Alpine mountains, political neutrality, wealth and cuckoo clocks: Switzerland might be locked between the three culturally influential countries of France, Germany and Italy, but its culture is absolutely its own. From the bear pits of Bern to the Italian speaking region of Ticino, the dazzling ski-resort of Zermatt to the beautiful Lake Geneva, and some of the most scenic cities in the world, Switzerland has a lot packed into its relatively tiny space, including almost 8 million inhabitants.
Switzerland’s capital city, Bern, is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, not least for its inviting walkways full of fountains and clock towers, and medieval architecture. Museums and art galleries are a fine cultural snapshot of Switzerland and beyond for tourists, but its heritage can be found scrawled all over the face of Bern. Its recently enlarged bear pits are of course a defining feature of the city. There are also swimming spots in the river Aare and several open air festivals, including one especially for buskers every year. For something even quirkier, play spot the graffiti artist, and try to track down the scribblings of French street artist ‘Invader’ who’s tagged little space invaders all over the city!
Enjoying warm weather in summer the key cultural hub of Switzerland, Basel, reaches its medieval town centre across the Rhine River, and is predominantly German-speaking. Tour its underground system of sewers if you’re feeling a little alternative, or, if you’re really lucky, arrive in time for one of the most interesting carnivals in Europe, the Basler Fasnacht. It kicks off at 4am on the Monday morning following Ash Wednesday with a procession, and lasts for three days.
Itching to get on the slopes? Zermatt should set you right. Located in the shadow of the 4478 metre tall Matterhorn, the chocolate-box village is encircled completely by the Alps, and one of the most expensive places to live in the country. Adding to its quaintness – Zermatt is entirely car-free! Popular among mountaineers, skiers and cyclists in summer months, this is the core Swiss starting point for adventurers.
One of the most cosmopolitan cities in Switzerland, Geneva is famously home to the UN, and a world-famous centre of international diplomacy, nestling by the shores of the crystalline lake of the same name. Critically expensive to many travellers, it’s more opulent hotels, luxury jewellers and gourmet eateries certainly come with a golden price tag. Move beyond this, and much of the real beauty of this city is free for the taking. Head to its famous fountain, the Jet d’Eau at night for a magical display of light and splashing waters of Lake Geneva, wander through the echoing Cathédrale St-Pierre or spot the flower clock in the jardin anglais. This is also one of the best places to stock up on trite souvenirs for the journey home, and will furnish travellers with cuckoo clocks, Swiss army knives and, for those more discerning travellers, the best in Louis Vuitton luggage and golden trinkets.
Last Edit by Site Administrators on 7/05/2012 EDIT NOW >>