Switzerland is a beautiful country that is rich in food and culture! There are three regions of Switzerland -- a French, German, and Italian region (however, all of these languages vary a bit from the "traditional" languages, and are known as Swiss French, Swiss German, and Swiss Italian, so it will sound a bit different). In some regions, some speakers will also use Romansh; however, many Swiss also utilize English. Switzerland is a popular tourist destination because of its renowned beauty (the Alps, lakes, and Medieval buildings) and safety (it is one of the safest countries in the world). It is also notable that Switzerland is more expensive than other Western European countries, so make sure to stock up on Swiss Francs (the local currency). Strangely, while Switzerland does not belong to the European Union, it does belong to the Schengen Zone (which will count toward your visa days in the EU/Schengen Zone).
While Bern is the capital of Switzerland, most think of Zurich or Geneva when they hear Switzerland. These cities are worth a visit, as are smaller cities such as Lucerne and Lauterbrunnen and the Swiss Alps. Recently, Kandersteg has become popular due to the mountain "roller coaster" you can ride during the summer months (they had to think of another fun attraction in this Alps town when there wasn't enough snow for skiing!). Whether you are interested in nature, thrilling experiences (like base-jumping, riding the mountain roller coaster, skiing, water rafting, paragliding), big cities, food (especially chocolate!), or architecture, you are sure to find what you are looking for somewhere in Switzerland (but obviously visiting some sort of mountainous town is a must!). Some of the cities offer free entrance to cultural sites, like the city walls in Lucerne, and this helps to offset the high prices of everything else.
There are a lot of accommodation options, including resorts, hotels, camping, guesthouses, and hostels in Switzerland. There is something for every budget. Switzerland hostels tend to be of a regular to high standard. If you are traveling during the peak season (from June to September), it is worth booking in advance, as places book up quickly, and prices tend to go up as the date nears.
Getting around Switzerland is fairly easy, whether you choose a train, bus, or vehicle (or fly into certain airports located in larger cities like Zurich, Geneva, Bern, Basel, and Lugano; Swiss Air serves little chocolates on their airplanes!). Switzerland tends to be well known for its easy access to public transportation, so aside from very small towns that are out of the way, it is easy to get there by train or bus. Remember that similar to the rest of Europe, when using public transportation, especially trains, the further out you book from when you plan to leave, the cheaper it is to get around. You can also select a tour company, as many go through Switzerland, including those like BusAbout and Top Deck that are aimed at younger audiences.
An interesting aside about the country is how paranoid Switzerland is -- they are prepared for war at all times and have one of the most skilled special forces in the world (why do you think the Vatican hires Swiss guards?). Regardless of this, Switzerland is a very safe country with so much to see and do (including eating their famous Swiss chocolate)!
Hi, I'm Kari,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Switzerland hostels. Welcome.
Kandersteg is my favorite village in Switzerland. It is less crowded than Interlaken and seems less commercial. Mountains are close and there are many hiking trails with great views. The tourist office can suggest hikes and/or tell you about earning a gold, silver, or bronze hiking pin by completing six for each level.
The main reasons people come to Zermatt are for the Matterhorn and the skiing. There are great views of the Matterhorn and other mountains from the town (and better views from Kleine Matterhorn and Gornergrat) and most of the skiing is in the difficult range.
I've visited Lauterbrunnen twice and am captivated by this town and its amazing setting. One of my top five favorite natural setting in the world. In the fall the constant sound of the many waterfalls was very serene. In the winter this place was even more beautiful. The second time without the rain I was able to …
OMG Gimmelwald Switzerland is the most beautiful place I have ever been.
Lausanne is a beautiful city, filled with young people, mostly university students. I definitely recommend going there, and the nightlife is fun as well.
I will always have Lucerne in my heart.
Bern is fun to walk around in, there are lots of cute fountains, but the Bear Pits are slightly depressing. I liked the art museum, but after one day I thought that I had seen most of the city.
Switzerland is a place that is not to be missed. Absolutely one of the most beautiful on the planet. Interlaken is the town to visit as most others are boring shopping malls. This place has everything for a really nice rest in between big cities as well as some of the most amazing outdoor activites you could imagine.
Lugano is the best place to go in all of Europe!
Go out on the Marktgasse. Bars close early, so start early. Clubs can be located within reach. Zurich is a great city, enjoy it and be respectful.
I backpacked around Europe for six weeks last year with a friend, and Gryon was by far our favourite place. Even if you plan on staying there a day, you will stay for a week.
Geneva is nice but very upscale. Definitely take the train around the lake to nearby Leysin and stay at the Hiking Sheep. If you get there for a summer celebration, you can watch the fireworks from a cliff looking over the lake.