Having spent most of my travels focusing on more far-flung, not so well-trodden destinations, I finally made it to Europe last year. Visiting places like Lisbon, Venice and Santorini opened my eyes to what the continent has to offer, and I hope to see a lot more of it in the future. One country I’ve always been particularly fascinated by is Switzerland—as much for the cuisine as for the stunning mountain landscapes and culture. In continuation of my discovery of Europe, here are some Swiss delights that all travelers should experience first-hand.
1. La Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory, Broc
Anyone who’s ever eaten Lindt will know that Switzerland is the land of chocolate, so it goes without saying that some sort of chocolate experience should be high up on the list. Cailler (part of the Nestlé group) is one of Switzerland’s largest and oldest chocolate makers, and a visit to their factory is a must if you’re into the sweet stuff. The tour kicks off with an animated multimedia show about the history of chocolate, but the real fun starts with the unguided exploration of the factory and, of course, the tasting. Sampling is pretty much unlimited, so it’s well worth the entry fee.
2. Watch Valley, Jura Arc
Switzerland and luxury watches are pretty much one and the same, and Watch Valley in Jura Arc is a 200km heritage trail dedicated to all things horological. Stretching from the southern Lake Geneva region to Basel in the north, the scenery alone makes it well worth a visit. However, if you do fancy something a bit more cultural to go with the idyllic mountain views, there are countless museums, with the Watch Museum of Le Locle and the International Museum of Horology among the most well-known. True watch enthusiasts can also get hands-on with their favorite brands, with dedicated museums like the Patek Philippe—a brand often described as the Ferrari of the watch world—or the Audemars Piguet museum.
3. The Cheese Train, Montreux
Another one for foodies, the Train du Fromage—or cheese train—is the upmarket way to experience Swiss cheese at its best. Travel first class from Montreux to Château-d’OEx, with wine and cheese (of course) served along the way. First stop is Restaurant Le Chalet, where passengers get a demonstration of traditional cheese-making over an open wood fire—before dipping in to the fondue. Next stop is the folk art museum of Musée du Vieux Pays-d’Enhaut, which moves away from cheese and onto Swiss arts and crafts. This is a fairly mixed-bag tour, but an easy, all-inclusive way to experience authentic Swiss cheese nonetheless.
4. The Castles of Bellinzona, Ticino
Another Unesco World Heritage site, the medieval city of Bellinzona is home to three Lombardic castles dating back to the 13th century—Castelgrande, Castello di Montebello and Castello di Sasso Corbaro. This is another one for classic Swiss scenery, and you can take an organized tour or simply stroll around the old town. If you’re not yet full, go on a Saturday and combine it with a visit to the weekly local market.
5. Zurich Street Parade
Switzerland is not just about spectacular views and artisanal cuisine—it is also home to the world’s largest techno event. The Zurich Street Parade takes place once a year (in the summer) and is the ultimate way to experience Switzerland’s party scene at its best. Hordes of techno lovers dance around the stunning Lake Zurich basin, and with everything from DJs to Love Mobiles, the atmosphere is incredible. If you can plan your visit to coincide with the street parade, it’s well worth checking out this other side to Switzerland.