Why Switzerland is tops in Europe
With four official languages, urban culture hubs and gobsmacking Alpine panoramas, Switzerland has crammed the absolute best of Europe between its snow-capped peaks and turquoise lakes.
The world-famous cheese, chocolate and cuckoo clocks alone are worth a visit, but there is much more to experience in Switzerland — from the vibrant cities and world-class art scene to the glaciers and mountains, there are many regions to explore across this compact country that punches well above its weight in adventure and culture.
How to get there:
With daily direct flights from Toronto and Montreal, it’s easier than ever for Canadians to enjoy all Switzerland offers. As you plan to visit the heart of Europe, note that national carriers SWISS and Edelweiss are enhancing their summer 2024 schedules. SWISS introduces a new Toronto-Zurich route, while Edelweiss increases flights to Vancouver and Calgary. Here's some ideas about what to do once you arrive in Switzerland.
Get Artsy in Basel
The avant-garde art and architecture scene in this Swiss city attracts visitors from all over the world, particularly for the ART Basel international art fair created in the 1970s, considered “The Olympics of the Art World” by the New York Times. Art is at the heart of this riverside city with myriad ever-changing exhibitions, public artworks and fantastic architecture. After a day of exploring, hit up one of the many restaurants on the hot food scene or stroll along the Rhine and imbibe at one of the many Basel Buvettes — snack stands with drinks and foods that are housed in wooden huts along the river.
Lakeside living in Lucerne
This walkable lakeside city is an architectural juxtaposition with fantastically preserved medieval structures and bridges like the Chapel Bridge standing alongside futuristic and innovative public buildings like the Jean Nouvel–designed KKL Arts Centre. Strolling along the promenade, cruising across the water and just sitting lakeside are must-dos to enjoy lakeside living in Lucerne, but the city is also a great home base for exploring this unique region. Take a cable car ride to Mount Pilatus for some great views and thrilling tobogganing, enjoy views of Mount Rigi depicted in many paintings by Turner or head to the resort town Engelberg to ski Titlis mountain.
Include adventure in Interlaken
While photos of Interlaken might look relaxing with its turquoise waters and snow-capped peaks, this picturesque town is a daredevil’s paradise. Interlaken has become the destination for adventure seekers the world over and is the gateway to the Jungfrau region, which offers adrenalin-pumping activities to thrill and excite — go paragliding over the Alps for panoramic views of the region’s lakes and mountains, bungee jump from a glacier or downhill ski one of the trio of peaks: the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Some of the best hiking opportunities in Europe are in this region, not to mention water features like the thunderous Giessbach Falls which feeds into the turquoise-hued Lake Brienz.
See the Top of Europe in Jungfrau
Views, views and more views. The Jungfrau region is known as the “Top of Europe”, and for good reason — you can take a once-in-a-lifetime train ride up to the highest train station on the continent. Experience the jaw-dropping ride up to Jungfraujoch perched at 3454m above sea level with never-ending views of snow-capped peaks and valleys. There’s also the mythic Grindelwald where you can hike, ski and toboggan and the Eiger Express, a tricable car that brings you from Grindelwald to the Eiger Glacier. Fans of the James Bond franchise will also want to make a stop at Piz Gloria, the revolving restaurant sitting at the summit of Schilthorn that was featured in the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Sip wine and see glaciers in the valleys of Valais
The valleys of Valais are filled with contrasts — the region gets more than 300 days of sun a year making it prime for winemaking (along with hiking and biking), but with its Alpine peaks and glaciers you can ski year-round, bounding over more than 2400km of slopes. The Valais is the largest wine region in Switzerland with lush vineyards to visit winding their way through the valleys and along the Rhone. The Aletsch Glacier is also must-see; the UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest glacier in the Alps which carries more than 11 billion tons of ice and gobs of panoramic views.
Zermatt's Alpine charm and the grandeur of the Matterhorn
The Matterhorn is Switzerland’s most recognizable mountain. With its perfect pyramid shape standing a whopping 4,478 metres above sea level, it epitomizes the Swiss love for hiking and the outdoors. The ascent of Matterhorn is only for the most experienced of hikers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t hike, ski and climb to enjoy its splendour. Take the two-hour Matterhorn Glacier Trail for fantastic views of the icy peak, ski down the slopes or cross-country ski around the base of the mountain — or take the Klein Matterhorn cable for frame-worthy photographs of the Matterhorn.
Zermatt is often viewed as the gateway to all things Matterhorn, but the idyllic car-free village has an alpine scene in its own right. Tucked beneath the pyramid peak of the Matterhorn, the town of Zermatt has attracted climbers and adventurers for centuries, making it a great home base for exploring the region and with that comes the growth of its many amenities. Have dinner at one of the many gourmet restaurants that line the picturesque streets, pick up a souvenir or a Swiss watch or visit the Zermatlantis Matterhorn Museum to learn about the history of climbers attempting to conquer the Matterhorn.
Tour the Alps by train
Train travel in Switzerland is on another level, literally. Not only are Swiss trains famously on schedule and modern, but they’re also eco-friendly and with more than 29,000km of tracks in this compact country, everything is very well-connected. But the best part is that even the most typical of routes offer dazzling alpine views and sceneries, and the more tourist-focused rides, called the panorama train routes, serve up unforgettable vistas. Experience iconic journeys on trains such as the Glacier Express from Zermatt to St. Moritz, the Goldenpass Express connecting Montreux to Interlaken, the Gotthard Panorama Express from Lucerne to Lugano.
Swiss Travel Pass: Unlock the Swiss Experience:
The Swiss Travel Pass provides travelers unlimited train, bus, and boat access. Benefit from free entries to 500+ museums, included excursions and up to 50% off on other mountain adventures. Children aged six-16, with a parent holding a Swiss Travel System ticket, travel free using the Swiss Family Card. Plus, those under six always travel free.