With its soaring Alpine mountains, pretty castles, clear lakes and spectacular scenery, Switzerland is a holiday paradise. This little country is renowned for its banks, the luxury watch-making industry, incredible winter sports, diverse holiday offerings and fabulous food. Shopping is a delight, dining out a treat at a choice of excellent restaurants, and the country’s Alpine wonderland is a haven for skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer months.
Swiss cities like Geneva, Lucerne and Zurich are contemporary and modern with plenty to delight, including charming scenery and historical Old Towns. Swiss cheese and chocolate are world-famous – for a good reason. You can sample these, as well as other delicious dishes, including many that have been influenced by the bordering countries of France, Italy, Austria and Germany.
Why visit Switzerland
- The country boasts many fairytale palaces and castles to explore.
- Its spectacular waterfalls include 72 you can visit in the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
- Switzerland’s Alpine landmark, the Matterhorn Mountain, is magnificent.
- There are many charming smaller towns to explore, like Grindelwald and Interlaken.
- You can enjoy thrilling winter activities in stunning Swiss ski resorts.
- The cities are each unique, beautiful and exciting.
- You haven’t tasted real chocolate until you’ve eaten it in Switzerland.
- You can enjoy many different outdoor sports all year around.
Things to do in Switzerland
Every place you visit in Switzerland has its own charm and plenty of holiday attractions. As a holiday destination, it offers vibrant cities, breathtaking mountain landscapes and a wealth of sights and activities. In fact, there are so many things to do in Switzerland, from outdoor adventures to celebrating fabulous festivals and enjoying delicious cuisine, that you’ll want to return time and again.
Hiking in the summer months is matched only by the unbelievable ski offerings when the mountains are snow-capped. Swiss cities are also great fun to visit. Both Zurich and Geneva are affluent and modern with plenty of nightlife options, excellent restaurants and shops. With their church steeples rising against a backdrop of scenic hills and mountains, the cities’ medieval old towns are also begging to be explored.
What to do in Switzerland
- Take the train to the highest railway station in Europe, Jungfraujoch, for an unprecedented view of the Alps.
- Go skiing in the shade of the mighty Matterhorn.
- Learn how to make cheese in Gruyere.
- Explore fairytale Chillon Castle on Lake Geneva.
- Enjoy a taste of Italy in the Swiss town of Lugano in the Italian-speaking Ticino region.
- Discover history in Switzerland’s medieval capital city, Bern.
- Party in Zurich’s vibrant bars and restaurants after dark.
- Take a boat trip to the spectacular Rhine Falls basin.
- Go on a 4-hour sightseeing journey in the Swiss Alps on the famous Bernina Express train.
- Enjoy a stroll along Zurich’s lakeside promenade.
- Go paragliding in Zermatt.
- Discover the magic of Old Geneva on a walking tour.
Wherever you travel in Switzerland, you’re guaranteed a memorable experience. Thompsons can arrange the perfect Swiss holiday package, tailormade especially for you.
Know before you go...
- Switzerland is a popular year-round destination with hot summers and cold, snowy winters.
- High season in summer is July and August; winter ski season is mid-December, when skiing resorts open, to March.
- The best time to visit the lake areas is from June to September.
- You fly direct from Johannesburg to Zurich: 10 hours, 45 minutes.
- There are regular flights from South Africa to Switzerland.
- South African passport holders require a Schengen visa to enter Switzerland.
- Passports should be valid for at least 3 months after travel.
- Switzerland is on Central European Time, 1 hour behind South Africa during the winter (November to March) and the same time as South Africa in the summer months (last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).
- The official currency is the Swiss Franc (CHF). No other currency is accepted in the country.
- Credit cards are widely accepted and ATMs are prevalent in Switzerland.
- Tipping is an accepted custom in Switzerland. In restaurants, tip 10% of the bill.
- Food is expensive in Switzerland.
- German, French and Italian are the main languages spoken in Switzerland.
- English is also widely spoken.
What must I pack?
- Switzerland's cities are neat and elegant, so it is important to look presentable.
- During the summer, pack lightweight clothing with items that you can layer for chilly evenings.
- If you are visiting during the snowy winter, make sure you bring thermals, a warm coat, boots, scarves, gloves and hats.
- If skiing, check with your ski resort what clothing and equipment you can hire.
- Comfortable walking shoes.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, hat and sunglasses for summer holidays.
- Mini first aid kit and regular prescription medication.
- Hand sanitiser and insect repellent.
- Travel adaptor.
- Switzerland has an excellent transport system that includes (depending on where you visit) trains, trams and ships.
- The most convenient way to get around Switzerland is by train.
- Postauto buses are iconic in Switzerland, and serve cities, suburbs, villages and remote places up in the mountains.
What can I do to be a responsible traveller?
- Wherever possible, buy local food and souvenirs and support local artisans.
- Avoid single-use plastic; rather take fabric shopping bags with you and use refillable water bottles (when local drinking water is available).
- Respect each other's cultures and customs and avoid imposing your beliefs.
- Do not support animal encounters and wildlife activities that are harmful or unethical.
- Switzerland is considered one of the safest destinations in Europe, but it's still wise to be safety-conscious.
- Always have a map (or app) on hand, especially when travelling at night, don’t display cash, use the hotel safe for passports and valuables, and watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers when out and about.
What do I do in an emergency?
- If passports or valuables are stolen, report the theft to the hotel/police immediately.
- Contact the Thompsons Holidays 24-hour care line to assist.
Culture & religion
- Christianity is the dominant religion in Switzerland; either Catholicism or Protestantism are practiced.
- Swiss culture is heavily influenced by its neighbours: France, Germany, and Italy.
- Water in Switzerland is pure and safe to drink. In restaurants, it’s expected to drink bottled water.
- Vaccinations are not currently required but do check with your travel clinic before you go.
- Be aware that hospitals in Switzerland typically require upfront payment in cash or credit card, regardless if you have travel insurance.
- Many public restrooms will charge a small fee to use them, so keep change on hand for this.