SWITZERLAND is home to some cultural treasures that are world famous.
Lucerne’s Chapel Bridge, the annual Montreux Jazz festival, white-season pursuits in St Moritz, the vintage paddle steamers that glide across Lake Lucerne, chocolate and cheese, the Swiss National Park in the Engadine Valley, the Matterhorn, and the train journey to Jungfraujoch.
But there’s seriously more to Switzerland than the sightseeing superstars, with this peaceful country resting at the heart of Europe promising more to explore and encounter than the spots occupying the first few pages of the guidebooks.
Here’s a selection of hidden cultural gems you haven’t heard so much about.
Thun Castle was built high above Lake Thun back in the 13th century witg the vintage stronghold now open to visitors who can peruse exhibits shining a light on the region’s history, right back to the Middle Ages, before taking in lofty views from the tops of the four towers crowning the fortress.
St Galen Abbey
History abounds in scenic St Gallen with the old town’s laneways the place to find the Abbey District that’s home to the Convent of St Gall, boasting a magnificent Baroque cathedral, and a library that not only holds 170,000 historic tomes but an Egyptian mummy that is 2700 years old.
This northern address is more boutique than mega metropolis with the destination celebrated as an enclave where modern urban style meets traditional living. It is a magnet for culture connoisseurs because it boasts more than 40 museums and art galleries inside the city limits.
Lord Bryon and Victor Hugo are just two literary legends to write about this architectural treasure. Chillon Castle, which rests on the edge of Lake Geneva a stone’s throw from Montreux, was once the bastion of the area’s aristocratic clan with 25 buildings flanking three courtyards.
While Switzerland’s biggest city has a picturesque Old Town – the Altstadt lines both banks of the Limmat River below the Grossmunster – it’s the stellar nightlife, super shopping and chic corners of contemporary Zurich West that draw travellers set on experiencing the best of urban style.
Those keen to take in an elevated vista of the Swiss Alps can do no better than following in James Bond’s footsteps to ride the Schilthorn Cableway to the summit of this 2970m peak and look across Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau before indulging in a meal at the revolving restaurant Piz Gloria.
This corner of the country is one of Switzerland’s largest winegrowing regions, with vines planted across hillside terraces that have been an UNESCO site since 2007. Those visiting during the warmer months can ride the Lavaux Express tourist train to wine cellars and traditional pubs.
Switzerland’s “Vacation Village”, positioned near the southern border in the shadows of the Matterhorn, is arguably the country’s outdoor capital with hiking trails winding around the green alpine pastures during the warmer months and ski slopes appearing once the white stuff falls.