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When most people think of Zermatt, they think of one thing: The Matterhorn. This ultimate Swiss icon looms over Zermatt, first drawing visitors here in the 1860s. The village of Zermatt itself is lovely and car-free, with old-fashioned brown chalets and winding alleys. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to walk everywhere—there are electric vehicles and horse-drawn cabs.) Skiing in the region often lasts through early summer, but when the weather’s warmer, it’s a great time to hike.
The largest city in Switzerland is a major contemporary art and shopping destination. Important artworks are displayed in the Kunsthaus and the Rietberg Museum. Those who consider shopping an art can hone their skills along Bahnhofstrasse and Niederdorf. Chagall's stained-glass windows in the Fraumünster amaze. Zurich's 500 clubs and bars, including several in swimming pools, pulse with life till the early hours. This city on Lake Zurich has excellent public transport and a free bike-hire system.
The shores of Lake Geneva have attracted visitors and invaders for millennia. The cheerful city of Geneva sits on the lake's western shore, lofty snowcapped peaks creating a gorgeous backdrop on all sides. The city is perfect for exploring on foot; hire a bike to venture further. At the top of any itinerary should be visits to Geneva's lakefront and its famous fountain, the Flower Clock in the English Garden, St Peter's Cathedral, Reformation Wall, Place Neuve and the birthplace of the UN.
Lucerne is an ancient town with strikingly modern sensibilities. One of Europe’s oldest covered bridges serves as its centrepiece, and fresco-adorned historic houses line the streets, but it’s also home to the cutting-edge KKL, a concert hall and art gallery. Take the cableways up the Pilatus, Stanserhorn or Rigi mountains for breathtaking views, or see Lake Lucerne on a steamship cruise.
Snow sports rule in Saas-Fee. Thanks to its proximity to the glaciers of the Pennine Alps, it’s a winter wonderland year-round, perfect for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, skating and snuggling up for a romantic après ski. The village is car-free, so be sure to save some of that slope energy for your post-ski strolls.
Encircled by a forest of fragrant pine trees, the mountain village of Pontresina is an idyllic alpine retreat. Hike to the mammoth Morteratsch glacier or take a horse-drawn carriage ride through pristine Roseg Valley. Learn about ancient cheesemaking practices (and sample the delicious results) at the nearby Alpine Dairy of Morteratsch. A guided village tour will expose you to local features you may have otherwise missed, like graffiti murals and holy frescoes.
The only way to reach lovely Murren is by taking a series of trains and cable cars. Once you’re there, you’re walking or biking around this charming car-free village. But it’s well-worth the trek, especially if you’re a skier or snowboarder. There are 32 miles of trails plus lots of off-piste opportunities. The sledding is even better. Take a cable car to the summit of Schilthorn for epic alpine views.
Located on the Rhine River near the borders of France and Germany, Basel contains the country's highest concentration of museums. The culture-centric city, site of the world's most influential art market each June, is also home to the lovely Munster Cathedral, made of red sandstone with a multi-colored tile roof. Green spaces abound, including the popular zoological gardens in the city center. Switzerland's largest site of Roman ruins, Augusta Raurica, are an easy day trip to the east.
Grindelwald is postcard-perfect, a charming example of a Swiss ski resort. There are slopes for all experience levels, plus plenty of snowy activities for those who don’t ski, such as sledding, hiking or snowshoeing. Not feeling particularly active? Just cozy up by crackling fire and enjoy the merry atmosphere. After a long day, nothing’s better than lingering over a pot of Swiss fondue and a glass of crisp wine as you plan the next day’s adventures.