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Resources for Switzerland


Practical Websites

General

  • My Switzerland. The official and very extensive tourism website. Just about any information you could possibly need about anything is on here.
  • Wikivoyage. A bit hit and miss: the overview and coverage for places like Zürich is fantastic, but many places are lacking in useful or any info. It often helps to change to the local language, or one of the other Swiss languages, to get more information and ideas.
  • Local tourist areas all have their own websites. Usually in both summer and winter versions, giving you info on: conditions, what is open, ideas for what to do, etc:. Eg: Jungfrau region, Zermatt, Appenzell, and so on.

Transport

  • SBB. The website (and also app) for the train network covering buses, boats, and cable cars too. Timetables, ticket info, and pass info. It is sometimes better to look up the timetable for seasonal things like cable cars and boats on their own websites (eg: BLS boats on Brienzersee, or cable cars in the Aletsch region) as when they don’t run the SBB just gives a vague “can’t find the connection” notice. They do various travel passes, though it is best to carefully calculate your planned routes or figure out if it is worth it It is worth looking for the off-peak “super saver” tickets which limit you to a certain train but can cut the price in half (and if you have the half-tax this cuts the price again, to as much as 75% off).
  • You can get regional travel passes which cover all transport and cable cars in specific areas (Eg: the Jungfrau region, or the Tell pass around Luzern). Likewise there are endless guest passes for overnight guests which cover free/discounted transport in the local area.
  • OEV-explorer lets you pick a start point and then shows you where you can get to by public transport within a set amount of time.

Accommodation

  • Official accommodation (which should mostly include Airbnb) will offer a guest card in many tourist areas including free/discounted local transport and activities. Typically this is just in the town/village and places 10-20 minutes away (eg for Interlaken), but in the beautiful and underrated canton of Ticino it covers the entire canton.
  • Aside from the standard options for finding rooms you might also want to look into other options such as https://alp.holidaybooking.ch/, and https://www.rooms.ch/ . Many smaller independent options (especially farms and rural hotels) are not on Booking.com etc and you will have to find them by trawling around on google maps. This could help if you really want to stay in a certain area but everything is booked out, but many of them have a very basic setup so you might need to phone up or fill in a form on their website.
  • Another option that might be worth considering is the Swiss Hotel Card, a 99CHF per year subscription that offers half priced hotel rooms. This is limited to participating hotels and doesn’t apply during the high season, but could easily pay for itself with just a single night or weekend. I have yet to try this, but the range of locations looks like it could be quite good for domestic travellers.
  • For more rural hut and farm based accommodation: https://bnb.ch/ , and https://www.bauernhof-ferien.ch/ , and https://www.myfarm.ch/ , and https://naturfreunde.ch/. Some like myfarm.ch offer the chance to sleep on straw in a barn.
  • Alpine huts are run by a few different organisations. The SAC website is the best starting point.
  • Camping. Standard campsites: https://www.tcs.ch , https://www.camping.ch , and https://www.sccv.ch. In addition there are a few websites where you can officially find a small patch to pitch up on a farm https://www.nomady.ch/ , and on myfarm.ch too.
  • Wild camping is complex. The best way to sum it up is “Prohibited but tolerated under conditions”. This SAC page has the most official guidelines. There are some pointers for the ideal situation (the more you follow the better): above the treeline, with the community / landowner’s permission, not in a protected area, single tent, set up as the sun goes down and dismantle at dawn, no fire/noise/disturbance/litter. Wild camping has increased in popularity in recent years, iconic spots like Seealpsee are having problems with numbers, so try and pick a less known spot.

Weather

  • Meteoswiss is my go to, the mobile app is also useful and gives warnings on extreme weather conditions. There is also Search.ch which includes a few webcams and ski info in winter.
  • There are lots of high-resolution webcams. Check official websites for resorts and cable cars (eg: Jungfrau region).
    In addition there are also a number of websites which collect webcam data and let you browse back over the last few days or even years: Roundshot, and Bergfex, and WebcamForInsiders, and SwissWebcams.

Maps

  • Switzerland Mobility. Detailed map of the whole country showing all official routes for hiking/biking/mountain biking and varous other sports. With lots of short and long suggested routes that are marked on sign posts and have additional helpful information. There are also a number of useful layers to turn on like public transport stops. It is free to use, but if you sign up for the (paid) Pro version then you can plan routes on the map with detailed height information and pretty good time estimates (for example), and download map sections on the mobile app.
  • SwissTopo. The official government topographical map is amazing. Quick to load and use on desktop or mobile. You can toggle useful overlays like hiking paths, and just about anything else from geological features to ski runs, you can even switch to historic versions of the map going back to the mid 1800s and watch the country grow. It will even convert any section you like to PDF for easy saving and printing. You can use the phone app to plot and export routes which follow the official footpaths, and download as much as you want for offline use. All for free.
  • When actually out and about I tend to use one of the above, but also keep Maps.me on my phone which has rather good coverage of the footpath system and is useful for finding addresses/businesses. Even more so now that it can show contour lines. That said it does have big information gaps in some areas. I wouldn’t use it as the sole source of information for advanced routes, but to check my position and where a certain side path might take me it is mostly very useful. The directions feature sometimes gives good advice and sometimes decides that a perfectly good bit of path can’t be used and that you should take a 3 hour detour. The time calculator does not take height change into account, so do not trust that either.

Blogs

Misc


Books

Non-fiction

  • Swiss Watching – Diccon Bewes (2010). Switzerland seen through British eyes. A very readable and enjoyable introduction to the history, people, politics and areas of the country by someone who has lived there for years. Ideal reading as a traveller. There are some over generalisations but given the scope and size it mostly does a good job. If you read anything about Switzerland make it this. He also has a Google-talk video which is basically a condensed version of the book
  • Slow train to Switzerland – Diccon Bewes (2013). The author retraces the first Thomas Cook tour of Switzerland and shows how much has changed since then and by the rise of trains and tourism. A very interesting read for the history and travel ideas.
  • Around Switzerland in 80 Maps – Diccon Bewes (2015). Yet another Diccon book, though this is much more history and culture than travel based. At a large 33x23cm it isn’t travel friendly either, but it is beautifully done with a range of well reproduced images and interesting information. It is accessible and interesting to everyone, but I would say this book is most enjoyable to those who already know the Swiss landscape, history and culture to some extent already. The TedX talk that he does on the subject is rather good.
  • The Bergli publisher, which Diccon is part of, have quite a few light hearted books about Swiss culture and Switzerland.
  • Beer Hiking Switzerland – Monika Saxer (2014). Also free at their website. Details of hikes that are public transport friendly and end up in, or visit, somewhere for a local/kraft beer. Though it must be said that it is hard to walk and not come across somewhere selling beer – if you stopped at every Gasthaus for a beer then most hikes in Switzerland would turn into crawls. So it really is not a must-have. But on the plus-side it is one of the Mittelland heavy hiking guides due to the obvious lack of breweries ontop of glaciers.
  • How the English Made the Alps – Jim Ring (2000). A history of how the development of tourism, climbing, and winter sports played a major role in the development of the Alps. Not just Switzerland, but it is a major focus of the book.
  • A Tramp Abroad – Mark Twain (1880). FREE EBOOK. Satirical and absurd account of his travels in Europe. The Swiss part is often hilarious. As above is interesting to see just how much the country has changed since then. Several places such as Weggis-Rigi and Zermatt-Riffelberg have Theme walks in the approximate places where he walked himself. A tramp in this sense is to walk, not the homeless person as most people other than the Kiwis might assume.
  • La Place de la Concorde Suisse – John McPhee (1984). A very out-dated but in some ways interesting read looking at Swiss military thinking and culture back in the 1980s. The attitudes and situation are very different now over 30 years later. This is only really worth it if you really want to learn about that bit of Swiss history. It also commits the cardinal sin of having numerous bits of French scattered about the book but with no translation provided, which is really bloody annoying.
  • Bill Bryson passes through in his 1991 book “Neither here nor there”. While still mostly a good read, being almost 30 years old the info is rather outdated in parts. The country has become much more lively since then for a start.

Fiction

  • Sherlock Holmes – The Final Problem – Arthur Conan Doyle (1893). FREE EBOOK. A quick and easy read of Holmes’ “final” adventure ending at the Reichenbach falls by Meiringen. He oversells the waterfall somewhat though I must say.
  • The Magic Mountain – Thomas Mann (1924). Inspired by and set in a Davos mountain health retreat. No comment as I have yet to read it.
  • Heidi – Johanna Spyri (1881). FREE EBOOK. The classic kids book which is something of cliché and sales-device these days (for a start you can visit a fake Heidi house in Heidi village). It is a children’s book from the mid 1800s, so it is actually slow and preachy. Read until she is put on a train to Frankfurt and that should be enough (or just watch the intro for the Anime which packs more magic than the whole book).
  • William Tell – Friedrich Schiller (1804). FREE EBOOK. Performed every year in Interlaken amongst other places. Frankly it is really bloody boring – the whole thing can be summed up that the Swiss are good christian brothers who love freedom, and the Austrians are utter wankers.

Culture

News

Podcasts

Blogs

Music

Many of the bigger Swiss artists like Anna Rossinelli, and Stefanie Heinzmann sing in English (understandable with a somewhat bigger potential audience) but there are a surprising number that sing in Swiss-German.

In no particular order of name or genre: Bligg (where else can you see someone rapping and posing on a Zürich skyscraper?), Kunz, Nemo, Lo und Leduc, Dabu Fantastic, Züri West, Baschi, Patent Ochsner, Marc Sway, De Luca, Müslüm, Hedgehog, Subzonic, Span, Mani Matter, Steff la Cheffe, and Dodo. Having written all that I then just found this big youtube playlist.

Or if you want to go REALLY Swiss you can go fully native and crash through into the world of folk-Schlager (at this point you are out-Swissing most of the Swiss who would run up a mountain to avoid that). This however may be the peak of awful campy self-aware Swissness (my apologies to every Swiss person who was just reminded about the existence of that). However this may top that to be the most amazingly bad Swiss thing ever.

Film/TV