By Jenna Guarneri
Switzerland is not only known for its unique landscape of some of the highest mountains in Europe, but also for its hills, lakes, rivers and glaciers, picturesque villages and medieval cities. Switzerland is home to 8.1 million people and is surrounded by Austria, Liechtenstein, France, Italy, and Germany. Here are our recommendations of where to go and what to do for a taste of this diverse country and its unforgettable charm.
Chur is the oldest town in Switzerland and has a settlement history of over 5,000 years. The region is most influenced by the German culture and is the primary language. Over the past 20 years, Chur has been renovated continuously and is now free of traffic. Stop by the 800-year-old Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption or pop into the town’s 300 shops for the largest shopping center between Zurich and Milan. While you’re visiting the quaint town, stay at the four-star Romantik Hotel Stern. The 333-year-old historic inn skillfully combines the architecture, hospitality, and comfort of the region. The Romantik Hotel Stern is a culinary focal point of the region thanks to its 14 Gault Millau points. Traditional Engadin and Veltliner recipes are perfectly prepared and combined with modern seasonal dishes on the menu.
Next to the posh town of St. Moritz, you’ll find the picturesque town of Pontresina which offers the best of both worlds; an elegant atmosphere set within a peaceful mountain village. Located at the heart of the town, you’ll promptly notice the magnificent gates and stunning 19th-century façade of the Grand Hotel Kronenhof. The historic monument dating back to 1848 was renovated in 2007 with Alpine-chic rooms, a state-of-the-art wellness complex, and magnificent new common areas. This five-star superior hotel is also a multiple award-winning architectural masterpiece affording sublime views.
The grand hotel lobby leads to smaller rooms with special themes: The Fireplace Lounge and Salon Bleu Room feature stucco ceilings adorned by gold and pastel colors while the Rose Room is embellished with golden walls. The hotel also houses the oldest bowling alley in the country and offers a culinary variety within three distinct restaurants. Be dazzled by The Grand Restaurant found within their neo-baroque ballroom with opulent fresco ceilings and lavish chandeliers. The Kronenhof’s gourmet restaurant, Kronenstübli was awarded 16 Gault Millau points and is set within a radiant wooden parlor offering Italian-Mediterranean and French cooking. The third restaurant, Le Pavillion, offers outdoor seating that takes in the spectacular view of the Val Roseg Glaciers and where guests enjoy traditional Swiss dishes. If the view wasn’t enough to relax you, spend some time at The Kronenhof Spa & Wellness which offers a pool, fitness center and spa rooms which combine into a facility that’s over 21,000 square feet, with floor to ceiling windows offering views of the Alps. There’s also a bio-sauna for women, and an all-gender Finnish sauna.
As Switzerland is famous for its chocolate, be sure to stop by Gianotti’s which has been known for the famed chocolate pralines and nut cakes for over 125 years. The family-owned confectionary is convenient across from the Grand Hotel Kronenhof. Aside from its rich environment, Pontresina is one of the most popular hiking regions in the country. People come to enjoy the high mountain hike from Muottas Muragl to Alp Languard while enjoying postcard views of the Upper Engadine lakes and the Piz Bernina. Glaciers are often a universal attraction during the trail hikes, including the third-longest glacier in the Eastern Alps. As you take the red funicular up the Muottas Muragl, take time for lunch or a drink at Scatla restaurant, with its futuristic-looking cube design made from wood and glass, and breathtaking views of the mountain.
While in Pontresina, visitors often take the Bernina mountain pass that will lead guests to Northern Italy, or they take Switzerland’s famous Glacier Express—one of the most beautiful railway lines in the world with panoramic windows with views of Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch and the Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina Landscapes-- UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Zermatt lies at the foot of the Matterhorn, the most photographed mountain in the world. The vacation destination has preserved its original character with a car-free zone and offers nearly unlimited possibilities as far as excursions are concerned. The region is legendary amongst mountaineers with its 38 mountains. For skiers, there are over 223 miles of ski runs, including a crossover that leads you to the Italian ski region of Breuil-Cervinia. Although the lowlands are warm in the summer, there are skiing areas in high mountain regions where the glaciers also make it possible to ski in summer. During all seasons, visitors enjoy 248 miles of hiking trails, 62 miles of bike trails, and both climbing and high-Alpine tours.
While visiting, stay at the Europe Hotel & Spa which offers alpine-modern architecture with natural materials like wood, stone, and glass. In between your mountain activities, enjoy a drink at the hotel’s bar the Schwarznasenbar which is named and themed after the local black-nosed sheep. The hotel’s spa offers a large Jacuzzi, Finnish sauna, steam bath, organic sauna, multi-sensory shower and a relax area. Also available to guests is an ample local wine selection within the hotel’s wine cellar which focuses offerings on the regional Valaisan wine.
Zermatt offers some of the finest shopping along the Bahnhofstrasse from watches and jewelry to chocolatiers and bakeries. Also found along the main strip, you will find the highest concentration of restaurants. For an Alpine-inspired meal, try the fondue at the restaurant Whymper-Stube. The rustic corner spot offers cheese or meat fondue, raclette, or other local specialties from Switzerland. For a Michelin-starred experience, visit Capri in the award-winning Mont Cervin Palace hotel.
If you’re craving adventure, luxury accommodations, fine cuisine, and knock-your-socks-off mountain views, then Switzerland is certain to fulfill your dreams. Be sure to add it to your bucket list.
For more information on Switzerland, visit myswitzerland.com.