Hey Dopers, I need your help. My wife really wants to take a trip to Switzerland this Spring (late May/early June) and I am looking for recommendations for cool/unique/off-the-beaten-path places to go and see. Skip the obvious tourist-y things (not that we won’t do those, necessarily, but that we can figure those out without wasting your time).
As an example of the kind of thing I am looking for: we took a trip to Ireland about 8 years ago and visited Skellig Michael. It’s an uninhabited (except for a research station) island off the southwest coast. Only a few dozen people per day are allowed on and there are ancient beehive huts at the top of hundreds of stone stairs put in centuries ago. It was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of awesome sight.
Whattya got for me like that in Switzerland? I’ll also take sights like that that might be nearby in northern Italy or the South of France. Thanks in advance for your help!
A lot of the mountains in Switzerland have public trails that make for excellent hiking. Last time I was in Zurich I took one of the trams to the end of the line and just started walking uphill. I ended up on a path through the mountains to a beautiful clearing overlooking the whole city.
It’s hard to say what is touristy and what isn’t. I agree with the statement above that the hiking trails in Switzerland are fantastic. You really get great views without having to expend too much effort. I literally saw a guy in a wheelchair on the trail.
But the alps are pretty touristy, I think.
We did, however, on a different hike wind up ‘off the beaten path.’ I’m pretty sure we stuck to the trail, but the trail led to a farm. We had to traverse a field of cows! That was unique IMO.
The advice I was given was to be flexible when touring the Alps. The views are strongly weather dependent. My Swiss advisor told me to leave my options open and then choose where to go based on weather. I’m a planner, so I kind of followed his advice. I made a reservation but left a day open on the front so I could cancel if the weather was bad.
I took a Chocolate Train ride in Montreux. That was super touristy (I guess, since I was a tourist!), but very fun.
Less touristy things would be to eschew Fondue and embrace Raclette. Pickles and Cheese! Who knew?! The Swiss, that’s who.
This is absolutely recommended - try and book a buildings tour and not just a surface visit. I was lucky enough to go down into the LHC tunnel when it was closed for maintenance in 2011, and it was a truly amazing experience.
Montreaux in general is fun - the whole of the lake shore between Geneva and Vevey has lots of little gems. I’ve particularly enjoyed Chillon Castle, as well as a trip to the salt mines in Bex. Lausanne is also a lovely city to walk around in, with lots of green space and a lovely cathedral.
If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I can strongly recommend a visit to the Reichenbach Falls and the Sherlock Holmes museum in Meiringen
My SO is Swiss, and I’ll try to get some more information from her this evening. She suggested looking at www.myswitzerland.com as a useful starting place, but that might have largely touristy things listed. She did suggest getting off the beaten track if possible and heading up into mountain villages - I’ll try to get some specific suggestions.
In my experience, if you like outdoor activities, Switzerland is a fantastic place to visit in summer. The hiking is excellent, and trails and well-marked and maps are easy to get hold of in paper or digital form. Lots of mountains also have extensive biking trails, and there’s nothing quite like using a cable car to get up and then riding back down - though some might consider that cheating.
I spent some time there a few years ago, doing research in the Rudolf Steiner Archive, located just next to the main building. The whole surrounding area is delightfully odd, what with the unique architecture and the food and whatnot.
There’s also the Löwendenkmal, which Mark Twain supposedly called the “saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world.”
These are fantastic suggestions! I can’t believe I didn’t think of Reichenbach Falls, that’s going on the MUST list. CERN is also a unique idea that I never would have thought of. The Jungfrau railway sounds great. The salt mines look a little too touristy, but I’m intrigued nonetheless. Not sure if I can get my wife to go into a mine, though
I’m still looking at some of the other suggestions, thanks to all!
I go to Switzerland skiing every winter and hiking every summer.
I don’t know how far out of your way it will be, but there’s some spectacular walking to be had in the mountains of the Valais canton. You could take a train to Sion from Geneva or Laussane and then either head north to Crans-Montana or Ayent or south to Verbier or Haute Nendaz.
Both sides of the valley have mountain paths that follow the irrigation channels (bisse) that feed the valley below. These have a gentle gradient.
If you want some idea of how spectacular the paths and scenery are, do a Google image search for Bisse du Roh or Bisse Milieu.
If you need accommodation we rent out our apartment in the mountians at very reasonable rates
Does it have to be Switzerland? I go to Austria every summer and winter and I find it ticks most of the outdoor, sporting and cultural boxes that Switzerland does but is much cheaper to stay, eat and entertain yourself.
Many areas in Austria have summer tourist cards that get you into museums, up mountains, on boats and trains for a small up front cost.
This is the card we get. For a 12 day adult card it costs 76 euro and covers 190 attractions. (including Castle Werfen, i.e. “Where Eagles Dare”…“broadsword calling danny boy, broadsword calling danny boy”)
I liked the Falls too.
Interlaken was OK, but not that great (I’m more of a Mountain guy. If you are a Lake guy, then I guess Interlaken is probably more awesome, though lake Geneva is arguably better). If you go the Mountain way, I’d stay in Lauterbrunnen and not in Interlaken. Lauterbrunnen is smaller, but if you are going up to the mountains for hikes, or the falls or Jungfraujoch you might as well stay in Lauterbrunnen and skip the extra train needed to get from Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen each morning and evening.
I second Chillon as well. I wasn’t expecting all that much, but it exceeded expectations.
And get yourself a half-fare card. The trains in Switzerland are awesome, but expensive. Half-fare card makes them reasonable (and works on some boats too).