Chocolate and cheese, Alps and the arts—Europe’s eclectic hub is packed with charm.
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Switzerland is full of memorable sights, sounds and tastes: sapphire lakes; the resonant tones of alphorns; cobblestone streets; snow-capped Alps; luscious handmade chocolate.
This landlocked jewel borders Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Lichtenstein. Walk along any street and you are likely to hear one or all of the country’s four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansh. Experience the country’s renowned high standard of living by visiting its diverse locales.
Set alongside Lake Zürich and bisected by the Limmat river, Zürich is Switzerland’s cultural center. The city is chock-full of historic buildings and art galleries. There are more than 50 museums, in fact, including one for clocks and one for toys. Stop at the 181-year-old Confiserie Sprüngli for coffee and cake, and line up with locals at the chocolate counter. (The Swiss eat more chocolate than any other people in the world.)
The medieval old town of Bern, the Swiss capital, is tucked into a bend in the Aare river. In the fountain-dotted center, find the Zytglogge, a clock tower with mechanical figurines, and the Cathedral of Bern, a Gothic cathedral topped by the country’s tallest bell tower. Over the cathedral’s main portal, some 200 carved figures depict the Last Judgment.
Relax Over Raclette
While visiting any of the country’s 26 cantons (that’s what the country calls its individual states or regions), indulge in a beloved culinary tradition at a restaurant that serves raclette. The classic dish of melted cheese—made from the fresh milk of cows that graze in high alpine meadows—is served with potatoes and local white wine. It is not to be rushed.
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Lucerne is another must-see. Home to one of the world’s finest concert halls and an annual international classical music festival, the city is a favorite destination of music lovers. Walk through the Kapellbrücke, a 14th-century covered bridge lined with paintings of scenes from Swiss history, then board a restored steamer to see the mountains and the city skyline from Lake Lucerne.
Look all around the country for views of soaring, snow-capped peaks. Switzerland boasts more than 200 mountains with an elevation of more than 10,000 feet. The mesmerizing, pyramidal Matterhorn—which peaks at 14,692 feet—is most iconic. At its base, the small, car-free resort town of Zermatt is the ideal base for hiking, skiing and snowshoeing. For one of the world’s best views, take the Gornergrat, Europe’s highest open-air cog railway, up to a viewing platform and see the sunrise turn the Matterhorn gold right before your eyes.