At a Glance
When to Go
Due to its central location, Switzerland is easily accessible from just about anywhere in Europe. High-speed trains offer routes to and from surrounding countries, and an extensive road system allows cars and buses to enter. International airports exist in the cities of Zurich, Geneva, and Basel, all serviced by multiple airlines including SWISS. No visitor restrictions apply for stays of up to three months, after which a visa is required.
Thanks to a famously efficient public transportation system by which you can literally set your watch—coupled with well-maintained alpine mountain roads—travel through Switzerland is quite splendid. Outlying towns are accessible by train, bus, or boat, but due to the sparseness of some areas it’s advisable to check timetables beforehand. Cities and towns should be explored on foot or by bicycle—Zurich's bike-rental facilities are conveniently located throughout the city, including the train station—just show your passport, leave a deposit, and borrow a bike for free! In winter, many mountain passes are closed, so drivers should contact Automobile Club der Schweiz before making a journey. Drivers are also required to purchase a tax disc (vignette), costing 40 Swiss Francs ($45 US).
Food and Drink
Nestled among the summer festivals is Swiss National Day on August 1, celebrating the date seven centuries ago when the regions of the area took an oath of allegiance. This foundation of modern-day Switzerland is celebrated vehemently every year, and each region marks the occasion in its own manner, usually with fireworks, bonfires, lavish parades, floats, and music. It is one time you might see the Swiss really letting loose.
Switzerland’s business ethic is offset every summer by a range of festivals. At the forefront is the Montreux Jazz Festival, which pulls in diverse artists from around the world. Set on the waterfront of Lake Geneva, this monthlong festival burgeons every year thanks to its delightful ambience, variety of music, and free entry to all but a few concerts. Lucerne’s Blue Balls Festival draws legends of rock and pop. And for one day, Zurich is transformed into a musical heaven during its famous annual street parade.
What the Locals Know
Simon is a travel writer and freelance journalist flirting with both South America and Europe. He has contributed to the Washington Post, Independent, Yorkshire Post, Colombia Reports and Argentina Independent, among other publications. Simon is a sports nut, and when he is not adventure-seeking he is following his beloved Barnsley Football Club.