One Month in Switzerland
Experiencing everything Switzerland has to offer in a month may seem daunting, but it’s sure exhilarating to try. The glitzy ski resorts of Zermatt, St Moritz, and Verbier offer both deep, powdered off-piste areas and pristine corduroy runs. In the summer, journey along Switzerland’s—and Europe’s—highest tram line to reach the iconic Matterhorn, or cut along the dramatic Swiss Alps on the luxury chocolate train, stopping off at the lakeside cities of Montreux and Lausanne.
3920 Zermatt, Switzerland
The five-star Riffelalp Resort, which opened in 1884 and subsequently became a playground for the rich and famous, enjoys an enviable location in the heart of Switzerland’s Gornergrat skiing and hiking district. The setting borders a stone pine forest and is nothing short of enchanting. The hotel itself remains the epitome of luxury. The 65 rooms, five suites, and two apartments are decorated in a rustic-luxe style with wooden walls, elegant sofas and armchairs, and traditional rugs. They also brim with a host of modern conveniences including smart TVs and free Wi-Fi. Most importantly, given the views, most rooms also come with balconies and terraces. Entertainment options are abundant too, with billiards and bowling rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, and a dedicated spa and fitness area.
Denkmalstrasse 4, 6002 Luzern, Switzerland
I was forewarned that this monument to the slain Swiss soldiers killed in France was deeply moving, and that Mark Twain had called it “the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world.” I still wasn’t prepared for how heartwrenching it was. It’s a very short walk from the center of town and is in a beautiful clearing, definitely worth a visit! Thanks to Davina for finding the exact Twain quote!
1636 Broc, Switzerland
Switzerland is, and always will be, synonymous with the finest, smoothest, and above all, most delicious chocolate on earth. No wonder then that the Swiss indulge in this luxury more than any other country in the world. While each town creates its own unique taste of champagne, orange and other cocoa flavors, Zürich-born Teuscher, located on Bahnhofstrasse, is world famous and exports its chocolates to cities around the world, including Beverly Hills and New York. For the full history of Swiss chocolate Maison Cailler in Broc is great and offers a for a fully-interactive, automated tour with the added incentive of a tasting session at the end. The complete experience includes a train journey from Montreux on the Chocolate Train.
Could there be a more glorious setting for a cheese’s origin? These pastures surrounding a hilltop village (Gruyères) crowned with a castle (the Château de Gruyères), happy Swiss cows grazing with views of the Alps all around, producing the milk which, in time, arrives on grocery shelves as cheese around the world, stamped ‘GRUYÈRE’...and there’s a geometric garden in the castle’s courtyard, too.
For blissful trails sounded only by the dongs of cow bells and surrounded by imposing iconic mountains, head to Villars-sur-Ollon in the Vaud Alps. This typical Swiss town, a bustling ski resort during the winter, offers several stunning summer walking trails and a charming glass-roofed train through Gryon and Bex. At the top of the cable car, located in the town center, you can saunter 300km of signposted alpine paths, bustle through wooded mountainsides and gawp at the vast valleys. It’s worthwhile taking a good map to identify the Dents-Du-Midi and, of course, the Mont Blanc massif. The views can become even more spectacular with a paraglyding lesson, many of which are offered in the area and set off near the cable car station.
Switzerland’s mountains are the cornerstone of its beauty, and a great way to take in scenery is by train. The GoldenPass panoramic line allows passengers to gaze through its huge glass windows at the sprawling Alps. The route heads through Montreux, Zweisimmen, Interlaken, and Lucerne, and early reservations can be made for VIP seats alongside the driver. Farther up in the Alps is situated one of the highest train lines in the country. The Bernina Express tour spirals its way through the mountains, nose-dives through tunnels, and shoots along bridges, passing glaciers and quaint villages with the highlight being a UNESCO World Heritage site between Thusis and Tirano.
More so than most places, Switzerland offers serious skiers the chance to fly down unblemished mountainsides—especially in Mürren. The town is blessed with powder-packed bowls that maintain fresh snow for days after a big fall, drawing backcountry fanatics from all over the world. Take the cable car up the Schilthorn to find various opportunities for challenging off-piste skiing. Just to be sure to bring a guide along.
Switzerland’s favorite cold weather libation is a piping hot glass of glühwein, a German-inspired mulled wine infused with the sweet and spicy flavors of cinnamon, clove, and star anise. The best place to enjoy a glass? The Basel Christmas Market, Switzerland’s largest and most charming holiday wonderland. Frequent sips of glühwein along with a fresh baked waffle will fortify you against the cold as you browse hundreds of stalls offering local European and international crafts, gifts, toys, and decorations.
Quai d'Ouchy 1, 1006 Lausanne, Switzerland
Ever wondered what it’s like to race alongside Usain Bolt? Switzerland’s Olympic Museum lets you to sprint against the fastest human on earth...well, his record time anyway. Fresh from a two-year renovation, the highly impressive museum in Lausanne takes you on a trip through the greatest games on earth. Impressive movies, an array of medals, torches and champion’s jerseys fill the multi-floored establishment. Among the highlights is a reaction test, race track, meditation chair, equipment from Olympic greats such as Michael Johnson, Chris Hoy and of course Usain Bolt. Entrance is a reasonable 18CHF (18 dollars) with an audio guide costing 5CHF. Afterwards, warm-down with a meander along the stunning Lake Geneva waterfront.
Expect to be transported back to medieval times during your visit to Château de Chillon. More than 1,000 years old, the beguiling castle has inspired many poetic greats, none more so than Lord Byron, whose poem The Prisoner of Chillon was based on François Bonivard’s imprisonment. Travel across Lake Geneva on a paddle steam boat to arrive at the castle and note that the Rivera Pass, offered by most hotels, grants you half-price admission. Once inside, pick up an audio guide (available in English) and explore everything from cobblestone courtyards and eerie dungeons to secret passageways and castle walls.