Switzerland is a country of incredible beauty: rugged mountain peaks enhanced by delicate, wispy clouds; velvety green meadows tucked high on mountain ledges; dramatic rivers rushing through narrow gorges; tiny blue lakes sparkling like jewels in their mountain pockets; postcard-worthy villages made up of toy-like chalets. The country is almost too perfect to be real. For centuries Switzerland has inspired poets and artists who have advertised her glories on paper and canvas and her reputation has attracted visitors from all over the world.Charm and old-world ambiance are used as the basis for the selection of properties in our hotel travel guide. Some of our recommendations are luxuriously elegant while others are quite simple. Our list of Switzerland hotels, inns, resorts and other accommodations reflect this diversity of lodging choices. Frankly, some of our hotels in Switzerland are better than others because in a few instances we have chosen a hotel not on its merits alone but so that you would have a place to stay in a region or village we considered so spectacular that it warranted an overnight stay. We offer four wonderful itineraries to experience Switzerland travel. Three of the itineraries are meant to be driven while the fourth incorporates travel by train, boat or bus. The itineraries give a taste of dazzling mountains, beautiful lakes, lovely rivers, splendid cities and romantic villages.

Select a region in Switzerland, or choose one from the map below:


Switzerland


  • Santi

    La Piazza Grande, Arezzo, Italy

  • Merlijn Hoek

    Arezzo, Italy

  • Merlijn Hoek

    Arezzo, Italy

  • Antonio

    Arezzo, Italy


General Info and Resources

Itineraries:

In the Itineraries section we feature four itineraries. Each of the first three itineraries links to the one that follows, enabling you to make a loop of the entire country. The fourth itinerary, Swiss Train, Boat & Bus Adventures, has twelve excursions that cover most of the country by public transportation.

Geneva to Zürich via Medieval Jewels takes a leisurely, scenic route between Geneva and Zürich. Along the way you will visit romantic medieval villages, explore wonderful walled towns, go over spectacular mountain passes, travel along tranquil valleys, visit fabulous castles and discover interesting museums.

Swiss Highlights—the Best of the Best is our recommendation if this is your first trip to Switzerland. This itinerary introduces you to many well-known destinations and gives a tantalizing taste of dazzling mountains, beautiful lakes, lovely rivers, splendid cities, and romantic villages. The itinerary begins in Zürich, goes to Interlaken and the Jungfrau region, includes Zermatt to see the famous Matterhorn, and ends by the Italian border, in the romantic Lake District.

Swiss Treasures off the Beaten Path features some of our favorite places in Switzerland. You might never have heard of all these treasures (such as Soglio, Guarda, and Tarasp) but if you delight in places a bit off the beaten path, you will love them. This itinerary starts in the Southern Lake District, goes north through the Engadine Valley, loops through scenic Appenzeller Land and ends in Zürich.

Swiss Train, Boat & Bus Adventures gives details for twelve itineraries where the transportation is by train, boat, or bus. The names alone are enticing: Glacier Express, Bernina & Heidi Express, Golden Pass Line, William Tell Express, Palm Express, Napoleon Express, Mont Blanc & Saint Bernard Express, Voralpen Express, Swiss Chocolate Train, Romantic Route Express, and Rhône Express. You can’t help but find in this rich selection one or more that will enchant you. Perhaps you might want to visit a chocolate factory, go to a high mountain hospice to admire cuddly Saint Bernard dogs, take a ride a nostalgic paddle steamer, or go by bus on a backroad to Grindelwald. Certainly you can fine a tour, or a combination of tours, that is perfect for you. If you have any doubts about driving, Switzerland is the finest country in the world for travel by public transportation.

With the exception of Swiss Train, Boat & Bus Adventures, these itineraries are designed to be traveled by car—there is no better way to explore the countryside, to really understand the depths and reaches of a valley, to fully comprehend the dimensions, magnificence, and power of lofty Alpine peaks, and to experience the beauty and grace of lakes and rivers.

We recommend the Michelin overview map of Switzerland, Michelin Map 729 (1 cm = 4 km) and suggest you use highlight pens to outline your route. You can purchase Michelin Maps from our website.



Airfare:

Karen Brown’s Guides have long recommended Auto Europe for their excellent car rental services. Their air travel division, Destination Europe, an airline broker working with major American and European carriers, offers deeply discounted coach- and business-class fares to over 200 European gateway cities. It also gives Karen Brown travelers an additional 5% discount off its already highly competitive prices (cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions). We recommend you make reservations by phone at (800) 835-1555. When phoning, be sure to use the Karen Brown ID number 99006187 to secure your discount.

Another option is to visit Flight Reservations under the blue Travel Tools tab on all of our web pages. Here, you will find a myriad of prices from different air carriers.

Europe now has several low-cost air carriers, the largest being Ryanair, offering excellent prices for air travel within Europe. If you are traveling long distances across Europe it might be advantageous to look into flying rather taking the train

 



Car Rental:

Readers frequently ask our advice on car rental companies. We always use Auto Europe―a car rental broker that works with the major car rental companies to find the lowest possible price. They also offer motor homes and chauffeur services. Auto Europe’s toll-free phone service, from every European country, connects you to their U.S.-based, 24-hour reservation center (ask for the Europe Phone Numbers Card to be mailed to you). Auto Europe offers our readers a 5% discount (cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions) and, occasionally, free upgrades. Be sure to use the Karen Brown ID number 99006187 to receive your discount and any special offers. You can make your own reservations online via our website, www.karenbrown.com (select Auto Europe from the home page), or by phone (800-223-5555).



Currency:

The Swiss franc (CHF) is the official currency of Switzerland.

An increasingly popular and convenient way to obtain foreign currency is simply to use your bankcard at an ATM machine. You pay a fixed fee for this but, depending on the amount you withdraw, it is usually less than the percentage-based fee charged to exchange currency or travelers’ checks. Be sure to check with your bank or credit card company about fees and necessary pin numbers prior to departure.

Many establishments accept one or more credit cards. If possible, pay using your credit card as the exchange rate is usually quite favorable. Paying by credit card reduces the need to carry large sums of cash and thus reduces potential loss in the case of theft. Keep a record of your credit card numbers at home as well as with you separately from your cards in case of loss or theft. Also, it is a good idea to contact your card issuer and inform them of your travel plans.



Driving:

Roads, like everything else in Switzerland, are efficiently marked. Once you get used to the excellent color-coded sign system, directions are easy to follow: green signs indicate motorways, blue signs mark regular roads, white signs depict the smaller roads, and yellow signs mark walking paths or roads closed to vehicle traffic. Most of the roads are excellent, but some of the smaller roads in remote areas (i.e., narrow, twisting, mountain passes) are not recommended for the faint of heart. It is also notable that certain passes close during the winter months. To inquire about road conditions while driving in Switzerland, you can reach a hot line by dialing 163.

DRIVER’S LICENSE: A valid driver’s license from your own country is sufficient when driving within Switzerland.

DRUNK DRIVING: The penalties for driving while under the influence of alcohol are very severe. Do not drink and drive.

GASOLINE: The price of gasoline in Switzerland is very high so be sure to budget for this when making your plans. If you find yourself short of cash, many of the service stations (such as BP, ESSO, and Shell) will accept payment by a major credit card. Some of the service stations have an efficient system whereby you put coins into an appropriate slot and can pump your own gas—day or night. Some service stations are even more automated and you can purchase gas by inserting your credit card directly into the indicated slot. Service stations off the major freeways frequently close for a few hours in the middle of the day.

MOTORWAYS: Switzerland does not collect tolls on its motorways—instead, motorists must buy a permit (to be displayed on the windshield) in order to drive on them. If you rent a car in Switzerland, the rental company will have done this for you. If you are arriving from another country, you can buy a permit (called a vignette) at the border.

ROAD CONDITIONS: Highways link Switzerland’s major cities and are kept in remarkably good condition. No sooner are the snows melting in the spring sun than maintenance crews begin repairing damage done by winter weather. Many villages are tucked away in remote valleys linked to civilization by narrow little roads, but even these are well tended by the efficient Swiss and are usually in good condition.

ROAD SIGNS: If you are driving, prepare yourself before leaving home by learning the international road signs so that you can obey all the rules and avoid the hazard and embarrassment of heading the wrong way down a small street or parking in a forbidden zone. There are several basic sign shapes: triangular signs warn that there is danger ahead; circular signs indicate compulsory rules and information; square signs give information concerning telephones, parking, camping, etc.

SEAT BELTS: Seat belts are mandatory when driving within Switzerland. It is also the law that babies and small children must ride in proper car seats.

SPEED LIMITS: There are speed limits throughout Switzerland: motorways—maximum speed 120 kilometers per hour (kph); highways—maximum speed 80 kph; towns and built-up areas—maximum speed 50 kph.



Electricity:

If you are taking any electrical appliances made for use in the United States, you will need a transformer plus a two-pin adapter. A voltage of 220 AC at 50 cycles per second is almost countrywide, though in remote areas you may encounter 120V. The voltage is often displayed on the socket. Even though we recommend that you purchase appliances with dual-voltage options whenever possible, you will still need the appropriate socket adapter. Also, be especially careful with expensive equipment such as computers—verify with the manufacturer the adapter/converter capabilities and requirements.



Shopping:

Switzerland has a tempting array of products to entice even the reluctant buyer. Shopping in Switzerland is fun: the stores are pretty and the merchandise is usually of excellent quality. Many larger towns have stores that feature an exceptional selection of art and handicraft items, referred to as Heimatwerk, from the surrounding region. (While in Zürich visit the Schweizer Heimatwerk, a marvelous store that features crafts from all regions—you will find it on the Limmat Quai just across from the train station.) In Switzerland the prices are usually set, so there is no bargaining, and tax is included. Some shopping suggestions: watches, clocks, mechanical toys, wood carvings, hand-painted pottery, cow bells, Swiss army knives, chocolates, cheeses, kirsch, antiques, Saint Gallen lace, hand-embroidered items, fine cottons, children’s clothing, and ski wear.



Tourism:

Switzerland Tourism, previously known as the Swiss National Tourist Office, is an excellent source of information. If you have any questions not answered in this guide, or need special information concerning a particular destination within Switzerland, they will be glad to assist you. Also, you can visit their web site: www.myswitzerland.com.

Switzerland Tourism, Head Office Switzerland Tourism, International P.O. Box 2077, CH-8027 Zürich, Switzerland tel: (01) 288 11 11; fax: (01) 288 12 07

Switzerland Tourism, International, Worldwide toll-free number tel: (011) 800-100-200-30 email: info.int@switzerland.com

Switzerland Tourism, USA, 608 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10020-2303 tel: (877) 794-8037; fax: (212) 262-6116, email: info.usa@myswitzerland.com

Switzerland Tourism, Great Brittan Swiss Center, 30 Bedford Street London WC2E 9ED, England tel: (020) 7420-4900; fax: (800) 1002-0031 email: info.uk.myswitzerland.com



Weather:

For such a tiny nation, Switzerland offers an amazing variety of climates: the brisk mountain weather is quite different from the milder temperatures encountered near Lake Geneva or the balmy Swiss-Italian Lake District. Because of the sudden, unpredictable weather changes, it is highly recommended that you use the so-called “onion principle” in clothing. Wear layers of clothing, like T-shirts, sweaters, and jackets, which you can take off or put on at any given time to adjust to the weather conditions. Also be sure to pack good, comfortable walking shoes (there are lots of cobblestoned streets) and suntan lotion for summer and winter vacations. The seasons in Switzerland are varied and all are lovely. Winter beckons the sports enthusiasts with excellent downhill ski slopes, beautifully marked cross-country trails, skating, and curling. Winter is also for those who simply love the charm of picture-book villages wrapped in blankets of snow. Spring is my favorite time of year. Weather in late spring can be absolutely glorious—the meadows are a symphony of color with a profusion of wildflowers, and the mountains still have their winter cap of snow. Summer is the most popular season. The days are usually mild and sunny and the mountain passes are open so you can explore all the isolated mountain villages. Autumn is lovely, with the first snowstorms leaving the mountains wearing new bonnets of pristine snow. The trees and vineyards are mellowing in shades of red and gold and the flowers are at their peak of bloom in every window box. There is a hint of winter in the air, except in the Swiss-Italian Lake District where the weather is usually still balmy.