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Switzerland Map and Travel Information

From James Martin,
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Explore Switzerland with our map and resources

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Switzerland is a land of soaring mountain peaks, placid lakes, verdant green valleys and unheralded but surprisingly good wine.

At one time it was imperative on your Grand Tour to take a scenic train ride into Switzerland to buy a handmade watch and gaze in amazement at the Matterhorn. If your wallet was full, you'd head to St. Moritz, or you could go skiing (or play snow golf) in Gstaad Saanenland.

Switzerland's scenery is more accessible than ever today. Postal buses get you to any tiny Swiss corner you can see on a map. Little red trains, the slowest "express" trains you'll ever ride called Bernina and Glacier, take you through scenic areas with panoramic open cars, gourmet restaurant cars, historic coaches, and feature spiraling open descents into valleys. Hiking trails are everywhere. Tourist boats ply the lakes big and small--you can even take one under Europe's largest waterfall, the Rhine Falls. Active travelers can ski, hike or climb in the Matterhorn's shadow in Zermatt.

The list, as they say, is almost endless.

Map of Switzerland


switzerland map
Switzerland Map © James Martin, licensed to About.com

Destinations in Switzerland

Our Switzerland Travel and Tourism Information Guide is a directory of information on Switzerland travel, including Swiss guidebooks, regions, public transportation and cities to visit.

Swiss Christmas Markets

A tradition in Switzerland, Christmas markets are found in every major city and even on top of a mountain, see our picks: Switzerland's Best Christmas Markets

Accommodations in Switzerland

Accommodations in Switzerland tend to be expensive. There are usually fewer hotels located around train stations than in other countries. You may inspect a hotel before committing to it.

Hotel rooms in Switzerland tend to be smaller than other places, but there are usually more services available. Prices include service, taxes and sometimes breakfast (ask).

Most Swiss hotels are members of the Swiss Hotel Association, which rates them according to their facilities and not necessarily their charm. For more general information on European hotel ratings, see our article: Hotels and their Star Ratings.

The hotel booking agent I use when traveling is usually Venere. You can find hotels on a map or by a list, then rank the hotels by guest rating, price, stars, or location. See Switzerland Hotels (book direct) for more.

One way to save money in Switzerland is to rent a vacation home or mountain chalet and use it as a hub for your Swiss explorations. You'll save even more by inviting a group and renting a larger place for a week or so. HomeAway lists over 170,000 Swiss Vacation Rentals indexed by location (book direct).

Swiss Currency

The Swiss currency is the Swiss Franc, abbreviated to CHF. Swiss Franc banknotes are issued in the following denominations: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1000 Francs. At the time of writing, 1 US Dollar = 1.35350 Swiss Franc (January, 2003). For the current rate, see Currency Converter by OANDA.com, The Currency Site.

Language in Switzerland

Four primary languages are spoken in Switzerland. See the map above for the approximate areas those languages are spoken in. The Federal Constitution stipulates that German, French, and Italian are Switzerland's official languages, whereas Romansh is an official language for communicating with Romansh-speaking persons. English is increasingly taught at an early age, sometimes taking priority over a second national language.

Foreign Languages for the Tourist gives a list of resources for learning just enough language to get along. Page two of that article is an account of going to language school in Perugia, Italy. I recommend undertaking such an experience in Switzerland if you're interested in the Swiss languages and people.

Transportation in Switzerland: Transportation Maps

Switzerland is served by more than 13000 miles of train, bus and boat routes. Find out more about Swiss transportation options in the article Swiss Rail Passes and Transportation information.

Switzerland is served by eight major airports. See our Interactive Switzerland Airports Map for locations and information.

If you are driving in Switzerland, be aware that you'll need a permit called a "vignette" affixed to your windshield to drive on the autobahn, or toll roads. You can buy one of these at the border as you enter Switzerland. The vignette is a tax and toll sticker, similar to the vignette in Austria.

For distances between major cities, see our Switzerland Driving Distances map and calculator.

Weather in Switzerland - When to Go

Due to the mountainous terrain in Switzerland, weather can vary greatly with altitude. Prediction of the weather can be tricky. For some historical climate information, including historic temperature and precipitation graphs that might help you plan your vacation in Switzerland, as well as current conditions see Travel Weather Switzerland.

Eating in Swiss Restaurants

Although eating in a Swiss restaurant is generally more expensive than eating in a neighboring country, you can find interesting, inexpensive food in Switzerland. Lunches are often cheaper than the same meal at dinner. Look for the plate of the day.

General Eating Times: Lunch: 12-2 Dinner 6-8 pm

As you might expect, Swiss cuisine is based around dairy products -- cheese, milk, cream, butter and/or yogurt.

Beer is often cheaper and more readily available then soft drinks.

Tipping

Meals include a service charge, but tipping is common. 5% of the total is the usual tip. According to locals in Zurich, it is customary, when paying with a credit card, to leave the tip in cash rather than adding it to the card total.

Public Holidays in Switzerland

Public holidays
New Years: January 1st and 2nd
Good Friday
Easter Monday
Labor Day - May 1st
Ascension Day
Whit Monday
National Day: August 1st
Christmas Eve (afternoon only)
Christmas: December 25 and 26th
New Year's Eve (afternoon)

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