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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in the Switzerland.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in the Switzerland.
Foreign visitors per year: 1.08 million
Language: German (the Swiss version that no one actually writes)
Unit of currency: Swiss franc (Sfr)
Cost index: cup of coffee/Walliser beer Sfr4/5 (US$4.51/5.65), hotel double/ dorm room Sfr130-800/40 (US$145- 900/$45), one-day ski pass Sfr75 (US$84.74), a glass of champagneat 3883m Sfrl5 (US$16.95)
When it comes to hardcore attitude at altitude, Zermatt takes no prisoners. Since the end of the 19th century intrepid hikers, mountaineers and ski fiends have drooled like soppy, love-struck kittens over the god-of-a-mountain Matterhorn that rises above the town in spellbinding pyramidal perfection.
But never more so than in 2015, when this swish Swiss diva of mountain resorts revved up its legendary party spirit to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of its magic mountain. English mountaineer Edward Whymper triumphantly led his party of seven to the summit of the 4478m-high Matterhorn on 14 July 1865 – only for him and three others to crash 1200m to their deaths down the North Wall after their rope broke on the descent. The bittersweet tragedy ushered in the meteoric rise of Zermatt as one of the hottest high-altitude spots on earth.
Anniversary action included the July opening of Hornli Hut, a mountain hut perched with one finger to the gods at 3260m, at the base of the Matterhorn. Inside this brand-new building – architectural homage to the sun with all the sustainable-energy whistles and knobs on – world-class alpinists take refuge before dicing with death on the final iconic ascent up sheer rock and ice.
No sweat if you’re not superhuman or even a climber: nail-biting theatre recreating Whymper’s historic ascent (and disastrous descent) will take to the open-air stage in Zermatt town. The backdrop? Au naturel of course darling – and as effortlessly sensational as you would expect from this seductive natural beauty of a town: the mountain itself!
Alpine hipsters, this is your chance to see how the big boys do it. Ski touring has never been so hot and even the world’s ski touring elite will break out in a sweat during Matterhorn Ultraks Skialp on 11 April. The summertime trail run of the two-part alpine race follows on 22 August.
Zermatt Unplugged from 14 to 18 April brings five days of unadulterated acoustic music into town.
A party like no other took over on 14 July 2015, the official day of celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn.
Tickets for summer theatre performances of the first Matterhorn ascent.
Cars with combustion engines, last season’s skiwear (ie, any ski garment not sufficiently hip to double as streetwear).
Alpine action defines Zermatt. Give your ski legs a run for their money down the highest slopes in the Alps. Melt over Matterhorn views along ski-virgin blues, marvel at the mountain’s unfathomable trigonometry from long, scenic reds and scare yourself to death on knuckle-whitening blacks. Die-hards only please on Zermatt’s serial killer Triftji, one of the toughest mogul runs known to man.
Ride the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Europe’s highest cable car, up to 3883m and gawp at a top-of-the-beanstalk panorama of 14 glaciers and 38 mountain peaks over 4000m. Not bad, Zermatt, not bad at all.
Chase the sunrise or moonlight with old-fashioned finesse aboard Zermatt’s romantic, 19th-century cogwheel railway (another ‘Europe’s highest’ tick on the scoreboard) to Gornergrat. Try not to be struck dumb by the mind-blowing view when you alight at 3089m.
Even world darling Zermatt is not immune to glacial melt. If global warming continues apace, glaciers in Zermatt and the surrounding Valais region could shrink by up to 90% by 2100.
Classic restaurant experience:
It has been on the celebrity hobnobbing circuit for decades but remains as black-book chic as the day it debuted. But there again, what is there not to like about dining al fresco on organic air-dried meats at a century-old farmhouse, snug in a soft fleecy blanket amid full Dolby surround of soaring mountain peaks and the Matterhorn. Chez Vrony is the name.
Few museums in the world boast a tatty, broken old rope as their star attraction: Zermatt’s Matterhorn Museum does.
One hundred and fifty-one years ago this season, St Moritz opened up for winter tourism. This month the Swiss resort town is pulling out all the stops to celebrate.
From pristine slopes to snow polo and gourmet dining, St Moritz has been the go-to mountain destination for the world’s jet set since 1864, after – so the story goes – hotelier Johannes Badrutt wagered that his summertime guests would enjoy the resort town’s winter atmosphere just as much.
Needless to say, he won that bet. In honour of the anniversary, the Alpine resort has created a full schedule of events for the 2016/2017 winter season, with most of the action taking place in January. On January 2, 24 and 31, Swiss light artist Gerry Hofstetter uses the natural surroundings to create a Light & Snow Spectacle with projections, skiers and fireworks. Plenty of races will keep sports aficionados busy: a nostalgic ski race on January 17; a ski race from Corviglia to St Moritz village on January 18; and on January 23, the Monaco Historic Race will feature monobobs and bobsleighs.
Gourmands should book their trip from January 26-30 for the St Moritz Gourmet Festival 2017, which will pay homage to the Brits who first discovered the town as a winter holiday hotspot with a “British Edition” showcasing the UK’s master chefs at a variety of events in the Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains, Badrutt’s Palace Hotel and Kulm Hotel. It’s time to strap on some skis, don that Chanel parka and head for the hills.
A refining rail experience that provides travellers the best way to uncover the beauty of the small Alpine nation. The panoramic rail routes never fail to fascinate vacation visitors and you’ll find yourself breezing through your travels with an all-inclusive travel pass
Train travels have evolved over the years into dream destinations in its own right rather than just a form of transportation. In the past, travelling was all about speed – getting to the destination in the shortest amount of time. Now, discerning travellers are seeking relaxed and sustainable journeys. At the forefront of the world’s top train journeys, is Switzerland with its numerous rails passing through remarkable UNESCO World Heritage sites. With so much to see, the brilliant minds behind Switzerland Tourism and The Swiss Travel System Limited came up with the “Grand Train Tour of Switzerland” – one that provides the most exquisite landscapes combined in a unique travel experience.
The Grand Train Tour of Switzerland covers eight different routes throughout the country, extending over 1,280 captivating kilometers, highlighting the most beautiful scenic routes across the country. The tour takes you through all of Switzerland’s four language regions – through attractive towns and villages, past glistening glaciers, lakes and rivers and over mountains. There are no particular start or end points, but Zurich – Switzerland’s largest and most metropolitan city, is often the chosen departure and destination point.
Stage 1: Zurich to St. Gallen: The route through Eastern Switzerland passes the renowned Rhine Falls and the city of Schaffhausen, with its landmark Munot fortress. Definitely find time to stop by the roaring Rhine Waterfalls and experience the impressive close-up of the natural spectacle from the Central Rock. Then comes Lake Constance, which also shares its shoreline with Germany and Austria and is the third largest lake in Central Europe. The first stage of the tour ends in St. Gallen, a 7th century old city famous for its Abbey precinct (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and collection of 170,000 historic books and hand-written manuscripts housed in an ancient Baroque-styled library.
Stage 2: St. Gallen to Lucerne: Discover Appenzell, a town steeped in centuries of traditions and culture of Switzerland. Here, you will be able to see and purchase many handcrafted items such as cowbells, traditional costumes and smoking pipes. The Pre-Alpine Express also offers fine views of the impressive Alpstein massif with the Santis summit and Churfirsten mountain range. Stop by Lucerne’s Glacier Garden, opened nearly 150 years ago, to view exhibits dating back to the Ice Age.
Stage 3: Lucerne to Montreux: The GoldenPass Line links eight lakes, three regions and two languages – all within one delightful day of exploration. The Luzern-Interlaken Express of the Zentralbahn first takes passengers over the Brunig Pass (1,008m) before descending via Meiringen to Brienz and Interlaken.
The Ballenberg Open-Air Museum is distinct to Switzerland, with its old farm creating a vivid impression of ancient rural life. Other attractions include some 250 farm animals in natural settings and displays of traditional arts and crafts.
Stage 4: Montreux to Zermatt: From Montreux it is only a short trip to Martigny – gateway to the Great St. Bernard and Forclaz Passes. From the shores of Lake Geneva, you will be whisked through Rhone Valley to Brig with its historic Stockalper Palace. Brig is located at the foot of the Simplon Pass and is an ideal point of departure for many attractive excursions. The train then continues through the Matter Valley before travellers catch sight of the world’s most photographed mountain – the mighty Matterhorn.
Surrounded by mountains in the Heidi holiday region in Switzerland is Europe’s leading well-being and medical health resort – Grand Resort Bad Ragaz – where health and wellness come together in a luxurious setting for the ideal spa holiday.
If you’re looking to recharge and rejuvenate your mind, body and soul this monsoon, head to Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. Just an hour’s drive from Zurich, near the Tamina Gorge, this 175-year-old resort can trace its origins to 1242, when hunters from the Benedictine monastery in Pfafers discovered the hot springs gushing from the treacherous rocks.
With a constant temperature of 36.5°C and due to their immense curative properties, bathing in these thermal springs became popular, leading to the emergence of bathhouses in the area and the subsequent opening of Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. Continuing this tradition of health and wellness, the resort offers guests an authentic and extraordinary experience in one of Europe’s largest and award-winning spas, the Wellbeing & Thermal Spa.
Honoured as Switzerland’s Best Wellness Hotel by SonntagsZeitung, 2015 and Resort Spa of the Year: Western Europe & Scandinavia by World Spa & Wellness Awards, 2016, here you find ten spring water-filled indoor and outdoor pools, sauna and steam zones, Asian treatment suites and a private spa. Spread across 12,800 sq mts, choose from two bathing programmes, along with a host of body and beauty treatments and special meals that are tailored to your individual needs.
Pitted against some tough local competitors, including Zurich’s prestigious lakeside Hotel Baur au Lac and the neoclassical Eden au Lac, the Dolder Grand Hotel manages to outshine them all – and in fact, for many five-star-hotel connoisseurs, is among the handful of Europe’s finest. With spires and turrets in the style of the German Art Nouveau called Jugendstil, the extraordinary building sits in an equally extravagant 125-acre park high above Zurich, reached by funicular.
Its acclaimed restaurant, La Rotonde, faultlessly serves an excellent traditional Mediterranean menu; Sunday lunch buffet is also justifiably renowned.
From the hotel’s understatedly elegant guest rooms (many with balconies) to the gorgeous 9-hole golf course, pool (with a wave-making machine), and skating rink, everything at the Dolder shares the same remarkable views of Switzerland’s most commercially and financially powerful city. The century-old main wing is the favorite of return guests; don’t miss the Gobelin Room, which houses an enormous 18th-century tapestry.
Down below, in town, everyone who is anyone turns up at Kronenhalle at one time or another. Tradition is everything in Zurich, and it reigns supreme at this well-loved classic. Kronenhalle’s animated scene is something to behold, and its traditional Swiss and French cooking is very good. But the decor is the highlight.
Every inch of burnished wood paneling is covered by 20th-century paintings and drawings, including originals by Klee, Chagall, Braque, Picasso, Matisse, and Kandinsky. They were collected by longtime owner Hulda Zumsteg, whose portrait still hangs here as well. Since her passing in 1985, her son carries on in the tradition that drew regulars like James Joyce, Richard Strauss, and Thomas Mann. In the likely event that there’s no available table when you arrive without reservations, head to the genial adjoining bar, ask for the signature Ladykiller, and take in the scene.
Perhaps a cancellation will provide a table. Even if you order nothing more than the standard sausage and favorite rösti potatoes, it will be delicious, you’ll be full (for the next couple of days), and the evening will be consummately Swiss.
What’s good enough for the Swiss president, a regular patron, is good enough for most. And now that two thirds of the Swiss triumvirate of master chefs is gone (Frédy Girardet is retired and Hans Stucki has passed on),
Horst Petermann reigns in a league of his own, continuing to inspire chefs who are making a significant place for Swiss cuisine on the gastronomic map. In a relentlessly elegant, flower-filled dining room in a 19th-century lakeside house on the outskirts of Zurich, Petermann wows his international clientele with a menu that is almost compulsively inventive, every mouthful a revelation. In warm weather a small but delightful outdoor garden is the place to be.
The ever-evolving and market-based offerings include fish dishes he keeps as fresh and natural as possible and various preparations of filet mignon and foie gras that underline his brilliance. Those with a sweet tooth will never forget Petermann’s signature hot mint soufflé on a “carpaccio” of thinly sliced peaches.
The wine cellar lives up to expectations, including a small but particularly good selection of labels from Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton of southern Switzerland.
Since 1967, the Montreux Jazz Festival has been Europe’s leading jazz event, but it has never locked itself into just one format, presenting blues, reggae, funk, soul, rap, rock, and pop as well as its namesake style.
Always ahead of the curve, the festival features both new and known talent, exclusive jams, and the finest sound system and halls, with the big-time acts performing in the principal venues and the lesser-knowns toughing it out on the streets – no surprise that the latter can be just as enjoyable. Beginning as a three-day event, the fest has grown to sixteen days, adding much to the strong musical tradition of this ever-popular town that sits on the banks of the lovely Lake Geneva.
Since the 19th century, artists, writers, and musicians have been attracted to this resort city with its distinct French accent and worldly atmosphere, ambitiously compared to that of Cannes.
You’ll understand why Lake Geneva is called the Swiss Riviera when you see the palms, cypresses, and magnolias that flourish here (thanks to the mountains that protect the city from the harsh winter winds) and the cafés that line the marvelous lakeside walks.
Cannes can only covet the Château de Chillon, just down the coast and within sight of Montreux. Switzerland’s most important and most photographed castle, parts of it date back 1,000 years. It moved Lord Byron to write his famous poem The Prisoner of Chillon, and has undoubtedly lent inspiration to the music making that brings Montreux alive each July.
There was a time when Frédy Girardet was regarded not only as Switzerland’s chef par excellence, but one of the world’s best – even his Parisian peers reluctantly named him Chef of the Century in 1989. After years of threatening to retire to pursue other interests, the legendary “Pope of Swiss Cuisine” finally shocked the gastronomic world by doing just that in 1996.
The world did not collapse nor stop. In fact, his associate chef and star protégé of seventeen years, Philippe Rochat, orchestrated a seamless transition and continues to serve a full house of Chez Girardet’s loyal patrons, who book two months in advance and drive the 38 miles from Geneva for a weekend table. Rochat eventually changed the name of the gourmet shrine and brought the formality – but not quality – of the service down half a notch.
However, he has kept a number of his mentor’s all-time-favorite signature dishes alive and as exquisitely executed as in the past. Here in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland’s Francophone heart, Rochat, like Girardet before him, comfortably balances the French and the German, the high and the low, the folksy and the sublime.
This canton is home to the outstanding white wines of the surrounding Lavaux area and the excellent cellar features both these and French wines.
Hot-air balloon festivals are no longer a conversation-stopping novelty, but ballooning through the Alps in the middle of winter? At the annual Winter Alpine Balloon Festival, as many as sixty-five balloons from more than fifteen countries ascend gracefully as a carnival ambience takes over the popular resort town below, with organized dinners held each evening. If you miss the festival, alternative weeks offer wintertime flying that is no less awesome, among majestic peaks and through snow-covered alpine valleys.
Elegant in-flight luncheons are served while passengers drift serenely over Christmas-card settings.
Summertime ballooning in Switzerland takes place in the softer rolling hills of the Emmental valley, in the otherwise dramatic Bernese Oberland.
The precise geometric patterns of Swiss farmland and picture-perfect, flower-decked rural wooden chalets create the perfect “aerial nature walk,” according to Buddy Bombard, who leads one of the world’s most reliable ballooning outfitters.
The granite profile that launched a million postcards, the distinctive snaggletooth form of the awe-inspiring Matterhorn rears above the bustle of the popular resort town of Zermatt.
Despite its contained size, traffic-free quaintness, and music-box chalets, Zermatt is all business: An international mix of intermediate and advanced skiers flock here for the wonderful ski runs.
Its three ski areas go up to well over 9,600 feet, and the famous Kleine Matterhorn cable car offers the highest piste skiing in Europe: count on good snow and good skiing into spring and early summer. Zermatt is also the Alps’ biggest heli-skiing center: the most epic run is from Monte Rosa, at almost 15,000 feet, through remarkable glacier scenery. Zermatt is known as well for its large and varied array of restaurants in uniquely beautiful locations, and a very healthy après-ski nightlife.
English explorer and mountaineer Edward Whymper was the first to scale the 14,685-foot Matterhorn (Mont Cervin to the French-speaking Swiss) in 1865, departing from Zermatt. You may not be following in his footsteps, but you can lodge in the same hotel he did: the Hotel Monte Rosa, considerably more luxurious today than when it opened in 1839.
Then the town’s only inn, it accommodated the few British who were the first to “discover” Zermatt and the beauty of its environs. You’ll want a room with a view.