Switzerland

Switzerland is less than an hour’s drive fromAnnecy and Haute-Savoie in general. The number of cross-border commuters is rising year on year. But what do you know about Switzerland? Here’s a look at the country’s history and geography.

What is Switzerland?

Switzerland is a country in the centre of Europe. It has been occupied since prehistoric times by Celtic peoples. Although they attempted to migrate westwards, they were driven back in 58 AD by Julius Caesar. During the Middle Ages, the first cantons signed an alliance, the Federal Pact. They were joined by others in 1315 and again in the 15th century.

The principle of neutrality

Switzerland continued to expand in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1789, the country was occupied by France, which created the Helvetic Republic. After Napoleon’s departure, it took 2 years to create a unitary state of 22 cantons, based on the principle of perpetual neutrality. This status meant that Switzerland did not take part in the two World Wars.

In 1863, the country joined the Council of Europe, then the United Nations in 2022.

The cantons of Switzerland

Today, Switzerland has 26 cantons, each considered to be a state:

  • Zurich
  • Bern
  • Lucerne
  • Uri
  • Schwyz
  • Obwalden
  • Nidwalden
  • Glarus
  • Zug
  • Fribourg
  • Solothurn
  • Basel-Stadt
  • Basel-Landschaft
  • Schaffhausen
  • Appenzell Innerrhoden
  • Appenzell Ausserrhoden
  • St. Gallen
  • Graubünden
  • Aargau
  • Thurgau
  • Ticino
  • Vaud
  • Valais
  • Neuchâtel
  • Geneva
  • Jura

Each canton has a government, which manages the executive, and a parliament, which deals with the legislative. Each canton also has its own constitution.

For the record, 6 cantons were considered half-cantons until 1999. These were Nidwalden, Obwalden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Appenzell Outerrhoden, Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft. They are now considered to be cantons in their own right. Their only difference is that they retain their constitutional rules and have only one seat on the Council of States instead of two.

Switzerland’s main cities

Switzerland has many cities, some of which are particularly pleasant to visit or live in. We take a look at the main ones.

Geneva

Geneva is nestled on the shores of Lake Geneva and has a population of 204,946. The city is a harmonious blend of history and culture. But Geneva is also home to a large number of international organisations – 39 in all – as well as the headquarters of the Red Cross, making it a global crossroads.

But Geneva is also full of activities. There’s the famous Jet d’Eau and the Flower Clock, as well as museums such as the Ethnography Museum and the Natural History Museum. The city is also home to the world’ s longest bench.

Ibis Genève Centre Nations

ibis genève centre nations

The Ibis Genève Centre Nations is 800 metres from Cornavin train station. The hotel features modern rooms and private parking. Lake Geneva is only 2 km away and can be reached on foot.

From €117 per night.

See availability

Royal Manotel

royal manotel genève

The Royal Manotel is a 5-minute walk from the old town, the train station and the lake. You will be given a card on arrival which allows you to use public transport free of charge.

From € 170 per night.

See availability

More info: ville de Genève

Lausanne

Lausanne is the second largest city on the shores of Lake Geneva. Located in the canton of Vaud, of which it is the capital, it is also the Olympic capital. The Olympic Committee has been based here since 1914, and an Olympic Museum has even been opened. Today, it is possible to visit the museum and discover a wealth of information about the many summer and winter Olympic Games, as well as about the athletes.

Lausanne is also known for its training and research centres. It is also a popular destination for business tourism. On 31 December 2022, Lausanne had a population of 3,418 inhabitants/km².

Moxy Lausanne City

moxy lausanne city

The Moxy Lausanne City is a 3-star hotel with a great location in the city centre. The Palais de Beaulieu is 1.4 km away. Pets are allowed in the hotel.

From €137 per night.

See availability

Ibis Lausanne Centre

ibis lausanne centre

The Ibis Lausanne Centre is located in the city centre and only 10 minutes from the train station. The Old Town, Olympic Museum and Lake Geneva are just 3 km away. Parking is available on site and public transport is free of charge.

From €110 per night.

See availability

Bern

berne vue aérienneThe city of Bern is the capital of Switzerland. The city’s medieval atmosphere is sure to win you over, and you’ll enjoy strolling through its streets. Near the station, you’ll find the Federal Palace, the seat of the Swiss Parliament.

In terms of culture, you can visit the Albert Einstein House, which can be combined with the Einstein Museum, as well as the Swiss Alpine Museum and the Museum of Communication. As for Bern’s old town, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bern is also regarded as the gateway to the Alps. Easily accessible by car or plane, you can reach the ski resorts quickly.

Best Western Plus Hotel Bern

Best Western Plus Hotel Bern

The Best Western Plus is a 4-star hotel located 5 minutes from Bern railway station. Enjoy local culinary specialities in the restaurant. You can use public transport free of charge.

From €149 per night.

See availability

Hotel Schweizerhof

Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & Spa

The 5-star Hotel Schweizerhof is one of the most luxurious hotels in Bern. The train station and main sights are just across the street. Electric cars can be charged on site.

From €431 per night.

See availability

Zurich

zurich de nuitThe city of Zurich is split in two by the Limmat, a river that runs through the old town. The birthplace of Dadaism and a pioneer of modernism, Zurich is one of those cities that leaves no one indifferent. You’ll find some excellent restaurants, as well as luxury boutiques and art galleries.

There’s plenty to do in Zurich. You can choose to take a dip in the lake, or get up high and admire the panoramic view from the Uetliberg. Zurich has won 7 consecutive awards as the city with the best quality of life in the world.

Motel One Zürich

motel one zurich

Motel One Zürich is located in the heart of Zurich. The family-run rooms offer a pleasant stay. Pets are allowed.

From €193 per night.

See availability

Trip Inn Zurich Hotel

trip inn zurich hotel

Located 1 km from the Swiss National Museum, the Trip Inn Zurich Hotel welcomes you 24 hours a day. In the morning you can opt for the continental breakfast. Parking is limited and reservations are required.

From €156 per night.

See availability

Lucerne

lucerne vieux pontLucerne is one of Switzerland’s historic cities, nestling at the foot of Dragon Mountain on the shores of Lake Lucerne. A picturesque city, Lucerne is first and foremost a tourist destination.

Here you will find the Chapelle Bridge, which dates back to the Middle Ages and is considered to be the oldest wooden bridge in Europe. One of the places not to be missed in Lucerne is the dying lion carved into the rock. It pays tribute to the Swiss who died in the Tuileries in 1792.

Going to Lucerne also means enjoying the restaurants, shops and strolls through the narrow streets of the city centre.

Ibis Styles Luzern

ibis style lucerne

The Ibis Styles Luzern is just a few steps from Lake Lucerne, in the heart of the city. The comfortable rooms are spacious and family-friendly. Parking is available for guests.

From € 113 per night.

See availability

Hotel de la Paix

hotel de la paix lucerne

The Hotel de la Paix is also located in the heart of Lucerne, right next to the Lion Monument. The restaurant, popular with locals, offers a variety of cuisine and many local specialities.

From €147 per night.

See availability

Major ski resorts

Switzerland has a large number of ski resorts, some of which are very popular with skiers of all abilities. In fact, their reputation is well established. Here are the country’s most important resorts.

Zermatt

zermatt avec vue cervin

Zermatt is home to the Matterhorn, the most photographed mountain in the world. But it’s also, and above all, a ski resort perched at an altitude of 1600 metres, 100% pedestrianised. 200 kilometres of pistes await you, including 75 km of blue runs.

Zermatt is a resort for intermediate and experienced skiers. The ski area is the highest in Europe and the only one that remains open all year round.

But Zermatt isn’t just about skiing. In summer, you can enjoy a wide range of hiking activities. In all, the network of hiking trails stretches over 400 km. So there’s plenty to choose from, depending on your level of ability.

Alpenhotel Fleurs de Zermatt

fleurs de zermatt

Located in a popular area of Zermatt, the Alpenhotel Fleurs de Zermatt welcomes you to its bright rooms. The Gornergrat train can be reached in less than 5 minutes on foot. The hotel features 2 swimming pools and a wellness centre.

From € 218 per night.

See availability

Alpen Resort Hotel

alpen resort hotel zermatt

The Alpen Resort Hotel is located right next to the ski lifts. A shuttle service to Zermatt train station is available from 07:00 to 21:00. In winter you will have access to a ski room, where you can store your equipment.

From €234 per night.

See availability

Wengen

Wengen is another of Switzerland’s not-to-be-missed ski resorts, and is also only accessible by train. As a stopover for the Alpine Skiing World Cup every January, its reputation is well established. As well as downhill skiing, you can also try your hand at snowshoeing, curling or ice skating. In summer, try your hand at mountain biking or climbing, or opt for the traditional hikes.

If you’re an experienced hiker, we recommend the Grauseeli Loop panoramic hike. It’s 7.5 hours long and offers panoramic views of the Schilthorn region. For those less used to long walks, you can easily shorten it by taking the Schilthorn cable car from Mürren to Birg.

It is said that the Jungfrau region inspired J.R.R. Tolkien during his youth. It is also said to have served as a model for the Star Wars films.

Hotel Regina

hotel regina wengen

The Hotel Regina is located in the heart of Wengen, in a Victorian-style building dating back to 1894. From your room you can enjoy views of the mountains and the village. The hotel is at the foot of the slopes.

From €234 per night.

See availability

Alpine Hotel Wengen

alpine hotel wengen

The Alpine Hotel Wengen is close to the station and opposite the Männlichen cable car. In the restaurant you can enjoy dishes made from fresh, local produce.

From € 161 per night.

See availability

Verbier

Verbier is Switzerland’s must-visit luxury resort. With its blend of elegance and authenticity, there’s no doubt that you’ll be won over by this small village. From the top of the ski area, at an altitude of 3,330 metres, you can enjoy panoramic views of Mont Blanc. And if you’re not a keen skier, don’t panic. You can try out the longest toboggan run in French-speaking Switzerland, 10 km long!

During the summer season, Verbier is not just about hiking, but also about golf. There are two courses on the menu: Les Esserts and Les Moulins. There’s also a wellness area in the heart of the village where you can relax after a day in the mountains.

See this post on Instagram

A publication shared by Verbier (@verbier)

Hotel Bristol Verbier

hotel bristol verbier

The Hotel Bristol is located in the heart of the resort of Verbier. The family-run rooms allow you to enjoy the view of the mountains. You can also choose to have breakfast in your room.

From €90 per night.

See availability

W Verbier

W Verbier hotel

The 5-star W Verbier is located in the modern centre of the ski resort. It consists of 6 chalets and each room has a balcony. The ski lifts are just 100 metres from the hotel.

From € 499 per night.

See availability

Adelboden

station adelboden suisseAdelboden is a resort situated at an altitude of 1,350 metres. It is renowned for its traditional chalets, but also for its mild, invigorating climate. The ski area is one of the largest in Switzerland, with 72 ski lifts and over 210 km of pistes. And for cross-country skiers, there are 25 km of trails.

Every winter, Adelboden hosts a much-anticipated stage of the Alpine Skiing World Cup. A popular event, it is also a spectacle to be experienced at least once. The programme includes a giant and a slalom.

In summer, Adelboden offers a wide range of activities: hiking, cycling or mountain biking, trail running and swimming. There are plenty of cool spots in the Swiss resort. Mountain lakes, waterfalls, there’s something for everyone. The choice is yours!

The Cambrian

the cambrian adelboden

The Cambrian is a hotel located in the centre of Adelboden with a beautiful panoramic view of the Swiss Alps. Enjoy spacious rooms and a 700 m² spa. For a fee, a shuttle bus can take you to the foot of the slopes.

From € 315 per night.

See availability

Hotel Bären

hotel Baren Adelboden

The Hotel Bären is located in the heart of Adelboden, on the shopping street, just 150 metres from the bus station. Guests have access to an underground garage and a sauna.

From €197 per night.

See availability

St Moritz

St Moritz is a resort nestling in the heart of the Engadine Valley in the canton of Graubünden. It is spread over two levels: the old village and the more modern village, where the thermal springs are located. The ski area comprises 350 km of pistes, organised around Piz Nair. Skiers of all levels will find something to suit them, from beginners to the most experienced.

St Moritz is also home to a host of other activities and not-to-be-missed events, including horse racing on ice, polo and a gastronomy festival. The resort is also famous for its nightlife. Party-goers will love heading here to party the night away, in bars or at one of the many events on offer.

Hotel Piz St. Moritz

hotel piz st moritz

The chic Hotel Piz St. Moritz is located near the centre of the resort, just 800 metres from the Signal cable car. During the winter season, guests can use the sauna and steam room.

From € 176 per night.

See availability

Hotel Europa St. Moritz

hotel europa st moritz

The Hotel Europa St. Moritz is just 3 km from St. Moritz. The peaceful surroundings will charm you and you can quickly reach the centre of the resort. Enjoy mountain views from your room.

From €258 per night.

See availability

Crans Montana

Crans Montana is one of Switzerland’s most prestigious resorts. Top female alpine skiers regularly stop off here for a World Cup stage. It comprises 2 villages, Crans and Montana. You’ll find a wealthy family clientele, attracted by the luxury boutiques and top-of-the-range hotels.

The ski area is spread over 140 km of south-facing slopes. So you can enjoy the sunshine while skiing, whatever your level. And as we all know so well, after the effort, the comfort! There are over 20 mountain restaurants where you can take a break on the slopes.

During the summer, you can also enjoy Crans Montana. Trail walking, hiking and golf are just some of the activities on offer. And the resort hosts one of Europe’s biggest golf tournaments in September.

© Crans-Montana Tourisme & Congrès

Hotel Étrier

hotel etrier crans montana

The Étrier is close to the shops, sports facilities and congress centre of Crans Montana. In winter you can enjoy delicious cheese specialities in the restaurant.

From € 172 per night.

See availability

Hotel Olympic

hotel olympic crans montanaThe Olympic is a family-run hotel with modern rooms, located in the centre of Crans Montana. The ski slopes are just 200 metres away. You can also enjoy the casino, just 50 metres away.

From € 227 per night.

See availability

What Switzerland is known for

Switzerland is not just about beautiful landscapes and internationally renowned cities. It’s also about know-how, particularly in the following two areas.

Watchmaking

Switzerland is the home of watchmaking. Born in the second half of the 17th century under the impetus of a Jura watchmaker, the first Swiss watch was introduced in 1681. Daniel Jean-Richard, known as Bressel, was inspired by an English model. Today, it is regarded as the symbol of Swiss watchmaking.

The industry really took off in the 18th century, when the Huguenots fled to Switzerland. It was also at this time that the first rivalries between the Jura and Switzerland arose.

Modernising production

The mechanisation of the watchmaking industry began in the 19th century. Workshops were equipped with machine tools, and electricity developed rapidly. From then on, new production methods were developed, enabling Switzerland to maintain its position in the global watchmaking industry.

Chocolate

The chocolate industry was first established in Switzerland in the early 19th century. However, chocolate factories did not really take off until 1890. François-Louis Cailler opened one of the first mechanised factories in 1819. In 1826, Philippe Suchard set up another in Serrières, followed by Jacques Foulquier in Geneva the same year.

Today, Switzerland’s reputation for chocolate is well established, and you certainly won’t have missed out on brands like Ovaltine, whose advertising has left its mark on several generations.

Archipub

Visit chocolate factories

If you’re visiting Switzerland, be sure to visit the chocolate factories. Here are 3 of them:

  • Lindt Home of Chocolate – Production of Lindt chocolates began on the shores of Lake Zurich in 1899. The Home of Chocolate opened in September 2020. Here you can find one of the largest chocolate fountains in the world. Tour costs CHF 15 for adults, CHF 10 for 8-15 year-olds and CHF 13 for pensioners, students and apprentices.

    Location: Kilchberg, south shore of Lake Zurich

  • La Maison Cailler – Cailler is the oldest Swiss chocolate brand. It originated in Vevey in 1819. The Maison Cailler was opened in 2010. Admission costs CHF 15 for adults. You can try your hand at chocolate-making.

    Location: Broc, canton of Fribourg

  • House of Läderach – The family business was founded in 1962 and the House of Läderach was opened in 2020. It can be visited in around 30 minutes for the price of CHF 5. Guided tours cost between CHF 40 and CHF 60.

    Location: Bilten, Canton Glarus