Switzerland is a vast land with diverse cultures and languages, awe-inspiring natural sights, and historic cities. Mammoth castles, fairytale-like scenes, and mountains that pierce the sky are just a couple of sights the marvelous country is known for. Get ready to wander in Switzerland!
The first city you’ll want to set out to explore is one of the most famous: Zürich. This is Switzerland’s largest city and is actually considered a modern financial powerhouse. Begin your sightseeing in the quaint Old Town, full of charming cobblestone streets and a string of cafes, book shops, and galleries. Make sure to pop into Cabaret Voltaire, a small café, gallery, and salon that is responsible for the beginning of the world-famous Dada art movement. In July 1916, German artist and poet Hugo Ball first read aloud the Dada Manifesto here, introducing the world to the art form. Famous Dadaist group Spiegelgasse even performed their unique poetry here! cabaretvoltaire.ch
Next, head into the Swiss National Museum to catch up on a history lesson. It boasts the most significant collection of Swiss cultural and historical artifacts, with some even dating back to 100,000 B.C.! Over 820,000 artifacts make up quite the collection, and you’ll be able to check out medieval paintings, jewelry, clocks, musical instruments, carriages, armor, and more. There are even a series of period rooms, so you can witness how living spaces changed throughout the years. landesmuseum.ch
Soak in some outstanding views at Uetliberg, a 2,857-foot mountain that is a favorite amongst locals. Take the Uetliberg railway line to enjoy a peaceful ride to the upper station of the mountain. Once you reach it, you can take a pleasant 10-minute walk to arrive at the summit. From there, you’ll be treated to wonderful views of not only Zürich, but also the Black Forest and the famous Swiss Alps in the distance.
Stop for a drink and a challenge at Oepfelchammer, a 200-year-old tavern. The historical property has been everything from a residence for nobles to a convent’s apple storage unit over the last 650 years, but in the 17th century, it was a bakery. The baker who owned it first got permission to start serving drinks in 1801, resulting in its gradual conversion to the restaurant and tavern it is today. It’s known for its beam challenge, or balkenprobe, where guests are encouraged to attempt to hang upside down from a ceiling beam and drink a whole glass of wine without spilling it. If you drink the wine successfully, you get to add your name to a collection of carvings on the wall. oepfelchammer.ch
Set your sights upon Bern, the Swiss capital that’s about an hour drive from Zürich. Bern possesses lots of old world charm that will be sure to captivate you as you tour around town. Walk around the city’s Old Town (yes, Bern also has an Old Town), which is a UNESCO Word Heritage Site thanks to its preservation of medieval style.
Stroll along the lovely streets until you reach The Bern Minster. This medieval church has the highest church spire in all of Switzerland—there are actually 312 steps you need to take to reach the viewing deck, but it’s well worth it! The church was first commissioned in 1421, but wasn’t fully completed until 1893. The detail in the church is magnificent with stained-glass windows, stone figurines, an invaluable set of bells, and artworks like frescoes and sculptures. A visit to Bern isn’t complete without a tour of this beauty. bern.com
Located a short walk away from the grand church is Zytglogge, a medieval clock tower that dates back to 1530. This 800-year-old tower has a huge astrological clock that features a circus of mechanical puppets that appear three minutes before every hour. Watch in awe as characters such as The Fool, The Knight, The Rooster, and more come out to dance and move around, entertaining both locals and tourists alike.
If you’re a science geek, you’ll appreciate the chance to visit Albert Einstein’s former residence! The famous scientist lived in a second floor apartment in Bern from 1903 to 1905, where he completed some of his most famous mathematical work like the groundbreaking special theory of relativity and E=mc2. Inside, you can discover typical period furniture, an exhibition showcasing Einstein’s work, and further information about his life.
Fun fact: When in Bern, you will see images of bears everywhere. It’s the city’s symbol, thanks to the translation of “bern” meaning bear. The city was actually named Bern in 1191 by its founder, Duke Berthold the Fifth, who wanted to name it after the first animal he killed while out on a hunt. That animal turned out to be a bear, and thus, the city of Bern was born. Ever since, the city has adopted the bear as their symbol and you can see it everywhere from the flag to sculptures and even doorknobs. You can also peek at some real live bears at Bärengraben, or bear park. At this 64,583-square-foot enclosure, you can watch as big brown bears waddle around and interact with each other. There’s even a small river, where the bears splash around in the warmer months. baerenpark-bern.ch
Hop in your car and set out on an hour and a half drive to your next target: Lucerne. This city is surrounded by mountains, a gorgeous sparkling lake, and tons of medieval architecture. Your first attraction will be the Chapel Bridge, a covered wooden bridge that was built in 1333 and runs across Reuss River. The stunning bridge is a picturesque spot that’s perfect for daydreaming, photoshoots, or just catching up with friends. It’s also a tourist destination thanks to its 100 or so 17th-century pictures that hang from the roof rafters—they depict patron saints and events from Lucerne’s history.
Another great art piece that depicts some of Lucerne’s history is The Lion of Lucerne, a lion statue that has been carved into the wall of a former sandstone quarry. It’s one of the most renowned sights in the city thanks to the statue’s emotional nature and grand size. The lion appears to be dying from a spear wound, with incredibly sad eyes and a shield next to it that bears the mark of the French monarchy. The statue was actually constructed in 1820 to commemorate the hundreds of Swiss Guards who were massacred during the French Revolution.
Continue onwards until you reach one of the city’s most spectacular sights: The Musegg wall and its nine towers. The 2,624-foot-long wall was built around the year 1400 to protect the city following the Battle of Sempach, in which Leopold III, Duke of Austria, fought against the Old Swiss Confederacy. Part of the wall still partially stands, with four out of the nine towers open to the public. It’s actually considered one of the longest, best-preserved defensive walls in Switzerland. The four towers grant you access to some wonderful views, and in the Zyt tower, you can even spot the oldest clock in Lucerne, which was built in 1535 and still rings hourly.
Lucerne is especially well-known for its close proximity to the surrounding mountains, making it an ideal starting point for the mountain explorers. The first one you’ll want to visit is Mount Titlis, a 10,626-foot-tall mountain that’s one of the most popular attractions in Switzerland thanks to its ski resort, Titlis Engelberg. In February, the average temperature is 36˚F, so you can expect cool winds and snow to welcome you here. Take advantage of all of the snow activities like snow tubing, skiing, and snowshoeing. The ski resort even offers glacier excursions that take you through Titlis’ blue glacier cave. The ice inside is up to 5,000 years old! There’s also the Ice Flyer, a chairlift that allows you to peer into the glacier from above, and the Titlis Rotair gondola, the world’s first-ever fully rotating cable car that provides 360˚ views of the winter wonderland. titlis.ch
Another snowy adventure you’ll want to embark on is the World-Heritage listed Jungfraujoch, a glacier saddle in the Bernese Alps, that connects the two peaks of Mount Jungfrau and Mount Mönch. Jungfraujoch is also known as The Top of Europe as its home to the highest railroad station in the continent at 11,332 feet. Here you will be able to take in some unbelievable views, but if you want to get even higher up, take the elevator to reach the summit of the Sphinx. Jungfraujoch also has much more to enjoy besides just the view. There’s an Ice Palace for you to wander through, which features ice sculptures crafted by various artists; a Snow Fun Park, for all of your snow activity desires; and a Hole in One by Omega, where you can attempt to get a golf ball in the hole with a single stoke while surrounded by snow. jungfrau.ch
The winter wonderland of Switzerland has surely set your heart on fire during this trip. Sure, you adore the beaches of South Florida and the warm days, but it’s always nice to step outside of your comfort zone. Between the snow activities and the astounding sights you’ve encountered, it’s safe to say that Switzerland was a remarkable destination to cross off your bucket list!
By Aaliyah Pasols