Travel Tips Switzerland – What To Do And See
Switzerland is a landlocked country surrounded by Germany, France, Italy and Austria. The country is perhaps best known for the Alps, its perpetual neutrality, Swiss watches and Swiss chocolate, but there’s so much more to this fascinating country.
The country is divided into 4 areas; there is the German-speaking north, the French speaking West, the Italian speaking south and the central area that is very Swiss.
The biggest city in Switzerland is Zürich, which, even though is the most important city culturally and economically, is not the capital. In both 2006 and 2007, Zürich was named city with the best quality of life in the world. There is so much to see and do in the city it would be impossible to list them all, but some of the best include the Grossmünster, the Landesmuseum, Kunsthaus (a major art museum), and the Lake Promenade.
With your car you can visit places outside of Zurich city like Alpamare Waterpark – the biggest indoor water park in Europe, or Atzmannig Theme Park. Or maybe you’d like to see the Rhine Falls – the biggest waterfalls in Europe. They are located 3km south of Schaffhausen about an hours drive north of Zurich.
Switzerland Car Hire Tip: When driving in Switzerland you’ll be driving on the right. Many of the smaller cities and towns might have car free areas in the city centres. In these cases, park outside the centre and then walk into the city.
Winterthur and/or Saint Gallen are within easy reach of Zurich.
Winterthur is a major city about half an hours drive from Zurich. The city has 17 museums and galleries and most of them are definitely worth a visit, including the Swiss Science Centre and the Oskar Reinhart Collection.
Saint Gallen is an attractive town, whose main attraction is the Saint Gallen Stiftsbibliothek, in the Abbey of Saint Gall.
From Zurich you can head north for Basel and south for Lucerne.
Switzerland Car Hire Tip: To drive on the motorway you’ll need a Vignette (sticker) stuck to your windscreen. For 40CHF you can get a Vignette for an entire year.
The city of Basel is around an hours drive from Zurich on the A3. Basel is one of Switzerland’s most beautiful cities. The city sits on the border with both France and Germany; and is part of the Regio TriRhena, which is a region shared between France, Germany and Switzerland, that all share a common heritage. The city is home to the oldest university in the country, the University of Basel founded in 1490. If you are visiting the city during the annual festival of Fasnacht (celebrated all over Switzerland and beyond, but Basel goes all out for it), in 2008 Feb 11-13, you can be sure of a lot of fun but almost no sleep!
Switzerland Car Hire Tip: The roads in Switzerland are generally all excellent. The speed limits are 120km/h on motorways, 80km/h on main roads, and 50km/h inside in towns. If you’re caught speeding, especially within city limits, there are hefty fines. These fines will also track you back to your home country, so best to not speed in the first place.
Lucerne is also about an hours drive south of Zurich. If you choose to visit Lucerne, you’ll not be disappointed. This city was the first to join the Swiss Confederation and is also the setting for the story of William Tell who shot the apple from his son’s head (though William Tell came from Altdorf which is located just across the lake, so why not visit there too). While in Lucerne you can check out the Wasserturm and Kapellbrücke, which together form the most popular landmarks in the city.
Switzerland Car Hire Tip: The legal alcohol limit is 0.5, which is much less than the 0.8 in the UK and Ireland.
From Zurich you can travel to the capital Bern, along the A1. It is about 1.5 hours drive depending on traffic.
Bern the official capital, is the 4th largest city in Switzerland and is the seat of governance for the country. It’s located in the German speaking area of Switzerland. Some of the main attractions for the city include the Bundeshaus Government Buildings, Einsteinhaus, various museums and The Clock Tower near the city centre which has an amazing display of animatronics technology that starts a few minutes before the hour, every hour.
Switzerland Car Hire Tip: Some Mountain Roads can be very narrow and have numerous blind bends, so beep the horn when approaching blind corners.
Continuing on towards Lake Geneva, you’ll finally arrive at Lausanne. This city is located in the French speaking area of Switzerland and is also home to the International Olympic Committee. The city is also home to two major universities so as you can expect the city has a very active nightlife, particularly in the district of Flon. After visiting the Old Town you can visit some of the many museums in the city such as the Collection de l’Art Brut, the Palais de Rumine, the Olympic Museum and the Musée Historique de Lausanne.
Switzerland Car Hire Tip: On a narrow mountain road, buses have right of way at all times. Cars going uphill have priority over cars coming downhill.
Carrying on along the northern shores of Lake Geneva, you’ll eventually arrive at the city of Geneva itself. The city may be smaller than Zurich and not the national capital, but in many ways it’s the international capital. Within the city you should find the headquarters of the Palais des Nations (European branch of the UN), World Health Organization and UNICEF. Some things worth seeing consist of the Jet d’Eau, Cathédrale St-Pierre and any of the many museums which include the Museum of the International Committee of the Red Cross (The Red Cross was founded in Geneva), the International Museum of the Reformation and the Musée ARIANA.
Switzerland Car Hire Tip: GPS devices with radar are banned in Switzerland so it’s best to check what kind of GPS you have before you take to the road.
In 2008, Switzerland, along with Austria, will host the Euro 2008 soccer championships. The cities that will host the games in Switzerland will be Basel, Zurich, Bern and Geneva. The opening ceremony, first match and all of the Swiss group games will be played in Basel.
Enjoy your trip to Switzerland and remember if you’ve any tips for driving in Switzerland or questions about car hire in Greece, just use the comment box below.