Switzerland holidays can surprise even the most seasoned of travellers. Of course, the mountains are rugged, noble and breathtakingly high. But there are also Alpine meadows to wander, vineyards to visit and lakes to swim. Yes, there are smart streets with watchmakers’ shops and stations where the trains (nearly) always run on time – but there are also tastefully shabby bars and reclaimed industrial districts.
For every timber chalet there’s a head-turning piece of modern design, and for every plate of old-fashioned cheesy heaven there’s an on-trend brunch spot. Many visitors are here for the snow, and headliners such as high-altitude Verbier, glitzy St Moritz and charming Saas Fee are joined by numerous smaller Alpine resorts just waiting to be discovered. Later in the year, wildflowers transform the mountains when hiking, trail-running, mountain-biking and lake swimming take over.
Holidays to Switzerland can encompass a wide range of city experiences, too. Geneva has a lakeside setting and a chic vibe, while Lausanne offers modern art, a buzzing evening scene and a Gothic Old Quarter. Basel is another cultural hotspot, with galleries, festivals and riverside restaurants dotted along cobbled streets. Zurich, meanwhile, mixes a historic centre with cutting-edge clubs and art spaces, many of them in converted factories. Ticino, the Italian-speaking enclave in the south, reveals another side to Switzerland. Here, charming villages perch in valleys, well-dressed locals promenade by picturesque lakes and palm trees provide an unlikely counterpoint to the mountain views. Like so much in this small and utterly unique Alpine nation, the mix feels strangely perfect.
The ski season
From December to April, Switzerland’s ski runs offer everything from beginners’ fun to epic off-piste powder. Just being among these grand snowy peaks is unforgettable.
This legendary festival has hosted some of the biggest names in jazz, rock and world music over the years. It takes place in Montreux in early July.
Turn up the heat with a visit in high summer – the Alps are usually bathed in sunshine, and Switzerland’s lakes are bright and full of life.
See two sides of Zurich
Regularly voted one of the world’s most liveable cities, Zurich’s vibrant cityscape combines atmospheric lanes and churches with trendy warehouse conversions, lively bars and art events.
Go wild in the mountains
Choose the right resort and the right time of year and almost any adventure is possible in the Alps, from rafting and cycling to bombing down black runs on skis.
Laze by the lakes
Italian-speaking Lugano and Locarno in Ticino offer a laidback taste of riviera life, with boat trips, cocktails, atmospheric villages and moreish gelato all on the menu.