Welcome to Switzerland
From the alpine meadows of the Bernese Oberland to the mountain herb gardens of the Lake Geneva Region and the Mediterranean parks of Ticino, Switzerlands natural flora and gardens and parks are second to none.
Put simply, you’re never far from nature in Switzerland. And thanks to our world-class, convenient and fully integrated public transport system, which of course runs like (Swiss) clockwork, this compact country can be criss-crossed with ease and in great comfort. Furthermore, due to its geographical location and climate, nature in Switzerland is pleasingly seasonal, making it a destination to be enjoyed year-round.
Switzerland has a long tradition of welcoming guests from the UK and Ireland to observe and enjoy the natural landscape. Indeed, it was the sheer beauty of this Swiss natural landscape that lured many a British visitor to such places as the Bernese Oberland in the early 19th century. Through careful stewardship of our natural landscape, Switzerland is now recognised as a leading sustainable travel destination. A sustainable approach to welcoming and hosting visitors is part of our national DNA – we recognise our responsibility and role as guardians of our natural environment for future generations.
At next year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show you will have the chance to get a taste of what makes Switzerland such a special place when award-winning garden designer Lilly Gomm presents her Swiss Sanctuary Show Garden. Sponsored by Switzerland Tourism, the garden will showcase the many hidden gems and delights of Swiss flora and fauna, and highlight Switzerland’s commitment to sustainability.
But if you can’t wait until May next year, why not come and experience for yourself the landscapes, the rich culture and most importantly the flora that has inspired Lilly’s garden. We offer a glimpse of just ten of our green cities – all just a stone’s throw away from mountain trails, beautiful lakes, castles and vineyards. We also make a few suggestions of what to see and do, and where to stay, but there are many more at MySwitzerland.com/GI – including your details of how to win a trip to Switzerland. We look forward to welcoming you soon.
Our Green Cities
Come to Switzerland and prepare to be impressed: from its uniquely characterful cities offering local gastronomy, culture and stunning architecture, to a wealth of natural and historic highlights, this beautiful country offers you the warmest of welcomes, whether at a gracious hotel set in acres of parkland gardens or a charming guesthouse nestling in the rolling Swiss countryside. A city break is the best of both worlds, as not only can you enjoy all the urban environment has to offer, you’re also never far from nature – and with enchanting snow-capped mountains and glistening lakes tempting you to explore further, and with excellent, sustainable public transport links, it couldn’t be easier to get around.
Hugging the banks of the Rhine, cultural Basel is stylish and relaxed – a picturesque setting for Switzerland’s oldest university city which also boasts around 40 museums and galleries, as well as botanical gardens and parks. From international exhibitions to street art, there’s always something to admire in this vibrant city. Take a cruise along the Rhine to see local architecture at its best or rest a while at one of Basel’s riverside buvette café-bars. Stay at Hotel Krafft in the Kleinbasel, the historic Old Town; built in 1873, this characterful hotel combines classic and contemporary décor and a beautiful garden on the banks of the Rhine. Sample local flavours such as the Ueli craft beer or dine on the terrace at the historic Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois with its very own flower shop just round the corner.
Against an Alpine backdrop, Switzerland’s capital sits like a medieval jewel on the river Aare, its charming Old Town a UNESCO World Heritage site with burnished rooftops, sandstone terraces, Renaissance fountains, six kilometres of historic covered arcades and a magnificent cathedral. A city made for exploring on foot, head to the Rose Garden above the Bear Park or the viewing platform of the cathedral for the best views of the Old Town. Sample modern local fare at Restaurant Bay on the banks of the Aare, or at Caffè Bar Sattler in the heart of the city. Get out of the city with an e-bike tour on the 59km Grünes Band (Green Belt) route and escape to the nearby Emmental valley to wind down at Hotel Bären Dürrenroth, just 30km away with its romantic rose garden and Gault Millau-accredited restaurant.
Geneva sits at the southernmost tip of the stunning lake that bears its name. The capital of peace and home to the Red Cross and the European UN, it is also the base for many international companies, although you’ll find a slower pace at the Geneva Watchmaking School, an artisan centre of horological excellence. Geneva’s Old Town is one of Europe’s largest, dotted with galleries, antique shops, museums and fountains, while nearby Carouge is well worth a visit, with its Italianate architecture and Latin charm. In town, dine at Max Brasserie and spend a few hours relaxing at the lakeside lido of Bains des Pâquis, a few metres from the impressive Jet d’Eau water fountain, while luxurious La Réserve Geneve, set in acres of lush parkland with magnificent views over Lake Geneva, offers a relaxing base for your stay.
Draped across three hills above the pristine waters of Lake Geneva and close to Lavaux and its terraced vineyards, the Olympic capital of Lausanne is an ideal base for exploring the delights of the lakeside as well as the nearby Alps. The medieval Old Town with its early Gothic cathedral is largely car- free and invites you to explore its delightful cafés, boutiques and museums at a slower pace, or enjoy a glass of local Chasselas wine at Les Arches bar or a leisurely bistro-style lunch at Eat Me. Getting down the slopes to the shoreline area of Ouchy is a breeze thanks to Switzerland’s only Metro service, and here the mild microclimate of the lake ensures a profusion of vibrant Mediterranean flora along the lakeside promenades. A stay at the elegant Beau-Rivage Palace in its extensive private gardens on the shore will round off an unforgettable experience.
Oozing with Mediterranean charm, Locarno in Italian-speaking Ticino Canton is Switzerland’s warmest city, blessed with more than 2,300 hours of sunshine every year. On the shores of Lake Maggiore, this charming resort town is a feast for the eyes with breathtaking views in abundance, from palm-fringed lakeside walkways to the heights of Madonna del Sasso and beyond. Take a day trip to unspoilt Valle Verzasca – Ticino’s green heart – or stay a while in arcaded Piazza Grande, Locarno’s central hub. Here you can sample local fare at Ristorante Fiorentina, or fuel up before a day out in the mountains at Al Porto Café Lago with its lakeside balcony, right by the cog railway station. Stay at Albergo Monte Verità above Ascona, set in seven acres of peaceful parkland, while mid-18th century Palazzo Gamboni in nearby Onsernone valley also offers an idyllic escape.
Picture-perfect Lucerne sits like a jewel on the shoreline of dramatic Lake Lucerne – with the buzz of an urban city, the lure of craggy mountains and peaceful lakeside beaches are also within easy reach. Charming Hotel Wilden Mann is an ideal base for your stay, with old-world charm and eclectic décor in every cosy nook and cranny. Take a dip at the city’s Lido, try a spot of Swedish fika at Café Nord in town, or enjoy a Kafi Lutz (coffee with a shot) after dinner in the retro ambiance of Luz Seebistro on Bahnhofplatz by the lake. Further afield, a day out to explore nearby Rigi mountain on the new William Tell walking trail ends with a picturesque cog railway journey descent to pretty Vitznau from where the ferry glides serenely across the crystal waters to Lucerne.
Known as the gourmet Mecca of the south, Lugano sits in a bay on Lake Lugano. A city of parks and flowers, stately villas and elegant churches, it has a balmy climate year-round and a distinctly Mediterranean ambiance. With an abundance of local delicacies on offer on market day, try fresh alpine cheeses, salamis and Swiss olive oil, unique to this area. Take a stroll along the Olive Path to see the olive groves at Gandria or enjoy mountain excursions to Monte Brè or Monte San Salvatore. In town, sip a glass of local Merlot at Bar Pinard or feast at Ristorante Orologio Lugano, an institution in the city since 1907, and for a restful perspective of Lugano and its environs, stay at the 200-year-old Villa Carona set in lush mature gardens just a ten-minute drive out of town. Historic Kurhaus Cademario Hotel with three hectares of verdant parkland is also nearby.
The eastern university city of St Gallen was famed for its hand embroidery, earning much wealth and renown in medieval times. This strong streak of creativity lives on with its close connection to the arts. Several city museums, such as the Kunstmuseum, are dedicated to contemporary and modern art, and you will find many creative art installations in public places. Don’t miss the binary train station clock, created by St Gallen artist and improvisational musician Norbert Möslang, for example. The attractive car-free Old Town is home to St Gallen’s Baroque cathedral and historic Abbey Library of Saint Gall and you can sample a traditional Swiss fondue at Restaurant Dreilinden or a Wiener-Schnitzel at Kafi Franz. The city offers an excellent base for excursions into the uplands of Appenzellerland and Lake Constance where historic Schlosshotel Wartegg, complete with its extensive herb and kitchen garden and verdant English landscaping, awaits to cosset the weary traveller.
Not far from Zurich is Winterthur, a bike- friendly city and a real family destination. Explore the narrow streets and alleyways, secluded courtyards and squares of its car-free Old Town and take in a cultural highlight or two. The choice is yours with 17 city museums and galleries, including the new Swiss Science Center Technorama. For a welcome caffeine break, head to Portier, a bijou coffee house in a former port’s lodge near the railway station and for evening entertainment and an excellent meal Restaurant Fredi is the place to go – the comedy club on the same premises is also owned by Fredi’s family. When it’s time to recharge your batteries, head a mere 20 minutes away from Winterthur for a rural getaway in charming 17th-century Gasthof Gyrenbad.
Lively and avant-garde, Switzerland’s largest city has a beautiful medieval Old Town right at its heart. Ramble through the narrow lanes to discover the city’s fascinating past with the help of the handy Zurich Guide app which also serves as a city travel pass. Don’t miss its two prominent churches: the Fraumünster, with its stained glass windows by Giacometti and Chagall, and the Grossmünster, with its iconic double towers. The newly extended Kunsthaus Zürich is a modern art aficionado’s dream, alongside other museums showcasing design excellence, Swiss national culture and FIFA World Football. Sample locally made Turicum Gin, grab a coffee at the Rooftop Bar on the top floor of the Modissa fashion store overlooking buzzy Bahnhofstrasse, or dine at stylish Gamper for a taste of modern Swiss cuisine. To complete your city experience, stay at the five-star Baur au Lac, an elegant 19th-century family-run hotel with not one but two excellent restaurants.
And it’s all ‘Swisstainable’
Blessed with an abundance of natural beauty, clean air and a thriving biodiversity, Switzerland invites you to travel lightly. Its sustainable strategy ‘Swisstainable’ extends right across the board, from an abiding commitment to climate and environmental change, the countrywide rollout of greener hydro-electric and solar power as well as recycling and waste management. This low-impact ethos extends to the conscientious curatorship of peerless natural landscapes and historic locations to preserve them for the enjoyment of future generations of Swiss nationals and visitors alike.
The public transport infrastructure is a dream with regional incentives and free travel passes, services that run on time and access to remote corners and mountain villages. With more than three million travel cards sold every year, explore the lakes and mountains with a low carbon footprint, thanks to the Swiss Travel Guide app valid on trains, boats and buses. Switzerland is also a cycling and walking paradise, with a co-ordinated network of trails and footpaths, inviting the visitor to stay longer and delve deeper into local culture, to experience nature up close and personal.
To plan your next visit head to MySwitzerland.com/GI
Where to stay
With so many styles of accommodation – from historic hotels and rural guesthouses to timber- framed mountain lodges – you are spoilt for choice when it comes to finding your perfect Swiss base. Find these hotels or accommodation that suits you at MySwitzerland.com/hotels
How to get here
Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) – which has teamed up with myClimate to offer a voluntary carbon offset option – operates regular flights from London and other UK and Irish cities to Zurich and Geneva. Find out more here.
For a more sustainable way to travel, Eurostar links up with two TGV lines from Paris to destinations across Switzerland.
Swiss Travel Pass
This all-in-one ticket offers visitors to Switzerland unlimited travel by train, bus and boat for up to 15 days. Visit switzerlandtravelcentre.com for more details.
For your chance to win a fabulous trip to Switzerland, including hotel accommodation, return flights from London and an eight-day Swiss Travel Pass visit: MySwitzerland.com/GI