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The Best of Switzerland: A Taste of Zurich, St. Moritz, Zermatt and Geneva

“What brings you to Switzerland?” a waiter, clad in a tuxedo and bowtie, asked as he made his way through the train car, serving stiff apertifs and delicate Swiss chocolates. At 150 miles-an-hour, the wide-windowed Glacier Express glided through the snowy landscape, through covered bridges and tunnels, scaling glacial peaks with ease as we gawked at the dramatic valleys below. We both glanced outside as the train emerged from a covered bridge and soared over a forest of snow-covered evergreen trees. Isn’t it obvious? I thought.

But this wasn’t the case. I knew the tiny European nation had much to offer—chocolate, castles, a plethora of cultures and an excess of Alpine charm. But traveling through Switzerland is like opening a menu at a fine restaurant; between gorgeous, cosmopolitan cities, great lakes and ski towns, it’s hard to know where to start. And it’s crucial to choose your route carefully. Read on for some of the very best this dazzling winter getaway has to offer, along with our picks of where to stay, eat and play in each locale.

Contact Indagare for assistance planning a beach vacation. Our specialists can book you at the property that is right for you, plan seamless travel transfers and arrange great activities, meals and special experiences.

Zurich: Design Shops and High Tea

Stately Zurich is the perfect welcome to Switzerland’s charms. A day here should be spent exploring the charming Niederdorf, Old Town, where churches, cobblestone streets and leafy squares give way to groovy-cool design shops. But ‘Nouveau’ Zurich, the new and trendier side of the city, is also worth a visit: walk along the glassy, church-framed lake (which presents great photo opportunities) to the Bahnofstrasse, the Champs-Elysees of the city, with myriad luxury clothing and watch shops lining the street. (You may want to pick up some Swiss-approved apparel if you plan to visit the country’s sophisticated ski resorts.)

Stay… At Baur Au Lac for Old World décor and polished service (even if you aren’t staying there, don’t miss their afternoon tea service); Park Hyatt Zurich for a family-friendly atmosphere, contemporary design and an ideal location; and the Dolder Grand for one of the world’s top spas and myriad amenities
Eat… At Lindenhofkeller for traditional Swiss cuisine in a restored 14th-century cellar or Lumière for upscale brasserie fare
Drink… At Widder Bar for pre- or post-dinner drinks in a handsome dining room or Bar Am Wasser for craft cocktails in a sleek, scene-y space
Shop… ceramics and homewares at EnSoie; macarons at Sprungli, the renowned confectionery; and cutting-edge fashion at Viadukt, the city’s warehouse quarter-cum-trendy shopping area

Related: Where to Go This Spring

St. Moritz: Ski, Scene and Beyond

Where else in the world can you find fur-clad ski boots, billionaire chalets and aprés-ski huts that book reservations days in advance? The answer is a few places, actually, as the dizzying array of European ski resorts—from Verbier to Mont Blanc, Val D’Isere to St. Anton—makes it nearly impossible to choose which place to ski fresh powder. Many people know St. Moritz as the birthplace of winter tourism, which occurred some 150 years ago when the Brits began to frequent the Engadin Valley. But the reason to go to St. Moritz is the fact that there is plenty to do for non-skiiers. Beyond Michelin-starred and family-run restaurants, a stellar spa scene and grab bag of surrounding villages, St. Moritz is rising as an art-lovers’ destination with the addition of two noteworthy museums.  Museum Susch opened earlier this year in a former medieval monastery and was impressively excavated to feature underground galleries with contemporary art installations and sculptures. The Segantini Museum is undergoing a renovation this year (reopening in December) and features the works of revered 19th-century painter Giovanni Segantini. This will surely be big news at the start of next winter’s season.

Stay… At the lavish grande dame Badrutt’s Palace or the exclusive, slightly removed Carlton.
Eat… Truffle pizza at the cozy Chesa Veglia or outstanding Swiss cuisine at Dal Mulin (a favorite for carnivores)
Drink… with a view at the stunning El Paradiso, on Corviglia mountain or at the trendy, off-the-beaten-path Baracca bar
Visit… The tiny town of Zuoz, one of the Engadin Valley’s loveliest, with beautifully restored, painted buildings and cobblestone streets. 

Related: Top 10 Cities for Foodies

Zermatt: Fondue and Outdoor Pursuits

Located in the south of Switzerland directly across the Alps from Cervinia, Italy, Zermatt was originally a small farming community where locals would live in chalets for the summer months. Today, the car-free town holds true to its quaint routes thanks to its small size and location tucked within a valley. But Zermatt is far from cushy: the destination packs a punch with an unrivaled high-elevation experience—situated at 5k+ feet and surrounded by surrounded by thirty-eight 13,000 ft. peaks—with activities like high-adrenaline hiking, rock-climbing and mountain biking on offer in addition to skiing. Spending time in Zermatt means living as the Swiss do with days on the slopes and nights indulging in fondue. History is a big part of this town as well, with a legacy shaped by Matterhorn-conquering explorers. Many restaurants feature traditional, 19th-century ovens and dining rooms.

Stay… at the Mont Cervin Palace Hotel, for the ultimate in Alpine glamour; Grand Hotel Zermatterhof, for a grand and traditional full-service resort; or Schweizerhof, the recently reopened contemporary option from Michel Reybier (responsible for La Reserve hotels)
Eat…. a fondue lunch on the mountain mid-ski at Chez Vrony; delectable Alpine cuisine in a handsome, historic dining room at Restaurant 1818; or traditional Swiss raclette at Whymper-Stube
Drink… après ski cocktails at buzzy mountainside restaurant Cervo
See…Europe’s highest-altitude open-air railway to the top of Gornergrat

En Route: The Glacier Express

The concept of a ‘travel day’ is usually a waste en route to a further destination, but in Switzerland, a train ride through the Alps can be elevated to an exceptional experience. There is no better way to soak up the Alps’  beauty than on the Glacier Express, a fire engine-red train that gracefully winds through 150 miles of dramatic valleys, glacial peaks, evergreen forests and little villages, through 291 bridges and 91 tunnels. The Excellence Class is a smaller, more elegantly-designed car that guarantees passengers a window seat—not to mention a multi-course, Authentically Swiss meal punctuated by cocktails and treats served at the intimate bar.
Contact us to reserve a seat on the Glacier Express.

Geneva: The Finer Things

The largest city in Switzerland, Geneva is one of the world’s most global metropolises, hosting the highest number of international organizations in the world along with the headquarters of both the United Nations and the Red Cross. With a history dating back to the Protestant Reformation, Geneva’s Old Town is traditional in feel, with cozy, cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways and St. Peter’s Cathedral, which overlooks downtown (climb the 157 steps up the north tower for panoramic views.) Spend the morning exploring Old Town before visiting Carouge, a charming neighborhood comparable to New York’s West Village. Nearly every storefront is occupied by a chic restaurant or boutique.

Sleep…at the exquisite La Reserve hotel (with 85 rooms and 17 suites, each of which is infused with the character and refined style of an African lodge (think rich velvets and sateen combined with muted earth tones)
Experience…a boat ride on Lake Geneva to see the stunning countryside
Splurge…on a timepiece by Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Philippe & Co
Eat… cheese fondue at Restaurant Au Vieux Carouge
Drink…locally made Swiss wine, only 3% of which is exported

Contact Indagare for assistance planning a beach vacation. Our specialists can book you at the property that is right for you, plan seamless travel transfers and arrange great activities, meals and special experiences.

– Blair West on April 10, 2019

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