Switzerland has it all. Surrounded by France, Germany, Austria and Italy, Switzerland has taken from each country the best traditions and customs and combined them. From France, the love for wine and food; from Germany and Austria, their perfect organisation; and from Italy, not only the language, the passion for coffee and “dolce”, but also the enthusiasm for art and fashion.
Switzerland has a breathtaking landscape from north to south, where mountains and lakes form the backdrop to exquisite local countryside and quaint towns and villages. Rivers are lined with historic, picturesque cities, as lakes and vineyards seduce and attract millions of visitors from far and wide every year.
Former President of Canton of Geneva, Carlo Lamprecht, is an expert on what to do in Switzerland. Born in beautiful Lugano, he has been living in Geneva for over 55 years. He previously occupied several important presidencies and is today the President of the world-famous “Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève”. As President of the Diplomatic Circle, he has travelled throughout Switzerland to share the cultural heritage and beauty his country has to offer. Here are his tips...
1. Brunch on a farm during Swiss National Day
The Brunch à la ferme every year on 1 August (Swiss National Day) has become more and more popular, and still is the best way to discover local products. A lot of farmers participate in this traditional event to showcase their cheese, yoghurt, sausages and many other products.
After having enjoyed a typical Swiss brunch, you can enjoy listening to local 'Alphorn' music, or visit animals at the farm which is always a crowd pleaser. See the Saint Bernhard dogs or the Valais' black cows donning melodic bells. For more information and to find the closest farm to you www.brunch.ch
Chocolate is part of the Swiss cuisine and culture, where people enjoy it with pride and joy all year round. Mr. Lamprecht visits the famous Genevan chocolatier, Favarger, one of the oldest Chocolatiers in Geneva, established in 1826. Their signature 'Aveline', a combination of chocolate, hazelnuts and almonds, simply melts in your mouth. Available in milk, dark and praline, it is not only instantly recognisable for its packaging, but also for its distinctive flavour: creamy but not heavy, delicate and subtle. Don't miss a visit to the seventh-generation chocolatier's factory.
3. Open wine cellar tastings
If you like wine, you will love the cave ouvertesave ouvertes where local wine producers open their cellars to the public for all-day tastings. This event is popular amongst visitors of different age groups and nationalities, and is a wonderful way to meet new people and, if you time it right, share a glass of wine with the producer himself. You can also try local specialties. In general you get one glass for the day and keep it from one place to the other, travelling by bus or bike. The caves ouvertes take place across Switzerland in spring and autumn.
4. Fireworks at the Geneva Festival
Every summer, Geneva city turns into a big attraction park with a lot of stands to eat around the lake and entertainment for young and old. The highlight of the two week long fun is the well-known fireworks. 60 minutes of pyrotechnics attract over 600,000 people from all over Switzerland and beyond. A relatively unknown display, Geneva's fireworks display is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world: see the sky light up above Lake Geneva, with the stars and music all around, this a truely magnificent event. www.fetesdegeneve.ch
5. Ballenberg: Swiss open-air museum
If you have ever wondered what life on the prairie is like, well wonder no more, because you can experience it at Ballenberg, a Swiss Open-air Museum. This year's focus on farming will let you explore daily life on the farm. You will get to see how farmers and gardeners work the fields the traditional Swiss way, as they demonstrate how food is collected, prepared and stored - all surrounded by the idyllic local countryside and alpine views. www.ballenberg.ch
6. Gruyère, the most beautiful village in western Switzerland
Named by the L'Illustré magazine as western Switzerland's most beautiful village, Gruyère is most famous for its local cheese. See the 8-centuries-old Gruyères Castle, HR Giger Museum's fantastic art, showcasing local Swiss artists old and new, Le Calvaire art gallery, and last but not least, La Maison du Gruyère. Just past the Castle, is where the famous Gruyère AOP is produced. See how the cheese is made according to age-old tradition, and learn about its unique aroma, texture and taste. www.gruyere.com
7. Swiss Wrestling
Over the years, the time-honoured past-time of Swiss Wrestling has become a national sport that enjoys huge popularity and support throughout the country. Under clearly established rules, the formidable méchants, as Switzerland's best wrestlers are named, battle it out in the sand pit to the cheers of an enthusiastic crowd. Log on to www.esv.ch for information on this year's nationwide competitions.
8. GoldenPass, Montreux Oberland Bernois
With the GoldenPass, you can board Switzerland's iconic Belle Epoque train and travel back in time amidst a breathtaking landscape. Admire panoramic view along the Montreux Oberland Bernois route, and enjoy regional specialties with a glass of wine with postcard-perfect views just outside your window. Book your ticket on www.goldenpass.ch
9. Swiss Museum of Transport
This fascinating museum in Lucerne has been attracting both local and international travellers ever since it opened in 1959. The exhibition halls - rail, road, navigation, cableways and many more, will explore the history and development of Switzerland's sophisticated network that has transformed a country with humble beginnings into a prosperous nation today. Buy your ticket online www.verkehrshaus.ch
10. Bern Bear Park
Bears in the middle of the city? Bern's very own Bear Park sprawls 6000msq along the Aare Riverbank to provide a habitable paradise for the adorable (and feared) Finn, Björk, Ursina and friends. Get up close and personal with Bern's favourites mascots, where the first bears can be traced back to 1513. Find out more on www.baerenpark-bern.ch