Switzerland Panorama Photo

Guide to Switzerland

Where is Switzerland?

Switzerland is a small landlocked country in Western Europe which is mainly mountainous. It is bordered by Germany to the north, Lichtenstein and Austria to the east, France to the West and Italy to the south. The borders with France and Italy contain some of the best skiing in the world along the Alps Mountains. Switzerland also contains the Central Plateau and the Jura Mountains.

What is Switzerland?

The Swiss Confederation is a Federal Republic which is made up of 26 cantons. Throughout history Switzerland has been a centre of international banking and the country is one of the richest in the world with a very high standard of living.
Meanwhile Switzerland has built up a reputation for being neutral throughout conflicts including the two World Wars. Nevertheless although Switzerland has not fought a war since 1815, Swiss people all have to do a long period of army service to defend the nation if necessary. Today Switzerland is not an EU member after the population overwhelmingly voted in 2001 against it. The Swiss Franc is the national currency. 

Why go to Switzerland?

Switzerland is an incredibly popular tourist destination. It has some of the best alpine scenery and glaciers such as the Aletsch Glacier form the basis for incredible national parks. One of the main attractions of Switzerland is the skiing in the Alps Mountains while the fresh mountain air and clean lakes have drawn people there for the recuperative health reasons. Zurich is home to some of the world’s most prestigious banking and insurance institutions while Geneva is home to the Red Cross and the United Nations. All in all the country is incredibly efficient with an unparalleled public transport system and superb motorways. The Swiss also have a number of charming customs which make rural Switzerland a delight.

Who lives in Switzerland?

7.8 million people live in Switzerland, mainly in the cities of Zurich and Geneva while approximately 600,000 people live in the capital Bern. Switzerland is a very diverse ethnically with Germans making up 65% of the population, French 18%, Italian 10% and Romansch 1%. Accordingly Swiss speak German, French, Italian and Romansch. According to the 2000 census 41.8% of Swiss are Roman Catholic, 35.3% Protestant, Muslim 4.3% while11.1% of people have no religion.

How do you get into Switzerland

Switzerland is not a member of the EU but it is a member of the Schengen agreement. Citizens of the following countries do not need a visa to enter Switzerland: Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Seychelles, Singapore, South Korea, Republic of China, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela.

1) By Air
The main Swiss airports are in Zurich, Geneva and Bern, in that order. There are also international airports in Lugano and Basel. Since the collapse of the national air carrier Swiss Air, SWISS is the new national air carrier. SWISS also does internal flights, along with FlyBaboo and Darwin Airlines. Once you've arrived, our Switzerland car rental service provides access to onward transport.

2) By Land 
It is also possible to find low cost flights into nearby airports in Germany, such as Frankfurt airport, or Italy such as Milan airport, and drive to Switzerland, but this is time consuming. For more information on driving in Switzerland take a look at our Drive Smart Switzerland page. There are high speed trains from France, ICE trains from Germany and night trains to destinations such as Amsterdam. There are buses between Switzerland and various Balkan states while Switzerland is also on the Eurolines bus route.

What to do in Switzerland

Go bar hopping in the capital Zurich which has more nightclubs per capita than anywhere else in Europe.

During the summer relax by the shores of stunning Lake Zurich which is ideal for swimming or sailing.

Enjoy the Alps Mountains in winter and summer for excellent, hiking, cycling and skiing. 

That includes the huge Matterhorn Mountain which has some of the best slopes and climbing challenges in Europe.

What to do in Switzerland

Travel to Geneva on business. This incredibly cosmopolitan city is home to many of the world’s largest organisations.

On your day off take a boat around Lake Geneva and see the huge fountain which spurts water up into the sky up close.

Geneva also has a huge terraced wine growing region called the Lavaux which stretches all the way from Montreux to Lausanne. 

See the carnival in Basel. It begins on the Monday after Ash Wednesday and lasts three days with extravagant festivities.

Go to the Rhine Falls which are considered to be the largest waterfalls in Europe. 

At three and a half thousand metres high Jungfraujoch is known as the top of Europe and this is a quintessentially attractive Swiss village. 


Zurich at Night

Zurich at Night

Rhine Falls

Rhine Falls

Visiting Switzerland?
Check out our Top Ten Things to do?


Quick facts
Government  Fed Rep, with directional system/direct democracy
Prime Minister  
Population  7,785,600
Date Format  
Drives on the  Right
Internet TLD  .ch
Dialling Code  41
Time Zone  CET
Currency  CHF - S₣

Switzerland Public Holidays

Confederation Day
National Day
Assumption Day
Maria Himmelfahrt (Assumption Day)

Niklaus of Flüe Day
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