Tourist information for north-western Switzerland
Switzerland is one of Europe's most beautiful countries. The mighty
Alpine peaks dominate the whole country, lending a fairy-tale appearance to even
dour cities like Zurich. In the north, away from the mountains, the scenery remains
stunning, with rolling green pastures and chocolate box villages. As well as the
lure of the mountains, Switzerland's cultural diversity lends a distinct character
to its great cities, from French-speaking Geneva to German Bern to Italian Lugano.
The people are famed for their efficiency, their strong sense of independence and
their tradition of neutrality, yet this is combined with a warm welcome for the
many tourists. Although Switzerland is a wonderful winter sports destination, the
lakes, clean air and flower-filled meadows attract visitors throughout the year.
Whether you're looking for the beauties of the mountain lakes, excitement in
the high mountains or lazy walking in the meadows, you'll find it here.
Towns and places of interest in north west Switzerland:
Northwest Switzerland contains some of the most spectacular scenery in the country
as well as the major industrial centres. Straddling the border between France, Switzerland
and Germany is Basel. German is the language of the larger part of the city,
which is in Switzerland. Situated on the Rhine, Basel is a major trade and financial
centre, offers excellent shopping, an abundance of good museums, a lively night
life and a peaceful pedestrianised old town which gives a real hint of bygone times.
If you're in the area the day after Ash Wednesday experience the Fasnacht, Basel's
noisy and exuberant carnival. This cosmopolitan city deserves a day or two minimum
stay and a good guide book.
Between Basel and Neuchatel are the northern Jura mountains. This relatively
undiscovered region of pine forests, lush pastures and deep rocky valleys is also
the centre of the Swiss watchmaking industry. Visit the International Clock Museum
in La Chaux-de-Fonds. The whole area is well known for its superb cross-country
skiing, the main towns being Saignelegier, and St-Ursanne and Porrentruy
which both have well preserved medieval centres. Delemont is on the northern
fringe of the mountains and French is spoken here. As well as cross country skiing,
the Jura offers a vast area for walking, biking and horse riding.
Bern is the federal capital of Switzerland, but is a small scale city with
beautifully preserved buildings and city walls. It's a rather serious city,
with cuisine to match. A very attractive city set along the banks of the river Aare,
the old town is criss-crossed with sandstone arcades housing all sorts of shops,
restaurants and stubli (pubs). The town also boasts many colourful fountains decked
with flowers, and several excellent museums and galleries. The portal to the cathedral
is an astonishing representation of the Last Judgement featuring 234 carved figures.
Around Bern is the Emmental region, home to the famous cheese, and well worth
exploring for its rolling green farmland, ideal for cycling.
This part of Switzerland is perhaps best known for the Alps of the Bernese Oberland.
Stunning views of these can be had as you journey south through the Emmental, until
you approach the mountains themselves. Its easy to see why this is the most visited
part of Switzerland. Dominated by the spectacular peaks of the Eiger and
the Jungfrau, the area contains the world class winter sports resorts of
Gstaad, Adelboden, Kandersteg, Wengen and Grindelwald.
In summer these resorts represent everyone's idea of the chocolate box scenery
of Switzerland. In summer and winter every activity associated with mountains can
be found here, and the clockwork efficiency of the many mountain railways, cable
cars and lifts make getting around just a matter of familiarising yourself with
Take a break from the mountains and relax in Interlaken, the attractive Victorian
town between the lakes of Brienzersee and Thunersee, and stroll amongst
its floral gardens, with the Alps of the Bernese Oberland as a spectacular backdrop.
Luzern (Lucerne) is a busy university town at the western end of Lake Luzern,
correctly known as Vierwaldstattersee, the lake of the four forest states. From
here steamers set out for the other towns on the lake, perhaps the most spectacular
in Switzerland. Luzern is famous for its two covered bridges decorated with medieval
paintings, but also boasts a good castle, excellent modern shops, museums and galleries.
Right in the centre of town is the Alpine gardens with a recreation of prehistoric
times, and a kilometre walk along the lakeside is the Transport Museum, a must for
boys (and girls) of all ages.