Switzerland’s largest city, frequently referred to as one of the ‘nicest places to live in the world’ has long been known for its efficient, affluent lifestyle. But choose to head over the Lindenhof Hill and you’ll find a country so much richer than its well-heeled second city.
The unnervingly named Hell Grottoes is the kind of place where you have to pinch yourself in order to remember that you are a) still on planet earth, and b) only 30 minutes outside a city centre. These extraordinary underground stone formations have been cleverly highlighted with multi-coloured lights, bringing out every corner and crevice of their tremendously twisting contours.
This is the ideal trip for kids looking to feed their imaginations, and nervous parents need not worry at all; paths are laid out to make it safe for little ones to explore at their own pace and signs are posted at every corner to guide you along your subterranean adventure.
Ever wondered what Switzerland looked like 500 years ago? Then make a beeline for Ballenberg – an open air museum, 60 miles south of Zurich, which houses buildings and examples of architecture deep-rooted in Swiss culture from all over the country. With interactive hands-on exhibits, you’ll be able to get up close and personal with the extraordinary history of the place you’re visiting.
The museum is split into eleven different areas each relating to different regions of the country, from the mountainous Cantons of Berne and Valais to the central areas of Ticino. Essentially, you’ll be taking a trip into a mini Switzerland and stepping foot straight into the past. A slightly strange way to spend a day perhaps, but a superb opportunity to get to know more about a nation and its people.
1 hour 15 minutes
Stretching 170 metres long, the Trift Bridge is one of the world’s most spectacular (if slightly scary) walks. But its entire existence is a bittersweet subject. In 2004 the glacier below began to melt at an incredible pace and access to one of the main huts of the Swiss Alpine Club could no longer be reached on foot. The resulting bridge that was built soon became a tourist hotspot, known for its amazing views of the surrounding mountains.
One of the longest and highest pedestrian suspension bridges in the world, it perhaps bears a resemblance to the type of crossing you might expect to see in an Indiana Jones film, modelled as it is on the style of rope bridge more commonly seen in places like Nepal. However, perhaps the best bit is that the bridge is only accessible through a ravine by cable car, so the incredible views begin even before you’ve reached the final destination.
1 hour 40 minutes
It’s unbelievable to think that this interweaving mountain pass was once a main delivery route for the Swiss horse-driven postal service. Turning in and out of its twisting hairpins, one can’t help but spare a thought for the poor fillies of yesteryear. Luckily for the horses, the equine delivery service has been consigned to the past and replaced by a more modern transport solution; cars and their fortunate drivers now get to enjoy what is without doubt one of Europe’s most pleasant journeys.
But don’t think as a passenger you’ll be left missing out. The scenery surrounding the pass is some of the best in the Alps, with grassy hills topped with rough snowy peaks interrupted by a series of tunnels that actually pass through the mountain; this is definitely a drive for admirers of incredible engineering feats.
1 hour 40 minutes
Château de Chillon
Pronounced ‘Shee-yon’, this beautiful castle on the narrow shore between Montreux and Villeneuve is the archetypal princess’ hideaway, straight off the pages of an enchanting romantic poem. One of many artistic admirers, the poet Lord Byron, chose it as the subject for his own fable, The Prisoner of Chillon, after being inspired by his travels to Lake Geneva with his friend, Percy Bysshe Shelley.
On reflection you can certainly see what captured his imagination. Situated on a rock overlooking the lake, it’s an architectural gem surrounded by a scene that would not look out of place in a Bond film; dramatic doesn’t even cut it. The most visited historic building in Switzerland, the castle also has the facilities befitting of its status, with audio or guided tours to choose from and restored furniture decorating each room, giving tourists a real glimpse into the building’s history.
2 hours 30 minutes