All about Switzerland

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Switzerland is a historic country with an enviably scenic position in the heart of the Alps, bordered by France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria and Italy. With so much culture and history, there’s a lot to take in! If you’re planning a trip or just want to know more about this amazing country, we have compiled all the Switzerland information you need to know in one easy to read place.

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Some Swiss geographical facts

First, let’s start with the basics. Here are some geographical facts about Switzerland to give you an idea of the country’s layout, size and features.

Where is Switzerland?

Switzerland is a landlocked European country, sharing borders with France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein.

Highest point in Switzerland

The highest point in Switzerland and the tallest mountain are the same: the Dufourspitze (Dufour Peak) on the Monte Rosa mountain at 4,634m above sea level.

Lowest point in Switzerland

The lowest point is Lake Maggiore at 193m above sea level

Switzerland’s population

Switzerland has a population of around 8.6 million people.

What is the capital of Switzerland?

There is no official capital of Switzerland, but the de facto capital city is Bern. It’s only the fourth most populous city after Zurich, Geneva and Basel.

What are the Swiss cantons?

The country of Switzerland is organised into 26 cantons. Each canton acts as a sovereign territory with its own constitution, deciding on health care, tax, welfare and education individually. They each have their own culture, set of traditions, cuisine and even public holidays. The names of each canton have a two-letter abbreviation (e.g. Zurich = ZH) as well as a coat of arms, both of which feature on car licence plates.

Main Swiss cantons

The canton of Bern (BE) and the Bernese Oberland is home to the de facto capital city of the same name. It’s the second-largest canton in terms of both area and population, with German and French being the main languages. Known for its striking mountain ranges, popular locations in the canton include the traditional resort town of Interlaken and the Bernese Oberland.

Luzern(LU) is another popular Swiss canton. The capital city with the same name offers plenty of exciting things to do. Explore the vibrant and historic old town, Altstadt, or spend some time on the jaw-dropping shores of Lake Lucerne. There’s plenty to do in this German-speaking canton.

Appenzell Ausserrhoden (AR) and Appenzell Innerrhoden (AI), once a single canton, are now two separate regions. The main language for both is German, with Innerrhoden being the smallest canton by population and second smallest by area. Appenzell town is found at the foot of the Alpstein mountains. With a car-free city centre and strikingly beautiful wooden houses, it feels like a fairytale village.

The eastern canton of Graubünden (GR) is famed for amazing Alpine mountain ranges, perfect for lovers of skiing. Graubünden is home to St. Moritz, one of the most well-known resorts in the country. Its main languages are German, Italian and Rumantsch, making it the only canton in the country which speaks Rumantsch.

Ticino (TI) is an Italian-speaking canton in southern Switzerland, bordering with Italy to the south. Known for its Mediterranean climate and Italian-influenced culture, it’s an ever-popular location. Lugano is the place to visit, sitting on the shores of Lake Lugano. Visit in the summer to make the most of the sunshine.

Geneva (GE) and Vaud (VD) in the western region of the country surround the beautiful Lake Geneva. French is the main language down in this lovely corner of the country, and the landscapes are varied from scenes of green to mountain ranges.

The canton of Valais (VS) speaks both French and German and is home to the iconic town of Zermatt. This picturesque resort resides in the shadow of the world-famous Matterhorn mountain!

Some Swiss geographical facts

First, let’s start with the basics. Here are some geographical facts about Switzerland to give you an idea of the country’s layout, size and features.

Where is Switzerland?

Switzerland is a landlocked European country, sharing borders with France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein.

Highest point in Switzerland

The highest point in Switzerland and the tallest mountain are the same: the Dufourspitze (Dufour Peak) on the Monte Rosa mountain at 4,634m above sea level.

Lowest point in Switzerland

The lowest point is Lake Maggiore at 193m above sea level

Switzerland’s population

Switzerland has a population of around 8.6 million people.

What is the capital of Switzerland?

There is no official capital of Switzerland, but the de facto capital city is Bern. It’s only the fourth most populous city after Zurich, Geneva and Basel.

What are the Swiss cantons?

The country of Switzerland is organised into 26 cantons. Each canton acts as a sovereign territory with its own constitution, deciding on health care, tax, welfare and education individually. They each have their own culture, set of traditions, cuisine and even public holidays. The names of each canton have a two-letter abbreviation (e.g. Zurich = ZH) as well as a coat of arms, both of which feature on car licence plates.

Main Swiss cantons

The canton of Bern (BE) and the Bernese Oberland is home to the de facto capital city of the same name. It’s the second-largest canton in terms of both area and population, with German and French being the main languages. Known for its striking mountain ranges, popular locations in the canton include the traditional resort town of Interlaken and the Bernese Oberland.

Luzern(LU) is another popular Swiss canton. The capital city with the same name offers plenty of exciting things to do. Explore the vibrant and historic old town, Altstadt, or spend some time on the jaw-dropping shores of Lake Lucerne. There’s plenty to do in this German-speaking canton.

Appenzell Ausserrhoden (AR) and Appenzell Innerrhoden (AI), once a single canton, are now two separate regions. The main language for both is German, with Innerrhoden being the smallest canton by population and second smallest by area. Appenzell town is found at the foot of the Alpstein mountains. With a car-free city centre and strikingly beautiful wooden houses, it feels like a fairytale village.

The eastern canton of Graubünden (GR) is famed for amazing Alpine mountain ranges, perfect for lovers of skiing. Graubünden is home to St. Moritz, one of the most well-known resorts in the country. Its main languages are German, Italian and Rumantsch, making it the only canton in the country which speaks Rumantsch.

Ticino (TI) is an Italian-speaking canton in southern Switzerland, bordering with Italy to the south. Known for its Mediterranean climate and Italian-influenced culture, it’s an ever-popular location. Lugano is the place to visit, sitting on the shores of Lake Lugano. Visit in the summer to make the most of the sunshine.

Geneva (GE) and Vaud (VD) in the western region of the country surround the beautiful Lake Geneva. French is the main language down in this lovely corner of the country, and the landscapes are varied from scenes of green to mountain ranges.

The canton of Valais (VS) speaks both French and German and is home to the iconic town of Zermatt. This picturesque resort resides in the shadow of the world-famous Matterhorn mountain!

 
What is Switzerland famous for?

From landmarks to exports, there’s a lot of famous things from Switzerland!


This includes:


  • Swiss chocolate - Lindt, Nestlé, Milka, Toblerone...

  • Swiss cheese - Emmental and Gruyère, fondues and raclette

  • Swiss watches - Rolex, Omega, Swatch, TAG Heuer etc.

  • Swiss Army Knives - made since 1897

  • The Alps - the Matterhorn, Jungfrau, Eiger

  • Skiing - at famous resorts like St. Moritz and Zermatt

  • Panoramic trains - such as the Glacier Express and Bernina Express

What is Switzerland famous for?

From landmarks to exports, there’s a lot of famous things from Switzerland!


This includes:


  • Swiss chocolate - Lindt, Nestlé, Milka, Toblerone...

  • Swiss cheese - Emmental and Gruyère, fondues and raclette

  • Swiss watches - Rolex, Omega, Swatch, TAG Heuer etc.

  • Swiss Army Knives - made since 1897

  • The Alps - the Matterhorn, Jungfrau, Eiger

  • Skiing - at famous resorts like St. Moritz and Zermatt

  • Panoramic trains - such as the Glacier Express and Bernina Express

 
Swiss traditions and culture

Switzerland is filled with amazing culture. Many Swiss customs and traditions are unique to the country, from its folk music and alpine life to watchmaking expertise.

Swiss music

Perhaps the country’s most famous musical instrument, the alphorn is quintessentially Swiss. Thanks to folklore and tourism, the rarely-used horn has received a recent revival to become a symbol of the country. Yodelling is another typically-Swiss style of music, originating from the need to call from mountain-to-mountain. This instantly recognisable type of singing is known the world over.

Swiss watchmaking

Swiss watches are renowned for their precise movements and intricate mechanical workings. The industry hit its stride in the 19th century and the country is home to famous watchmakers, including Rolex, Patek Phillip and TAG Heuer.

Life on the Alp

Alpine farming is thought to reach way back to 4,000 BC. Living on the pastures above the treeline has given birth to many a Swiss custom. Alpine cheese, a delicious treat unique to the country, is made from the milk of sheep, cows or goats that graze on the pastures of the Alps. The world-famous Heidi books written by Johnna Spyri helped to romanticise this idyllic, natural life.

Swiss sports

You may not have heard of them, but there are a few sports found only in Switzerland.

Schwingen, Swiss wrestling, started as a way for herdsmen to pass the time. Now there are national Schwingen festivals where would-be champions test their might.

Flag throwing is another traditional Swiss sport, typically accompanied by folk music at festivals. Starting as a tradition, there are now competitions for the title of the finest flag thrower.

Hornussen looks like a combination of golf and baseball, but it’s much more than that. Its history reaches back to the 16th century, originating as a way to get rid of spirits by hitting burning logs down into the valley. In the modern sport, two teams play against each other with wagers often being placed on the outcome by fans and players alike.

Swiss traditions and culture

Switzerland is filled with amazing culture. Many Swiss customs and traditions are unique to the country, from its folk music and alpine life to watchmaking expertise.

Swiss music

Perhaps the country’s most famous musical instrument, the alphorn is quintessentially Swiss. Thanks to folklore and tourism, the rarely-used horn has received a recent revival to become a symbol of the country. Yodelling is another typically-Swiss style of music, originating from the need to call from mountain-to-mountain. This instantly recognisable type of singing is known the world over.

Swiss watchmaking

Swiss watches are renowned for their precise movements and intricate mechanical workings. The industry hit its stride in the 19th century and the country is home to famous watchmakers, including Rolex, Patek Phillip and TAG Heuer.

Life on the Alp

Alpine farming is thought to reach way back to 4,000 BC. Living on the pastures above the treeline has given birth to many a Swiss custom. Alpine cheese, a delicious treat unique to the country, is made from the milk of sheep, cows or goats that graze on the pastures of the Alps. The world-famous Heidi books written by Johnna Spyri helped to romanticise this idyllic, natural life.

Swiss sports

You may not have heard of them, but there are a few sports found only in Switzerland.

Schwingen, Swiss wrestling, started as a way for herdsmen to pass the time. Now there are national Schwingen festivals where would-be champions test their might.

Flag throwing is another traditional Swiss sport, typically accompanied by folk music at festivals. Starting as a tradition, there are now competitions for the title of the finest flag thrower.

Hornussen looks like a combination of golf and baseball, but it’s much more than that. Its history reaches back to the 16th century, originating as a way to get rid of spirits by hitting burning logs down into the valley. In the modern sport, two teams play against each other with wagers often being placed on the outcome by fans and players alike.

 
Switzerland weather

There are no guarantees of course, but the climate is generally moderate with no excessive heat, cold or humidity.

Average Swiss temperature

Spring and Autumn: 8-15°C (46-59°F) Summer: 18-28°C (65-82°F) Winter: -2-7°C (28-45°F) Temperatures do vary considerably at altitude, so we recommend taking something warm if you are planning to explore the mountains during the summer.

Switzerland weather

There are no guarantees of course, but the climate is generally moderate with no excessive heat, cold or humidity.

Average Swiss temperature

Spring and Autumn: 8-15°C (46-59°F) Summer: 18-28°C (65-82°F) Winter: -2-7°C (28-45°F) Temperatures do vary considerably at altitude, so we recommend taking something warm if you are planning to explore the mountains during the summer.

 
What is the currency in Switzerland?

In Switzerland the currency is the Swiss franc, which you may see written as CHF or SFR. The rate of exchange varies but it is generally between 1.2 and 1.3 francs to the pound.

Can you use euros in Switzerland?

Euros are accepted in some places and the exchange rate varies. Popular tourist locations may take euros but it's always best to take Swiss francs with you. 

What is the currency in Switzerland?

In Switzerland the currency is the Swiss franc, which you may see written as CHF or SFR. The rate of exchange varies but it is generally between 1.2 and 1.3 francs to the pound.

Can you use euros in Switzerland?

Euros are accepted in some places and the exchange rate varies. Popular tourist locations may take euros but it's always best to take Swiss francs with you. 

 
What language is spoken in Switzerland?

English is widely used in hotels, restaurants and at tourist locations. There are four official languages in Switzerland: depending on which part of Switzerland you visit, you may hear people speaking French, German, Italian or Rumantsch.

German

63.5% of the population of Switzerland (and 19 of the 26 cantons) speak German. Schwitzerdütsch is a Swiss version of German and is widely used by most German speakers. German is spoken in the Interlaken, Lucerne and St. Moritz resorts.

French

22.5% of the population speak French. This is in the western part of Switzerland, known as the Suisse Romande, with Geneva, Jura, Neuchatel and Vaud speaking French. The cantons of Bern, Fribourg and Valais speak both French and German. Head to Montreux or Villars for French-speaking resorts.

Italian

8.1% of the Swiss population speak Italian, found in Ticino and Graubünden’s southern valleys. Enjoy the dolce vita from the lakeside town of Lugano, an Italian-speaking resort, or visit Locarno on Lake Maggiore.

Rumantsch

Rumantsch is spoken by just 0.5% of the population in certain areas of the Graubünden. Visit Pontresina in Graubünden to experience this unique, Swiss language.

What language is spoken in Switzerland?

English is widely used in hotels, restaurants and at tourist locations. There are four official languages in Switzerland: depending on which part of Switzerland you visit, you may hear people speaking French, German, Italian or Rumantsch.

German

63.5% of the population of Switzerland (and 19 of the 26 cantons) speak German. Schwitzerdütsch is a Swiss version of German and is widely used by most German speakers. German is spoken in the Interlaken, Lucerne and St. Moritz resorts.

French

22.5% of the population speak French. This is in the western part of Switzerland, known as the Suisse Romande, with Geneva, Jura, Neuchatel and Vaud speaking French. The cantons of Bern, Fribourg and Valais speak both French and German. Head to Montreux or Villars for French-speaking resorts.

Italian

8.1% of the Swiss population speak Italian, found in Ticino and Graubünden’s southern valleys. Enjoy the dolce vita from the lakeside town of Lugano, an Italian-speaking resort, or visit Locarno on Lake Maggiore.

Rumantsch

Rumantsch is spoken by just 0.5% of the population in certain areas of the Graubünden. Visit Pontresina in Graubünden to experience this unique, Swiss language.

 
How to get to Switzerland

You can fly from the UK to Zurich, Geneva and Basel airports. Alternatively you can take the train from London via Paris or Strasbourg. Upon arrival, the fantastic transport network allows you to travel onwards to your reosrt. We will provide all the tickets you need along with instructions of where to go and when, to make your Swiss holiday stress-free.

We arrange holidays for people from all over the world, however, if you are travelling to Switzerland from outside the UK, you will need to book your own flights and we'll take care of the rail transfers and hotel bookings for you.

How to get to Switzerland

You can fly from the UK to Zurich, Geneva and Basel airports. Alternatively you can take the train from London via Paris or Strasbourg. Upon arrival, the fantastic transport network allows you to travel onwards to your reosrt. We will provide all the tickets you need along with instructions of where to go and when, to make your Swiss holiday stress-free.

We arrange holidays for people from all over the world, however, if you are travelling to Switzerland from outside the UK, you will need to book your own flights and we'll take care of the rail transfers and hotel bookings for you.

 
Do I need a visa for Switzerland?

British citizens need a full passport to visit Switzerland for the duration of your stay, but a visa is not required. All other nationalities should check this important information with the Swiss Embassy on 0207 616 6000 or visaswiss.uk@vfshelpline.com

Do I need a visa for Switzerland?

British citizens need a full passport to visit Switzerland for the duration of your stay, but a visa is not required. All other nationalities should check this important information with the Swiss Embassy on 0207 616 6000 or visaswiss.uk@vfshelpline.com

 
Things to see and do in Switzerland

The amount of exciting and unforgettable things to see and do in Switzerland is astounding. It's a unique country, filled with awe-inspiring scenery, including glorious mountains, crystal clear lakes and historic achitecture. Whichever region you visit, you're treated to beathtaking views. 

And with such amazing transport links through the country, the possibilities are endless! Take a lake cruise for the day, go for a walk in the mountains, admire the view from an alpine restaurant, travel on a steam train, enjoy a scenic rail day trip over the Alps, marvel at an immense glacier, feel the spray of a waterfall ... or just relax and enjoy being in such a beautiful environment. The choice is yours. 

Explore our list of top excursions for some ideas of what to do on your Swiss holiday. Or explore popular resorts for information on where to stay. Unsure of where to start? Give us a call on 0800 619 1200 and we can give you some personal recommendations. Please double check operating dates for your chosen excursions as well as local weather conditions as this can affect availability.

Things to see and do in Switzerland

The amount of exciting and unforgettable things to see and do in Switzerland is astounding. It's a unique country, filled with awe-inspiring scenery, including glorious mountains, crystal clear lakes and historic achitecture. Whichever region you visit, you're treated to beathtaking views. 

And with such amazing transport links through the country, the possibilities are endless! Take a lake cruise for the day, go for a walk in the mountains, admire the view from an alpine restaurant, travel on a steam train, enjoy a scenic rail day trip over the Alps, marvel at an immense glacier, feel the spray of a waterfall ... or just relax and enjoy being in such a beautiful environment. The choice is yours. 

Explore our list of top excursions for some ideas of what to do on your Swiss holiday. Or explore popular resorts for information on where to stay. Unsure of where to start? Give us a call on 0800 619 1200 and we can give you some personal recommendations. Please double check operating dates for your chosen excursions as well as local weather conditions as this can affect availability.

 
Swiss cuisine

Swiss cuisine is to die for. Switzerland is a foodie’s paradise, with tasty regional dishes and exciting culinary creations found in every part of the country.

One of the most well-known Swiss dishes is cheese fondue. You dip bread cubes into a pot full of melted cheese for amazingly rich flavours. Raclette is another cheesy delight: melted cheese scraped onto a plate with small new potatoes, cold meats and pickles.

Älplermagronen is a gratin made from macaroni, potatoes, cheese and onions with a portion of stewed apple, or go for some delicious rösti - grated, fried potatoes. There’s a Swiss dish for everyone.

Swiss cuisine

Swiss cuisine is to die for. Switzerland is a foodie’s paradise, with tasty regional dishes and exciting culinary creations found in every part of the country.

One of the most well-known Swiss dishes is cheese fondue. You dip bread cubes into a pot full of melted cheese for amazingly rich flavours. Raclette is another cheesy delight: melted cheese scraped onto a plate with small new potatoes, cold meats and pickles.

Älplermagronen is a gratin made from macaroni, potatoes, cheese and onions with a portion of stewed apple, or go for some delicious rösti - grated, fried potatoes. There’s a Swiss dish for everyone.

 
Swiss national holidays

There are many regional holiday dates which are specific to individual cantons, but there are a few Swiss national holidays each year. We in the UK share some of these dates, but there are one or two holidays specific to Switzerland. Swiss national holidays include:

  • New Year's Day
  • Ascension Day (40 days after Easter)
  • Swiss National Day (August 1st)
  • Christmas Day
Swiss national holidays

There are many regional holiday dates which are specific to individual cantons, but there are a few Swiss national holidays each year. We in the UK share some of these dates, but there are one or two holidays specific to Switzerland. Swiss national holidays include:

  • New Year's Day
  • Ascension Day (40 days after Easter)
  • Swiss National Day (August 1st)
  • Christmas Day
 

Request your holiday quotation

Speak to our team today to find out more!

Call us on 0800 619 1200 or email us at info@swissholidayco.com

Switzerland blog

Have a read through the articles in our blog and find inspiration for your next Swiss holiday!

Tailor made Switzerland holidays


Planning your ski holiday

Call 0800 619 1200

  • Airports around the UK
  • 1st or 2nd class rail transfers
  • 3 and 4 star hotel accommodation 
  • Flexible number of nights  
  • Room upgrades
  • Bed & breakfast or half board
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Scenic rail holidays

Ask us about the Swiss scenic rail journeys - a great way of combining resorts to create your own two or multi centre holiday
Glacier Express
Bernina Express
GoldenPass Line
Gotthard Panorama Express

Planning your holiday

Call 0800 619 1200
  • Decide where you would like to stay
  • Choose your scenic journeys
  • 1st or 2nd class rail travel in Switzerland
  • How many nights in each resort
  • Decide on bed & breakfast or half board
  • 3, 4 or 5 star hotel accommodation
  • Plan visits with your Half Fare Card

You may also like to consider adding a scenic river cruise at the start or end of your holiday. Please ask for details. 

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