|Switzerland is a Europe-in-miniature. It embraces all the captivating
contrasts of an entire continent within the borders of a single
country, offering a unique diversity of natural and manmade attractions.
And thanks to the country's compactness and excellent public transport
system, all are so easily accessible to the vacation visitor.
Cosmopolitan and cultural
Switzerland's largest city - but not its capital - is Zurich, located on Lake Zurich. This is also the country's most important
business and financial centre, internationally renowned for its
banking sector. Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse is one of the world's
most attractive shopping streets.
The most cosmopolitan of all Swiss cities is Geneva, located on Lake Geneva in French-language Switzerland. This
is where the world meets. Geneva is the European headquarters
of the United Nations and many other international organizations.
Lake Geneva is the largest lake in Western Europe and also borders
Basel, the second largest city, is the northern gateway to Switzerland
and borders both France and Germany. The city is situated on the
River Rhine, commercially the most important waterway in Europe.
Basel is also acclaimed as "the cultural heart of Switzerland"
(nearly 30 museums).
Berne is Switzerland's captivating capital, seat of the federal government
and parliament. The well-preserved old town - granted World Cultural
Heritage status by UNESCO - is Europe's largest covered shopping
area in a medieval setting.
Lausanne is located on Lake Geneva amid a scenic setting of Alpine peaks
and verdant vineyards. The city is rich in cultural and historical
heritage and hosts many private schools and educational institutes.
In 1995, the Olympic Museum won the "European Museum of the Year" award.
Lucerne is one of Switzerland's most picturesque cities, and a popular
tourist destination. It is located on the lake of the same name.
Major attractions include the 14th century Chapel Bridge (the
oldest wooden bridge in Europe).
The university city of St.Gallen is the "capital" of Eastern Switzerland and a centre of learning
and culture. The Abbey is listed as a World Cultural Heritage.
The Abbey Library is one of the oldest libraries in the Western
world, housing thousands of rare books and manuscripts.
Lugano is the largest city in Italian-language Canton Ticino. Beautifully
situated on Lake Lugano, the city is the cultural, commercial
and touristic centre of Switzerland's southernmost canton. Ticino
is often described as "the sun parlour of Switzerland".
Switzerland's Alpine resorts and summits are some of the most
famous in Europe. Take, for example, the Graubünden resort of St.Moritz (altitude 1856m), internationally-acclaimed as a centre of sport
and fashion. St.Moritz enjoys a sparkling champagne climate and
is the most famous of the Engadine resorts renowned for their
spa tradition and intact Alpine environment.
Several of Switzerland's most attractive resorts are to be found
in Canton Valais, also known as the "Matterhorn State". The majestic Matterhorn
(4478m), which towers above Zermatt, is not Switzerland's highest mountain - but it is certainly
the most famous. Saas Fee boasts the world's highest underground railway, the Metro-Alpin,
operating up to an altitude of 3500 metres.
Queen of the Mountains
Jungfraujoch-Top of Europe
Central Switzerland can claim several spectacular summits. The
Rigi (1800m) has long been known as the "Queen of the Mountains". The
Rigi Railway, inaugurated in 1871, is the oldest mountain railway
in Europe. The cogwheel railway up the Pilatus (2130m) - also constructed well over a century ago - is still
the steepest in the world. And the revolutionary Rotair, the world's
first revolving aerial cableway, will take you up to the Titlis (3020m), Central Switzerland's highest vantage point.
The Bernese Oberland offers two "musts" for mountain enthusiasts. One is the Jungfraujoch, at 3454 metres the highest railway station in Europe. The other
is the Schilthorn (2970m) - superb setting for the James Bond film "On Her Majesty's
Secret Service" - with its revolving restaurant. The Bernese Oberland
is a particularly popular region for family holidays.
Peaks and palms
The Lake Geneva Region is a miniature Switzerland, packed with
scenic surprises. Its cities include Geneva and Lausanne, its
natural attractions Alpine peaks and palms. Lakeside resort Montreux is famous for its jazz festival and Vevey is the venue of one of the world's great wine pageants
- the Fête des Vignerons - staged only a few times every century.
It will be held next in 1999.
SWITZERLAND'S LARGEST CITIES AND THEIR POPULATIONS
PUT YOUR SKILLS TO THE TEST.
Switzerland offers vacation visitors a vast range of leisure-and-pleasure
activities. Hiking, biking, ballooning, golf, skiing, sailing,
horse-riding, curling, paragliding, ice skating, tennis, trekking
- these are just a few of the many sports on offer. You can also
try your skills at such non-sporting activities as wood carving,
weaving, playing the Alphorn or cheesemaking in a mountain dairy.
Or panning for gold in a sparkling stream.