In this compact yet geologically diverse nation, mere miles separate the glaciers and Alpine meadows of Switzerland from her sparkling lakes and swaying palm trees.
The Swiss Travel System — an impressive network of trains, boats, and buses — is what connects the dots. In fact, this first-rate transportation resource is an apt symbol of the country’s vaunted friendliness, efficiency, and intelligence.
Year-Round Attractions in SwitzerlandRegardless of the season, there’s always something new to travel to see in Switzerland. Annual spring events include Snow & Symphony in St. Moritz, set against a backdrop of still-white Alps.
Every April, Zurich’s traditional Sechselaeuten is held: Guild members parade through the streets in historical costumes, eager to torch Boegg, an effigy who represents winter. In June, Art Basel – dubbed the "Olympics of art world" by The New York Times — brings together masterpieces and avant-garde works from the world’s most prestigious galleries.
July marks the yearly Montreux Jazz Festival, which today hosts blues, rock, world music, and soul performances as well as classical jazz sets. Hear more beautiful sounds in beautiful surroundings during the annual Music Summer in Gstaad and at romantic Lucerne’s International Music Festival.
Basel’s Autumn Fair, a celebration dating back to 1471, declares the arrival of the colorful season. The Lugano Wine Festival features parades of flower-bedecked floats and tasty cuisine.
Come November, Bern’s annual Onion Market engulfs that city in foods fragrant from the bulb while jesters dressed as onions add a welcome note of silliness. Winter revelry surrounds Ash Wednesday, at carnivals in Lucerne and Basel alive with parades, masked balls, and other high-spirited celebrations.
Museums of SwitzerlandVisitors who travel around a country come to understand what it venerates by what it conserves in its museums. Switzerland’s range from the artful to the historic to the downright quirky. Whatever your interest, you’re likely to find a fascinating place to explore it.
The fun and enlightening Swiss Transport Museum in Lucerne features interactive displays, the Zeiss Longines Planetarium, Cosmorama, IMAX Theater, and St. Gotthard Tunnel multimedia show. And its HiFlyer — a helium-filled balloon seating up to 25 people — floats 360 feet above the museum for a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding Alpine panorama.
The Olympic Museum in Lausanne captures the most moving moments of Games past in riveting presentations, while the Swiss Open-Air Museum Ballenberg reveals what the country was like before the industrial revolution. It features working artisans, original buildings (many are centuries old), horse-drawn carriages, and serves farm-made fare.
With a BaselCard (available at a 20 percent discount to Swiss Pass holders), you can explore not only the city’s world-class museums; you can also take a city tour, attend the theater, dance performances, and concerts, and get into many other performances free or at reduced rates.
Sporting Life in SwitzerlandWith more than 2,000 miles of biking paths, Switzerland is a haven for bicyclists of all levels. But you needn’t bring your bike to travel on two wheels: Many Swiss train stations are stocked with current models available for rent.
The price includes insurance, and a Swiss Travel System ticket entitles you to a special rate. Designed for convenience and to help you get rolling, many trains feature special compartments to transport bikes. Rented bikes can be stashed for free, and there’s a minimal charge to carry ones that are not property of the Swiss Travel System.
Since many visitors travel to Switzerland intending to ski the world-famous peaks (at altitudes above 3,000 feet, there’s perennial snow cover), companies offer the latest gear, ranging from skis to snowboards.