Nature has one of her finest moments in Switzerland. Where else can you find such varied and intense beauty – colossal glaciers, raging falls, hidden valleys and 4,000m mountains – in such a small country?
Switzerland boasts the essence of the Alpine mountains and the most poetic scenery that Nature can offer. Furthermore, it gives the world the best wine, chocolates, watches and army knives.
The population of Switzerland is not big, yet there are four languages in use – German, French, Italian and Romansh. The former three enjoy quite wide usage and German users account for 65% of the total population. Different language districts are thus divided and each has its distinctive culture and cuisine. The country’s transportation is quite developed, especially the train system. It is a perfect idea to explore Switzerland by train. The Swiss Pass will give you infinite trips on trains, buses, ships, as well as free entry to most museums and 50% off climbing tours.
Home of Lakes
Culturally vibrant, efficiently run and attractively set at the north end of Lake Zurich in northern Switzerland, the city of Zurich is known as a global center for banking and finance, a convergence of contemporary art and modern fashion, and a reflection of pre-medieval history… however, it offers much more.
This biggest city in the country is the start for many travelers’ Swiss adventure. From the airport, take a train to the central station called “Zürich HB”. Once in the city, go and visit the Swiss National Museum, located just a few steps away from the central station and offering free entry for ZürichCARD holders. For such a tiny landlocked country, Switzerland’s history and culture are as rich as its economy. Follow the birth and growth of the nation and gain insight into the Swiss identities through the museum’s vast permanent and temporary exhibitions. Moreover, as the building itself was designed to unite collections, exhibitions and architecture, fans of bricks and mortar will also be amazed by this outstanding 19th-century construction.
If history is not your passion, start your Zurich exploration by walking down the most famous street – Bahnhofstrasse – observe, take a photo… but don’t expect too much of shopping as everything is pretty expensive. Don’t forget to stop at Confiserie Sprüngli for a quick coffee or hot chocolate and sample their signature Luxemburgerli. Or have a coffee at the Jules Verne bar which offers a panoramic view over the city. As the name indicates, this street runs straight from Zürich Hauptbahnhof to Lake Zürich.
It is so wonderful to just wander along the Zurich lakeshore, sit down and have a rest, embraced by the vast watery view. If you have more time, it will surely be a wise decision to have a cruise around the lake, be it long or short, and enjoy the diverse palette of green and blue shades that the lake and its surroundings offer. It’s most convenient to depart on a cruise from Bürkliplatz, and ZürichCARD holders can enjoy short, round-trip cruises for free.
While it’s easy to empty your wallet in Zürich since there are so many classy designer shops, once-in-a-lifetime restaurants and eye-watering entry fees, this financial center still has plenty you can do for no cost as well. Zürich has three prime viewpoints that cost nothing. The Polyterrasse, a panorama terrace in front of the Federal Institute of Technology, looks out across the city’s surrounding hills and the spires and slanted slates of the Old Town. Across the river, the narrow alleyways wend their way up to the Lindenhof, an old Roman fortification with views out across the blues of Lake Zürich. In the industrial quarter of Zürich, Freitag (a brand that creates stylish bags from recycled seat belts, old tarpaulins and used bicycle inner tubes) has a flagship store made entirely of towering shipping containers with views across the city’s gritty edge. Besides, Zürich has cultivated some spectacular gardens and parks, most of which are free to visit, such as Rieterpark, featuring towering beech trees and trimmed lawns, as well as a charming neo-classical villa from 1857; Belvoir Park, the most impressive green spaces in the city with landscaped leas, ornate ponds, and colourful flower beds; as well as The Botanical Garden at the University of Zürich, home to around 7,000 plant species. You can also get schooled for free at the University of Zürich’s museums such as the impressive Zoological Museum where visitors can see more than 1,500 animals including dinosaur skeletons, giant mammoths, stuffed sloths and countless insects. Apart from that, the university’s Archaeological Collection, Paleontological Museum, and museum of earth sciences, focusTerra, charge nothing either. Appreciating Zürich’s great art for free is tricky, but not impossible. Two of the city’s main art galleries offer free entrance on certain days. Kunsthaus Zürich, the city’s largest collection of modern art which includes works by Picasso, Twombly, Baselitz, Monet, Van Gogh and Kokoschka, to name just a few, offers free admission for all visitors on Wednesdays, and reduced entry price for ZürichCARD holders. The Migros Museum is free for entry on Thursday evenings from 5-8pm.
One-hour drive away is another beautiful city embraced by water and mountains – Lucerne, home to one of the most time-honored wellness retreat — Bürgenstock Resort, sitting at the top of Bürgenstock and suspended between Alpine ranges and Lake Lucerne. It is an epitome of Swiss beauty and tranquility.
The journey to the resort is already romantic enough since you need to boat across the glimmering Lake Lucerne before taking a cable car up 874 meters to get to the destination. The resort is composed of four hotels, a hotel residence, as well as a luxury spa, a professional medical center, a golf course, 12 dining venues and premium stores. The design gives full display of the natural surroundings so that you will always be greeted by a breathtaking view, including the iconic Alpine landmarks of Mt. Rigi and Mt. Pilatus, no matter where you are in the resort.
The highlight of the resort is the unprecedented 10,000 m² Bürgenstock Alpine Spa, floating between water and sky. The wellness complex offers a wide array of wet area facilities and spa treatments, including 15 treatment rooms, several private spa suites, herbal and Rasul steam baths, aroma saunas, Kneipp baths, saline floating, infrared cabin, ice rooms, cold pool and a breathtaking 35°C infinity-edge pool. The revolutionary, anti-aging Swiss skincare brand Swiss line completes the spa menu with patented high-tech ingredients and formulas to give customers a truly results-proven experience. From visible real diamond particles to updated cellular complex and plants extracts, Swiss line helps restore your skin to young and bright radiance.
Kingdom of Alpine Mountains
There are over 200 skin destinations across the country and many of them are in the famous Alpine mountains.
Tucked in Valais in the south of Switzerland and surrounded by 38 majestic mountains all above 4,000 meters, Zermatt boasts not only incomparable scenery but is also widely acclaimed as one of the best – and certainly prettiest – ski resorts in Europe. This cute wooden-chalet style village is traffic-free, so the air here is very pure and fresh. However, what really makes Zermatt a big name is Matterhorn, the Jewel of the Swiss Alps. At 4,478 meters, the majestic Matterhorn – certainly the most famous mountain in Europe – looms over the breathtaking Alpine panorama. Its symmetrical pyramid shape, the rocky tooth reaching the sky and the light reflections of the nearby Stellisee make the Matterhorn’s landscape a unique natural spectacle in Zermatt. You will easily find it on official posters, postcards or even chocolate packages.
There are direct trains taking you from Geneva Airport or Zurich Airport to Zermatt in about four hours. Since no gasoline-fueled cars are allowed in, self-drivers need to stop in Tasch, a small town five kilometers away and transfer to a shuttle train. The village is crammed with quality boutiques, hotels, restaurants and shops selling a complete range of skiing equipment. Instead of cars and buses, you will see horses passing by.
There are 360km of pistes extending from Switzerland all the way to Italy, ideal for middle and above level skiers. The snow is very good in quality. The most popular pistes are on Gornergrat and The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, two of the best spots to enjoy the sight of Matterhorn as well. A sound network of speedy and efficient lifts will get you to different skiing areas. Along the way, there are very good restaurants where you can have a rest and refreshment. Even in the summer, there is still 21-kilometer pistes in Zermatt so that you can experience skiing in the bright summer sun. Refer to the official website https://www.zermatt.ch/en/Skiing for more details such as real time video, pistes maps, prices and more.
Besides skiing, there are many other activities that will never bore you like skating, sliding, climbing, and hiking, to name just a few. There are several different hiking trails offering intimate moments with Nature. You can touch the snowy mountains in the lake, play with lovely flocks or smell the fragrance of Alpine edelweiss. A wide variety of options of accommodation are available from hostels, lodges to five-star hotels, all with local charm. No matter where to stay, you are unfailingly treated with a luxury European-style breakfast with homemade bread, jam and cheese. Kindly notice that you had better book a room at least one month in advance.
Zermatt is a terminus of The Glacier Express and the other end is St. Moritz, another appealing skiing resort. So why not ascend this famous express to fully view the wonders of the land. The eight-hour journey will take you from mountains to glacier, from gorges to prairies. Finally, you will reach St. Moritz, an equally majestic skiing destination famous for superior powdered snow. Other recommended skiing resorts in Switzerland include Mt. Titlis near Lucerne and Mt. Jungfrau to the southeast of Interlachen.
A Bite of Switzerland
Its multiple cultures have given Switzerland a wide diversity of cuisines. The three language districts have their distinctive delicacies. The French-spoken district is known for Cheese Fondue. People heat the cheese until it melts and then dip in bread, fruit and vegetables. The German district specializes in meat and sausages. One of the most famous dishes is called Geschnetzeltes. Sliced or small pieced beef is cooked with butter, mushroom and white wine. The Italian-speaking area is known for traditional Italian food like risotto.
Switzerland is also the home of wine and features the highest-altitude vineyards in Europe. The French-speaking district, in particular, boasts a vast expanse of vineyards from Raymond Lake in Geneva to Alpine mountain areas. The reason that Swiss wine is not as well-known as French or Italian wine is because of the quite limited exports. So if you come to Switzerland, never miss a glass of wine.
Skincare and Beauty
Swiss skincare expert Karin Herzog says: “It is in the nature of the Swiss to expect only the best. They take time to perfect products and treatments; they are meticulousness in their attention to detail – this is the core of the Swiss mentality.”
Known for precision and quality, the Swiss invest heavily in extensive research and development to produce innovative, cutting-edge skincare products. This elevates Swiss products above the competition, making them far superior to others and admired all over the world. Swiss products are subject to strict quality control in accordance with Switzerland’s stringent cosmetic industry standards, which guarantee optimal quality and efficacy, especially in the aspect of anti-aging. Many of the global prestigious brands are from Switzerland such as Swiss line, Valmont, La Prairie, Swiss Perfection, Cellcosmet, and more.
Recovery is a vital component in any treatment, and the Swiss mountains, green hillsides and azure lakes are the perfect backdrop. Added to this is the pure, cool Swiss air, along with discreet and attentive care from spa staff, and it’s no wonder that Switzerland has perfected a medical spa model and a post-treatment recovery environment unparalleled in the world.
Medi-spa clinics, such as the world-renowned La Prairie clinic in Montreux, boast traditional medical treatments, including scans, X-rays and conventional surgical procedures, alongside groundbreaking longevity treatments, like their famous CLP extract (the liver cells of unborn sheep – to be drunk), advocated by the Swiss as a tonic for a failing immune system. Then there is La Réserve. Tucked into a 10-acre park on the shores of Lake Geneva, the interior of this facility is evocative of a luxe African lodge. The spa specializes in innovative anti-aging treatments from the Nescens brand like lipomassage, cell regeneration, and facial tissue regeneration. There’s also an indoor pool, hammam, sauna, and fitness center. Bürgenstock Resort, mentioned above, has debuted a new medical center hotel, Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence, recently, offering regeneration and prevention at the highest level. On top of beauty and relaxation treatments, the hotel provides post-operative convalescence, treatments for burnout patients and medical check-ups.
In order to better embrace the beauty of snow-capped mountains and magnificent city lakes, spas have wisely installed ceiling-to-floor windows and functional areas that extend from inside out to involve guests in pure Nature.
Located in the glitzy town of St. Moritz, Carlton Hotel Spa is designed with soothing blues and earth tones, spanning three floors with spectacular mountain views. There is a pool, sauna area with steam bar, caldarium, hydro-massage showers, and a lounge with a fireplace. Try the Padabhyanga treatment, incorporating warm herbal oils used to harmonize and revitalize the feet. There’s also a special Swiss circulation massage focused on relieving sore legs after snow hiking, skiing, or long flights. Then, the Grand Hotel Kronenhof boasts a 2,000 sq m spa with panoramic windows facing a whole range of mountains. Inside, there is a waterfall, vitality pools, steam rooms, salt caves and more innovative facilities.
Lying at the foot of Alps, the beauty of Switzerland flows gently and enduringly.