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Switzerland is one of those dream destinations that everyone hopes to visit one day. But do you know what Switzerland is famous for?
Don’t worry if you can’t answer that yet, because here’s a list of 22 things that Switzerland is known for to get you acquainted!
Switzerland is famous for its mesmerizing alpine scenery, luxury branded watches, and delicious milky chocolate. A melting pot of many different cultures, Switzerland is also known for its alluring cities and scenic train rides that showcase the best of the country’s natural vistas.
Table of Contents
Of all the things Switzerland is famous for, none are as universally well-loved as Swiss chocolate.
Swiss chocolate is readily available in many parts of the world and some of Switzerland’s famous chocolate brands, like Toblerone and Lindt, are household names even in the farthest corners of the world. Indeed, even those who have never visited Switzerland in person have probably tasted the delicious treat before.
What sets Swiss chocolate apart is the use of this one special ingredient: alpine milk. In short, alpine milk is milk that is sourced from high-altitude farms in the Swiss mountains.
Due to it being denser and less aerated, alpine milk gives Swiss chocolate a rich fragrance and an extremely milky texture. One bite and you will realize exactly why the Swiss consume more chocolate than any other nation in the world!
2. Swiss cheese
Cheese is another one of those famous Swiss products foodies just can’t get enough of in Switzerland.
While most of us might think of Swiss cheese as simply a cheese slice with holes, there’s actually a wide range of different cheeses in Switzerland. From Gruyère to Emmentaler, every kind of Swiss cheese boasts its own unique flavor and texture.
Swiss fondue is easily the most popular food in Switzerland that highlights the diverse flavors of Swiss cheese.
For the uninitiated, Swiss fondue is a traditional melted cheese dish that’s served in a communal pot. The melted cheese is a mixture of different cheeses and it’s often eaten with either bread or potatoes.
Swiss fondue is indisputably the national dish of Switzerland and is certainly something that cheese lovers will absolutely adore.
Another popular cheese dish is raclette. It consists of a semi-hard cheese wheel that is heated until the top starts to melt. After that, the cheese is scraped onto a serving of potatoes and vegetables. This simple yet savory treat is a must-try in Switzerland. Thankfully, it is readily available in most eateries throughout the country.
3. Branded watches
Apart from producing some of the finest chocolate and cheese around, Switzerland is also famous for its world-class watches!
Swiss watches are arguably the very benchmark of the industry in terms of quality. They often feature advanced technology and showcase the very pinnacle of watchmaking craftsmanship.
Be it the tried and tested quality of household brands like Swatch or the luxurious gleam of a Tag Heuer or Rolex, Swiss watches are always aesthetically pleasing. Simply put, they are one of the products from Switzerland that make for excellent gifts.
In fact, Swiss watches are so famous that there are even towns like Interlaken where shopping for one of these souvenirs is considered a must-try tourist experience!
4. Swiss army knives
Another popular Swiss souvenir you can pick up for your loved ones at home is a Swiss army knife.
These handy pocket knives are famous for being extremely useful, often featuring plenty of utility tools in addition to the main blade. In Switzerland, army knives come in various shapes and sizes. They also feature different brands, models, and colors.
Next to a Swiss watch, Swiss army knives are the most famous non-edible Swiss souvenir. Just one note of caution: the blade of a brand new Swiss knife is menacingly sharp. So do handle it with care and don’t forget to pack it in your hold luggage!
Looking for more souvenir ideas? Read this list of 20 souvenirs from Switzerland to bring home with you.
Given their reputation as master watchmakers, it should come as no surprise that the Swiss are also famous for being meticulously punctual.
Understandably, this is a stereotype that the people of Switzerland take a lot of pride in! For the Swiss, being on time isn’t simply a gesture of courtesy, it is a way of life.
From meeting someone at a café to clocking in at work exactly on the dot, the Swiss are almost never late. For those who have a habit of being fashionably late, the Swiss’ commitment to being on time may come as a culture shock. However, once you’ve adapted to it, you’ll grow to truly appreciate it.
After all, for one, you can rest assured that in Switzerland, your train will always depart and arrive on time.
6. Magical train rides
Speaking of trains in Switzerland, ask any traveler what Switzerland is famous for and most of them will rave about the whimsical train rides. Despite being one of the smallest countries in Western Europe, Switzerland boasts one of the most developed train networks in the world, serviced by more than 40 different railway companies.
Because of this, there are very few places in Switzerland that you can’t reach by train. Whether it’s the bustling city of Zurich, the sleepy town of Zermatt, or even the Swiss Alps, there is always a train that can take you there.
However, aside from the convenience, Swiss trains also double up as an essential Swiss travel experience! That’s because many of the train routes are designed to help visitors explore the alpine beauty of Switzerland.
Some of the most popular include the Bernina Express (which runs across the alps and the quaint town of St. Moritz) and the Glacier Express, arguably the most scenic train ride in the world!
Indeed, Swiss trains may well be one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist attractions all on its own!
7. Skiing in the Swiss Alps
Another popular travel activity in Switzerland that more than deserves a place on your bucket list is skiing in the Swiss Alps. There are plenty of amazing ski resorts in Switzerland (339 to be exact), many of them equipped with ski lifts and cable cars to ferry visitors to the slopes.
Some of the most famous ski resorts in Switzerland can be found in Verbier (Mont Blanc), St. Moritz, and Zermatt (we’ll get to that later in this article). The best time to visit Switzerland for skiing in the alps is between December and March. This is when the snow is thick and the winter alpine scenery is at its magical best.
With the abundance of permanent ice, ski resorts, and ice tracks, it’s no surprise that there’s more than one winter sport in Switzerland.
Along with skiing, bobsleigh or bobsled is another popular winter sport in Switzerland. In fact, this team sport originated in Switzerland!
The first bobsleds were built in the late 19th century in St. Moritz by wealthy British tourists who were vacationing at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel. The early sleds were adapted from boys’ delivery sleds and toboggans.
With the creation of a natural ice toboggan track in 1884, bobsledding soon became a popular recreational activity in the area. This track, the Cresta Run, remains the oldest in the world and has hosted two Winter Olympics.
Although Switzerland is most often associated with the Swiss Alps, there are plenty of other Swiss mountain ranges that are equally as majestic but often forgotten about.
One such mountain range is the Bernese Alps in western Switzerland which is famous for housing Jungfraujoch, the highest accessible railway station in all of Europe!
Standing at an elevation of 3,454 meters, Jungfraujoch Railway Station is literally known as “The Top of Europe”. Disregarding the impressive title, the journey towards the peak is an unforgettable experience in itself, especially if you’re visiting between November and January.
On your way, you’ll pass by several whimsical snow-covered villages, including Grindelwald, which is one of Switzerland’s most famous alpine villages.
At the top, temperatures can drop to as low as -30°C! If you can brave the cold though, you’ll be treated to an otherworldly view of the alps (provided that it’s a clear day). In addition, you can also visit the Ice Palace, a series of tunnels and walkways carved out of the glacial ice on the mountain!
10. The Matterhorn
At first glance, you might feel an unexplainable sense of familiarity emanating from this mountain. That’s because the Matterhorn is in fact the mountain that’s featured on the Toblerone logo. This makes Switzerland’s most famous mountain and arguably the most recognizable peak in the world!
Of course, the Matterhorn is much more than just the “Toblerone Mountain”.
Due to its altitude (4,478 meters above sea level), the Matterhorn is blanketed in snow throughout the entire year! Because of this, the Matterhorn is one of the few places in the world where you can ski during summer.
In contrast, the areas surrounding the foot of the Matterhorn change their appearance according to the seasons, making the hiking paths leading up the mountain some of the most beautiful you will ever see.
Alternatively, if you’re not a fan of hiking, you can simply ride the Gornegrat Bahn (meaning train) to the peak. There, you can enjoy a spectacular view of the Matterhorn.
However, the scenic train ride is just part of the fun. That’s because the Gornegrat Railway departs from the famous Swiss village of Zermatt.
I personally visited Zermatt in 2017 and I immediately fell in love with the place. It is a quaint village that boasts some lovely alpine views and direct access to one of the best ski resorts in the country.
But even more impressive is the fact that there are no cars or motor vehicles in the area. This is to preserve the pristine environment and fresh mountain air, making Zermatt one of the least polluted places in the world.
As you stroll through the streets of Zermatt, you’ll be able to admire the awe-inspiring mountains surrounding the village, making a stay here nothing short of magical. It’s no wonder that Zermatt is such a popular Swiss destination!
12. Awe-inspiring natural scenery and lakes
However, Zermatt isn’t the only village that offers spectacular natural scenery. Scattered throughout the 26 cantons (member states) of Switzerland are many traditional Swiss villages that allow visitors easy access to some of Switzerland’s most beautiful natural vistas.
In fact, if you’ve watched the popular Korean drama, Crash Landing On You, you’ve probably already seen some of them appear on TV!
Some of the famous locations in Switzerland that were featured in the drama include the popular Lake Brienz, Sigriswil Panorama Bridge (a suspension bridge that stretches over the Gummi Gorge in the Bernese Alps), and the aforementioned Grindelwald.
Apart from these lovely locations, I can also personally recommend Lake Lucerne and the village of Lauterbrunnen, set in a fairy tale-esque valley filled with rocky cliffs and even a 300-meter cascading waterfall!
13. Cable cars
Let’s face it: Unless you’re a trained hiker, scaling the snow-capped peaks of Switzerland is a tall order. But thanks to the numerous cable cars and gondolas scattered all over the country, you and I can reach new heights, pun intended.
There are over 120 gondolas and 250+ cable cars in Switzerland, allowing millions of visitors to see some of the most breathtaking sights in the world.
Klein Matterhorn at Zermatt, with its cable car station standing at 3,800+ meters above sea level, has the highest cable car station. The Titlis Rotair, on the other hand, revolves to give you a 360-degree view of Titlis.
And then there’s the double-decker cable car to Stanserhorn, which has an open upper deck for unparalleled views of ten shiny lakes!
Switzerland’s most famous literary character is Heidi, the girl from the Alps.
Written by Swiss author Johanna Spyri, Heidi is about a five-year-old orphan who went on to live with his grandfather, who lives in seclusion at the mountain pasture. The story revolves around Heidi’s relationship with her grandfather and her adventures with Peter the goatherd and a wealthy girl named Klara.
Heidi, despite being unknown to many of today’s children, is a classic and best-seller. It has been adapted into several films, television series, theater plays, and even computer games. Heidiland, the home of Heidi Village, remains an important tourist area in Switzerland.
Are you a fan of overnight oats? You should probably thank the Swiss physician Maximilian Bircher-Benner for this wonderful idea.
Originally known as Birchermüesli (with ‘mues’ meaning ‘mush’ or ‘puree’) after its creator, muesli was developed by Bircher-Benner around 1900 for patients in his hospital, so that they can get more fruits in their diet. The original Bircher-Benner recipe included apples (including skin, core, and pips), nuts, rolled oats (soaked in water for 12 hours), lemon juice, either cream and honey or sweetened condensed milk.
This, indeed, is the OG recipe for overnight oats. It’s also the precursor of the packaged muesli that we so love today.
16. Beautiful cities
Given all that I’ve said so far, you might think that all of Switzerland’s popular sights are located in the alps. However, Switzerland also has its fair share of famous cities that are just as beautiful as its alpine views. One such example is Zurich, likely the first city in a traveler’s Switzerland itinerary.
Unlike most capital cities around the world, Zurich isn’t a congested metropolis. Instead, it is a charming gem in its own right.
Featuring plenty of notable landmarks like Grossmunster and the Swiss National Museum, pristine vantage points like Lindenhof (also featured in Crash Landing On You), and the charming ambiance of the Altstadt (old town) district, Zurich is a trip and a half all on its own.
However, don’t stop your tour of famous Swiss cities in Zurich! Instead, consider adding destinations like Geneva, Bern, Lucerne, Basel, and more to your Swiss travel bucket list. Each of these cities offers a little something that’s different from each other, be it in terms of scenery, attractions, activities, and even food and culture.
17. Swiss banks
Switzerland has a long history of banking secrecy and client confidentiality dating back to the early 1700s when the Great Council of Geneva outlawed disclosure of information about the European upper class. This was further strengthened by the Banking Law of 1934 which made banking secrecy violation a federal criminal offense.
With low levels of financial risk and high levels of privacy, Swiss banks have become a safe haven for money not just for the Swiss but also for foreigners. It comes as no surprise then that Swiss banks have also served dictators, corrupt official, and tax cheats.
18. Being a cultural melting pot
Since Switzerland is a landlocked nation that neighbors Germany, France, and Italy, it shouldn’t come as a shock to you that this alpine paradise is a melting pot of various different cultures. In fact, cultural diversity is so vast in Switzerland that there are as many as FOUR national languages!
You can experience the different cultures through food, conversation, and tradition as you travel throughout Switzerland.
The North (Zurich, Bern, Lucerne, etc.) is predominantly German while the western part of Switzerland (Geneva) is mostly French. On the other hand, most people who live in southern Switzerland, like the city of Lugano, speak Italian.
19. Basler Fasnacht
Fasnacht, the German word for ‘carnival’, is an important part of Swiss culture. Beginning on February just before Ash Wednesday and lasting before Easter, carnival season in Switzerland involves lots of eating and drinking, parades, marching bands, elaborate costumes, and singing. Basically, a time to let loose before the penitential Lent.
While carnival happens in several places like Zurich, Bern, and Lucerne, the biggest and most popular is Basler Fasnacht or the Carnival of Basel. This colorful event has been included in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage.
This carnival lasts for 72 hours, with participants or Fasnächtlers fully concealed in head-to-toe costumes. A gugge (brass band) plays during cortège (parade) while fasnächtlers toss confetti to the crowds or hand out candies and other treats. Highlights also include a lantern parade, floats, gugge concerts.
With so many different cultures converging in one place, you might think that safety is an issue in Switzerland. But that can’t be further from the truth.
While it’s necessary to be cautious when traveling, you will likely find your time in Switzerland to be relatively stress-free. After all, Switzerland is famous for being one of the safest countries in the world!
What’s more, a recent survey ranked Switzerland as the number one safest country to travel to post-pandemic. And, as an added bonus, Switzerland is also consistently ranked as one of the cleanest destinations in the world too. It’s no wonder those alpine views are so heavenly!
History buffs will remember that Switzerland is famous for being neutral.
After all, lest you forget, the Swiss chose to sit out both World Wars! In fact, the Swiss’ commitment to upholding their policy of no interference is so strong that they’ve not been in any global conflict since the early years of the 1500s!
Instead, while the rest of the world chose to go to war with each other, Switzerland used the time to develop its own country over many centuries. Because of their neutral stance, the Swiss economy today is one of the strongest and most stable in the world.
22. Red Cross
The Red Cross is easily one of the most famous organizations in the world. However, did you know that it was actually established in Switzerland?
Yes, the humble beginnings of this famous Swiss organization can be traced back to Geneva in 1863. Its founder, Henry Durant, was the first-ever Swiss recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Since then, the Red Cross has grown to establish itself in many different parts of the world, actively taking part in humanitarian relief efforts in times of crises. In its 157-year history, the Red Cross has won three-time Nobel Prize Laureates!
23. Housing the HQ of the United Nations in Europe
Speaking of Geneva, it is also the site of the European headquarters of the United Nations.
Even on its own, Geneva is a popular city in Switzerland to visit, and the UN headquarters is easily one of the most famous Swiss attractions that tourists frequent.
24. The Pontifical Swiss Guard
Despite having avoided war for over 500 years, Switzerland actually trains and produces one of the oldest military units that are still in operation today.
Established in the 16th Century, the Pontifical Swiss Guard is an elite armed forces unit that is charged with protecting the Pope and the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. Made entirely of Swiss Catholic men, the Swiss Guard is provided military training by the Swiss Armed Forces and is equipped with both traditional and modern weapons.
Their red, blue, and yellow uniform is the defining characteristic that makes them stand out among the crowd. Even if you’ve never heard of them, you’ll most likely be able to recognize the uniform of the famous Swiss Guard.
25. Albert Einstein’s alma mater
Apart from developing their economy, the Swiss were also able to use the time others spent on war to develop multiple fields in their country, the most notable of which is education.
Many of the public universities in the country charge a tuition fee that is significantly lower than most other countries in Europe, applicable to both domestic and foreign students. As a result, Swiss universities have attracted and produced some of the brightest minds man has ever known.
Switzerland’s most famous alumnus is none other than Albert Einstein! At the age of 26, Einstein graduated from the University of Zurich with a Ph.D. in 1905. That very same year, he invented perhaps the most important equation in modern history: E=mc2.
26. Roger Federer
Apart from Albert Einstein, Switzerland is also associated with plenty of other household names. However, in recent times, perhaps no one is more famous throughout the world than Roger Federer.
For avid tennis fans, this man needs no further introduction. For the uninitiated, Federer is a living legend in tennis, currently ranked the fourth-best player in the sport.
Federer has won 20 Grand Slam titles, making him the most decorated player in the history of the game! He also holds the record for being the world’s best player for the longest (310 consecutive weeks). Federer is arguably the most famous Swiss in the world today.
27. The site of CERN
Hands up if you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory! Well, even if you’re not a fan, you’ve probably heard of CERN, one of Switzerland’s most famous locations.
Unlike Zermatt or The Matterhorn, CERN isn’t your typical tourist destination. Rather, it is the European Organization for Physics Research.
Located 100 meters underground in Geneva, CERN houses the world’s largest Physics laboratory. It is the site where many discoveries have been made since it was first built in 2008.
Out of all the scientific breakthroughs, however, the most significant is the discovery of the Higgs Boson (or God particle) using the Large Hadron Collider. Many scientists believe that the discovery is a ginormous step toward helping us form a better understanding of how the universe began. And yes, you can visit it but you need to reserve your spot in advance.
Did you know that the Helvetica font was created in Switzerland?
Developed in 1957 by Swiss typeface designer Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffman, the Helvetica font is known for its clean, simple, neutral, and modern tone — very fitting for its country of origin. It was influenced by the German typeface Aksidenz-Grotesk and other German and Swiss designs. By mid-20th century, it was already one of the most popular typefaces.
Interestingly, the font was originally named Neue Haas Grotesk (New Haas Grotesque). It was renamed Helvetica in 1960 after the Latin Helvetia which means ‘Swiss’. I don’t know about you but that makes so much sense.
29. Cost of living
Finally, while most people consider Switzerland a great travel destination, the country has been unable to shake off its reputation for being one of the costliest countries in Europe to live in.
Yes, even though Switzerland is truly a beautiful place in more ways than one, it is also famous for being quite expensive.
In fact, a 2016 survey revealed that a cup of coffee in Zurich came at an average price of CHF3.65 (USD 3.65). That’s even more expensive than a cup of coffee in New York!
You may know yodeling from the singing cowboys of early Western U.S. movies. But this type of singing has European roots.
Yodeling, also known as jodeling, is a type of singing characterized by repeated and rapid changes in pitch. Alpine yodeling has existed in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria for a long time and became popular in the 1830s as part of performances in theaters and music halls.
In Switzerland, yodeling was a way for farmers to call their stock or communicate with each other across long distances. To this day, it’s still a major feature of Swiss folk music. In fact, one of Switzerland’s greatest hit is Dr Schacher Seppli, sung by Swiss farmer, cheesemaker, and yodeler Ruedi Rymann.
Did any of the things on the list surprise you? Now that you’ve learned so much about what Switzerland is famous for, you’ll be able to start planning your own journey to this bucket-list-worthy destination!
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below!