Chantal 27 November 2020

Switzerland For First Timers

Is Switzerland on your travel bucket list? If so, congratulations – you’re in for a breath-taking and awe-inspiring vacation that you will surely never forget! While Switzerland is safe and relatively “easy” when it comes to travel, there are a few things to keep in mind when planning your holiday to make the most of each day. That’s why we’ve assembled the questions we hear the most from our travellers, and carefully answered each of them for you. If you have any other questions, or you just want guaranteed peace of mind by letting locally-based travel experts take care of the planning for you, contact us by clicking here.

 

How Many Days Do You Suggest Spending in Switzerland?

You could easily spend months in Switzerland discovering something new every single day. The landscapes, traditions and architecture vary incredibly from one place to the next. For a good overview without rushing, we would recommend to start with 7-10 days.

For such a small country of only 8 million inhabitants, Switzerland is an incredibly diverse country. Travelers tend the whole country to be filled with identical mountains, each complete with their beautiful chalets and iconic cows. But actually, the country varies incredibly from one region to the next when it comes to the traditions, landscapes, people, languages, and even food specialties. You almost feel like you’re visiting many countries in one.  That’s why we have many clients who come back a second (and even third time) to see more of the incredible beauty our little piece of paradise has to offer. And if this is your first time coming to Switzerland and you have a few days to spare, try to fit in at least a couple of regions to really get a good glimpse of what we have to offer.

 

Would You Recommend Switzerland For Families?

Yes! Switzerland is a safe and wonderful destination for families with kids of all ages. You’ll love the infinite number of outdoor activities, the hiking possibilities for all levels, taking a dip in the lake to cool off in the evening, and the “small size” of our cities meaning that they are not overwhelming.Our families also love some of our more remote properties set in the nature. Imagine relaxing and enjoying a drink, while the kids run around freely and safely in the open air.In addition, there are lots of cultural options that are more interactive than the typical museum and guarantee a fun time for the whole family. To name a few, in addition to our 500+ castles, you have the Charlie Chaplin Museum in Vevey, the FIFA museum in Zurich and the Ballenberg Open Air museum in the Berner Oberland: a fascinating and hands-on journey through Switzerland’s 26 cantons and most celebrated know-hows…

For more reasons why Switzerland is the ideal family destination, click here.

 

When Should I Travel to Switzerland?

Our favorite months are definitely June and September, as the landscapes are vibrant, most places tend to be open, the temperatures are just right and there are fewer crowds than in July and August… though you could argue that the latter is only a question of knowing where to go to avoid those crowds! 🙂

If you’re a skier, we recommend February (though availability might be tough with all the school holidays) and beginning of March when the crowds are gone, the sun is out and the snow is (usually) just right.

Do keep in mind that if you’re looking for an alpine escape, the shoulder seasons may limit your options: many hotels in the alps close between April and June, and again between October and early December. On top of that, many cable cars, mountain restaurants also take their yearly break at that time. You won’t be impacted by this if you’re looking more for a city break type of holiday, but if you’re looking to experience the best of the alps, we advise coming between June and September or December and March.

Which Swiss City Should I Visit?

Every city in Switzerland is unique in its architecture, its panoramas, its local specialties and even in its people. Personally speaking, Bern is always high on our list: the UNESCO-protected capital of Switzerland feels like a giant open air museum, with its remarkable facades, cobbled streets, its medieval arcades and historic towers. For those who love local not-so-touristy crafts, this is also your go-to place with the many local independent boutiques that call this city their home. Click here for more reasons why Bern should be on your Swiss bucket list! There is also Zurich, one of Switzerland’s most vibrant and beautiful cities, with its many world-class gourmet restaurants, charming old town and fabulous shopping opportunities. If you don’t feel like moving from one hotel to the next, this is also a great base with a large variety of day trip opportunities. For those who love art and culture, don’t miss a stop in Basel with its 40 museums and picturesque cobbled streets. However, smaller towns are treasures that should not be overlooked. We’re thinking Guarda in Graubunden, Morcote in the Italian-speaking Ticino, Thun in the Berner Oberland, and Vevey on the shores of Lake Geneva… to name a few!

 

Which Airport Should I Land In?

It depends from where you are flying from and the itinerary of your journey. We have a total of seven international airports, but Zürich, Geneva and Basel are the best connected for international flights. While we do not arrange plane tickets, we advocate in most cases that you land in one of these airports and take off in a different one to see more of the country without going in circles. Most often, our travelers land in Zurich and depart in Geneva (or the other way around). Depending on your preferred airline, you can also land in Lyon (France) or Milan (Italy). From there, high speed trains will seamlessly take you to Switzerland within a few hours or we can arrange a private pick up service.

 

Do I Have To Be An Experienced Hiker To Enjoy the Swiss Nature?

Switzerland is certainly one of the most iconic destinations in the world when it comes to nature. Even for us who have lived here pretty much our whole lives, the landscapes just never cease to take our breath away. However, a common misconception we often hear is that you need to be an avid hiker to be able to enjoy these landscapes. Nothing could be further from the truth…

You can enjoy Switzerland’s stunning alps whether you like a good challenge, you want an easy hike, you’re travelling with a stroller, or you don’t want to do any walking at all. We have beautiful trails for all levels. In addition, thanks to our world-class cable cars, you can reach the summit of many impressive peaks, where you’ll also often find a mountain restaurant where you can grab a bite while enjoying the views. And if you do happen to be an experienced hiker, well then you’re in for a very big treat!

Oeschinensee in the Berner Oberland, Switzerland

What Is The Best Way To Get Around Switzerland?

This question very much depends on you, where you’re going and what you’re looking for: If you are open to all solutions, we tend to suggest using a car. It is definitely the best option if you are looking to truly immerse yourself in the heart of Switzerland, with full freedom and flexibility. Plus, you’ll easily access our hidden gems: we’re talking about the jaw-dropping scenic routes, our renowned alpine passes, the secluded points of interest, the unmissable photo stops or the more remote hotels that are absolutely worth experiencing.

Driving in Switzerland is very safe and easy, and the Swiss are generally known to be cautious drivers. However, traveling by train could also be a good solution, particularly if you’re only going from city to city. Our trains are indeed as clean, safe, organized and timely as they have the reputation to be, However, do keep in mind that it is not the most flexible and hassle-free option: it can sometimes take several buses and trains just to get you to that really amazing hike or that “mom and pop” restaurant you can’t leave without trying… and let’s not forget the hassle of luggage for those who are like us and struggle to travel light! 🙂 To help you along the way, you can easily call on taxis, or even better, enjoy day trips with one of our local driver guides to discover more in depth the places you can’t visit via public transport.

To be honest, that’s our favorite option if you want the best of both worlds: to not worry about driving but also visit Switzerland through its backroads. We have the most passionate local driver guides, such as our very own Max, to take care of you from A to Z, mixing in local experiences, uniquely-crafted day tours, and seamlessly transfer you from one hotel to the next. Your only job is to sit back, relax and enjoy the holiday you deserve. For a glimpse at what these day tours have in store for you, head to our sample itinerary!

Keep in mind that whether you self-drive, use public transportation or reserve a private driver guide, we can easily integrate one (or more!) of the numerous mythical and panoramic train rides that Switzerland is internationally acclaimed for, such as Glacier Express, the Bernina or the Golden Pass.

No matter the solution you prefer, we are here to advise you depending on your travel style and your program. Contact us by clicking here to start planning!

 

I’d Love To Enjoy Some Other European Countries While I’m In Switzerland. Can I Do This As A Day Trip?

Absolutely! If you’re staying a few days in Geneva, it’s worthwhile to visit Annecy (the “Venice of France”), Lyon (the French culinary capital), Yvoire (one of France’s most beautiful villages), and the nearby French Alps. If you’re visiting Basel, don’t miss a day trip to stunning Alsace in France, with its rich history, countless high-quality vineyards, and Germanic architecture that will make you feel as if though you’ve stepped into a fairytale book. For those of you who are thinking of enjoying the Dolce Vita of the Italian-speaking Ticino region, you can easily reach Milano and Lake Como. And if you find yourself in the eastern side of the country, why not hop over to Germany on the shores of Lake Constance or perhaps Austria’s beautiful Tyrol alps a little further afield?

For more European da trip ideas, click here.

 

I’m a Foodie. Is Switzerland a Good Destination For Me?

Oh yes… but you’ll have to come and see (or taste) for yourself! We not only have more than 120 Michelin-starred restaurants (which is one of the highest proportion per capita worldwide), but we also have tons of regional and local specialties, both sweet and savory for you to taste. Click here for our selection of restaurants boasting the best views in the country! Another great aspect of Switzerland for food lovers is that despite every region’s strong food identity, we have also been influenced by our gourmet neighbors: France, Germany and Italy being some of the most celebrated ones for gastronomy. And did we mention our wines already? If you’ve never heard of Swiss wine, don’t worry, you’re not the only one: only 2% of our bottles are exported each year. Don’t miss a taste (or ten) of our finest wines along your journey…

Fondue Gstaad Saanenland Switzerland

 

Are There Any Places in Switzerland We Should Avoid?

This is a very subjective question that our travelers ask us almost every time. And we totally get it – the internet is flooded with information, and it’s hard to decipher what’s really true. Astonishingly enough, many of the places that you’ll see over and over again on the “must see in Switzerland” list are those that we tend to least recommend to our clients. Why? Simply because they don’t align with our philosophy of taking you off the beaten track, and immersing you in the true spirit of Switzerland… instead, they’re more the types of places that you take a photo of and tick off your list. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not that these destinations aren’t “worth visiting” per se, as they are beautiful in their own way, which is what brought them so much fame in the first place. It’s more that because these are places that you’ll find all over the internet, they’ve become stained by too many tour buses and have lost their authenticity and genuine Swiss spirit. But don’t worry – depending on what you’re looking for, we’ll be happy to give you our 100% truthful, unbiased opinions, and perhaps instead of staying in these places, you can just visit them as a day trip. Just click here to get started!

 

What is the Swiss Currency and What Are The Methods of Payment?

Many people think we have the Euro here, but it’s actually the Swiss Franc (CHF). Here are some words of wisdom regarding paying in Switzerland:

  • Paying by credit card is common here and a hassle-free solution when travelling. We suggest that you check the fees your bank applies on your purchases in Switzerland and inform them of your trip so that they don’t block your account. That would be an awkward situation to deal with… 🙂
  • Something to keep in mind once you’re here: credit card machines may ask you if you prefer to be billed in your own currency or Swiss Francs. Choose the Swiss Franc, the shop or restaurant may otherwise take their cut to convert your payment into your own currency.
  • It is always important to carry some cash while travelling to be prepared for any eventuality. Bear in mind that some small shops and remote restaurants apply a “cash only” policy.
  • As the Swiss Franc is not a major currency worldwide, we don’t recommend that you buy it in your home country: your bank is most likely to overcharge you for the service of obtaining them. Here are a few tips to best obtain CHF in cash: Before you take off for Switzerland, ask your bank for its money withdrawal conditions in Swiss ATMs and if they have any partner banks here that you should be favoring. You can find ATMs more or less everywhere in Switzerland, as cash payments are still very common and appreciated here. Swiss banks usually offer the best exchange rates to withdraw cash, better and (significantly) cheaper than the foreign currency exchange desks you find in airports or downtown.
  • Last but not least, be careful if your hotel offers to exchange your money: it may not always be in your favor!

Is Switzerland A Costly Destination?

It’s no bank secret that Switzerland is a destination that’s more on the costly side. While our nice hotels do compare to the prices of most places in Europe, what does add is the price of our train tickets,  activities and also food (main courses typically run between CHF 20 – 50). Our smaller boutique hotels do tend to also be pricier than the European average.

But the upside is that you definitely get what you pay for: Switzerland is a country that is generally safe, has a high quality of life, is very clean and everything works like Swiss clockwork…

Swiss Chalet Valais Switzerland

Because your holidays are too precious not to be extraordinary, we at Chantal & Max Switzerland Travel Design save you the time and stress of internet research, and seamlessly connect you to the heart of Switzerland with our bespoke private tours, unbiased local insight and uniquely-crafted experiences. Contact us at info@chantaletmax.com or by clicking herefor your custom-designed luxury vacation to Switzerland that you will never forget!