Take France, Italy and Germany's best bits, mix them all together and you'll soon see why people return to Switzerland again and again. If you love the great outdoors head straight for Switzerland's snow-capped Alps, rippling mountain-framed lakes near Geneva or the winding meadow trails of Zurich. Or relax in picturesque towns sipping coffee and people watching on historic squares.
Switzerland is a nature-loving land with two-thirds of the country covered by the Alps. You'll find unspoilt forests wherever you go and pristine lakes in central Switzerland, aroundLucerne. Head south-west towards Geneva for French-speaking Switzerland and south for Italian flair. The rest is mainly German-speaking, including Zurich and capital Bern. Everywhere you'll find flower-decked picture-book villages with colourful local traditions.
City breaks in Switzerland
Explore the towns along the fertile lowland strip between Lake Geneva and Lake Constance –go west and you'll findGeneva and east will lead to Zurich. Between the two you can visit the 12th-century moated Swiss capital, Bern, for a science lesson at the Einstein House or to snap the medieval city-symbol Zytglogge clock tower. Or findBasel packed with art museums.
Things to do in Switzerland
Visit the River Rhine's oldest Roman ruins of Augusta Raurica near Augst. Catch ferries across Switzerland's crescent-shaped Lake Geneva, narrow Lake Zurich andLake Lucerne, tucked between soaring limestone mountains. Further south climb the High Alps for some of the world's best-known ski resorts including St Moritz. Or stick to Switzerland's lush green meadows listening to sound of trickling streams.
Skiing in Switzerland
Well-known for its superb snow conditions and synonymous with luxury, Switzerland has some of the best resorts in the world. With iconic mountains like the Matterhorn and sumptuous resorts like St Moritz, alongside brilliant skiing for every level, it is easy to see why it is a favourite with the elite of Europe.
With its incredible views of both the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, Crans Montana couldn’t be better placed for a ski holiday. It is considered a luxury resort, due to its high-end accommodation and gourmet restaurants, it also hosts the Caprice Music Festival each April. The ski itself is better suited for intermediates, with mostly red runs sweeping down the mountain, there is some scope for experts, but it might be better to head to nearby Zermatt. Apres ski is varied, but there are some fantastic Michelin-starred restaurants, like the wonderful L’Ours in the Hostellerie Du Pas de L’Ours.
Davos is the highest ‘town’ in Europe, which happens to also be one of the largest ski resorts too. There are five ski areas surrounding this winter sports haven, including the Jakobshorn and Rinerhorn peaks. Jakobshorn is very popular with snowboarders, and the nearby Pischa area is great for families as the slopes are fairly easy to navigate for beginners. Après ski is large and varied, with some superb bars and outstanding restaurants. Davos is also home to one of the most decorated ice hockey teams in Europe, so a trip to a game comes highly recommended.
Davos’ posh neighbouring resort, Klosters, shares the same mountains and ski areas as the former with a few exceptions. It is an ideal place for families due to its links to easy slopes, friendly atmosphere and relaxed, unhurried pistes. Set within the stunning Prattigau Valley, you’ll experience some of the most beautiful scenery in Switzerland. Après ski caters for a quieter crowd than Davos, with much more emphasis on delicious food than loud bars. As a favourite of the royal family and high-flyers, it is expensive but again you get a better standard of food and service than most other resorts.
Sat in the shadow of the majestic Eiger’s north face, Grindelwald reminds visitors of a Disneyesque Alpine village. With beautiful baroque churches and the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site – the Jungfraujoch – this is spectacular place to ski. Ideal for intermediates and more advanced beginners, wide blues and sweeping reds cascade down the mountain towards the resort. Grindelwald is a well-kept secret and as such is accordingly quiet on the slopes. Après ski is good, with gourmet restaurants serving up Swiss classics and a great selection of bars to while away the hours.
Whilst only a small resort, it has plenty of history of being a trade point high in the mountains. American writer Mark Twain once stayed here and said it held a sense of ‘deep pervading peace’. Kandersteg is a picturesque village with a lot of character, and its slopes are ideal for beginners and families due to the uncrowded, wide pistes and spectacular views. Off the piste, there is plenty to do including sleigh rides and delicious dining. In January, they have Belle Epoque week – which takes Kandersteg back 100 years to celebrate its time as a resort – so expect period costumes, wooden skis and open air curling.
A picturesque village in the heart of the Swiss alps, Saas Fee has snow-sure conditions throughout the season due to most of its runs being above 2500 metres. In Saas Grund you’ll find long and empty slopes perfect for beginners and children, while progressive skiers can find more difficult skiing on the glacier above the resort. The Felskinn route offers some excellent powder skiing for the experts, alongside some steep black mogul runs. Après ski is brilliant, with a good selection of bars and restaurants – don’t miss the traditional Swiss Fondue for an unforgettable night out.
St Moritz is recognised as one of the most luxurious resorts in the world, with the rich and famous visiting each winter. But you will also find some superb skiing. Nestled in the Upper Engadin, you will find sublime nature at your ski-tips, with long blues and difficult reds sweeping down the valley to the resort. St Moritz has three separate ski areas, bringing in a massive 350 kilometres of piste, and some excellent off-piste. Experts will fall in love with the Diavolezza and Lagalb areas. Off the mountain, you will find some gourmet restaurants, chic bars and a vibrant night life.
The most famous resort in the 4 Valleys ski area, Verbier has one of the best après ski scenes in Europe. Add to this great skiing and difficult snow parks, and you will find a younger, more vivacious ski set than your average Swiss resort. More than 410 kilometres of perfectly groomed pistes in and around Verbier provide a challenge for any type of skier or snowboarder, plus the off-piste here is spectacular. Switzerland’s renowned snowfall and its relatively high position allows for a long season, so you could be skiing well into May’s bluebird days.
South facing Villars is a wonderfully sunny place to go skiing. Add to that pristine slopes and spectacular views of Mont Blanc, and you have got a resort to shout about. The beginner pistes are on the edge of town, happily close by to the hot chocolate stalls, but those who want a bit more difficulty are going to have to get a bit more altitude. Long reds await the adventurous and hard core skiers will find plenty of off-piste to keep them busy. This friendly resort is also home to some of the best fine dining in the mountains, so it’s good for foodies as well as ski fans.
Wengen is a beautiful resort in the Jungfrau area, which is accessed by a mountain railway. Offering a truly Swiss experience, you’ll fall in love with its village atmosphere, traditional après ski and the superb restaurants serving unbelievably good fondue. Wengen’s slopes are fantastic too, catering for everyone from children just starting out to professional skiers and snowboarders. Experts should head over to the Black Rock run at the base of the Eiger for a thrilling ride. If you fancy something a bit more fear-inducing, try the tobogganing which, with its own routes and map, is not for the fainthearted.
A breathtaking resort at a high altitude, with a massive ski area and a traditional village atmosphere, Zermatt sits at the base of the Matterhorn. Known for its advanced skiing, experts are well placed to enjoy the snow-sure conditions and difficult slopes, including the spectacular Tiefbach descent. That said, there are some brilliant red runs for the intermediates, with awe-inspiring views of the iconic Matterhorn. The resort is also known for its glamour, with bustling bars, gourmet bistros and even some chic boutiques to get your retail fix. Those in the know go to the Michelin-starred Heimburg restaurant for a spectacular evening.