Above, the snow-topped peaks of towering mountains, below, wildflower meadows surrounding quaint Swiss towns and crystal clear lakes. Not only the diversity of Switzerland’s natural landscapes but also its peoples of different cultures and linguistic backgrounds often help to create the impression of several countries in one. However, if theirs is one unifying factor, it’s that the Swiss people have the mentality of adapting to difference – whether posed by a flash thunderstorm in the mountains or growing up multilingual in order to communicate with fellow citizens – and so todays Swiss culture can be seen as a colourful patchwork of traditions. The Swiss desire for perfection is not least apparent in its hospitality, where wellness and relaxation activities are of an unrivalled luxury and often make use of local natural resources such as herbs or thermal springs.
Facts & Figures
Official name: Confédération suisse / Confederazione Svizzera / Swiss Confederation / Confederaziun svizra Location: Central Europe, located between Germany and Italy Area: 41,285 km² Capital: Bern Population: 8 million Religious and ethnic groups: 38% Roman Catholic, 27% Protestant, 5% Muslim / 65% German, 18% French, 10% Italian, 1% Romansh Language: French (official), Italian (official), German (official), Rhaeto-Romanic (official) Geography: Alps in the south and Jura in the northwest, in the center plateau with hills, plains and lakes. Highest point: Dufourspitze (4634m) Time Zone: Central European Time (UTC + 01:00) Political and Economic: Democratic and Republican States, GDP: €495 billion (2012) Currency: Swiss Franc (€1 = 1.22 CHF)
Arrival and departure
You can travel to Switzerland by car, bus, train, plane and from certain locations by boat. Switzerland's main airport is near Zurich. flight duration Visa: Vaccinations: A vaccine against tick-borne encephalitis is recommended. Transport: The rail and road network in Switzerland are considered good. However, the roads in higher elevations are narrow and curvy.
Climate and best time to travel
The climate in Switzerland is temperate and varies with the altitude. Cold winters with snow or rain follow cool to warm summers. Winter average temperature: -1°C (lows around -4°C in January) Summer average temperature: 18°C (maximum temperatures around 25°C in July) Water temperature: (Lake Geneva) max. 25°C in July The best travel time depends on the purpose of the trip. For city tours and beach holidays, the best time is from April to October, for winter sports December to February.
The most beautiful holiday regions
St.Gallen/Lake Constance - clear mountain lake and monastery town Lake Geneva - Alps panorama and vineyards Ticino - palm trees and fortified castles
Public holidays and celebrations
New Year (January 1), Berchtoldstag (January 2), Good Friday (March/April), Easter Monday (March/April), Ascension Day (May), White Monday (May/June), National Holiday (August 1), Christmas Eve (24th of December), Christmas (25th / 26th of December)
DOs and DON'Ts
DO visit the different language regions. The country is divided into a German, a French, an Italian and a Romansh part and all have their subtleties and sights. Do take a ride on the Glacier Express. Many mountain peaks are also equipped with cable cars which offer a wonderful way of seeing the country's natural landscape. DON'T Be Late. The Swiss pay close attention to precision in all things and usually expect this from others.
Can you drink the tap water? Swiss tap water is generally drinkable. Plug socket: Switzerland has its own type of plug, SEV 1011, so you will need an adapter. Sometimes the continental “shuko” Europe plug can fit into the Swiss socket. What about medical care? Medical care is generally considered good.
Top tips and discoveries
Jungfraujoch The Jungfrau bay is the lowest point on the ridge between the mountains Jungfrau and Mönch. In addition to an incomparably beautiful view of the surrounding Alpine landscape, the town boasts the highest train station in Europe. The train travels up to 3454m and the journey is a breath-taking experience. In good weather, the view from the observation tower extends to the neighbouring countries.
Zurich Zurich is considered one of the world’s best cities to live in. Visitors will quickly understand why. Historical architecture, a broad range of cultural activities, numerous green areas and a vibrant nightlife – Zurich fulfils all your wishes. You can enjoy a splendid view of the city from one of the three mountain railways that connect different parts of Zurich. The surrounding area with high mountain ridges and Lake Zurich also attracts many visitors.
Rheinfall Located in the Northern part of Switzerland, the Rheinfall is an imposingly wide waterfall, one of the largest in Europe. In the middle of the roaring water stands a mighty rock, from which you can view the misty rainbows above the water and the castles on both sides of the Rhine. The magical atmosphere of the place will leave you filled with reverence for the sheer force of nature. Additionally, for those interested in literature, you should visit the multi-staged Reichenbach waterfall, where Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes (is supposed to have) fell to his death.