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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.
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.
If you’re after a winter sports holiday, you can’t find a more gorgeous place to do it than Interlaken, the popular Swiss resort town. There’s superlative skiing, toboggan rides, miles of sledding tracks (which, like the ski slopes, vary in difficulty), snowboarding… all with amazing views of the mountains. In summer, hike among the ibex at nearby Neiderhorn, or shop for watches in the town’s boutiques.
Although originally known as a summer destination, when the first snowflakes land in St-Moritz, so do the international scenesters, bundled up in the latest "must-have" accessories. In winter, take a ride on the Glacier Express from Zermatt to arrive in style. Cable cars ascend to three nearby mountain tops. Hundreds of miles of ski trails and a frozen lake comprise the area's most popular sports venues. Follow the Romans' example and try one of the city's mineral springs, such as St-Moritz Bader.
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.