East) and German speaking (West)) – This Canton doesn’t have any real major cities, it has mountains !! Over there, you mainly have one big valley from which you can access many famous small towns up in the mountains, such as Verbier, Crans-Montana, and Zermatt. The latter one being my personal favourite, since it’s a very small place where no cars are allowed… and where you have one of our famous national symbols : the Matterhorn! Further to the west, you have the Aletsch Glacier, the biggest in Europe (23km long). You will want to go up in the mountains in winter or in summer (but beware of the hordes of tourists in winter ! summer is still okay). On a side note, Valais is not the only place with mountains, but there are so many, I’ll let you check it out yourself. You really have dozens of places to visit up there, and hundreds of kilometers of trekking paths.
- Bern (German speaking) – The capital city! You’ll definitely want to walk around the old town all day long, it’s so beautiful! And check out the Federal Parliament too. It’s the biggest city in Switzerland, but it’s worth visiting.
- Basel (German Speaking) – Situated way up north, Basel has an interesting History, and a nice city center. You may want to check out some of their temporary art exhibitions, which happen every so often.
- Luzern (German speaking) – A city by the Four Canton Lake (or Vierwaldstättersee), there is the famous Chapel Bridge, the oldest wooden bridge in Europe – built in 1333 and still there! This was partially burnt down in 1993, but it’s been repaired. And most of all, you have the Lucerne Museum of Transport! There you’ll see the whole history of Swiss trains, planes, boats, cable-cars… and with the real things, real size!! You can enter the trains and see how people traveled decades ago. A must-see! Plus you have the iMax cinema there too. And through the lake, you are able to reach different other smaller places nice to visit, and also you may see the Grütli plain, where the Swiss Confederation was originally created in 1291.
- Zurich (German speaking) – This is the biggest city in Switzerland. You have so many things to do there. You’ll want to walk down the main street (Bahnhofstrasse), and see all the fancy buildings. You also have the lake. Believe it of not, you have two Apple Stores in Zurich.
- Lugano and Locarno (Italian speaking) – These two cities south of Switzerland are absolutely breath-taking in summer. As usual, you have lakes, and mountains surrounding them. Plus, every year around August, you have the International Film Festival of Locarno, with an open-air screen in the Piazza Grande.
- Canton Graubünden (German and Rumantsch speaking) – Another canton with mountains to explore! The main cities are Chur and Davos. A must-see canton in winter!
I don’t speak any language other than English, but Switzerland definitely looks like an absolutely amazing – and beautiful – place to visit!