So, with that in mind, in this post we are going to dive into some of the “true” Swiss experiences you can easily have while visiting. From food to history, and a little Alpine in between, here are some things you should check out...
Taste the Swiss Cheese
Switzerland is synonymous with chocolate, but what a lot of people don’t realise is the extent to which cheese plays a role in Swiss life. From the most “Swiss” of dishes like cheese fondue and cheese raclette, to the sheer selection of cheese you can get at the supermarket. It is definitely something you should experience while you are here.
The simplest way to do that is, of course, to go out for a cheese fondue, especially if you are in the mountains. The Swiss typically have this after a long day skiing or ski touring, as it’s great when the weather is cold. The same goes for raclette, which is fundamentally small slabs of melted cheese on potatoes.
You have probably heard of Gruyere cheese if you cook a lot. It is one of Switzerland's most popular cheeses and a huge export. And the place where it is made, Gruyere, is stunning hilltop town well where you can experience how the cheese is made. You can also pop into the eye-opening museum and bar of the famous “Alien” movies artist - HR Giger too. Scary if you ask me, but a museum you will never forget.
Explore The History Of Swiss Watches
Another deeply ingrained part of Swiss history is the watch making industry, especially in the French part of the country. It all goes back to the days of the Protestant Reformation, which banned all jewelry except watches, which ultimately accelerated their development in Switzerland.
Depending on which part of the country you are in, there are a number of ways to experience this intriguing and world-dominating industry. Geneva has one of the most famous museums from Patek Philippe. You may not have heard of them, but in the watch world they are very famous.
The area along the Jura mountains is where most of the other manufacturers are. With the most famous town in the area being Le Locle. Even one of Tissot’s models is named after it. There are many watch collections and museums all around this area, as well as a few in the German speaking part like IWC, which is another stunning museum worth visiting. If you want to figure out which one is near where you are traveling, this list of museums and tours is one of the best I have found.
Go Deep Into The Alps
The Swiss love spending time in the mountains, and on summer weekends the trains (and cars) are full of hikers and mountain bikers. In winter, it’s the same, just skiers and snowshoers!
There is even a specific holiday in February called the “Sport Vacation” where many Swiss kids go skiing with their school class. So, the Swiss are exposed to the mountains from a very early age. Which is not to say they all grow up loving it, but you will see far more fit and healthy/sporty people out in the Alps than in most other countries.
So, my recommendation for getting a true taste of the Swiss mountain life - is to get out into the Alps and go hiking. If you can, try an overnight hike and stay in a Swiss mountain hut. There are hundreds of them dotted all around the alps, and you can see them all here. Even if you are in a touristy spot like Lucerne or Zermatt, there is bound to be 5 in the area!
And, the experience is like nothing else you will have here. Sleeping in close quarters, eating with the locals and having a simple, three course meal while on the side of a mountain is like nothing you will ever do again. I try to do it at least once a year, and it is usually one of the best trips I do that year.
Relax In A Swiss Mountain Spa
Taking part in an exhausting two-day hike is not everyone’s cup of tea, I get it. So, if you still want to have a uniquely Swiss experience, why not book yourself into a mountain spa resort.
Switzerland has more spas than you could possibly imagine, so there is definitely lots of choice. However, here are a few I would recommend if you are in the area, and have the budget.
The recently re-built Burgenstock Resort just opposite Lucerne is pure decadence and well outside most people’s budgets. But, if you can manage to save your pennies or get a good deal, the facilities and views are jaw-dropping.
Another option in the Lucerne area, that is more within most people’s budget is the day-spa on Rigi. Simply take the gondola up from Weggis to Rigi Kaltbad, and buy yourself a ticket in one of the best designed spas in the country.
Another area I have been to that has great views, because it is surrounded by mountains, is Leukerbad. It is actually quite close to Zermatt, which is convenient if that is on your itinerary. It’s famous for its spas, which often have outside thermal baths so you can kick back and enjoy the towering alps above you!
Enjoy The Water
Another part of Switzerland that is often ignored by visitors are the lakes and rivers. The locals make full use of their god-given resources, including all the water. You can drink most water for free from the local fountains in towns and cities, and, you can also bath in it too.
Each summer various “baths” open in cities and towns either right on the lakes themselves or on the river banks. You can choose to go to one of these and pay a fee, or if you are more confident in your swimming, you can also dive right into almost anywhere. And you won’t normally be alone, because the locals love it too!
You can also go sailing on many of the lakes, as well as canoeing, kayaking, or even stand-up paddling, which is my favorite. We just take out blow-up boards all over the country, park the car and inflate them. Ten minutes later we are floating on the lake at peace with the world! Of course, you probably won’t have one with you, but on most lakes there are rentals available.
It’s Not All Adrenaline & Yodelling
Experiencing the true Switzerland can actually be quite simple, if you know what to look for. So, hopefully now you have more of an idea of things you should try or seek out on your next trip to this Alpine wonderland!
Anna was born to travel the world having studied languages all her life. Although she has traveled the world, she now calls Switzerland home and spends her time writing about her experiences on her travel blog with her husband.