Complete guide: Switzerland

Switzerland is wonderful! …and we don’t only say this because it is our home country. High mountains or wide flat plains, big lakes or small mountain sources, rough glaciers or palm trees; the rich diversity in landscapes that can be contemplated in Switzerland keep on surprising us every year.

We will here present the main characteristics of the country and an overview on the different regions, sights and activities. If you wish to get more precise tips and information, we strongly invite you to read through our articles about Switzerland.

Switzerland – a small country with character

Located in the earth of Europe without actually being part of the European union, Switzerland is a country of about 8 million inhabitant and constituted of 26 cantons split in 4 linguistic regions. Switzerland is mostly known for its Alpine scenery but actually offers a much wider diversity of landscapes and climates and the very small surface of this country makes it very easy to experience several of them in a very short amount of time.

View on Bern and the Aar

Languages in Switzerland

German

More than 60% of the population is speaks a dialect derived from German that is called “Swiss German”.

Swiss German does not follow any grammatical rules

However, there are more than 20 local variation of this dialect and it sometimes happen that two natives have troubles to understand each other only because they come from a different region. Swiss German has the particularity to be a language that does not follow any grammatical rule which means that you can write it however you want and it will be correct as long as others can read you. This is why every official communications are written in “hochdeutsch”, the “standard German”.

French

There are not great differences between Swiss French and standard French as only a few words differ. However, Swiss tend to talk at a lower pace and with a different accent than French people.

A big wall of roasted potatoes is splits the country in half

…Wait, what?

French is spoken in about 20% of the country and the line that separates the French and German regions is usually referred as “Röstigraben” (the barrier of rösti in English) which is used to highlight the cultural and political differences between these two regions.

Italian

Italian is the most spoken language in the south of the country and represent about 7% of the overall languages in Switzerland. Less used than the previous one, a term also describes the cultural and political differences between German and Italian regions: “Polentagraben”.

Romansh

Then, there is Romansh… Romansh is a very special language spoken by only 1% of the population and can only be heard in canton Graubünden. It was strongly influenced by Latin and sounds like a mixture of Italian, French and German. Needless to say that you can survive in Switzerland without Romansh knowledge.

English

English is obviously not an official language in Switzerland but it is taught as second or third language in school and is increasingly becoming the official business language. You might encounter some issues in remote places but you will always find someone who speaks English in the cities and touristic places.

Moving around a country doesn’t get easier than in Switzerland

Sailing on Murten seeThanks to the small size of country, it is very easy to get around Switzerland. Within one hour of drive, you could reach the jura for horseback ride through forests and mild hills, enjoy the lakes of the plateau, visit the pittoresque villages of central Switzerland or head to the mountain for a sport hike.

Switzerland has a great public transportation system. Every city is connected to the railway network, which is known for being one of the most reliable and effective in the world and which is connected to the no less performant buses, trams and boats infrastructures.

As pretty much everything in Switzerland, train tickets are very expensive

However, public transportation tickets are very expensive. A daily ticket for all public transportations (train, bus and boat) costs CHF 75.- in second class.

Aside of this, you will need to count an extra CHF 35.- if you are traveling with your dog and CHF 20.- if you have a bike.

You can book an membership that divides the price in half, which is valid for one year. Not really ideal if you are in the country for a short stay.

Traditional Swiss kitchen

On average, Swiss people eat 21.5 kilograms of cheese per year and, in more than 70% of the time, they choose cheese that was produced in Switzerland. This maybe explains why Switzerland counts 1.6 millions of cows (one cow for every five people).

It’s not secret that Swiss people are also fond of chocolate but did you know that we eat an average of 12 kilograms per year which makes us the first chocolate consumers worldwide?

But cheese and chocolate are not everything. Switzerland counts a lot of regional dishes that are worth trying and we would recommend to give to one of the following:

Preparing a raclette

Raclette – Half a cheese wheel to share with friends

Okay… the first two dishes are solely consisting of cheese but they are too good to be skipped.

Whether using an electric raclette oven or cooking it over wood fire, we have the perfect article to help you prepare a great traditional Swiss raclette.

Traditional swiss fondue

Fondue – Convivial melted cheese

Melted cheese, white wine, pepper and bread.

Fondue is probably the most famous Swiss dish. Eating a fondue is the best way to spend a cold winter evening and we always have a package ready to be used in our freezer as

Bircher müsli – The perfect basis for brunches and summer lunches

A Bircher müsli is a breakfast or brunch meal but it is also perfect at any time during a warm summer day.

It consists in a mixture of dairy products, cereals, fruits, lemon juice, honey and spices.

Papet Vaudois – Leeks with potatoes and sausage

As it names indicates, the “Papet Vaudois” is a speciality from the Canton of Vaud. For preparing a good Papet Vaudois, you will need two key ingredients: a strong sausage and a mixture of leek and potatoes.

Rösti – Roasted potatoes patties

Originally, Rösti was a breakfast dish prepared by the farmers in the canton of Bern. Overtime, it evolved to become one of the most common side-dish in Switzerland. Pre-cooked potatoes are fried with some other ingredients in a pan to create a roasted patty. Rösti can also be a main dish and several ingredients can be added to enrich the dish.

The Swiss regions

Northern Switzerland – from Basel to Zürich

Bern and the Bernese Oberland – Clear blue lakes and high mountains

Bachalp lake on top of Grindelwald

Murten and the 3 lake region

Switzerland - HDR view on Neuchâtel

The Alps – Typically Swiss

The Alps with snow and sun

Western Switzerland – Fribourg, Montreux, Lausanne, Geneva and much more…

Central Switzerland – Getting around Lucerne

Central Switzerland - panoramic view on the mountainsLucerne - panoramic view on the lake

Our “complete guides” are living articles that summarize our experiences with a country. We are constantly updating them as we keep on discovering more of the world. Don’t hesitate to come back in a while to see if there’s new information.



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6 comments

  1. Switzerland is so beautiful and your pictures are simply stunning! I’ve been seeing videos about the Raclette all over the internet and would just DIE if I could try that. I learned German while doing a study abroad in Germany and had a hard time understanding Swiss-German. At least it’s close!

  2. Gorgeous photos and what a great and descriptive guide about Switzerland. You had me at 21kg of cheese per year and number of cows! Wow that’s a lot.

  3. Despite not being so far from Belgium, I’ve never been to Switzerland! Need to change that after reading through this post, it captures everything I need to know!

  4. how absolutely gorgeous. Your photos are enough to convince me. Thanks for sharing these fun and quick facts about your country. It’s definitely a country I need to explore.

  5. What spectacular photos! I’ve always wanted to visit Switzerland and now even more so. The food looks amazing! And I had no idea there were so many languages spoken in the country. Fascinating!

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