From its pristine cities to its stunning mountains, Switzerland is a feast for the eyes
Any list spotlighting the most alluring destinations on the planet will invariably include the charming country of Switzerland.
Nestled in the Alps, Switzerland is home to spectacular mountains, immaculate lakes, thriving cities and diverse culture and is one of the foremost destinations in Europe, and the world. Whether your group is seeking adventure, relaxation or simply want to enjoy world-class raclette, Switzerland has something for everyone. Here are three cities that should be included on any itinerary.
Located in northern Switzerland on the banks of the Rhine River, Basel is renowned for its culture, art and history.
Basel is an excellent walking city and its famous Old Town is perhaps the most ideal spot in town to stretch your legs. Old Town features historic houses, creative fountains and elegant cafes, making it one of the most popular attractions in Switzerland.
Old Town is steeped in history, with its origins dating back more than 2,000 years. As one of the best-preserved old towns in Europe, it offers a glimpse into the city’s medieval past. The narrow, winding streets are lined with excellently preserved buildings, each with its own story to tell. The architecture is diverse and visitors will find a mix of styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. The iconic red sandstone buildings, colorful facades and ornate details create a visually stunning atmosphere.
The Rhine River is another significant attraction in Basel, where groups can enjoy a scenic boat ride or stroll along the riverbank while taking in the breathtaking scenery. Visitors can best explore the city by traversing the multitude of bridges that cross the Rhine River, such as the Mittlere Brücke. Opened in 1226, it is one of the oldest Rhine crossings between Lake Constance and the North Sea.
Basel is home to several museums, including the Kunstmuseum Basel (fine arts museum), which houses the oldest public art collection in the world. Kunstmuseum Basel boasts an impressive collection of more than 19,000 works, including pieces by artists Pablo Picasso, Hans Holbein and Vincent van Gogh.
The Jean Tinguely Museum is also a popular stop, as it contains a permanent exhibition of the creative works of Swiss painter and sculptor Jean Tinguely, one of the most innovative Swiss artists of the 20th century. Tinguely’s kinetic works are on display in a permanent exhibition that showcases a compilation of his art spanning four decades – from early, filigree reliefs to the monumental machine sculptures of the 1980s.
The Markthalle is a must-visit destination for food lovers and those seeking a unique culinary experience. A bustling indoor market that offers a wide variety of food options, the Markthalle sells fresh produce, local delicacies and international flavors. You can find fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese, bread, pastries and more.
When staying in Basel, one of the finest hotel options is the Hotel Schweizerhof Basel, a luxurious 4-star hotel located in the heart of the city. The hotel first opened in 1864 and has since undergone extensive renovations to provide modern amenities while still retaining its historic charm.
Hotel Schweizerhof Basel features spacious and elegantly decorated guest rooms and suites, each equipped with air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and luxurious bedding. The hotel offers a delectable breakfast buffet featuring an assortment of specialties from across the countryside including fresh rolls, croissants, sweet pastries, mild-cured salmon, eggs and crisp-fried bacon. It also has a cozy bar and lounge area, which is open 24 hours and is perfect for relaxing with a drink. The Hotel Schweizerhof Basel is conveniently located a few steps from the main train station and is 15 minutes from the airport, making it an ideal base for exploring Basel.
Residing in central Switzerland, Lucerne is an enchanting destination with charms few cities can match.
Situated on the Reuss River, Lucerne dates from the middle of the 8th century when a Benedictine monastery was built there to honor St. Leodegar. The small settlement officially became the town of Lucerne around 1178. A picturesque gateway, Lucerne is easy to get to and makes a good base for day trips.
One of Lucerne’s most appealing characteristics is its classic bridges, including the Chapel Bridge, a historic covered wooden bridge that spans the Reuss River in the heart of the city. The bridge was built in the first half of the 14th century and is one of the oldest wooden bridges in Europe. Adorned with beautiful paintings, the Chapel Bridge is one of Lucerne’s most popular attractions.
Lake Lucerne, one of Europe’s most awe-inspiring stretches of inland waterways, is 24 miles long and connects 33 villages and towns with a fleet of boats. The lake is surrounded by towering mountains and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Lucerne is a popular starting point for 6,982-foot-high Mt. Pilatus and Mt. Rigi. Mt. Pilatus boasts the world’s steepest cog railway (with a gradient of 48 percent) and has restaurants and hotels at the top. There are 75 miles of hiking trails on 5,895-foot Mt. Rigi, the top of which can be reached by the Rigi Mountain Railway or by an aerial cable car.
Lucerne’s Old Town is a delightful part of the city with narrow, car-free streets displaying well-preserved buildings decorated with fresco paintings. Here, visitors can enjoy quaint plazas, ornate statues, bubbling fountains and shops that sell Swiss chocolate, clothing, jewelry, cameras and watches.
When staying in Lucerne, a popular resting spot is the lovely Hotel Ambassador, which offers quick, convenient 24-hour check-in and comforts that can be expected from a modern city hotel.
Since 1912, the hotel has welcomed guests on the edge of the Old Town of Lucerne, just steps from the lake. It features modern rooms, market-fresh cuisine at the on-site restaurant and an excellent wine selection.
Switzerland’s leading urban center, Zurich is a transportation hub, cultural powerhouse and one of the world’s most livable cities.
The largest city in Switzerland with more than 400,000 inhabitants, Zurich presents a wide range of historical sights. One of the more popular stops is the Swiss National Museum, regarded as one of the outstanding 19th-century constructions of its type. The museum holds an impressive collection of the artworks of Switzerland from its beginnings up to the present day. The collection comprises more than 870,000 objects and is divided into 14 collection groups. Other top cultural attractions in the city are the Zurich Film Festival (late September-early October) and the Zurich Opera House, which has been the home of the Zürich Opera since 1891.
Much of the city’s historic core, with its winding lanes and tall church steeples, is intact and easily walkable. The classic Old Town resides on both sides of the Limmat River. The quaint medieval streets of Old Town are bastions of culture, nightlife and shopping. It’s a fun place to explore, discover inviting restaurants and find quirky, one-of-a-kind shops. Be sure to see the medieval guild houses that represented trade and merchant associations. The east bank’s inviting Niederdorf neighborhood is a cobbled pedestrian zone of alleyways with colorful shops, cafes and restaurants. In the evening, it becomes a vibrant nightlife district.
The Limmat River, which runs through the heart of Zurich, is an excellent place to stroll. Visitors also like to cruise down the Limmat in a long flat boat with a glass roof, giving them a different perspective of Zurich’s impressive architecture.
Be sure to also walk along Lake Zurich. The stunning lake is a must-see attraction, offering panoramic views of the city and the Alps. The crescent-shaped lake curves past wooded peaks of the Pfannenstiel to the east and Albis mountain chain to the west. Take the scenic three-mile promenade along the eastern shore within the Seefeld Quarters. From there, you can view the Uetliberg Mountain and boats crossing the lake.
Take a cruise on Lake Zurich and window-shop on the fashionable, mile-long Bahnhofstrasse, a famous shopping street lined with luxury boutiques, cafes, and restaurants, making it a perfect place to shop, dine and people-watch. Pay a visit to Grossmünster, an iconic church that is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Zurich, which offers incredible views of the city from its tower.
When looking for places to stay in Zurich, the Marktgasse Hotel is an ideal option.
Here, guests can enjoy the benefits of idyllic Old Town while also easily visiting the vibrant center of Zurich. The historical charm of the building, combined with the refined design and modern infrastructure, will impress the contemporary guest of today.
The hotel’s timeless, modern IGNIV bar welcomes you for an aperitif or an after dinner cocktail. Enjoy one of its classic cocktails or let yourself be surprised by one of the hotel’s own creations.
Main photo: Zurich