Great Things to Do in Switzerland
Melt your cheese, and launch your skis
As a country with four official languages, a diverse topography and a dynamic culture, it’s no surprise that there are countless things to do in Switzerland. It goes without saying (though we’ll do so time and time again) that chocolate and cheese are a must, in a land known for its raclette and fondue. Outside of cuisine, the country is strewn with bumpy summits, with enough valleys and peaks to resemble the holiest (in a secular sense) of Swiss cheeses. You’ll stumble upon Alpine forests and quaint little villages whose models, cuckoo clocks and old-world pace of life will make you feel all warm inside. And these really are things for every Switzerland itinerary, so here at Plum Guide we've put our expert heads together to ensure that you miss out on absolutely nothing (you're very welcome).
See the Bears of Bern
The name Bern seems to have come from the German word for bears. And the city is certainly proud of its association with these majestic creatures, with the souvenir shops here packed to the rafters with bear-like imagery, toys and other fun products. It all dates back to the Bärengraben (Bear Pit) that has drawn tourists here from all around, since 1857. In line with modern philosophies around the welfare of animals, the bear pit was expanded into the Bear Park in 2009. Now, you can see the bears looking a little happier in their large surroundings alongside the River Aar (coincidentally, the sound you’ll make if you find yourself in the enclosure). Admire these incredible animals, and chat with docents about the purported origin story, involving Duke Berthold V of Zähringen and a bear hunt back in the 12th century.
Ski down the snowy slopes
Admit it: you didn’t really need us to tell you that. You were already quite aware that skiing was one of the best ways to spend your time in Switzerland. It’s in their blood - you can see toddlers zooming down the slopes at most Swiss resorts (which is never great for the confidence of the rest of us awkward adult skiers). But what you might not yet be that ‘au fait’ with, to use a term from one of the country’s four languages, is exactly where to slap on those skis and zoom down the slopes. You might want to take on the Matterhorn in Zermatt, for example. Or perhaps you’ll be taken by the upmarket resorts of Mont Fort Glacier and 4 Vallées in Verbier. St. Moritz, Davos and Grindelwald (the last one also a Harry Potter character played by Johnny Depp) are also among the top spots for a ski.
Embark on a mountain train ride
Get a ticket for the Bernina Express to ride around the mountains like the Gods. Snap photos as you chug along of the wonderful vistas around you, with forests turning yellow and red in autumn, and snow gracing the terrain as winter falls. Another great train ride that’ll have you feeling like a character from The Grand Budapest Hotel (with luck, rather than Murder on the Orient Express), is the Glacier Express: known as the Slowest Express Train in the World. Take your time as you take in the scenery between Zermatt and St Moritz in the Alps.
Get fond of fondue
Yes, we’ve already mentioned it a couple of times - and we make no apology for it. There’s nothing quite like sitting down by a fire in a log cabin with a bit of fondue (of the chocolate or cheese persuasion). Get potatoes involved in the affair, and call it a raclette. Dip your potatoes in the hot, melted cheese for best results. Now; dipping bread or potatoes in cheese is something of an accessible treat everyone can enjoy. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t exclusive restaurants. Try the Fribourger Fonduestübli in Zurich, Le Gruyérien in Geneva or El Paradiso in St Moritz. That’s three top fondue restaurants, all with names from different languages.
Dive into the medieval history
Aside from the ski slopes and cheeses, there are plenty of cultural things to do in Switzerland, starting with delving into its medieval history. Check out the Chillon Castle, which stands on the edge of a lake. See the Grossmünster, a church where Charlemagne’s horse allegedly tripped over the tomb of Zurich’s patron saints. And pay a visit to the St. Peter’s Cathedral.
Admire the picturesque scenery
So, we’ve done the skiing, cheese and castles. But there are more things to do in Switzerland, and certainly alternative ways of admiring its gorgeous scenery. Take a boat out on Lake Geneva, and marvel at the surrounding mountains. See the Lion Monument in the park in Lucerne. Head to the Italian border and relax on the shores of Lake Lugano. You’re spoilt for choice as far as picturesque terrain goes.