Switzerland travel guide

Where to go, what to see: your Switzerland travel guide

Why visit Switzerland?

Switzerland is a small treasure hidden amongst the Alps with idyllic, peaceful mountain scenery, breathtaking panoramas, unspoilt lakes, dark wooden chalets bedecked with flowers, the relaxing sound of cow bells, a warm atmosphere of friendship around a cheese fondue, spotless ski runs, and picturesque, friendly towns, including the capital Bern, Lucerne, Zermatt, and Lugano. Who could imagine such a variety of attractions, ways of life, culture, and traditions in such a small country?

Swiss regional cultures are reflected in its local cuisine; not to be missed are the most traditional cheese dishes (fondue and raclette), rösti (a potato specialty), and geschnetzeltes (a veal dish). Shopping is also a very real experience. Buying Swiss made is synonymous with good quality and of items made to last, including world-renowned watches, woodcarvings from the region of Brienz, embroidery, and fine lace (and) those delectable chocolates…which never last). Switzerland is a little bit of earthbound paradise—come and see it!

Weather and climate in Switzerland

When is the best time to visit Switzerland?

Swiss summers are warm and sunny, often extending well into October. High humidity and frequent thunderstorms are a characteristic of the sub-tropical climate in the south of the country during summer months. Winters are relatively mild, apart from the mountainous regions. Layers are your best option while travelling here. For Alpine areas (year-round) bring warm, practical clothing plus a windbreaker/jacket, socks and cap. Pack appropriate gear if you plan to hike or ski while visiting the Alps.

To help you plan, below are average low and high temperatures for Switzerland.

 

Zurich

 Geneva

 Lucerne

 January

 -2/4°C

 -2/4°C

 -3/3°C

 February

 -2/6°C

 -1/6°C

 -2/4°C

 March

 1/11°C

 2/10°C

 1/9°C

 April

 3/15°C

 4/13°C

 4/13°C

 May

 8/20°C

 8/18°C

 8/18°C

 June

 11/23°C

 11/22°C

 11/21°C

 July

 13/25°C

 13/25°C

 13/23°C

 August

 13/25°C

 13/25°C

 13/23°C

 September

 9/20°C

 11/21°C

 10/19°C

 October

 6/15°C

 6/14°C

 6/14°C

 November

 1/8°C

 2/8°C

 1/7°C

 December

 -1/4°C

 0/5°C

 -2/3°C

 


Switzerland food and fun facts

Food specialities of Switzerland

Bread (over 200 kinds), cheese dishes (fondue and raclette), rösti (a potato specialty), and geschnetzeltes (a veal dish). More regional dishes include Berner Platte (a mixed meat platter), Älpermagronen (a pasta dish from the mountains), saffron risotto, cornmeal polenta accompanied by braised beef, sausages (veal, pork), cured meats and salami; fine wines and fruit brandies.

Fun facts

  • In Switzerland, a new president is elected every year, while seven members of the Swiss Federal Council (Executive branch) are elected every four years. Switzerland is the first and only country to implement a people's rights system of government—also called direct democracy—involving the constitutional initiative (public petitions) and referendum.
  • Switzerland ranks among the top 10 in the world for highest life expectancy.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was founded in 1863 in Geneva, and it is still based there.

Things to consider before visiting Switzerland

How to call Switzerland: Country code

The country code for Switzerland is 41. When calling to Switzerland from overseas, dial your international access code (+44 from the UK), followed by the country code, area code, and phone number.

Switzerland’s currency

The official currency of Switzerland is the Swiss Franc.

Bank hours 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

1 SWISS FRANC (CHF) = 100 Cents

  • Banknote denominations: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 1000 Francs
  • Coin denominations: 5, 10, 20, 50 Cents, 1, 2, 5 Francs

Switzerland has not adopted the Euro. However, Euro banknotes are accepted in most hotels and stores. (If you pay in Euro, the exchange rate is fixed by the outlet, and change is usually given in Swiss Francs).

Switzerland is more cash-oriented than most other European countries. (It is not uncommon to see large denomination CHF 200 and CHF 1000 notes in use). Some establishments do not accept credit cards, so check first before purchasing.

Shopping in Switzerland

The following budget guidelines are just approximate values or starting values for meals and are per person. Actual prices will vary widely by restaurant and city within a country but below are some averages as provided by our experienced personnel.

  • The approximate cost of a soft drink/mineral water/coffee is 3.50-4.50 CHF.
  • An average lunch consisting of a salad or sandwich and a soda or water starts at approximately 15 CHF.
  • Dinner at a mid-range restaurant with dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage starts at
    approximately 40-70 CHF.

Please note that soft drinks and mineral water are often as expensive, if not more expensive than wine or beer.

Shopping specialties: watches, embroidery, fine lace, chocolates.

Counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available; be aware that under local law transactions involving such products may be illegal, and bringing them home may result in confiscation and fines.

Sales tax or VAT (value added tax) is included on price tags. To obtain VAT refunds (which may take up to three months to process), special forms usually have to be stamped by Customs; please ask for a tax-free shopping form with each purchase and follow the instructions for completion. Customs import charges on items shipped home are not included in purchase prices.

When and how much to tip in Switzerland

For restaurant services in Switzerland, a service charge is already included (approximately 15%), but you might round up the check a few Swiss Francs to show appreciation for good service. We recommend 1-2 CHF per person for a modest meal and 5-10 CHF for meals in higher class restaurants. For taxis, round up the fare to the nearest Franc.

Tip hotel staff the equivalent of 1 CHF for room service.

A few small denomination coins will be necessary for restrooms.

Browse our Switzerland tours

39 holidays available

Select when you wish to depart and we will be able to show you all tours and cruises that depart on the day you have selected.

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