At least once in our lives, we all come across that person who is too perfect to be real. The one who has good looks, style and wealth, but who’s also incredibly sharp and infuriatingly kind. As I made my way through the Swiss countryside on an intercity train from Zürich to Lugano, I couldn’t help but think that, as far as countries are concerned, Switzerland is the effortless prom queen.
Equipped with a Swiss Travel Pass, granting me unlimited train journeys throughout the country, I set off to discover Zürich, Basel and Lugano over Easter Weekend.
This is the first of a 4-part blog series about my trip to Switzerland. The current post will focus on the Top 10 Reasons to Visit Switzerland. (Once again, like in the Top Reasons for Moving to Berlin, these highlights are in no particular order).
So, why should you visit Switzerland?
10. Quality taken to heart
When you land in Switzerland, you pretty much walk into a world where 5 star experiences are the norm. If you go to a Thai restaurant, expect authentic noodles in your pad thai. If you buy cheese at the supermarket, you’ll instantly be hooked.
Quality extends well beyond the food. The streets are clean. Cars stop for pedestrians at unmanned intersections, something I hadn’t seen since Monaco. And everything works, flawlessly.
9. Every city and village has distinct character
This became exceedingly clear to me as I was riding the train, especially on my two-hour journey to Lugano from Zürich HB. Not only did the weather and landscape change dramatically, but so did the architecture.
We passed by endless little towns, from tidy hillside villages where goats were grazing to fortified bastions dominating the alpine scenery. We then went through the longest tunnel in the world – 57 km in 20 minutes – and came out in a different world. Tiled rooftops, colourful buildings and glistening lakes marked our entry into Svizzera Italiana (the Italian part of Switzerland).
A few hours later, I was sitting on a bench in Lugano, looking out at the most turquoise lake I had ever seen, and if I didn’t know better, I would have sworn I was back on the French Riviera. Just a short hop from Zürich!
8. Locals are kind and friendly
From hotel staff who genuinely seemed to care about their guests to the lady who spontaneously offered me a croissant on the train, I quickly got the impression that most Swiss people want visitors to feel welcome.
I had a few chats with locals, both in Zürich and Lugano – people who approached me and were curious about where I was from. In most places, as a newcomer, I’ve usually felt that I had to make the first move. But not in Switzerland.
7. Four languages, many cultures
Born in Montreal, Canada, I’m quite used to people speaking both in French and English around me. In Switzerland, I was often in places where people were having conversations in French, Italian, German and English – and sometimes using two of these at the same time. (I tried to recognized Romansh, Switzerland’s fourth language.) It’s so exhilarating to be in that kind of environment!
6. Everything runs on time
And when you are travelling (especially if you are a planner), this is crucial!
5. The whole country is Instagram worthy
Instagrammers, this one’s for you! I believe I took over 1000 shots of the cities and Swiss countryside. Everywhere you look, you’ll see a beautiful building, breathtaking landscape, or bustling street scene with just the right amount of Haussmann in it.
Even wandering through the quieter neighbourhoods, like Zürich’s Oerlikon, where I stayed, it was difficult to walk past a single house without wanting to snap away!
4. Cheese and chocolate
Of course these deserve a mention! You won’t go very far into Switzerland without trying the country’s famous chocolate. In fact, even Swiss Air gives passengers a little taste at landing. Since I was visiting at Easter, each restaurant, shop and hotel was giving away chocolate eggs, made in Switzerland.
The same goes for Swiss cheese. And, surprisingly, you won’t have to spend a fortune on locally produced brie or camembert. At the grocery store, most varieties of cheese run from 2 or 3 to 5 Swiss francs (and, to put things in perspective, a black coffee to go easily creeps up to 5 francs).
3. Springtime blossoms
If you’ve been following me on Instagram and Facebook, you’ll know I’m obsessed with the blossoms in Berlin. When I got to Switzerland, the blossom game was up a notch. The Swiss love lilacs, which add a touch of colour and spring scent to the streets. And they’re everywhere! Judging by the flower displays around each square, church or lake, I’m sure other seasons have their own colours in bloom.
2. There’s always more to discover!
For my first trip, I focused on the Zürich area and nearby cities. I didn’t get a chance to venture into the Alps, as it was raining in Interlaken, which was my original plan for a day trip. But just looking at the map, there are endless destinations to discover – and that just means I’ll be coming back a lot – until I get my Swiss citizenship and settle there!
1. And it’s all within reach.
Switzerland is a small enough country that, no matter where you decide to stay, you will have dozens of destinations just a short train ride away.