Scenery Switzerland is hands-down one of the world’s most beautiful countries. A natural magnificence of mountains, lakes and flower-filled meadows is complemented by buxom farmland, tidy chalets and pastel-coloured old towns. A splendid enthusiasm for geraniums and petunias sees colour erupt on public lampposts, window-boxes and promenades alike. Autumn brings yellow vineyards and orange trees, winter reveals snowscapes and icicles. It’s all enough to make heaven look disappointing in comparison.
Culture The Swiss are proud of their heritage and rather old-fashioned. As a result, you’ll find traditions celebrated and festivals everywhere. Among them are the seasonal processions of cows onto alpine meadows, accompanied by clanking bells and costumed farmers; carnival shenanigans and balls in Lucerne; and various pagan winter celebrations featuring masked musicians and mischief. Fireworks and flag-throwing enliven summer, especially on Swiss National Day.
Diversity Switzerland isn’t just an alpine destination. Appenzell features rolling landscapes of cow pastures and orchards, the Jura Mountains are riddled with caves and canyons, and Lake Geneva is pretty with vineyards and villages. Cities features some of Europe’s best museums and contemporary architecture. You can also travel between climatic and linguistic regions: by the time you reach Lake Lugano, citrus and palm trees grow, and the Swiss are speaking Italian.
Food Switzerland has a varied cuisine of tastebud-tingling regional specialties. German-speaking regions have a preference for roasts, hams and dried beef, veal in cream sauce and the fried-potato dish rösti. In Ticino, Italian-style food predominates, while French-speaking Switzerland tempts with lamb, lake fish and sweet-chestnut desserts. And of course, there’s plenty of great cheese, including Emmenthal, Gruyère and Appenzell, plus melted-cheese dishes such as fondue and raclette for winter warming.
Trains Getting about couldn’t be easier. Swiss trains are legendary for their organisation, comfort and punctuality. Even regular routes provide gorgeous scenery, such as Montreux–Geneva along the vine-clad shoreline of Lake Geneva, with its views towards the French Alps, or Montreux–Interlaken via posh ski resort Gstaad for two hours of look-at-me panoramas. Alpine rack railways are even more spectacular; two of the best haul you up Mt Rigi and the spectacular Jungfrau.