Map of Switzerland: Best Swiss Cities to Visit
By James Martin. Europe Travel Expert
James Martin is a writer, photographer, and webmaster who has traveled extensively in Europe since 1977 and hasn’t tired of it. He has lived and worked as an archaeologist in Italy and Greece and has studied Italian at the University for Foreigners in Perugia, Italy. He’s been living part-time in northern Italy for seven years, and writes about the experience at Wandering Italy and on the Wandering Italy Blog. His experience there has induced him to author the mobile app called Tuscany for Foodies. Even more recently, he’s authored, with Paola Loi, the mobile app called Sardinia Inside Out.
You can learn about some of the other things I’m doing these days in his Google Profile James Martin .
If you are more visually oriented, then our Rebel Mouse page called Europe Travel Tips and Ideas features many of our European destinations, events, apps, and other travel related news and pictures.
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Switzerland is a land of soaring mountain peaks, placid lakes, verdant green valleys and unheralded but surprisingly good wine.
At one time it was imperative on your Grand Tour to take a scenic train ride into Switzerland to buy a handmade watch and gaze in amazement at the Matterhorn. If your wallet was full, you d head to St. Moritz, or you could go skiing (or play snow golf) in Gstaad Saanenland .
Switzerland s scenery is more accessible than ever today. Postal buses get you to any tiny Swiss corner you can see on a map. Little red trains, the slowest express trains you ll ever ride called Bernina and Glacier, take you through scenic areas with panoramic open cars, gourmet restaurant cars, historic coaches, and feature spiraling open descents into valleys. Hiking trails are everywhere. Tourist boats ply the lakes big and small–you can even take one under Europe s largest waterfall, the Rhine Falls marked on the map with a red square near the interesting town of Schaffhausen. Active travelers can ski, hike or climb in the Matterhorn s shadow in Zermatt .
The list, as they say, is almost endless.
Destinations in Switzerland: Highlights of Select Cities
The Capital of Switzerland, Bern. is a good place to start. Bern takes its name from the German word for bear. It s a pretty medieval city, founded in 1191, with many attractions, museums, and historic sites. Because of its impressive medieval architecture in Bern s old town, Bern has been made a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Lucerne lies on the shores of Lake Lucerne in Central Switzerland, surrounded by the Swiss alps, notably Mount Pilatus and Rigi. Its small medieval center contains a wealth of museums. For a town of 60,000 people, there are lots of events to attend, here is a link to the top events .
Basel is a border city in French speaking Switzerland. It lies along the Rhine river in northern Switzerland, at the intersection of France, Germany and Switzerland. Basel is famous for its ancient masked carnival, or Fasnacht. a three-day carnival festival starting on the Monday after Mardi Gras, and is host to the largest Christmas Market in Switzerland.
If you want to vacation in a charming spot on a lake surrounded by mountains, where relaxation is the key, Zug might be just the place; it s known for its sunsets. Its medieval center is compact and spills down to the lake; a perfect place to relax and enjoy life.
Geneva lies between the Alps and the Jura mountains on the shore of Lake Geneva on the west side of Switzerland bordering on France. It s the second largest city in Switzerland after Zürich.
Swiss Christmas Markets
A tradition in Switzerland, Christmas markets are found in every major city and even on top of a mountain, see our picks: Switzerland s Best Christmas Markets
Accommodations in Switzerland
Accommodations in Switzerland tend to be expensive. There are usually fewer hotels located around train stations than in other countries. You may inspect a hotel before committing to it.
Hotel rooms in Switzerland tend to be smaller than other places, but there are usually more services available. Prices include service, taxes and sometimes breakfast (ask).
Most Swiss hotels are members of the Swiss Hotel Association, which rates them according to their facilities and not necessarily their charm. For more general information on European hotel ratings, see our article: Hotels and their Star Ratings .
One way to save money in Switzerland is to rent a vacation home or mountain chalet and use it as a hub for your Swiss explorations. You ll save even more by inviting a group and renting a larger place for a week or so. HomeAway lists over 170,000 Swiss Vacation Rentals indexed by location (book direct).
The Swiss currency is the Swiss Franc, abbreviated to CHF. Swiss Franc banknotes are issued in the following denominations: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 Francs. At the time of writing, 1 US Dollar 1.35350 Swiss Franc (January, 2003). For the current rate, see Currency Converter by OANDA.com, The Currency Site .
Language in Switzerland
Four primary languages are spoken in Switzerland. See the map above for the approximate areas those languages are spoken in. The Federal Constitution stipulates that German, French, and Italian are Switzerland s official languages, whereas Romansh is an official language for communicating with Romansh-speaking persons. English is increasingly taught at an early age, sometimes taking priority over a second national language.
Foreign Languages for the Tourist gives a list of resources for learning just enough language to get along. Page two of that article is an account of going to language school in Perugia, Italy. I recommend undertaking such an experience in Switzerland if you re interested in the Swiss languages and people.
Transportation in Switzerland: Transportation Maps
Switzerland is served by more than 13000 miles of train, bus and boat routes. Find out more about Swiss transportation options in the article Swiss Rail Passes and Transportation information. Where the trains don t run is a highly efficient system of Postal Buses: PostBus Switzerland. You can get virtually anywhere by public transportation in Switzerland.
Switzerland is served by eight major airports. See our Interactive Switzerland Airports Map for locations and information.
If you are driving in Switzerland, be aware that you ll need a permit called a vignette affixed to your windshield to drive on the autobahn, or toll roads. You can buy one of these at the border as you enter Switzerland. The vignette is a tax and toll sticker, similar to the vignette in Austria .
For distances between major cities, see our Switzerland Driving Distances map and calculator.
Weather in Switzerland – When to Go
Due to the mountainous terrain in Switzerland, weather can vary greatly with altitude. Prediction of the weather can be tricky. For some historical climate information, including historic temperature and precipitation graphs that might help you plan your vacation in Switzerland, as well as current conditions see Travel Weather Switzerland .
Eating in Swiss Restaurants
Although eating in a Swiss restaurant is generally more expensive than eating in a neighboring country, you can find interesting, inexpensive food in Switzerland. Lunches are often cheaper than the same meal at dinner. Look for the plate of the day.
General Eating Times: Lunch: 12-2 Dinner 6-8 pm
As you might expect, Swiss cuisine is based around dairy products — cheese, milk, cream, butter and/or yogurt.
Beer is often cheaper and more readily available then soft drinks.
Meals include a service charge, but tipping is common. 5% of the total is the usual tip. According to locals in Zurich, it is customary, when paying with a credit card, to leave the tip in cash rather than adding it to the card total.
Public Holidays in Switzerland
New Years: January 1st and 2nd