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What Is Switzerland Known for & Famous For?

Mention Switzerland, and visions of beautiful snow-capped mountains, fresh air, and spotlessly clean cities inevitably come to mind. However, there is a lot more to know about this amazing European country. So, what is Switzerland known and famous for? 

Switzerland is known and famous for its high mountain peaks, beautiful lakes, and delicious chocolate. It has a rich cultural heritage, and there is plenty to do whatever time of year you decide to visit. 

Read further to discover what makes this exciting country a popular tourist destination. 

Chocolate

Chocolate lovers visiting Switzerland are in for a treat as the country produces some of the best quality chocolate in the world. A distinctive feature of Swiss chocolate is its creaminess due to its high milk, sugar, and cream content. 

It has less cocoa than chocolate from other countries, but the result is smooth-tasting chocolate that melts in the mouth. 

Popular Swiss chocolate brands include: 

Cheeses

Switzerland is famous for its delicious cheese. Although France boasts a wider variety of cheese, Switzerland produces nutrient-rich cheese with a smooth taste, making it preferable for those who don’t enjoy smelly cheeses. 

You can easily recognize Swiss cheese by its trademark holes. During the fermentation process, carbon dioxide bubbles form, which creates holes in the cheese. 

You can find top-quality Swiss cheese in any Swiss supermarket or deli, and many restaurants feature dishes with it as an ingredient.

 

Popular must-try Swiss cheese varieties include: 

  • Gruyère
  • Emmentaler
  • L’etivaz
  • Tête de moine
  • Sbrinz
  • Maxx Extra

Fondue

Many people are familiar with fondue because it was a popular, worldwide craze in the seventies. It involves melting Swiss cheese in a fondue pot over a flame or spirit lamp. Once the cheese has a runny consistency, you can dip bread pieces into it using a fondue fork. 

Fondue originated in Switzerland, and it is thought that the first fondues took place in 800 BC. Today, fondue remains a popular Swiss concept, and you can enjoy one in someone’s home or experience one in a traditional fondue restaurant. 

Many Swiss restaurants offer cheese fondues for the main course and decadent chocolate ones for dessert.

 

Lakes 

One of Switzerland’s most treasured natural features is its exquisite lakes. The country has around 7,000 lakes, which comprise over 620 miles (1,000 km) of beautiful shorelines. 

Swiss lakes often have a mirror-like appearance, are magnificent to look at but also offer many leisure opportunities, such as: 

  • Swimming
  • Scuba diving
  • Sailing
  • Water skiing 
  • Fishing
  • Boat cruises

The largest lake is Lake Geneva, followed by Lake Constance and Lake Neuchâtel

Mountains 

Switzerland is an incredibly mountainous country, and wherever you go, you’ll likely see spectacular peaks as a backdrop to its beautiful villages and lakes. 

There are a staggering 10,850 named mountains in Switzerland, with Monte Rosa, Lyksamm, Dom, and Dufourspitze being the largest. 

Popular ways to explore Switzerland’s beautiful mountains include: 

  • Hiking
  • Winter sports (including snowboarding and skiing)
  • Rail journeys
  • Canyon jumping
  • Paragliding
  • Ice climbing

The Swiss Alps 

The Alps are Europe’s most extensive mountain range, and the highest mountains in this majestic range are located in Switzerland. If you want to discover the best sections of The Alps, you must head to Switzerland. 

The Swiss Alps cover around 58% of the country, and the highest peaks in the range include: 

  • Monte Rosa (Dufourspitze)
  • The Dom
  • Lyskamm
  • Weisshorn
  • Matterhorn

A relaxing way to admire the Swiss Alps is to take a train journey or rent a car and explore the winding roads. If you’re the energetic type, you could opt for a guided hike or participate in some extreme sports. 

The Matterhorn

Located on the border with Italy, the Matterhorn is nearly 15,000 feet (4,570 meters) high and has an almost symmetrical pyramid shape. This makes it perfect for photographs or just to admire from the base. 

The Matterhorn is not the highest peak in the Swiss Alps, but it’s arguably the most popular due to its beautiful shape and challenging climbing terrain. 

If you don’t feel like hiking the Matterhorn, there are plenty of spots offering unbelievable views: 

  • Kirchplatz
  • Tufteren
  • Le Petit Village
  • Zermatt old village
  • Riedweg
  • Zen Stecken

Zermatt

Zermatt is a popular town located at the base of the Matterhorn and is the ideal base for those wishing to climb this iconic mountain. 

It has plenty of chalet accommodation for visitors and becomes a winter wonderland during the colder months. It’s worth visiting Zermatt, even if you don’t plan on climbing the Matterhorn, because it gives you spectacular views of the mountain and has a typical Swiss mountain resort atmosphere. 

Bahnhofstrasse, the town’s main street, has many ski shops, boutiques, and cafes. It is a car-free zone with plenty of ice skating or curling venues. 

Jungfraujoch

Jungfraujoch is a saddle-shaped section of the Swiss Alps connecting the famous Mönch and Jungfrau peaks. It is located between Valais and Bern and links three smaller Swiss towns: 

  • Lauterbrunnen
  • Interlaken
  • Grindelwald

Exploring Jungfraujoch is worth it because you’ll have the opportunity to see Europe’s longest glacier, Jungfrau-Aletsch, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other Jungfraujoch highlights are the bird’s eye view of the Black Forest and the Ice Palace, which features intricate ice sculptures. 

If you don’t have much time, you can take a day trip to Jungfraujoch on the Jungfrau Railway from Grindelwald. When you arrive, you can marvel at the view and enjoy some coffee at one of the cafes. 

Tunnels 

As an incredibly mountainous country, Swiss intercity travel is challenging, but the many tunnels throughout the country have overcome this. 

Switzerland has around 1,300 tunnels, and if you’re planning on exploring the countryside by road or rail, you’ll experience at least one of the country’s impressive tunnels. 

The Gotthard Base Tunnel runs underneath a section of the Alps and connects the Swiss cantons of Ticino and Uri by rail. It spans 35 miles (56 km) and is the world’s longest rail tunnel. 

Other notable Swiss tunnels you might encounter include: 

  • Lötschberg Base Tunnel
  • Large Hadron Collider
  • Simplon Tunnel
  • Vereina Tunnel

Bunkers 

Switzerland is famous for its many bunkers. There are around 20,000 bunkers in the country but the exact number isn’t known. 

The Swiss military first began constructing bunkers in 1939 when the Nazis invaded the surrounding countries. This allowed them to stockpile weapons and provisions and keep their soldiers safe in case of an attack. 

During the Cold War and its threat of a nuclear attack, the Swiss government made it mandatory for each building over a specific size to have a bunker. 

You can take a bunker tour when visiting Switzerland, which is an eye-opening experience. An excellent example includes Underirdisch Uberleben in Lucerne, an incredibly informative tour. 

Beautiful Cities

When you explore Switzerland’s cities, you’ll notice that they all have one thing in common – they’re exquisitely beautiful. 

Apart from the surrounding mountains and picturesque lakes, many other factors make Swiss cities a pleasure to explore: 

  • Thoughtful town planning to reduce traffic and improve pedestrian access.  
  • Friendly locals who are always willing to help tourists. 
  • Zero-tolerance approach to litter or unnecessary pollution. 
  • Well-preserved buildings showcasing impressive, medieval architecture.
  • Beautiful seasons. The snow-capped mountains and frozen lakes turn Swiss cities into picture-postcard winter scenes, while the bright sunshine and cloudless skies make it a treat for the eyes in the summer. 

Zurich

Located in northern Switzerland and on the banks of beautiful Lake Zurich, Zurich is the country’s largest city. It is the largest German-speaking city in the country but is one of the most diverse and cosmopolitan in Switzerland. 

It is also Switzerland’s financial hub and is considered by many to be the most expensive city in the world. 

Visiting Zurich is expensive but worth the money – it has spotlessly clean sidewalks, world-class restaurants, and a thriving cultural scene. 

Whether you’re keen on shopping until you drop, taking in one of the many art galleries, or admiring the old buildings in the Old Town, there is something for all tastes in Zurich. 

Bern

Bern (or Berne) is Switzerland’s fifth-most populous city and the country’s capital. Unlike Switzerland’s main cities, Zurich and Geneva, it has a small-town feel but still offers visitors plenty of exciting activities and sights. 

Its old town district (or Altstadt) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its well-preserved medieval architecture. 

When you walk or drive through Bern, you’ll be impressed by its convenient location at a bend in the Aare River and its proliferation of riverside sidewalks and benches. 

Other things you might consider doing in Bern include:  

  • A stroll in the Rose Garden
  • A visit to the Einstein Museum
  • Admiring the St. Vincent Cathedral and the Clock Tower

Geneva

Geneva is a French-speaking city situated on the banks of Lake Geneva that offers excellent views of Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest mountain peak. 

Geneva is close to the French border, making it an excellent first stop if you’re entering Switzerland from France. 

Geneva is definitely worth visiting because there is so much to explore. After spending the day enjoying the Old Town, the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, and the ancient Place du Bourg-de-Four, you can enjoy a gourmet meal at one of the many restaurants. 

Taking a selfie in front of the water jet on the lake is mandatory, as is sipping a cocktail at one of the street-side cafes. 

Four National Languages (There Is No Swiss Language) 

Switzerland is unique because it doesn’t have its own national language. Instead, it has four official languages, including: 

  • German
  • French
  • Italian
  • Romansh

Almost two-thirds of the Swiss population speak German, and it’s widely spoken throughout the country. French is the second-most widely spoken language in Switzerland and is the most prevalent in the west. 

Italian is commonly spoken in the south, while Romansh is sadly slowly dying out, with less than 50,000 speakers remaining. 

Neutrality 

One of Switzerland’s most famous characteristics is its neutrality, which forbids it from getting involved in foreign military conflicts. Neutrality has been a part of Swiss foreign policy since 1815 when they signed the Treaty of Paris and vowed to become a neutral country. 

True to its word, Switzerland did not participate in either world war, even though fighting was raging around it. 

Switzerland’s neutrality and refusal to become involved in foreign conflicts gives its citizens a sense of safety and creates an atmosphere of stability. 

Banking 

One of the things that Switzerland is most famous for is its banking system. All Swiss banks are bound by Switzerland’s Federal Act on Banks and Savings Banks to ensure the secrecy of clients and transactions.

 

This law came into place in 1934 to protect the assets of people and companies who the Nazis were persecuting. 

Since Swiss bank accounts are veiled in secrecy, they have become tax havens and places for people to hide money. 

Christmas Markets

If you’re visiting Switzerland in the run-up to Christmas, you’re in for a treat! The country hosts many Christmas markets, where visitors can buy uniquely-crafted Swiss gifts and enjoy festive food and drink. 

Most Swiss Christmas markets take place in the evenings so visitors can enjoy the pretty Christmas lights and the wintry atmosphere. 

Popular Christmas markets include: 

  • Basel 
  • Lugano
  • Gruyeres
  • Lausanne

Skiing 

Switzerland offers excellent skiing opportunities as Europe’s second most mountainous country (after Spain). Many companies provide ski vacation packages with accommodation in traditional Swiss ski resorts. The best time for such a vacation is between December and March when the conditions are optimal. 

Whether you enjoy skiing from steep mountains or prefer cross-country skiing, Switzerland has exactly what you need. Swiss mountains typically have high peaks, and many are surrounded by picturesque Alpine forests. 

Beautiful Landscape 

Switzerland is a strong contender if you want to visit a country offering beautiful landscape and spectacular scenery, Switzerland is a strong contender. Although it is landlocked, there are plenty of natural features to admire, such as: 

  • High, mountainous peaks
  • Countless lakes
  • Swiss plateau 
  • The Jura, a small mountain range located between the Rhine River and Lake Geneva

Its landscape is dominated by the snow-capped Alps, which cover 58% of the country and form the perfect backdrop for other natural features.

Heidi Novel

“Heidi” is a popular children’s book by Johanna Spyri and was published in 1881. It describes the life of a young orphan who was sent to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps. The beginning of the story describes Heidi’s grandfather as grumpy, but his softer side is revealed when he shows Heidi the beauty and fantastic way of life in the Swiss Alps. 

 

Watches

Swiss watchmaking is known as the best in the world due to its dedication to exceptional craftsmanship and high-quality parts. The best Swiss watches are made primarily by hand and meticulously inspected to ensure a watch that will last a lifetime. 

Some of the most famous Swiss watch brands include: 

  • Rolex
  • Patek Phillippe
  • Omega
  • Chopard

If you buy a Swiss watch from a reputable brand, you can be assured of excellent customer service and a generous warranty, making it worth the investment.  

Carnival of Basel (Fasnacht)

The Carnival of Basel (or Fasnacht) is Switzerland’s largest carnival, which takes place in February or March annually. 

The carnival is a three-day-long celebration and features:

  • Street artists
  • Parades
  • Lantern exhibitions
  • Live music

In 2017, it was given UNESCO intangible cultural heritage status, making it a must-attend event if you’re in Basel at this time of year. 

Swiss Army Knife

Swiss army knives were invented in 1891 by the Karl Elsener company, which Victorinox later took over. However, they only gained global popularity during World War II when American soldiers discovered their usefulness. 

Swiss army knives are multi-purpose tools featuring: 

  • A sharp blade
  • Corkscrew
  • Mini saw
  • Scaler
  • Scissors
  • Nail file
  • Pliers

Amazingly Fun Trips by Train or Car 

Traveling around Switzerland is surprisingly easy as there are many convenient train routes and excellent roads and tunnels. 

If you want to explore the country by car, remember that many cities have no-car zones, and it can sometimes be challenging to navigate the mountain passes. 

Traveling around Switzerland by train is an excellent idea because the country has an extensive rail network and you can sit back and enjoy the spectacular scenery. 

Stunning Scenery

Switzerland has some of the most stunning scenery in the world. You will likely spot high, snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance and mirror-like freshwater lakes wherever you go. Switzerland’s landscape is also incredibly varied, with a central plateau, forests, and winding rivers. 

Safety

Switzerland offers residents a high quality of life, and the government is dedicated to the happiness and well-being of its citizens. It also has a low tolerance for any kind of crime, making it one of the safest countries in the world. 

Although there can be low levels of petty crime in the largest Swiss cities, tourists are generally very safe and appreciate how the locals adhere to the law and city bylaws. 

Red Cross

The Swiss Red Cross is one of the country’s oldest charities and was founded in 1866 to provide medical assistance to those in need, regardless of race, religion, or creed. 

It is the country’s largest charity and humanitarian organization, and today it offers much more than basic medical assistance: 

  • Disaster relief services
  • Personal safety assistance
  • Social services
  • Blood 
  • Youth services

Housing the HQ of the United Nations in Europe

The United Nations has its European headquarters in Geneva at the Palais des Nations. Here, the organization has its administrative offices and holds regular meetings to discuss and solve global issues. 

If you happen to be in Geneva, you might enjoy a guided tour of the United Nations. These are available in 15 languages and provide fascinating information about the organization.

 

Swiss Guard

The Swiss Guard is a tiny army dedicated to the Pope’s protection. They wear distinctive red and orange uniforms and protect the most important buildings in Vatican City. The Swiss Guard is not based in Switzerland, but you must be Swiss and Catholic to join it. They are employed by the Roman Catholic Church and must retire when they turn 30.  

Albert Einstein’s Alma Mater

Albert Einstein was one of the most famous physicists who ever lived. This German scientist received his tertiary education from the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, where he is still honored today. 

You can go on a guided Albert Einstein tour at ETH Zurich, where you’ll get the opportunity to visit the library, view academic documents he worked on, and explore the main building where he attended lectures. 

Roger Federer

Roger Federer is one of Switzerland’s national treasures. Many people consider him to be one of the best men’s tennis players of all time because he has won an impressive 20 Grand Slam titles since turning professional in 1998. 

He won numerous tournaments, including: 

  • Wimbledon
  • French Open
  • Australian Open
  • US Open

If you happen to be visiting the Swiss National Museum in Zurich, be sure to look out for Roger Federer’s exhibit showcasing his spectacular tennis career. 

High Cost of Living

Switzerland is well-known as a safe, clean, and happy country, offering its citizens a high quality of life. The government charges high taxes to ensure that they have the means to maintain a country that is a sought-after vacation destination and place to live. 

The Swiss government also charges high import duties on consumables like food and toiletries, which accounts for the high prices in Swiss restaurants and supermarkets. Furthermore, because the country is so mountainous, it leaves less room for residential areas, pushing up the rental and purchase prices. 

Tourism

Tourists have, for centuries, been enthralled by Switzerland’s exquisite scenery, well-preserved medieval architecture, and fantastic skiing opportunities. 

The country enjoys excellent, year-round tourism – the summer months see tourists enjoying mountain hikes, the cultural heritage, and lakeside vacations, while winter is popular for skiing and snowboarding. 

Switzerland is also centrally located in Europe and a convenient and popular destination for tourists exploring the continent. 

Spas

Switzerland has a proliferation of high-end and luxury spas. If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation away from it all, you might consider a few days or weeks at one. Here, you can treat yourself to nourishing food and luxury beauty treatments. 

There are also many thermal spas in the country, where you can luxuriate in the naturally-warm and mineral-rich waters while admiring the beautiful surrounding scenery.  

Many spas are located away from the major cities and feature plenty of fresh air and a quiet atmosphere. 

Popular Swiss spas include: 

  • Baden Thermal Springs
  • Grand Resort Bad Ragaz
  • Kulm Hotel St. Moritz
  • The Alpina Gstaad

Culture 

Switzerland is an exciting European country because it’s a melting pot of various cultures: 

  • German
  • Swiss
  • Italian
  • Romansh 

With its many mountains, Switzerland has rich skiing and mountaineering history, and most Swiss enjoy these outdoor activities. 

Swiss folk arts include yodeling and the alphorn, a large alpine horn made from wood that makes a sound similar to a trumpet. If you attend a traditional Swiss festival, you will likely hear someone playing the alphorn. 

Other cultural Swiss highlights are:

  • Chocolate
  • Cheese
  • Neutrality
  • Friendliness and acceptance

Festivals 

Regardless of the time of year you visit Switzerland, there will be a famous festival taking place. Swiss festivals are well-organized, exciting, and world-famous. Some remarkable ones to consider attending include: 

  • World Snow Festival in Grindelwald
  • Geneva Motor Show
  • Montreux Jazz Festival
  • International Balloon Festival
  • Interlaken International Street Artists Festival

Nature 

Although Switzerland has a rich cultural heritage that goes back many centuries, it has some exquisite nature to enjoy. 

Its Alpine forests surround high mountain peaks and make the perfect places for peaceful hikes or cross-country skiing. 

If you enjoy waterfalls, make sure you visit the Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfall, and admire the water’s ferocity. 

Other natural highlights include: 

  • Glaciers, such as the Aletsch Glacier 
  • Creux de Van, a large canyon with plenty of wildlife and spectacular views
  • The Fairies’ Grotto, caves featuring an underground lake and a waterfall

Universities 

Switzerland has some of the world’s best universities, and finding a place in one of the top ones can be challenging.

Swiss university campuses typically feature beautiful buildings, a vibrant student life, and a learned faculty. 

The top-ranked Swiss universities include: 

  • ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne
  • University of Basel
  • University of Zurich

CERN

CERN (or the European Organization for Nuclear Research) has its headquarters in Geneva. It has the world’s largest particle physics laboratory and is a global leader in scientific research and innovation. 

CERN consists of 23 member states, that contribute funds and knowledge and conduct many expensive and ground-breaking science experiments each year. 

If you’re in Geneva, you can book a free, guided tour of CERN, which is two hours long and provides interesting information on what the organization is doing. 

Conclusion

It’s difficult summarizing Switzerland’s best features because it has many. When visiting Switzerland, you are in for a treat, whether you visit in winter or summer, and whether you enjoy nature, adventure sports, or culture. 

If you’ve never been to Switzerland, you’ll be impressed by its: 

  • Spectacular, snow-capped mountain peaks
  • Numerous lakes
  • Relaxing train journeys with the exquisite scenery
  • Medieval architecture
  • Clean and safe cities

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