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  • December 10, 2017
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Grand Tour of Switzerland


On the Grand Tour of Switzerland the journey is the goal. This route will lead you 1000 miles through four language regions, over five Alpine passes, to eleven UNESCO World Heritage Sites as well as two biospheres and along 22 lakes. This tour provides a concentrated insight into Switzerland, with exquisite scenic views and cultural jewels.

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Travel Information

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Destination Overview

Geography, History & more!

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City Guides

Must-see destinations!

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Things To Do

Activities

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Switzerland has a wealth of opportunities for people looking for active vacations in the summer months. The numerous sports activities that can be enjoyed here range from hiking to golf, e-biking to mountain boarding, river-rafting to canoeing, polo to go-carting, paragliding to bungee jumping. Visitors can take a cruise, tour caves and grottos, take a motorbike excursion, visit a fixed-rope adventure park and much more.

No other country in Europe offers more and longer downhill runs than Switzerland. And, an unrivaled network of more than 37,000 miles/60,000 km of footpaths crisscrosses the whole of Switzerland making it a haven for hikers.

Arts

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Embedded between nearby Alpine peaks and along rivers and lakes, Switzerland’s cities are stylish and diverse. A wealth of museums, shopping and entertainment can be reached conveniently within walking distance. Four official languages and four distinctive cultures in such a small country result in an experience unlike anywhere else. There is impressive architecture from the times of the Romans; modern, contemporary art, and internationally renowned events to round out every trip.

Culture

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Multicultural diversity – small in size, big on people
About 7.8 million people live in Switzerland (2009). With an average population density of 173.5 inhabitants per square kilometre Switzerland is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Wherever you go there are different cultures and traditions to discover – not surprising, really, since German, Italian and French influences come together in Switzerland. In the Ticino region visitors are immersed in a Mediterranean atmosphere, the Lake Geneva region exudes a cheerful charm, Valais, Graubünden and the Bernese Oberland delight with their genial hospitality, and so on.

Two-thirds of the Swiss population choose town over country life – but still the population of Switzerland’s cities remains manageable: figures from 2009 are Zürich 369,000, Geneva 186,000, Basel 166,000 and Bern 124,000. Given this, it is not surprising that the mountain cantons of Graubünden, Ticino and Valais, which make up 40 per cent of the total area of Switzerland, only account for 10 per cent of the population.

The Swiss are friendly, polite and reserved. The same is expected of foreigners, although resort areas and main cities may be more relaxed. Punctuality is considered extremely important, in social as well as business situations.

Be sure to say hello, please, thank you, and good-bye when entering and leaving small shops or offices. If you’re invited to a Swiss home, visitors typically bring flowers, sweets or a bottle of wine. Upon meeting and departing, it is usual to shake hands.

Events

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Something is always going on in Switzerland and, depending on your your interests, these special events can add greatly to their experience in the country. Visitors can enjoy folkloric events, where they can view ancient traditions, such as the procession of animals in the Alpine Descent & Farmer’s Market in Urnasch and the Schwing (wrestling) Festival in Bern; attend modern sporting events; art shows; music and film festivals, and much more.

Regional and local holidays, such as January 2, May 1 (Labor Day), June 19 (Corpus Christi), are observed in many parts of the country.

  • New Year January 1
  • Good Friday April 18
  • Easter Monday April 21
  • Ascension Day May 29
  • Whit Monday June 8
  • National Day August 1
  • Christmas Day December 25
  • Boxing Day December 26

Food

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Switzerland is simply a paradise for gourmets. The country has a wealth of gastronomic delights in store – in magnificent landscapes surrounded by unspoiled nature.

Chocolate
The Swiss are not just the creators of milk chocolate: when it comes to pralines, truffles and other sweet treats, they are in a league of their own. Each town has its own distinctive chocolate creation; each region, its famous confectioners.

Cheese
In Switzerland’s show dairies, you can follow close-up how a first-class cheese is made, using traditional techniques. You can even try your hand at cheese-making yourself with the expert support of the master cheese-maker. Afterwards, enjoy a rustic brunch – with local cheese as the highlight, of course.

Wine
Switzerland has a wine growing tradition dating back millennia. Hundreds of winegrowers keep this tradition alive, producing a wealth of fine wines. Exploring their product is a fascinating experience, as in the Lavaux above Lake Geneva, for example, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Museums

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980 museums... the sheer number is impressive and puts Switzerland far ahead of many other countries. The variety is quite astonishing as well, ranging from an attractive array of large museums with an international reputation, to more modest regional and local ones. In addition to the many different permanent exhibitions, there are over 400 special shows each year. Depending on the type of museum, you are invited to marvel and admire, and sometimes even to touch, try and experiment.

Swiss museums feature outstanding paintings by the French impressionists, from Monet to Pissarro and Renoir. The most important concentration of such works outside of Paris is shared by seven art museums located in the area between Basel and Winterthur. Then there is the international clock museum at La Chaux-de-Fonds with its unique collection of 4,000 time pieces and the museum of natural history at Geneva, one of the most modern of its kind, with 3,500 mammals on display.

Art, technology, natural history, ethnology and history are but some of the themes taken up by different museums. Not to mention hotel management and gastronomy, musical instruments, traditional costumes, dolls and toys, frogs, horses, cats and hare. The authors Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jeremias Gotthelf, Hermann Hesse, and Thomas Mann all have their own space dedicated to them as well.

National Parks

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Switzerland is not only home to one of Europe’s oldest national parks; nearly every region also has at least one nature park. Here nature is largely left to follow its natural course; local people manage the landscape with the greatest of care, using its resources in a sustainable manner. The new “Nature Travel” program allows visitors to experience nature in an active way, tailored to their requirements – while enjoying the region’s gastronomic highlights. Individual park labels are awarded by the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).

Places

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There is no such thing as a typical Swiss city: each is unique. What they share, however, is authenticity, proximity to nature, and a special atmosphere. And even though Swiss cities are relatively small, they are chock-full of things to do and places to shop, from world-famous Bucherer to quaint, small shops, perfect for browsing. And because of the cities’ small size, many attractions are within walking distance.

Zurich
Zurich sets trends that soon spread across the country, even beyond its borders. The city is also a shoppers’ paradise and a metropolis of the arts, home to legendary nightlife.

Lucerne
Lucerne is, in a way, the essence of Switzerland. It has everything one could wish for in a city: a picturesque lakeside setting against an impressive mountain backdrop.

Geneva
The European seat of the United Nations, the headquarters of the Red Cross, a longstanding humanitarian tradition, and a multicultural social mix make Geneva the world’s smallest metropolis.

Lausanne
The tremendous variety of this city for sports, conferences, and culture is also reflected in its cuisine.

Bern
The Bernese may like to be modest, but in fact they’re very proud: of the new Bear Park, for example. And, of course, of the fact that the entire Old Town stands on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

Basel
Along the “Basel Riviera,” as the city’s waterfront is affectionately known, the mood is decidedly relaxed and Mediterranean.

Lugano
Along Lugano’s picturesque bay between Monte Brè and San Salvatore, the atmosphere is distinctly Mediterranean.

St. Gallen
The charming city of St.Gallen has long thrilled visitors. The city’s abundance of treasures was recognized by UNESCO in 1983, when it designated St. Gallen’s entire abbey district as a World Heritage Site.

Winterthur
Winterthur has world-renowned art collections and monuments, and its buzzing Old Town is the center of energetic live music and comedy venues.

Bernese Oberland
As you follow the old mule trail from the Grimsel Pass to Handegg, you walk through the history of the Bernese Oberland – as well as the world of the Oberhasli power stations. These provide not only electricity but also unforgettable experiences – the dam, access tunnels, railway works and other fascinating installations are open to the public.

Valais
The Valais region offers much more than spectacular snow runs – not the least of which is mouth-watering cuisine. Top resort areas in the Valais include Zermatt, Saas-Fee, Crans-Montana, Verbier and Leukerbad.

Graubünden
Among the top destinations in this region are Chur, Flims, Laax, Lenzerheide, Davos, Klosters and the Engadine, with St. Moritz and numerous quaint villages. This is the region of Switzerland where Rumatsch is still spoken.

Ticino
Ticino occupies the southernmost corner of Switzerland. Here, people sing in Italian, eat well and embrace the sunny side of life.

Shopping

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Whether you are looking for the ultimate Swiss Army knife, a classical watch or an extravagant piece of jewelry - or maybe just some chocolate and cheese, you will find it in Switzerland. Switzerland's superb products make it a shopper's paradise.

English is spoken in most shops and department stores. Any stay in Switzerland is incomplete without buying a famous Swiss watch. Fine watches come in an infinite variety and are generally less expensive than in others countries. Bucherer is the country's biggest and most famous watch retailer offering a wide range of watches from CHF 50 to 100,000.

Chocolates come in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavors. Excellent buys are: textiles, embroideries, fine handkerchiefs, linen, precision instruments, drafting sets, multi-blade pocket knives, music boxes, woodcarvings, ceramics and other handmade items as well as antiques and art books.

Shops are usually open from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Once a week they extend their hours to 9 p.m. They are closed on Sundays except for those at airports, at some railway stations and highway rest stops.

Like many other destinations, a tax (8%) is included in prices. A refund for the VAT can be obtained for receipts of taxable amounts of CHF 300 or more. Visitors should ask shop staff for the refund form, which must be validated by a customs official at the time of departure from Switzerland and mailed by the customer back to the shop.

Sports

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Summer
Switzerland has a wealth of opportunities for visitors looking for active vacations in the summer months. The numerous sports activities that can be enjoyed here range from hiking to golf, e-biking to mountain boarding, river-rafting to canoeing, polo to go-carting, paragliding to bungee jumping. Visitors can take a cruise, tour caves and grottos, take a motorbike excursion, visit a fixed-rope adventure park and much more. For details on just a few of these options, click on the below.

Winter Sports
Visitors will discover unspoiled nature and breathtaking scenery at altitudes where the air is clear. No other country in Europe offers more and longer downhill runs than Switzerland. And, an unrivalled network of more than 37,000 miles/60,000 km of footpaths crisscrosses the whole of Switzerland making it a haven for hikers.

What kind of vacation would you like to take?