Quite often people ask me for advice when they are traveling to Switzerland. Given that I lived there for two years, it is embarrassing how little I know about the country but following are the travel suggestions I usually make:
First, a few notes about Switzerland in general:
1. It is just so incredibly full of abundant natural beauty! It really doesn’t matter where you go; it’s going to be beautiful. Lakes and mountains everywhere!
2. As a corollary to #1, don’t just focus on your destination(s) in Switzerland; also savor the journey to get there. Whether you rent a car and drive winding alpine roads or kick your heels back on the always-on-time trains that cover the entire country, your windows will present more photo ops than you can reasonably handle.
3. Switzerland is very expensive – but you get what you pay for. Everything is very clean and there is very little crime.
4. Swiss people are not exactly warm – they won’t great you with a big smile and a, “HELLO,” when passing on the street – but they are very hospitable.
5. Just about everyone in Switzerland speaks at least German, French, and English and many speak at least one other language as well. Be prepared to feel inadequate about your own multilingualism but also be prepared never to have a hard time being understood.
6. For the most part, stores close EARLY in Switzerland and are not open Sundays. Plan accordingly.
7. Everything in Switzerland runs on a tight schedule. Make reservations – and stick to them.
8. Because Switzerland is so mountainous, it is easy to change temperature/climate in just a few minutes by increasing or decreasing your altitude.
9. Because Switzerland is so mountainous, many of the lower parts enjoy hours of “false twilight” in the summer. The sun dips behind the mountains, creating a magical twilight that goes on and on until the sun finally sets for real.
10. Fondue is awesome and you should eat as much of it as possible while you are there.
OK, now for some specifics:
1. I don’t really know anything about Interlaken but people seem to love it for outdoorsy adventures.
2. On the German side, Zurich is a great city but I don’t know how much of a travel destination it is. Nearby Luzern, however, offers a lot for tourists – see my previous post about my trip there.
3. Down in the Italian part, Lugano makes for a fantastic little getaway. It has more in common with Italian lake towns such as Como and Bellagio than it does with the rest of Switzerland.
4. Of course the bulk of my recommendations are focused on Romande, the French part of Switzerland where I spent the vast majority of my time. My principal advice for this region is already summarized in a previous post.
My thinking has matured a bit since that post and I now recommend Le Chalet Suisse for the best fondue and view in town. Also, if you have a car, a full-on Swiss dairy experience is well worth the drive.
I hope this is helpful to my traveling friends and please let me know if I’ve left anything out!