Fairytale like landscapes, alpine scenery, snow-capped mountains, glittering lakes and bucolic beauty galore, Switzerland is a paradise quite like none other. This is one of the reasons why this landlocked nation is a popular destination for tourists from all over. While its hamlets and picture-perfect villages are a highlight, the cities of Switzerland are equally attractive too. With alluring sights, medieval streetscapes, cobbled pathways and intriguing old towns, many of these cities are also significant global financial and banking centres. A country for all seasons, there is plenty to see and do in Switzerland beyond its pastoral charm. Here is look at five eclectic cities to explore on your next visit to Switzerland.
One of the most populated and cosmopolitan cities in the country, Zurich is located along the Limmat river and at the northern tip of the Zurich lake. Consistently rated as one of the most liveable cities in the world, Zurich dates back to 15 BC when it was founded by the Romans. An ideal way to start exploring this city is to take a walk along the old town known as Altstadt which offers a peek into the history and culture of the city. Do visit the Swiss National museum, Tram, Succulent and Watch museums, if museum hopping is on your list. Take a cruise along the Zurich lake to experience the panoramic setting all around and if gastronomy tickles your fancy, opt for a chocolate and culinary tour to sample delectable treats like fondue, macaroons and specialty chocolates.
Do not miss the experience of walking and shopping on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich downtown which is one of the most expensive and exclusive shopping centres in the world. There are some engaging day trips you can take from this commercial and financial centre and this includes a trip to the quaint village of Stein am Rhein, the Rhine Falls and Uetliberg which is Zurich’s very own mountain.
Perched along a crook in the Aare River, the capital city of Bern is fascinating to say the least. With distinct antiquated vibes, Bern is replete with picture perfect vistas and is best explored on foot. Most of the city’s attractions lie in the old town which is a maze of alleys dotted with historic monuments and arcade buildings. This distinctive quarter was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 and is full of stone buildings within which are some eclectic shops, cafes and bars. A walk along this 6 km quarter, will treat you to some of the most exquisitely crafted water fountains and the iconic Zytglogge clock tower. The latter installed in the 13th century has a bronze bell with a golden hammer. At the beginning of every hour, there is a little puppet show accompanied by chimes and the time bell is promptly struck attracting crowds each time. In the old quarter you can also visit the Einstein museum which is a treasure house of information on the great scientist. You can also pre book a guided tour of the parliament building and learn all about the history of Switzerland, one of the oldest democracies in the world.
Bears are intrinsically associated with the history and culture of Bern with Bear Park being testimony to this fact. Bern’s gothic cathedral, locally referred to as Bern Munster whose spire is the tallest in the country, is yet another key attraction of the city. If you are a fan of contemporary art, the Zentrum Paul Klee which is the museum for modern art must be on your list.
Again, a global hub for finance and diplomacy, Geneva is a city that offers multifaceted experiences. Synonymous with the United Nations and Red Cross, the UN office in Geneva which is called the Palais des Nations dates to the 1930s and is the most significant after the one in New York. You can book a guided tour of the place and it is sure to be a memorable experience. The old town is an extremely charming quarter with enthralling nooks and corners and houses the famous St Pierre Cathedral. The Geneva lake which is the largest water body in the country is something not to be missed and offers a whole range of activities during the warmer months.
The city is home to several engaging museums like the Maison Travel, Patek Philippe Museum and International Red cross museum. If you are visiting in the summer, you can pamper yourself at the public baths of Bains des Pâquis located along the west shore of Lake Geneva. Irrespective of the season, do not forget to take a selfie at Geneva’s most famous water fountain Jet d’Eau that spouts water as high as 140 meters!
Few images of Switzerland are more enchanting than that of Chapel Bridge on river Reuss brimming with colorful blooms during the spring-summer season. Also called Kapellbrücke locally, this one dates back to the 1300s and is the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe – one of the most beautiful sights in Lucerne. Close to the Chapel bridge is another smaller wooden bridge called the Spreuerbrücke (Spreuer Bridge in English). With stunning medieval architecture and vintage vibes galore, Lucerne is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the country. From timber houses to Neo -Gothic facades and artistically painted walls, this old town is full of captivating sights.
A boat cruise along the serene Lucerne lake is a perfect idea to soak in the breath-taking scenery all around. Another way to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the city would be to go up to the Musegg Wall which has around nine towers dating back to the 14th century. The sombre Lucerne Lion Monument, Jesuit church as well as the Swiss Transport museum are some of the other interesting places to visit in the city.
Switzerland’s second largest city, Basel boasts of a rich cultural heritage and is a melting pot of Swiss, German and French culture. It is key to note that the city has a whopping 40 museums and hence is a delight for all of you who are history, art, architecture and culture buffs. Kunstmuseum Basel (Museum of Art) is one of the most popular museums and houses a fine collection of paintings pertaining to both ancient and modern art and includes works of eminent artists like Van Gogh, Picasso, Chagall, Klee and Dali. The Paper mill museum and the Jean Tinguely Museum are just some of the other unusual museums in Basel.
Replete with buildings dating to as early as the 14th century, the old town like all cities of Switzerland offers a kaleidoscope of sights. The focal point of the old town is the extremely attractive Rathaus (Town Hall) that has an unmissable bright red painted facade.
The Marktplatz or the marketplace is a riot of colours and is the go-to place for picking up the local produce including flowers and food specialties. The zoo and the Tinguely fountain in the city are other popular attractions for children and adults alike.