Swiss skiing resorts may be the overall top attraction of this beautiful country, but it has quite a lot to offer to a discerning tourist beyond skiing. We had only limited opportunities to discover that on our European travels until late 2010, when I managed to spend a week exploring various Swiss destinations. Zurich notes are in a separate entry, while the rest of the destinations are described here.
Geneva is a nice city, even though it does not boast any must-see major sights.
The lakefront ♥ is very pleasant, with a prominent 140-meters high water jet stream that is considered the symbol of the city. The Old Town is an agreeable cluster of pretty streets lined up with well-maintained buildings. St Peter’s Cathedral in the center of the Old Town is architecturally winning, but we did not endeavor inside.
The town of Nyon, located less than 20 miles away from Geneva along the lake shore, has its own waterfront that is Geneva’s miniature sans Jet d’eau.
Places to Eat
La Croix-Verte ♥♥, located in the centre of Nyon, serves excellent fare, accompanied by very nice service. Our damage: CHF 270 for four adults and two kids, including a bottle of wine. Last visit: Winter 2008.
Bern has one of the most homogeneous and pretty city centers, understatedly commercialized, which is easily traversed on foot along several parallel streets. Among the main attractions of the town are brilliant stained-glass windows at the cathedral ♥, the bears walking the slopes of Barenpark ♥, and the former town gate, Zytglogge, with an astronomical clock built in 16th century, which provides a somewhat underwhelming moving figures display on every hour. The imposing Bundeshaus may be worth a tour some other time.
The fine historic houses of Luzern’s Old Town have their façades painted with frescoes or covered with sgraffito decoration. Coupled with surviving ancient layout, it makes for a very enticing locale. Chapel Bridge ♥ – a symbol of Luzern if there is one – is one of the main sights to see. My time in town was spent entirely on strolling around its quaint streets, taking in the architectural delights.
Solothurn deserves its crown as Switzerland’s most beautiful Baroque city. Its compact historic center is beautiful and boasts a number of architectural delights. Both St Ursen Kathedrale ♥♥ and Jesuitenkirche ♥♥ are lavishly decorated and impressive.
Lake Maggiore is simply spectacular, with atmospheric resorts and little villages surrounding it. I spent some time in Locarno ♥♥ and Ascona ♥♥, both of which must be bursting with crowds during summer, as well as drove along the lake shore for some of the most fantastic views anywhere.
Lugano and Lake Lugano
Lake Lugano is just as spectacular as Maggiore. I walked around central Lugano for a couple of hours and took a boat ride ♥♥♥ around the lake near the city.
Places to Eat
Restaurant Sass ♥ in Lugano gets good marks for a nice setting on one of the main squares and for impeccable service, but it is undoubtedly somewhat high-end pretentious about its menu. Quite tasty but not exactly exciting. Chf 120 for two people with a bottle of wine (the cheapest bottle on the list is Chf 48).
In some aspects similar to Bern’s, Fribourg’s historic core is smaller, but still quite attractive, with steep cobbled streets, well-preserved Gothic houses and many fountains. The cathedral ♥♥ is relatively bright and well-decorated, with radiant stained-glass mosaics and paintings.
Mildly curious audioguide-enabled tour of La Maison de Gruyere dairy may or may not coincide with the timing of the actual cheese-making operations on the production floor. If it does, the tour becomes slightly more fulfilling.
The village of Gruyere above the dairy is well-preserved, and its castle is reputedly worth a visit, but it unfortunately did not fit into my itinerary.
Nestle’s Maison Cailler
This chocolate factory ♥♥ leads you on an interesting tour, which starts with the animated history of cocoa and chocolate and proceeds to introduce Swiss chocolatiers and their contributions. The tour then continues with a look into the chocolate-making process, finishing with a tasting of various products.
Lausanne was a not-certain last stop on a packed daily itinerary, and I did not manage to do it justice with exploring. I only spent a few hours in town after the sun had already set. I climbed up the steep hills to the cathedral, but it was already closed to visitors. After that, time was taken by strolling through a largely pedestrianized and rather commercialized city core.
The only reason I made a detour to Duchy of Liechtenstein one day was to add one more check-mark to my list of countries I have been to – after all, this is an independent country. There are no truly worthy sights in the tiny principality; my entire visit must have lasted all of 30 minutes.
A separate article on Villars-sur-Ollon can be found here.