And if you (re) discover Switzerland? To explore all facets of the neighboring country, but ultimately misunderstood, nothing like the Grand Tour of Switzerland, a road route of some 1 600 km through four language regions, five Alpine passes eleven sites listed as World Heritage Site UNESCO biospheres two and twenty-two lakes.
Between Ticino, marked dolce vita in the Italian region of Berne-Oberland and its triad of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, tasty region of Fribourg and the majestic peaks of the Valais, the Swiss Riviera and the valleys Jura, or Lucerne and historical landmarks that contrasts and variety!
Towns, villages, monuments, landscapes, many steps that illustrate the many faces of Switzerland, and that will surely amaze you. Here’s a taste …
Jura and Three Lakes
Compared to their nearby Alpine neighbors, the peaks of Jura may seem quite modest. Yet this low mountain hides sumptuous natural sites like the spectacular Creux du Van . Around 5000 BC. BC, man was already installed on the banks of the Jura lakes. A land of history and tradition, so it Jura.
Nestled in one of its valleys lined with dark resinous has invented the legendary absinthe .Some of these wide valleys are still and always country clockwork . Ancestral knowledge that has also shaped the urban planning of the cities of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle , now listed in the UNESCO World Heritage.
Le Creux du Van
To shape the Creux du Van , nature took its time (water, snow and ice have been working for several millennia) but she saw the big picture: open on one flank of the Jura, this “hollow” as a rocky amphitheater that flares over 1 km. Spectacular, really! Especially as its limestone cliffs plunge of 160 m in the valley.
Along the trail, simply protected from the abyss by one of those typical dry stone walls of the pastures of the Jura, is revealed, as long as the sun is to the game, a wonderful view over Lake Neuchâtel and the Alps.
At the foot of the cliffs, in the scree, often point the horns of deer, chamois and ibex. And all the circus of the bottom springs a source whose water temperatures barely exceed 4 ° C, whatever the time of year. ideal temperature for a trouble absinthe, another specialty of the Val-de-Travers?
Berne – Bernese Oberland
A mosaic of landscapes … The formula is worn? Yet it is perfectly suited to this vast territory whose form could (with a hint of imagination!) Remember that the skin of the bear to its image.
In the center, Berne , city created in 1191 by the Zähringen. A capital city (and the headquarters of the Swiss Confederation since 1848) that has survived the centuries unscathed, now a rich heritage that earned him to be classified by UNESCO.
To the east, almost to the gates of the city, lies the pleasant and almost timeless valley of Emmental , which is manufactured the famous cheese of the same name. South, overlooking the glittering glaciers as roaring waterfalls, link the peaks of the Bernese Oberland , the three inseparable (and world famous) Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau . It is almost essential to climb the slopes by train to the highest railway station in Europe at 3454 m altitude .
Other superb sites to discover, water lakes Brienz and Thun by boat, two lakes among the … 800 numbered in the area!
The Bernese Oberland, it is also hamlets and villages rich in heritage and local traditions, discover randomly pastures or in the valleys. Moreover, impossible to draw a portrait of this region without mentioning another of these jewels, the famous resort of Gstaad , where luxury boutiques and lavish chalets stars did not erase centuries of alpine authenticity.
The Old City of Berne
If we are to believe the legend, in 1191, Berchtold V, Duke of Zähringen, had decided to give this newly founded named after the first animal he would meet on site city. It could have been another frog fable. It was a bear, Bär in German, which gave Bärn and Bern (with a final “e” in French).
Today, this bear always features prominently on the arms of the city. A silhouette of the animal also guess on the packages of the famous Toblerone chocolate bar produced in Berne since the early twentieth century. And it seems unthinkable to go into town without greet plantigrades flesh and bones Bear Park ( Bärenpark ).
Do not imagine as far as the Bernese are bears. Quite the contrary! You can enjoy their hospitality (and discovering that Berne is a city famed and more) throughout this row of seats (the Waisenhausplatz in Bärenplatz ) as the Bernese call Die Front .
Multiple terraces you’ll tend their chairs to eat chips with curry or a drink, casting a casual glance (if interested) to a part of giant chess in progress. At one corner of the Bärenplatz stands the Federal Palace ( Bundeshaus ), to visit to understand how this state of 26 cantons, symbolized by so many fountains in front of the building.
Then, once crossed the Clock Tower ( Zytglogge ), ancient gate of the ramparts and oldest monument in Berne (1220), you will see how, since the Middle Ages nestled in a loop of the Aare River, the old city has kept look great. No wonder it recognized ” the site UNESCO World Heritage ” since 1983.
The arches of the wide, cobbled Marktgasse , lined with elegant windows extend over not less than 6 km. At the foot of these arcades nestle many small caves that are home to bars, shops, theaters or cinema. And walking on the pavement, you meet many colorful fountains topped with statues and Renaissance centuries old houses perfectly aligned. Behind the facade of one posed at No. 49, a certain Albert Einstein wrote nothing less than the theory of relativity and the equivalence law of matter and energy (E = mc2, of course!). This apartment with a modest (but awesome although he struggled to get the ferry!) Official will visit today.
As in two steps, visit the Saint-Vincent Cathedral ( Berner Münster ) whose steeple accumulates records: highest 100m battery, the highest in Switzerland, home to the heaviest (with its ton and a half) bell of the country. From there, the beautiful view of the Old City gives only one desire: to plunge into its streets and alleys.
And push to the Museum of Fine Arts ( Kunstmuseum ) for an appointment with artistic Courbet, Cezanne, Monet, Picabia, Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Kandinsky, Giacometti and many others …
The villages of Gstaad and Saanen
Gstaad ? Thanks to the tabloids, everyone knows that some international stars have a chalet in the ski resort which, although a bit posh with prices more zeros in some shop windows, has a certain charm ( a certain charm, even!).
Saanen , its closest neighbor, common historical (which depends garlic owers Gstaad), has retained much of its authenticity with many old cottages (the fifteenth to seventeenth century) with painted woodwork, sometimes Bible verses in Gothic letters. Under its unmistakable bell tower covered with these wooden boards called tavillons, St. Maurice church houses also in his amazing choir frescoes depict St. Maurice life. Its exceptional acoustics allows it to host classical concerts in the Menuhin Festival (mid-July to early September) .
Lucerne – Lake Lucerne
Lucerne looks just like the postcards that illustrate it … If not that many historical monuments (beginning with the Chapel Bridge) are side by side with cultural facilities pioneering as concert hall.
Lucerne is placed at the edge of Lake Lucerne , the shores are also home – as the name suggests – the small cantons which have concluded the first federal alliance. The land of William Tell, the primitive Switzerland.
The Alps also come to die at the foot of the old city with some of the emblematic summits of the corner is gained via means of transport that accumulate records.
The Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke)
Thrown across the river from 1333 is the oldest and, after the one in Bad Säckingen, the longest covered wooden bridge in Europe , although it has been shortened by five times, from 1741 to 1898.
The Chapel Bridge was originally decorated with 112 paintings on wood of the seventeenth century, hung in the triangles formed by the beams of the roof. They illustrate the history of Lucerne and the lives of Saint Léger and Saint Maurice, the owners of the city. In August 1993, a fire destroyed the bridge and consumed most original paintings.
Rebuilt in record time (8 months), the book has certainly found his form of old, but it will take several decades for the wood patina. And if thirty original paintings are exhibited again (the cycle dedicated to Saint Maurice), for others, remain just empty spaces blackened by the flames … The site has retained a real magic.
Everything south of the Alps, beyond the neck (or the longest road tunnel in the world …) Gotthard, the Ticino is the Swiss version of “dolce vita”, the only Swiss canton where Italian is the only official language .
Splendid Ticino which, in the same sunny day, you can pass sparkling glaciers to palm the shores of Lake Maggiore . Ticino, this can also be an authentic cappuccino on the Piazza Grande in Locarno , a simple but delicious stop in a small grotto , these typical local restaurants lost in the valleys, a window shopping session in Lugano or a hike in the hills of the Mendrisiottoregion, which, in this year 2015, will be only an hour drive from the universal Exposition of Milan.
The three castles of Bellinzona
Bellinzona docks at the foot of the Gotthard. A strategic position that earned this little town already very Mediterranean with its pastel piazzas to be superbly fortified with three castles, built between the thirteenth and fifteenth century.
The most beautiful is undoubtedly the Castello Montebello . Behind the drawbridge and the double enclosure, the central tower houses the Museo Civico Archeologico e . The Castelgrande, flanked by two towers of 28 m, is he, the seat of the Museo Archeologico e storico artisticowith a superb set of wood Renaissance frescoes.
Finally, it will increase to the Castello di Sasso Corbaro , which stands at 230 meters above the city and which really we hardly believe that six months were enough to build … This “remarkable set of defensive end structure medieval a key strategic Alpine pass “is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Lugano, side heights
Lugano has its feet in the water of the lake and head in the clouds. The San Salvatore , also called “sugar loaf” rises majestically above the city, so Rio Alps. East side, the Monte Brè (925 m is one of the sunniest mountains in Switzerland. Since 1912, a funicular nice part in his assault from Cassarate to a hard to match panorama.
Fribourg and its region
The region Freiburg has only belatedly and quietly its industrial revolution. So it was a chance for the visitor, who will discover nature here certainly grown but amazingly preserved, and cities, towns and other villages that seem still living in the Middle Ages.
As Gruyères , nestled at the foot of the castle, which has, without question, one of the most beautiful villages of Switzerland. As Morat and Estavayer-le-Lac on the banks of what may be called the “Fribourg Riviera”. Or like Fribourg , finally, capital and economic center of the township, including the Old City has been beautifully preserved.
Territory rich in heritage, Fribourg region has just as much sense of celebration : in great popular demonstrations like Désalpe when, in the fall, beautifully flowered cows leave the mountain pastures. The heart of Fribourg then vibrates for Bénichon , which marks the end of the heavy work in the fields, and whose traditional menu can include up to 14 dishes.
The Fribourg (colloquially called Dzodzets ) wish above all to preserve the taste of local products: the cheese Gruyère PDO, of course, but also those of the cuchaule the Bénichon mustard, smoked ham to terminal , pears Botzi, meringues with double cream, cream which also enters in the composition of delicious cream cake Vully. This Mont-Vully whose buoyant hills greet the smallest vineyard in Switzerland.
Nicely perched on a hill at the mouth of the Intyamon valley which hides beautiful old villages like Grandvillard or Lessoc, the former capital of the Counts of Gruyères, who ruled the area until 1554, has, it either, lost none of its luster. The village is rightly considered one of the finest in Switzerland with its cobbled streets and always lined with elegant medieval houses that gently climbs to the old count’s castle sitting there since the twelfth century.
If the dungeon is a century old less (XIII century), the castle that we visit today was enlarged in the fifteenth century. After (or before, up to you!) Visiting the castle, we can push the door of two amazing museums, one dedicated to Hans Ruedi Giger , multitalented artist, inventor of the creature from the movie Alien including another Tibetan Buddhism with an impressive collection of exhibits, some very old.
Gruyère and, of course, gave the seventeenth century since its name to a famous cheese made in the Alps since at least ancient times. Gruyère on which you learn almost everything in thePringy cheese factory , one of the first established in Switzerland in 1969, or by climbing up the mountain dairy of Moléson, dating her seventeenth s and still made, as formerly, cheese on a wood fire.
Finally, for a more authentic experience, the Cheese dairy path allows knocking randomly on the door of a mountain farm.
This lovely medieval town, founded in the twelfth century by the Duke of Zähringen Berthold, sits serenely on a hill overlooking one of the banks of the lake of the same name. Situated on a north-south axis of communication linking Rome to Germania, Morat was already present in Roman times as the Muratum . She entered the history of Switzerland in 1476 with the second great defeat of Charles the Bold face the Confederates (Louis XI of allies).
We still crossed the ramparts almost intact through the door of Bern (XVIII century) and the clock (rising by hand since 1778!). Beautiful view of the Main Street ( Hauptgasse ), arcades and facades of the seventeenth and eighteenth s, its banners of yesterday or today, painted or wrought iron, and its cellars entries. On the left, the Französische Kirchgasse leads in no time to the French church, sober little Gothic building of the fifteenth century (stunning views of the lake from the garden). To the right of the door, the Deutsche Kirchgasse leads it (logically for German!), The German church of the fourteenth and eighteenth century, half Gothic, half-baroque pulpit and home to a fifteenth-century carved from a single oak trunk.
Just behind the church, wooden staircases lead to the ramparts and the lovely walkway that offers lovely views over the rooftops of the city or the lake from the highest tower. On the way down, up to the pension coffee Ringmauer, one can see the old clock mechanism (1816) of the lantern of the town hall. The Kreuzgasse then leads to the town hall, the baroque tower, its sixteenth s arcades and open balcony on the lake. Following the Rathausgasse , you reach the castle built in 1255 by Pierre de Savoie. If he does not visit, however, it can enter its courtyard garden.
Everyone knows the unmistakable shape of the Matterhorn and quaint and chic resorts ofZermatt, Crans-Montana, Verbier and Saas-Fee .
But the Valais ( Wallis in German), it is also the upper Rhone valley to which other small valleys tumble, and cottage villages lashed the sides of mountains that burst the ceiling of 4000 m (Valais has 45 peaks at these altitudes!). They are also sparkling glaciers, proud rocks, small towns sizzling under a southern sun already.
The Valais has kept the sense of celebration. And that of the host. So go in small bistros, order a glass of Malvasia or Petite Arvine, and sample the Valais Dried Meat IGP or, of course, squeegee invented here.
Then make some digestive walks: with more than 8000 km of marked trails , everyone can find his way to boot, in undergrowth in the scent of larch, through the vineyards or along the irrigation channels, these amazing irrigation channels in specific altitude Valais.
The Rhone Valley away; the small road, tortuous climbs on the left bank of the Val d’Anniviers, still rich in old mills. Finally, at 1572 m altitude, in a grandiose setting of mountains identified by coniferous forests perfect for hiking, we reached Grimentz , gem of old wood sunburned.
Its historic core has unquestionably among the finest of Valais. A real postcard village with its narrow streets lined with chalets are centuries old and almost flooded with geraniums. We also discover old barns on stilts, the seventeenth century, very clever with their large flat stones that prevent rodents to hoist it.
In the old village of Grimentz, the water is almost everywhere, the bubbling brook that turns the wheel of the mill more disciplined animated fountains. But it is the wine that hides the basement of the proud home bourgeoisiale (1480-1550), in old larch barrels where aging the Glacier Wine – local delicacy dating back to the time of transhumance. Other barrels are stored in three white stone cellars located behind the church.
Modern station, below the village, welcomes the arrival of the famous Grand Raid mountain bike race daunting for calves, which links Verbier to Grimentz.
Abbey of Saint-Maurice
Located in the valley of the young Rhone, on the road leading from Rome to Gaul and Germany by the Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard, the region has seen many legions. Legend says that Maurice, head of the Theban Legion (Christian), there was martyred with all his soldiers for refusing to kill Christians in the late third century. In 515 Sigismund, future King of Burgundy, founded a monastery at the foot of an impressive cliff.
Winning soon as one of the main pilgrimage destinations in the Alps, it gradually accumulates treasures. Forty Augustinian monks still occupy places and teaching in their college is renowned for kilometers around. It is beyond the oldest abbey in Western Europe never ceased to be active: 1500 years in 2015!
With 23 km long and 27 billion tonnes of ice, the Aletsch glacier is the largest glacier in the Alps.It is dominated by 9 peaks over 4000 m. These giants of the Alps can be admired from a succession of viewpoints easily reached by cable car or cable car from the Goms.
The beauty of this panorama has earned the entire region to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And if you want another must view, make a detour to Crans-Montana. Its unique alpine panorama in the world place a powerful white frieze 200 km long.
Vaud – Lake Geneva Region
Posed southwest of Switzerland, entirely francophone, the canton of Vaud (Lake Geneva region) includes the territories of extreme variety in less than an hour, one can go from very alpine atmosphere of the Diablerets (the foot of the highest peak in the canton 3210 m) to the banks already almost Mediterranean in the Swiss Riviera to Vevey or Montreux (and its famous Jazz Festival), even wild pastures of the Jura to the sublime landscape of the Lavaux vineyards , listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site; a Joux valley shaped by fine watchmaking with pleasant family beaches of Yverdon-les-Bains …
Geneva, open to the world
But the demographic center of gravity of the Vaud canton is undoubtedly located on the shores of Lake Geneva . The shores of Europe’s largest alpine lake home to the great Geneva conurbation and the largest population density in the canton of Vaud, around its capital city: Lausanne.
Compared to some German-speaking cantons, this vast urban area is only moderately industrialized, but it makes up for in the service sector, particularly in Lausanne with teaching (the campus is of importance) and advanced medicine (the Hospital university is the largest employer in the city).
A real dynamism that helped install on the shores of Lake Geneva a cosmopolitan population.This also explains the lifestyle that cultivates the canton of Vaud, between intense cultural life and typical gastronomy.
The Olympic Museum in Lausanne
It is a new expanded museum, redesigned and refurbished with digital animations, which reopened its doors in late 2013. Preceded by a park dotted with sculptures of great contemporary artists (such as Niki de Saint Phalle or Calder) on the theme of sport, it also includes an athletics track and a green amphitheater.
The museum is organized on three levels, each of which has a dimension of Olympism. The first explores the history of the Games from antiquity to the present day, passing by Coubertin course of action to revive, then the torch route to the Olympic cities. The second level is devoted to the competitions themselves, between portraits of athletes and equipment – footwear Jesse Owens (1936) and Michael Johnson (! Golden), shirt Michael Phelps, Paralympic skis or bobsleigh team for two Switzerland 1920 (summary!). Images broadcast repeatedly reduced to the emotion of the moment.
The last part of the museum evokes the Olympic spirit through the discovery of Olympic villages, rules, coaching, sports interviews … Did you know that the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924, the Athletes’ menu included half a bottle of wine or beer? It ends with an audiovisual show at 180 ° C with medals. If after all this you do not feel the soul of a champion …