We totally agree with Shahrukh Khan when he says in cult classic Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, “Zurich mein kya rakha hai? Asli Europe toh yeh hai…”, referring to the stunning Swiss countryside. Switzerland is home to numerous quaint little villages that demand visitors’ attention, what with their unspoiled charm and inspiring alpine beauty! We rounded up the top 12 such Swiss villages that you need to see if you’re ever travelling there!
1. Appenzell: Nowhere is folkloric Switzerland as well preserved as at the base of the green foothills of the Alp-stein, where this old-fashioned country town still has cowmen in yellow breeches and scarlet waistcoats walking its streets. People in other parts of Switzerland tend to call the locals “hillbillies,” and for many Americans attracted to the quirky and the quaint, it evokes the Ozarks. As you wander its centuries-old streets, sampling pear bread and honey cakes while in pursuit of local embroidery, you’ll know why Appenzell is called the most authentic of Swiss villages.
2. Wengen: On a sheltered terrace high above the Lauterbrunnen Valley, this ski retreat is one of the gems of the Bernese Oberland. No cars are allowed in this idyllic village, and from its streets (cleared of snow even in winter) and hotel windows, magnificent panoramic views greet you at every turn. The sunsets — over crags and waterfalls — are the most memorable we’ve ever seen in Switzerland. The village is best known for hosting the Ski World Cup, with the longest and one of the most dangerous downhill races in the world staged every January.
3. Gstaad: Gstaad is a village in the German-speaking section of the Canton of Bern in southwestern Switzerland. It is part of the municipality of Saanen and is known as a major ski resort. The middle of the village features a picturesque promenade bounded by numerous shops, restaurants, art galleries, and hotels. In summer there is an excellent network of hiking trails, climbing tours for every level, cycle routes, riding, golf and tennis. For the more adventurous there are also opportunities to go paragliding, ballooning or white-water rafting or canoeing on the Saanen, and the highest tobogganing run in the world.
4. Sion: Although it’s the small capital of the Valais, this old Roman town with a French-speaking population is often neglected by those rushing to sample the pleasures of Zermatt and Verbier. But sleepy Sion has its own rewards. The town is dominated by the castles of Valère and Tourbillon, and, in its greater days, Sion’s bishops were big players on the medieval stage. The moody, melancholy look of the town has inspired such luminaries as Rilke, Goethe, and Rousseau.
5. Ascona: Ascona is a municipality in the district of Locarno in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland. It is located on the shore of Lake Maggiore. The town is a popular tourist destination, and holds a yearly jazz festival, the Ascona Jazz Festival. There are eleven Swiss heritage site of national significance in Ascona. There are three churches on the list, the church of S. Maria della Misericordia with the Collegio Papio, the Church of S. Michele with the ruins of a medieval castle and the Parish Church of Ss. Pietro e Paolo. Three houses are on the list, the Serodine House, the Unifamiliare Tuia House and the Villa at via Ludwig 26. The Balladrum, a prehistoric and medieval settlement as well as the Albergo, a park, complex of houses and the Monte Verità Museum are also on the list. Two museums, the Museo comunale d’arte and the Museo Epper and a theater, the Teatro S. Materno finish out the list. The entire town of Ascona is listed on the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites.
6. Andermatt: At the crossroads of the Alps, in the Urseren Valley, this picture-postcard town lies at the junction of two alpine roads — the St. Gotthard highway and the road to Oberalp and Furka. From the top of Gemstock, reached by cable car, you can see 600 alpine peaks. Hikers, cross-country skiers, and mountain bikers are attracted to this little village. The life of the town is centered on the main street, some sections of which are still paved with granite stones.
7. Gandria: Gandria is both a quarter of the city of Lugano in the Swiss canton of Ticino, and a village, on the northern shore of Lake Lugano. The historically protected center of the village of Gandria, which is also not accessible by car, attracts visitors from all over the world. Whilst roads now reach the outskirts of the village, many of these visitors arrive by boat services on the lake. On the opposite side of the lake to Gandria village, but still within the Gandria quarter, is the Swiss Customs Museum. This was once a border post on the adjacent border with Italy, but now forms part of the Swiss National Museum. The museum covers the history of smuggling in the area, and the work of customs officers to counteract it. In a modern context, it covers the work of the Swiss Federal Customs Administration and the Swiss Border Guard.
8. Morcote: At the southernmost tip of the Ceresio peninsula, 11km (7 miles) south of Lugano, stands Switzerland’s most idyllic village. Built in the Lombard style familiar to those who have toured Milan, Morcote’s arcaded houses, often clay-colored, open directly on the water, with everything set against a backdrop of vineyards and cypresses. For the best view of this cliché of Ticino charm, climb the 400 steps to the Chiesa di Madonna del Sasso, which dates from the 13th century.
9. St. Moritz: St. Moritz is a resort town in the Engadine valley in Switzerland. It is a municipality in the district of Maloja in the Swiss canton of Graubünden. The highest summit in the Eastern Alps, the Piz Bernina, lies a few kilometres south of the town. St. Moritz, due to its favorable location, enjoys over 300 days of sunshine a year. Every winter this alpine village hosts the “White Turf” horse race on the frozen Lake St. Moritz. Everyone who is anyone turns up – along with thoroughbred racehorses from all over Europe. The sight of them thundering along the white racecourse with their jockeys at the legendary White Turf races is one of the many highlights of a scintillating season. The world’s press and assorted celebrities arrive at the latest for the polo tournament, the popular Gourmet Festival attracts food lovers from far and wide, while the Cricket on Ice draws players from warmer climes to compete on the snow. After the White Turf races, British sportsmen continue to provide an electrifying atmosphere at the Grand National on the Cresta Run. In between events, the perfectly prepared pistes up on the Corviglia ensure that no one gets bored.
10. Paradiso: Paradiso is a municipality in the district of Lugano in the canton of Ticino in Switzerland. It lies on the shore of Lake Lugano and, although administratively independent of the city of Lugano, it is surrounded on all other sides by that city. Boats of the Società Navigazione del Lago di Lugano (SNL) provide services on Lake Lugano, principally for tourist purposes, but also connecting Paradiso with other lake-side communities, some of which have no road access. The Monte San Salvatore funicular connects Paradiso with the summit of Monte San Salvatore.
11. Locarno: Locarno is the capital of the Locarno district, located on the northern tip of Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore) in the Swiss canton of Ticino, close to Ascona at the foot of the Alps. The Locarno International Film Festival takes place every year in August in the city and, at night, on the Piazza Grande.In January 2004, the Italian historian Marino Vigano speculated that Locarno’s castle may have been designed by Leonardo da Vinci. The Astrovia Locarno is a 1 : 1,000,000,000 scale model of the Solar System. The Sun can be found at the end of Via Gioacchino Respini where the cycle path, which runs alongside the river Maggia, starts. Pluto, the final planet in the model, can be found 6 kilometres (4 miles) away from this starting point in the village of Tegna.
12. Murten: Murten is a municipality in the See district of the canton of Fribourg in Switzerland. It is located on the southern shores of Lake Morat. Morat is situated between Bern and Lausanne. It is home to the prehistoric pile-dwelling (or stilt house) settlement at Segelboothafen that is part of the Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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