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One of the best things about traveling through Switzerland is that it is so compact. One day you’re lounging by one of the most spectacularly beautiful lakes in the world, and the next you’re admiring the snaking, icy length of a glacier. This two-week itinerary includes a bit of everything, from breath-taking scenery to local food and culture.
This hub city hugs the border with France and is home many international organisations, including, of course, the United Nations. Depending on when you arrive, the best thing to do after checking into your hotel is orientate yourself around the lake and the unmissable Jet d’Eau. Follow our 24-hour guide to the city to make sure you don’t miss the highlights. Cap off your first night in Switzerland with dinner at one of Geneva’s finest restaurants.
There are many great day trips to take from Geneva to explore the French-speaking side of Switzerland in depth. For instance, a one-hour train takes you to the lively city of Lausanne. Explore the winding streets of the old town, and be sure to visit the Port d’Ouchy and the Olympic Museum, which are highlights.
Explore the Lavaux Vineyard Terraces, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where you can enjoy stunning views of the Alps and Lac Léman while sipping fine Swiss wine. Take the Lavaux Express, a slow train that passes through the vineyards and allows for plenty of time to take in the views.
Continue on to the small lakeside resort of Montreux. Once you’ve settled in, take a leisurely stroll along the lakeside promenade, which is lined with flowers during the winter, and then stop at the Chateau du Chillon, perched on a small island on Lac Léman with glorious views of the Alps on all sides. During July, Montreux also hosts the Montreux Jazz Festival, one of the biggest music festivals in the world. If you are travelling in December, visit Montreux’s famous Christmas market, which is definitely not to be missed.
Once you’ve had your fill of Montreux, head onwards to Gruyères, Switzerland’s cheese capital. Gruyères churns out an enormous amount of cheese for its small size, and it’s also home to the legendary double cream, which is best eaten with fresh meringue. After exploring the cobbled streets or visiting the local cheese factory, sit at one of the many restaurants, and dig into some cheese fondue.
Bern, Switzerland’s capital city, is quiet and not overly touristy. Its historic centre is sleepy at the best of times but still has many great sights to keep you entertained. Take at least a day to explore the old town, with its cobbled streets, which have been well preserved over the years.
From Bern, head south to Interlaken. Sitting in a prime spot between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, the town is a great place to enjoy the tranquillity of the Alps or to get your adrenaline pumping. Considered the adventure capital of Switzerland, if you’re looking for a memorable experience, this is the place to do it. The activities on offer include paragliding, helicopter skydiving and skidding across either lake in a speedboat. For a more relaxed time, Interlaken is one of the best places to start a hike of the Bernese Oberlin.
You’ll likely fall in love with Lucerne, which is arguably among the most beautiful towns in the country. Aside from touring the city’s streets and visiting the cultural gems, such as the Spreuerbrücke, attempt to conquer nearby Mount Pilatus, or take the world’s steepest cogwheel railway to the summit. Either way, you’ll breathe pure Alpine air and take in a wonderful panorama.
Basel might not have the allure of Zurich or Geneva, but it’s got loads of charm. For many, the draw is the vibrant arts and cultural scene. One of the best museums is the Kunstmuseum, where Basler Fasnacht, one of Switzerland’s biggest cultural festivals, takes place. The Basel Zoo is also outstanding.
Zurich is your final destination. Although it’s the home of business and banking, Zurich is far from dull. The city is among the country’s liveliest, and it’s one of the best places for a night out. Wander through the old town, and window-shop at the glitzy Bahnhofstrasse, one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. Delve into the history of Switzerland at the National Museum, and pick up a unique souvenir at one of Zurich’s odd-shops or its wonderfully diverse flea markets.