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A Switzerland travel guide – sweet indulgences, sophisticated cities and Alps everywhere

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Switzerland breaks are every bit as cool as the country’s Alpine glaciers, as timely as its watches, and as rich as its chocolate and banks. Holiday in Switzerland to find cities of culture, slopes inviting action and storybook landscapes straight out of Heidi.

Get your bearings

Mountainous and tiny, Switzerland is a postcard of a country, with the Alps hogging 60 per cent of the picture. The rolling north is home to the thundering Rhine Falls, upbeat Zürich and the dark forests of Jura. Jagged peaks huddle around the shores of central Lake Lucerne. Further east, Graubünden entices skiers to the glitzy slopes of St Moritz and hikers to the lonesome heights of the Swiss National Park, where ibex roam. Slide south-west for big nature and adrenalin sports in the Bernese Oberland, skiing in Matterhorn’s shadow near the Italian border, or Lake Geneva’s vineyards and sophisticated cities.

Outdoor action

Spiky Alps, cascading waterfalls and foaming rivers invite active holidays in Switzerland. Skiers carve up the slopes in twinkling resorts like St Moritz, Verbier and Klosters. Snowboarders catch big air in Laax, while off-piste skiers seek virgin powder in Andermatt and Engelberg. When the snow melts, strap on boots for breathtaking hikes in the mountainous Jungfrau region. Sporty types windsurf across the cobalt Silvaplana lake, mountain bike up vertiginous passes like Furka and Oberalp, and flirt with mountaineering on Mürren’s via ferrata. Those with the nerve can bungee jump, skydive and hydro-speed in extreme sports mecca Interlaken.

City highlights

City breaks in Switzerland could begin with Dada art, Old Town strolls and Michelin-starred cuisine in financial hub Zürich. Its lakefront rival, cosmopolitan Geneva, has dreamy Mont Blanc views, designer shopping and the UN headquarters. Revisit medieval times roaming the arcaded lanes of laid-back Swiss capital Bern, where Einstein discovered his theory of relativity. Further north, the Rhine flows swiftly through Basel, home to a burgeoning arts and design scene. Ringed by the Alps and lapped by a turquoise lake, medieval Lucerne invites exploration with its covered wooden bridges and outstanding Picasso collection. 

Swiss-style relaxation

For every thigh-aching slope, there’s a soothing spa in Switzerland. Drift away gazing up to rocky spires in Leukerbad’s thermal pools, or taking the waters in Vals’ quartzite baths. Slip into summer with cocktails, DJs and refreshing lake dips on beaches in Zürich and Geneva. Escapists admire the Eiger’s north face in the mountain village of Gimmelwald, where only tinkling cowbells interrupt the silence. In winter, warm up with glühwein and fondue in a snowbound chalet far from the madding après-ski crowd. 

Lakes and mountains

Board an early train from Interlaken to 3454m-high Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest train station, for mesmerising views over the swirling ice of the 23km-long Aletsch Glacier. One of the world’s greatest rail journeys, the Glacier Express, climbs almost every mountain between St Moritz and chocolate-box resort Zermatt, framed by the 4478m-tall Matterhorn. A revolving cable car twirls gently above glacier-streaked Mount Titlis, close to the shores of Lake Lucerne, steeped in tales of William Tell. Go west to Lake Geneva for terraced vineyards and Mont Blanc views, and south to palm-dotted Lago Maggiore for Italian flavour. 

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