With its stable economy, high quality of life and stunning scenery, Switzerland is country rich in both wealth and beauty. Boasting one of the highest qualities of life in the world, two mountain ranges perfectly suited to skiing and other winter sports, a central plateau of rolling hill, beautiful lakes dotted with spa resorts, and an interesting mix of cultural regions, Switzerland’s fame as a top European holiday destination is very much well deserved.
The currency used in Switzerland is referred to as Swiss francs. For reference, one Swiss franc is equal to 0.77 British Pound or 1.01 US Dollar.
The different banknotes that are available for Swiss francs are CHF5, CHF10, CHF20, CHF50, CHF100, CHF200, and CHF1000. There are also CHF1, CHF2, CHF5, 5Rp, 10Rp, 20Rp, 50Rp coins available for use as well. It is known as a reliable and safe currency, and is actually listed as the sixth most traded form of currency in the world. Euros or any other type of currency is not accepted here.
While colder than other European countries, Switzerland is known for its reasonable climate throughout the year. Its temperatures in the winter season can range anywhere from -2 to 7 degrees Celsius (28-45 degrees Fahrenheit), while its summer season can range between 18 to 28 degrees Celsius (65-82 degrees Fahrenheit). While temperatures may change depending on the altitude of the location, people are advised to bring warmer clothes and suitable attire for differences in weather.
There are many airports in Switzerland, however, the most frequented locations are Zurich Airport, Geneva Airport, and Basil Airport. Bern Airport is also frequented as it is where many people tend to go into if they are planning on staying in Interlaken, Bern or other surrounding cities. There are trains, trams, buses, boats, cable cars, and bicycles available for transportation throughout Switzerland. Taxis are typically really expensive and can sometimes be hard to hail. It is important when staying in Switzerland to see what is available and the most easily accessible mode of transportation for the area you are residing in.
The traditional dress in Switzerland for women consists of long sleeve jackets, silk aprons, straw with ribbons, and gold lace caps. For men, their traditional wear consists of white smocks, lederhosens and leather boots. Embroidery also tends to be a key part of traditional Swiss attire, but it is more so seen in the tourism aspect of the country instead of traditional wear. For everyday wear, people tend to wear more sensible, warm clothes and they tend to preserve the same outfit for multiple days’ use. Many people also try to be as environmentally conscious as possible about the clothes they wear.
Switzerland has a population of over 8.1 million people as of 2017. The demographics of the population are 65% German, 18% French, 10% Italian, 1% Romansch, and 6% Other. While Catholicism is the most widely practiced domination in the country, Protestantism is also practiced widely as well. The four main languages spoken in Switzerland are German, French, Italian and Romansch. Most people tend to live in the Swiss/Central Plateau of Switzerland, which covers 30% of the Swiss surface between the Jura and the Alps.
Known as a democratic federal republic, Switzerland’s legislative government resides in two different powers – National Council and the Council of States. The federal power is aligned with the Federal Council, and the judicial power falls into the hands of the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland. The different cantons of Switzerland have different politics than the others, as Switzerland is known as a direct democracy.
Since Switzerland is strongly influenced by German, French and Italian culture, a lot of the influences are reflected in the foods. There are some signature foods that most people associate the country with, such as Swiss cheese and Swiss chocolate. But there are also dishes native to the different cities of Switzerland that are favorites among locals and visitors. These include cheese fondue, Saucissons, Biberli, OLMA bratwurst, Berner Platte, flour soup, Zürcher Geschnetzelte, Älplermagronen, Polenta, and Pizzoccheri.
Private healthcare is available to all persons residing in Switzerland as part of the Swiss Federal Law on Health Insurance. Switzerland is actually ranked as one of the best healthcare-providing countries in the world. Because Switzerland’s forests are so vast, ticks tend to live throughout the country, so travellers and trekkers are warned to be aware of the consequences of ticks such as lyme disease and encephalitis if not treated properly. Switzerland is also known to be quite cold, so it is strongly advised to wear layers to avoid the effects of hypothermia.
It is always advised to check the weather conditions before travelling to Switzerland and to plan accordingly, as landslides, avalanches, and floodings could potentially happen depending on the forecast, climate, and time of year you are visiting. It is always recommended to be aware of your surroundings, take hold of your belongings in major cities, and to remain vigilant at all times. And for trekkers and skiers that plan to visit the country for its outdoor activities, be sure to be careful of the surroundings you intend to embark on and to pay attention to the weather and warnings in the area.
Top 5 Attractions
- The Matterhorn – Known as one of the highest summits in all of Europe, this mountain is unique for its pyramidal shape. From this mountain, you are able to look out over the town of Zermatt. The first group of hikers to ever make an ascent on this mountain occurred in 1865; however, four of its members experienced a fatal end to their journeys as they fell from the mountain. Now, over 500 people have died trying to climb the Matterhorn. Although, Hörnli Hut has become the most popular tourist trail to hike up the mountain. The Matterhorn has become iconic for its majestic stature, and the legacy it has made for itself among the Swiss Alps.
- Lake Lucerne – Located in the central region of the country, this lake is the fourth largest in Switzerland. The focal point of this lake is in the Reuss Valley region. With its irregular shape, it also stretches to both the Hergiswil region in the West and Flüelen region in the East. Lake Lucerne also borders three of Switzerland’s cantons, Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden. From this lake, some of the best views of Switzerland can be seen. It is an extremely popular spot (arguably the most popular lake in the country) for both tourists and locals. It is recommended to take a steamer cruise down it so you are really able to take in the breathtaking views the landscape has to offer.
- Chateau de Chillon – Located on Lake Geneva, this castle is one of the most fascinating and visited castles in all of Europe. It has a very rich, yet mixed history, being involved in three different time periods – the Savoy period, the Bernese period, as well as the Vaudois period. Inside this castle are recreations of what the bedrooms, grand hall, other rooms would have looked like centuries ago. The bedroom that is probably one of the more specifically decorated is also the oldest one as well – once home to the Duke of Savoy in 14th century style. A fact that many do not know is that this castle is what inspired the one featured in the Disney film, The Little Mermaid.
- Old Town Bern – The Old City of Bern is referred to as Switzerland’s medieval city. Despite the disastrous fire it experienced in 1405, this city is still well preserved and very popular to travel to. Being a UNESCO World Heritage site, this city has incorporated the modern ways of life into its deeply rooted medieval history. Although settlements of this city date back to the Neolithic Period, it was not until the 12th century until the city was actually founded by Berchtold V of Zähringen in Swabia. The Old City has plenty of interesting history to offer, but probably one of the most is that for centuries it used to be home to the Bärengraben, or bear pits. They were finally forced out of the country in the 19th century, but were among some of the most popular attractions to go to during their live events. Although the city has modernised itself quite well in the past century, its medieval and historic roots are still very much in tact with the city’s overall appeal.
- Gornergrat – This ridge is located about 3 kilometres to the east of Zermatt. Part of the Pennine Alps, this is the popular location from which you are able to view the magnificent Gorner Glaciers. Accessible by railway, you not only see the Gorner Glacier from the Gornergrat, but you are also able to see the surrounding mountains as well. The Gornersee can also be seen next to the glacier, which is a lake that fills itself and then empties itself every summer. However, it is important to keep in mind that the Gorner Glacier is considered a retreating glacier due to global warming, and actually loses about 30 meters every year. When visiting, be sure not to confuse the border glacier (the Grenzgletscher) for the top portion of the glacier on the northern side.
Top 5 Cities
- Geneva – This major city is known as the second most populous in Switzerland as well as being the French speaking area of the country. Geneva is known as a very economic and diplomatic city in that it is where many international organizations are located in. As of this year, Geneva has been ranked as the 7th most expensive city in the world. However, Geneva is also known as the “Peace Capital” due to its history of being the location of the Geneva Convention as well as the eighth ranked city with the highest quality of life in the world.
- Zürich – Known as the largest city in Switzerland, Zürich is located in the northern central region of the country. It was founded by the Romans and has been a permanently settled area for approximately 2,000 years. While Zürich is known as one of the German-speaking cities, the Swiss-German dialect, Alemannic, is spoken widely throughout the city. While not the most populous, the quality of life for this city is ranked number two out of all of the cities in the world. But one of the most notable aspects of this grand city is the enormous Lake Zürich, located on the southeastern section of the city.
- Interlaken – This city is one of the more secluded ones located in the Bernese Highlands part of the Swiss Alps. It has become such a hot tourist destination because of the outdoor activity, paragliding (among others), it offers to travellers. Because it is situated so perfectly among the Swiss Alps, the views it gives paragliders is breathtaking. It is located between the two lakes, Brienz and Thun, in a region of land called Bödeli. Here, both German and Alemannic are spoken as the regional languages. Besides paragliding, the mountains of Jungfrau are known to be quite popular, such as the Jungfrau, the Mönch, and the Eiger. It prides itself on being one of the most popular destinations for backpackers and thrill seekers.
- Basel – Located at the north western most edge of the nation on the River Rhine, this major Swiss city is known for being the meeting point of the borders of Switzerland, Germany, and France. Although it is Switzerland’s third most populous city, it also has suburbs of it in France and Germany as well. Basel is known for its exquisite museums, such as the Kunstmuseum and the Fondation Beyeler. Basel has also been host to the World Zionist Congress for over ten times now, the most any city has hosted it for. It is ranked tenth out of the cities of the world with the highest quality of living.
- Bern – Although the fourth most populous cities in Switzerland, this city is regarded as the nation’s capital. Located in the central western area of the country, Bern contains one of the most historic ‘old cities’ in its centre. Bern’s old town is actually now labelled as a UNESCO World Heritage Site — a huge honor for any city looking to increase their tourism or prestige. And because this is the capital, the Houses of Parliament are also located here. When exploring this city you can have your pick in how you want to see it — by foot, car, or public transportation.