When you think about Switzerland, there’s a reason why images of stringy fondue, rich chocolate and majestic mountain scenery come to mind. This is because they’re part of an essential list of things you absolutely cannot miss when visiting this magical place.
Follow this guide and get ready to leave Switzerland culturally fulfilled, with a very happy tummy.
1. Feast on the most underrated treat in Switzerland: apricots
The canton of Valais, located in South-West Switzerland, is typically recognised for its snow-capped mountain scenery, traditional wooden chalets and amazing ski scene, yet its summer potential often goes unnoticed. Little do most know that Valais’ summer climate breeds some of the most delicious and vibrant fruit in the world.
Martigny, a district in Valais, is home to an abundance of sun-drenched orchards that sit in glacially carved valleys, enclosed by plummeting mountain ranges (including that of the infamous Matterhorn). Running along the river Rhône the orchards bear apples and pears, with the addition of apricots taking the title for ‘prince of the Valais orchards’. The velvet-like skin, deep coral tones and sweet zestful taste, make the Swiss apricots an irresistible treat from mid-June to late-August.
The countless road signs that point towards seller-stalls of these Swiss-French ‘abricots’ really do make it hard to steer clear. This constant reminder, mixed with an inability to resist temptation, is the exact reason why my car is full of this delicious fruit every time I visit Switzerland. But then again, who’s complaining.
2. Climb your way to one of Switzerland’s most scenic mountain ranges
You can’t visit Switzerland without having at least one mountain adventure. In Switzerland’s elevated world, it is easy to become lost for words as you encompass the real-life imagery of an Evian water bottle. A short hike of 45 minutes through uphill alpine, lush flora and trickling streams, leads you to just this.
Ironically named Lac Bleu, the result of this hike from La Gouille in Valais is an extremely pigmented blue lake which, at dusk, reflects the clouds and mountains in the sky. With benches dotted around the lake, it calls for the ultimate picnic opportunity and interestingly enough, it is this very spot where my sandwich creation the ‘Lac Bleu’ originates; a Swiss blue-cheese and ham baguette – for those who were wondering – plus a cheeky lemon-radler beer, chilled by a nearby stream for that additional ‘culture kick’.
3. Ride the steepest cogwheel train in the world
Want to explore Switzerland’s high country, but not much of a walker? Well then, it’s time to get your blood pumping and climb Switzerland’s Mount Pilatus on the steepest cogwheel railway in the world. Located in the Swiss canton Lucerne, this epic train journey travels for 30 minutes at a gradient of 48 per cent through lush vegetation and jaw-dropping rock formations.
Not only are the views from the train’s ascent truly breathtaking, but the panorama of the Alps and Lake Lucerne from the 2132 metre summit is pretty impressive too.
Get ready to push your camera’s memory limit, and attempt to suppress your inner yodeller.
4. Experience cheese fondue in the very origin of the delicacy
After exploring Switzerland’s countryside and encountering the harmonious cowbells of grazing cattle, my mind couldn’t help but wonder what Swiss cheese opportunities there may be. Lucky for me, I found Bulle.
In Bulle, where the fondue is out of this world, resides one of the most prominent dairy factories in Switzerland, La Maison du Gruyère. Here you can watch the cheese-makers produce some of the 48 wheels of Gruyère made a day, learn about the history and ageing process, and of course indulge in the infamous Swiss fondue.
Trust me when I say, there is no better place to experience this gooey, wholesome delight. Particularly because this is the very home of creation, but also because you can rest assured knowing that no judgement will be held for the constant string of cheese dripping from your chin (or if you’re me, the bit that somehow ends up in your eyebrow).
5. Discover why Switzerland is known for its chocolate excellence
This wouldn’t be a post of indulgent Swiss activities without a mention of chocolate. Dip straight into the renowned culture by visiting the first mass-producing chocolate factory in Switzerland, Maison Cailler. Dating back to 1819, Cailler chocolate sources local dairies for its milk, sustainable farms for its cocoa and meticulous practice for its craftsmanship.
The chocolate masters themselves may even offer recipes for you to try at home; one of my favourites is a white chocolate and apricot mousse (perfect for apricot season, of course!).
What’s so great about these activities is that they’re all located relatively close together. This means that they’re easy to access as a solo traveller or as part of a tour, so no matter how you prefer to explore, you can really indulge in every aspect of the Swiss culture.
Interested in a Swiss adventure? Check out our 10-day Best of Switzerland small group tour now.
Feature photo by Ksenija Toyechkina, Shutterstock.