Switzerland is a destination reminiscent of a storybook. Like in the children’s tale of Heidi, by Joanna Spyri, the Swiss Alps are a place of dreams and fairy-tale beauty. Switzerland’s Alps are enormously inspiring, its people are rich with heritage and tradition, and the food is as decadent as its culture is grand. A country where four languages are spoken (Italian, Swiss- German, French, and Romansch), Switzerland is one of Europe’s most linguistically diverse countries. With some of the most gorgeous lakes, finest cathedrals, hypnotic glaciers, and the quaintest mountain villages, Switzerland is resplendent and absolute.
Switzerland is full of mesmerizing little towns as well as big metropolitan cities. Zurich, sits on a large lake in the heart of Europe. The fashion and finance capital of Switzerland, Zurich is a huge attraction for those looking for a rich cultural scene. With over 50 museums, and over 100 art galleries, Zurich is a haven for cultural diversity and the arts. With some of the fanciest galleries in the world, Zurich exudes an old wealth, that is untouched and elegantly displayed. The Lowenbrau Complex, is a perfect example of Zurich’s modern art scene. This complex was formerly a large brewery, but was transformed into several different art galleries, and an impressive bookstore. Switzerland’s greatest art gallery, Kunsthaus, located beneath Zurich’s old town, contains art ranging from medieval religious pieces, works from Dutch masters, to the most fabulous impressionist paintings. With such a broad display of permanent paintings, Kunsthaus is legendary and an incredible museum to explore. Also, with captivating temporary exhibits and modern art, Kunsthaus is a solid, yet ever changing gallery. If you want to explore beyond the the inner-sanctum of these special attractions, go outdoors and explore Zurich’s glorious Zurichsee. The Zurichsee, (Swiss for Lake Zurich) is a beautiful lake that makes Zurich so picturesque. You can take cruises on this lake and explore surrounding lake-villages and towns on the outskirts of this city. In the summer, if it’s warm enough, you can even swim in this crystal clear water.
Shopping in Zurich is plentiful. A popular shopping destination is on Bahnhofstrasse, a long avenue that lies against the city’s medieval moat. This shopping sanctuary is extremely pricey and chic. With similar stores and flagships that you would find in Tokyo, New York, or Paris, Bahnhofstrasse is Switzerland’s own unique version. If you want to go off the beaten path and away from this tourist shopping mecca there are some great little local fashionista finds. Visit, Affar, a small boutique with amazing pieces that are mostly vintage and one of a kind. With Parisien shoes, funky acid wash jeans from Japan, and fabulous pants made with cashmere and tree resin, this is a truly special boutique. Another wonderful find is Boutique Roma, carrying the best designers such as Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela, Demeulemeester, Rick Owens, and Comme De Garcons. Roma is truly a treasure trove for those who adore fashion and these avant-guarde labels. Another great spot is Fidelo, with lines such as D-Squared, Acne, Helmut Lang, and Costume National. Last but not least is Vestibule, a charmingly beautiful boutique with similar names and an extra few such as, Luella and 3.1 by Phillip Lim. These are four marvelous shops, that you must explore!!! If you want something less mainstream, created by three local designers, visit Making Things, with a funky-urban collection of street wear, books, jewlery, and monthly art showcases.
For a super mod and simplistically edgy boutique hotel, try the Greulich Hotel, located in the center of town. This hotel is retro, stark, and very hip. Lovely for someone looking for a chic, fashionable, and reasonably affordable find. Josep, is a great, trendy local restaurant with modern cuisine, and a lively hot spot on the weekends with DJs and dancing. Lily’s Stomach Supply, is a perfect urban restaurant, that local organic lovers adore. Home-made soups, raw food, and delicious stir frys make this an idyllic lunch spot. Zurich has the best nightlife in all of Switzerland. For a memorable evening out, visit Kronenhalle Bar. This indulgent experience will leave you craving more. The decadent ambiance, rich leather, ornate tapestries, and Picassos hanging from the walls, are enough to make your mouth drop. For something a little more funky and down to earth check out Longstreet Bar. With a ecclectic mix of people, this urban and popular joint was an old cabaret spot transformed into a popular bar with concerts, readings, and a memorable assortment of drinks. Zurich is an atmospheric town that will charm you with its vintage allure and cultured surroundings.
Interlaken, is another idyllic Swiss destination that must be visited. This little village is nestled in the mountains between two lakes, hence the name Interlaken or two lakes. Interlaken is a popular lodging town used as a base for mountaineers and hikers in the summer, and skiers in the winter. This little town is reminiscent of a Hans Christian Anderson book, so special and quaint, it consists of nothing more than a main street with tiny train stations at each end. Once in Interlaken, you can take a funicular, or cable cars, up through the mountains to the magnificent Jungfrau. This massive mountain peak is one of the tallest, along with the Eiger, and is intimidatingly grand standing at about 14,000 feet. Interlaken is perfect for outdoor activities, hiking, boating, skiing, biking, and sky-diving. This town has the quaintest bed and breakfasts, and little hotels. Since, many of them are so petit and independently run, they don’t have websites, so you can just wing it upon arrival. Unless you want to stay at the Lindner Grand Hotel Beau Rivage, which is very large, beautiful, and historic hotel. Another great find in the town center is Hotel Krebs, affordable and charming this hotel is perfectly Swiss. Interlaken is worth visiting, and will give you a taste of a lovely Swiss village at the base of the immense and ever-present Alps.
South of Interlaken is a little hamlet called Grindelwald, nestled beneath the massive Eiger mountain. Grindelwald is home to the most stunning glacier. The Untere Glacier inches down Wetterhorn mountain in the most vibrant shade of blue. You can explore the inside of this fascinating glacier, which feels like a large cerulean blue ice cave. If you want a mountaineering experience in Grindelwald you can take a 1/2 day gondola trip to the summit of Faulhorn Mountain, and hike the surrounding areas. When you are finished you can sit at the top of the peak and watch the sunset with a cup of tea at the Faulhorn Mountain Lodge. This is an enchanting way to finish of your Grindelwald experience.
Another destination close to these villages is, Lucerne. With quite a large population compared to many cities in Switzerland, Lucerne is one of the most charming towns in the country. Lucerne is one of Europe’s most heavily touristed spots, but it is still worth a short visit. This ancient town is filled with medieval squares, churches and chapels, beautiful old houses, all divided by a river and the massive Lucerne Lake. With plenty of nightlife, cafe’s open till the wee hours of the morning, Lucerne is like any European hot spot. The center of the city is ornate with cobblestone streets, beautifully painted hotels, and sidewalks decorated with bushels of flowers. In the city center there is Chapel Bridge, the oldest bridge in Europe, where you can walk across the Reuss River. On the ceiling of this covered bridge are the most beautifully ornate paintings depicting events in Lucerne’s history.
A perfect hotel for any traveler looking for something ultra-chic would be The Hotel. The Hotel is a design-oriented boutique by a hip French architect, with simple lines and modern appeal. This nouveau hotel features different film stills on every ceiling of every room. It looks as if a photograph is projected on each and every ceiling. The images are slightly racy and probably wouldn’t be well suited for children, but for the avant-garde, this hotel is wonderful. In this hotel there is the Bam Bou Asian Fusion Restaurant that is delicious and might be a nice change from heavy Swiss foods. Another good restaurant is Luce, with deliciously healthy mediterranean food this is a great little find. Lucerne is what many would envision when thinking of true Switzerland. A perfectly enchanting town on a lake, fringed with rolling alpine hills, surrounded by enormous snow-capped mountains in the background, Lucerne is absolutely lovely.
[Above: Lucerne's Chapel Bridge]
Last but not least, there is Geneva. With its beautiful lakeside setting, Geneva has a huge importance on a world perspective. Geneva is home to the European headquarters of the United Nations, as well as the birthplace of the International Red Cross. Since it shares 95 percent of its border with France, many of Geneva’s inhabitants speak French. Like any other large city, Geneva has a plethera of lovely museums, galleries, churches, and shopping. The Place du Bourges-Four, located in the city center, was the cities marketplace in the middle ages. Now, it is a quaint area lined with 16th century houses, antique shops, galleries, and cafes graced by an 18th century fountain in the center. Another beautifully ancient building is the St. Pierre Cathedral. With such medieval charm and allure this cathedral is stunning. Whenever I’m in Europe I love to explore a cities old cathedrals and churches. Not for religious reasons, but just to experience the architecture, antiquity, smells of frankincense ,and medieval beauty that they exude. If you want to explore art in Geneva, there is a fine art gallery within the Petit Palais. Majority of the work inside this old palace are by French artists such as Renoir, Chagall, and Monet, this collection is a lovely little treasure-trove.
If you want some entertainment to tie in this old world adventure, go to Victoria Hall for regular concerts by the prestigious Orchestre de la Suisse. Whether or not you enjoy classical music at home, the experience in this fine music hall is truly divine. The combination of the live orchestra and your medieval surroundings will transport you centuries back. FNAC, is the best place to buy tickets to any concerts, events, or plays. (If you’ve been to Paris, you may be familiar with FNAC as they use this same system which is simple and cheap). For a a hip, chic hotel in Geneva stay at EastWest Hotel. With its European meets South-East Asian minimalist ambiance, it is so charming and a lovely place to spend your holiday. For a constantly bustling local restaurant, whose food is just as delicious as its ambience, visit LIPP Brasserie. With a huge menu, that will satisfy meat lovers to vegetarians, LIPP is an excellent choice.
One last thing you must see in Geneva is the famous Flower Clock. Just across the Mont-Blanc Bridge lay the symbol of Geneva. The watch industry in Switzerland is huge with some of the finest creations such as Rolex and Mont-Blanc. At the end of this bridge within the English Garden you will find this piece of technology mixed with an artistic flower arrangment. Based on the seasons the flowers change, but the clock will always keep ticking. Geneva is a lovely city, with plenty to do, and so much beauty to be explored.
HIGHLIGHTS OF SWITZERLAND:
Galleries: The Lowenbrau Complex | Kunsthaus Museum |
Outdoors: The Zurichsee: or Lake Zurich |
Shopping: Affar | Boutique Roma| Fidelo Boutique | Vestibule Boutique | Making Things |
Hotel: Greulich [http://www.greulich.ch/de/index.aspx] |
Restaurants: Josef [http://www.josef.ch/] | Lily’s Stomach Supply [http://www.lilys.ch/] |
Nightlife: Kronenhalle Bar | Longstreet Bar
Activities: Biking, Boating, Hiking, Swimming, Skiing, Cable Cars, Sky Diving.
Sites: Take cable cars to the Jungfrau summit
Hotels: Lindner Grand Hotel Beau Rivage [http://www.lindner.de/indexch_html] | Hotel Krebbs [http://www.krebshotel.ch/] |
Sites: Untere Glacier on the Wetterhorn Mountain |
Activities: All the same outdoor activities as Interlaken available. |
Sites: Chapel Bridge |
Hotels: The Hotel [http://www.the-hotel.ch/]
Restaurants: Bambou Asian Fusion [http://www.the-hotel.ch/englisch/07_restaurants/html/bambou.htm] |
Sites: Place du Bourges-Four | Petit Palais | Victoria Hall | St. Pierre Cathedral | Flower Clock |
Hotels: EastWest Hotel [http://www.eastwesthotel.ch/] |
Restaurants: LIPP Brasserie [http://www.brasserie-lipp.com/] |