Switzerland is a federal state and lies in the heart of Western Europe. It is one of the Alpine countries, surrounded mainly by mountains and lakes, with no access to the sea. From the north, it borders with Germany, on the east with Austria and Liechtenstein, on the south with Italy, and the west with France.
Do you know that:
- Switzerland has no formal capital city, but its formal role is fulfilled by Bern, which is the seat of the government.
- four official languages are in force here: German, French, Italian and Romansh (known as the Romans language).
- in terms of size, it occupies 134th place in the world (41 thousand km2), in terms of population 94th place in the world (about 8.2 million).
- today’s Switzerland is a neutral state (since 1815), recognized during the Congress of Vienna and upheld by the Treaty of Versailles.
- Switzerland is not part of the European Union or the European Economic Area but participates in selected initiatives (eg is an associated member of the agreement with Schengen). Recently (since 2002) he became a member of the United Nations.
- The “national” plant of Switzerland is the Edelweiss, considered a symbol of purity and innocence. Its symbol can be found on souvenirs from Switzerland (mugs or pendants), on the packaging of chocolates, teas and cosmetics. The edelweiss is strictly protected, not only within national parks but throughout the whole country.
What is Switzerland famous for?
- Wealth. Among the European countries, the Swiss economy has the best indicator of economic freedom. In the global ranking, it takes 4th place (behind Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand). The country is very highly developed, one of the richest in the world. The Swiss gold reserves are ranked 7th among the 10 richest countries in the world.
- Advanced banking services. Long-term neutrality (from 1815) and the principle of the integrity of bank secrecy have consolidated the trust in Switzerland as the financial centre of Europe and the world. Over 630 banks are operating here, of which 5 belong to the largest in the world.
- Insurance. There are numerous insurance companies in Switzerland known around the world (including Zürich Insurance, Swiss Life, Reassurances) and 6 stock exchanges. Taxes and compulsory social insurance alone account for 37% of GDP
- Watches. Unofficially, Switzerland is recognized as the watchmaking power of the world, where the precision of each timepiece is not only the highest quality and reliability guarantee but above all it is a matter of honour. The market of watches in Switzerland creates as much as 10% of the total export of the country.
- Cheese and chocolate. Typical Swiss delicacies include hard yellow cheeses (there are more than 400 kinds) and various types of chocolates made with Alpine milk (who does not know Lindt products?).
- Ski paradise. The Alps are among the best ski areas in the world. There are countless downhill and cross-country trails, numerous cableways and lifts. In Switzerland, there are excellent facilities, numerous resorts and spas, and accommodation at the highest level. The most well-known ski resorts are fashionable and very exclusive resorts, to which many people come not so much for skiing or other madness on the snow, but mainly to “show up”
Weekend in Zurich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the main economic centre in the country. About 400,000 people live here. The city lies on the Lake of Zurich and the rivers Limmat and Sihl. For over 100 years it played the important role of the financial capital of the country. Today it is a fashionable city, attracting tourists with interesting events, nightlife, wonderful views, and close contact with nature (i.e. grey heron in the city centre, seen at Limmat river).
Undoubtedly, the main attraction of the city is the historic Old Town, located on both sides of the Limmat river.
Zurich is best to be visited on foot, it is worth to get lost in small narrow streets, stray from the main tourist route, blend in with the crowd of passers-by. In the city, there are many picturesque streets, tenement houses, churches, guild headquarters and fountains. There are over 1,200 of fountains here, and the water is safe to drink in all.
There are also several churches worth visiting:
- Peter-Kirche (St. Peter’s church), with a 13th-century tower and the largest clock in Europe with a diameter of almost 9m.
- Fraumunster – a late-Gothic church, a former female monastery. It attracts tourists mainly because of the windows with stained glass by Marc Chagall
- Grossmunster – with characteristic towers completed with domes, built between the 11th and 12th centuries on the rubble of an earlier temple. It is here that the Swiss Reformation began.
Zurich – what else is worth seeing?
- Bahnhofstrasse – elegant street which is 1.4 km long. It starts at the main station, then runs along with exclusive boutiques and numerous banks. Almost every step you can buy watches of the best brands in the world, gold and jewellery as well as pocket knives and knives of the Victorinox company (a company with over 130 years of tradition).
- Town Hall built in the years 1694 – 1698, standing on wooden piles stuck into the bottom of the river
- Opera House (Opera House) – opened in 1891
- The Swiss National Museum (Schweizerisches Landesmuseum) resembling a medieval castle. The building was built in the nineteenth century, on the wave of romanticism.
- The building of the Railway station. It is the largest railway station in Switzerland and one of the busiest train stations in the world. In front of the main entrance to the station, there is a monument to Alfred Escher, the nineteenth-century pioneer of the economy and initiator of the Gotthard railway (railway tunnel in the Alps, dating from 1881).
Lake Zurich is a typical example of a post-glacial lake. Located in the north-eastern part of the country at the foot of the Glarus Alps. The lake catchment has 1829 km². It is over 40 km long, and in the deepest point, it is 143 meters deep. The lake is best to see from the deck of one of the many cruise ships sailing there.
At the marina in Zurich, you can receive a tour program. You can choose between short trips, lasting 1.5 hours and all-day trips lasting up to 7 hours.
- Short trip (1.5 hours). This short but scenic round trip starts every 30 minutes between 9.10 a.m. – 6.40 p.m. The boat passes Kilchberg, which is a home of Switzerland’s largest Lindt chocolate. Return ticket 8.80 CHF /USD
- Medium trip (3h). Ships depart every hour from 10.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. The cruises go along Lake Zurich shoreline, passing such beautiful towns as Küsnacht, Wädenswil and the picturesque peninsula of Au. During the summer (on Sundays), you can eat brunch aboard the ship. The 2nd class ticket starts from CHF 21.20/USD
- Long trip (4 hours). Ships depart from 8.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. The ship goes to Rapperswil, with time to enjoy the sights along the shoreline. During the last trip of the day, you can admire the romantic sunset view. Prices start at CHF 26/ USD
Lake Obersee round trip (7 hours). A cruise packed with captivating contrasts. This trip takes you two different worlds – from lower Lake Zurich with many motorboats and yachts, through a canal at Pfäffikon to calmer Lake Obersee. Here you can find nature protection reserves, picturesque villages, peace and silence. The trip is to provide you with a touch of magic and mysticism. Ships depart only two per day: at 8.05 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. The price starts at CHF 26 /USD.
Onboard of each ship there is a bar (with waiter service). All trips operated by the “Lake Zurich Navigation Company”, require an additional fee of CHF 5 /USD per person. More information and a detailed timetable on the site: Lake Zurich Navigation Company.
During our stay in Zurich, we booked at the “Walhalla Hotel“. We have chosen it mainly due to high guest ratings and excellent location. The hotel is almost near the main train station, you can walk to the platforms via an underground passage located just nearby the hotel.
The hotel is located in a well-connected place. A tram passes by and a 5-minute walk to the main shopping street. The Swiss National Museum is nearby, as well as the main bus terminal in front of the hotel. You can start trips around Zurich and Switzerland just from this point.
There was a spacious room in the hotel, a wide and comfortable bed, a newly renovated bathroom. Breakfasts tasty, small selection, but fully sufficient for breakfast. On rainy days, you can take an umbrella from the reception (we used this option twice).
I recommend that hotel, even though the B&B price is high: about 200 CHF /USD per night, but it seems that as for Switzerland it is quite a good offer.