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The Great Aletsch Glacie| © Simon/ Pixabay
The Great Aletsch Glacie| © Simon/ Pixabay

13 Experiences You Can Only Have in Switzerland

Picture of Sean Mowbray
Updated: 12 September 2017
Switzerland is a country that’s blessed with natural wonders and curious national customs in almost equal measure. Whether you want to stare down at the sprawling expanse of Europe’s longest glacier or watch grown men bear hug each other into submission in a sand pit, there’s plenty of truly unique experiences to be had in the Alpine country.

Admire Europe’s longest glacier

The Great Aletsch Glacier is pretty incredible. Stretching for around 23 kilometres from its base in the Jungfrau region, this giant is a remnant of the world’s last ice age. However, climate change is whittling the glacier down by as much as 50 metres every year according to Pro Natura Center Aletsch.

Swim in Europe’s largest lake

Lac Lemán, or Lake Geneva, is the largest lake in Switzerland and the largest in Europe at an impressive 580 km2. Geneva, Lausanne and the beautiful town of Montreux are a few of the places you can enjoy a dip in its cool waters come summer time.

Watch fancy dress cows walk through towns at the alpine descent

The annual ascent and descent of the Alps is a big deal for the Swiss. Nobody is sure whether the cows feel the same. In towns and cities across the country, you’ll see cows wearing hats, flowers and, of course, cow bells as they come back down from their summer pastures for the winter (around October).

Step into the Large Hadron Collider

At CERN, you can try and understand the origins of everything around us, with emphasis on the trying part. On the outskirts of Geneva, The Large Hadron Collider spreads out in a giant loop into the Swiss and French countryside. If you are lucky enough to visit when the LHC isn’t on, you can step inside the Collider and really boggle your mind at this wondrous feat of modern engineering.

Take in a bout of Swiss wrestling (Schwingen)

Grown men wrestling in sand is something of a past-time in Switzerland. Known by some in the Swiss-German side as Hoselupf (literally meaning “breeches-lifting”), it is as enthralling as it sounds. Giant men, who wear seemingly obligatory beards, battle it out to decide who is named the Bösen, or the best wrestlers.

Watch the queen of the cows be crowned

Switzerland’s traditions are certainly fascinating, none more so than in the canton of Valais (which just happens to be where the most wine is produced). Every year, cows face off in an epic battle to see who is named ‘queen of the herd’ for the summer. Head to the town of Aproz to watch the coveted title be claimed.

Snap the best shots of the Matterhorn

Sure, the Matterhorn, the world’s most photographed mountain, sits on the Swiss-Italian border. But some of the best views are undoubtedly from the Swiss ski resort of Zermatt. Leaving without snapping your own photo of this iconic mountain is simply not acceptable.

Learn Romansch

Switzerland’s fourth language is Romansch, spoken by around 60,000 people mainly in the canton of Graubünden. It’s a little bit of everything, with its origins as a bastardised form of Latin now lilted with German and Italian influences. You’ll have fun trying to wrap your tongue around this one.

Take a trip over the world’s longest suspension bridge

You’d be forgiven for feeling a little apprehensive before crossing the Charles Kuonen bridge. When it opened in the summer of 2017 it took the crown as the world’s longest suspension bridge, spanning 494 metres and hanging 85 metres above the valley floor below at its highest point. Stepping out on the bridge is the perfect way to admire the mountains all around, just don’t look down.

#randa #switzerland #charleskuonensuspensionbridge #suspensionbridge

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Go on a Swiss wine tour

The Swiss don’t like sharing their wine, or nobody else wants it. They export a minute fraction of what they produce, meaning you’ll struggle to find most of the vintages anywhere else in the world. Take advantage and discover wines of a flavour and quality that’ll leave you wanting more. Read our wine lover’s guide to Switzerland for more info.

Ski with witches

We head back to Valais for this oddball event: Every year in Belalp, where a witch is said to have lived back in the day, one of Switzerland’s biggest ski events is held. Thousands of skiers put on their best witch outfits and take to the slopes, sliding all the way down to the valley far below in Blatten.

Visit an onion market

Come wintertime in the Swiss capital of Bern, locals start to look forward to Zibelemarit, the annual onion market. Farmers rock up to the city centre with over 50 tonnes of onions and garlic. Onion finds itself into tarts, cakes and soup (thankfully though, the glühwein remains onion free). If you’re in Bern during the end of November, this is an event that is not to be missed.

#zibelemärit #bern #onionmarket #onionmarketbern #onion #onionbraid #traditional #bern #market

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Recycle on Sunday, wind up in jail on Monday

It can’t all be fun and games. Be warned that the Swiss have a particular fondness for enforcing rest on Sundays. The curious list of verbotens is something that you should peruse before you wind up with an unexpected trip to Swiss prison cell. For example, if you want to recycle on Sunday, just don’t, not unless you want to end up like poor Judith Schulte who is now a convicted felon for committing this very crime. Shame!