Vevey, Lake Geneva, West Switzerland.
Switzerland is a little, landlocked country in central West Europe that may conjure up pictures – in those who have never been there – of chocolate, cheese, humourless efficiency, rich folk skiing down impossibly beautiful snowy slopes in winter and sturdy, ageing hikers gamely staggering up impossibly beautiful flowery slopes in summer.
Well, chocolate, cheese and efficiency are certainly a part of Switzerland’s tourist experience and cool attitude occasionally, but otherwise there’s a lot more going on than the stereotypical skiing and hiking.
Many Swiss cities are home to striking, well-preserved ancient architecture, with lively street life, excellent and varied dining possibilities and wild nights. And they’re usually framed by spectacular mountains and huge, tranquil lakes, so urban sightseeing can be as rewarding as the natural side.
Furthermore, activities are neither necessarily expensive nor limited to winter sports and hiking. In fact Switzerland offers a massive range of outdoor options, including cycling on 3, 000 kms of dedicated track, inline skating on 600kms of asphalt, white-water rafting and hang gliding off those monster peaks.
Wellness centres cater to those in need of pampering or therapy, while for the nutters there’s zorbing (rolling down a mountainside in huge transparent ball) or house running (abseiling down tall buildings at high speed). Dull? Nope!
Swiss domestic travel is efficient though probably the most expensive in Europe so get the discounted Swiss Pass.
Just half an hour through the verdant vine terraces of Lavaux from looming, booming Lausanne is tiny and exquisite Vevey – particularly the lengthy and brilliant lakeshore path on a summer’s day.
Zurich, North Switzerland
Zurich offers few major attractions and doesn’t require much more than a day or two. The city is more about minor, quirky sights such as building décor, street plant pots and ambience in the Altstadt district which encompasses the old town on both sides of the River Limmat, east and west.
Berne, Bern, West Switzerland
The old city of Bern, (aka Berne in French) is the country’s diminuitive capital, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a very easy walking tour since the old section comprises no more than a few streets.