7 things Switzerland is famous for
Despite being a small country of only 8,6 million people, Switzerland has earnt itself a global reputation on the strength of its institutions and landmarks. To global observers, the country is famous for a litany of different things, from finance to culture to cheese.
Top seven things Switzerland is known for
Switzerland has been a nation for many hundreds of years. During that time the Swiss have built a reputation for being fierce warriors in the Renaissance period, generous philanthropists in the 19th century, and for running excellent financial institutions in the 20th and 21st centuries. Since the Old Swiss Confederacy was formed in 1291, Swiss culture has flourished into what we see today.
For tourists or expats coming to live in Switzerland for the first time, here are seven things Switzerland is known for:
1. Swiss banks
A pillar of global finance, Swiss banks are famous for their high quality of service and discretion. This has not always been the case, with the major banks of Zurich, Geneva, Bern and Basel only coming about in the 1800s. The stability of the nation, brought about by staying out of large international conflicts, makes Switzerland an ideal place to bank.
The Swiss Bankers Association estimated that, in 2018, Swiss banks held 6,5 trillion US dollars' worth of capital within their walls - around 25 percent of global cross-border assets at the time. Whatever your financial requirements are, Swiss banks today are openly regulated and ready to do business.
2. Swiss cheese
In a country as mountainous as Switzerland, conventional farming can be tricky. Instead of trying to farm wheat at a 30-degree angle, most Swiss farmers in the mountains choose to rear cattle. This has led to the creation of some of the worlds most popular cheeses.
From Emmental to Gruyère, Swiss cheese can range from standard soft cheese right up to the hard, strong Alpine cheese that remains the nation's favourite. The cheese culture runs strong in Switzerland, with cheese fondue seen as a special Swiss delicacy: a mixture of cheese, wine and schnapps melted over a fire and dipped into with bread.
3. Swiss chocolate
Chocolate first came to Switzerland in the 17th century, making its way to the Italian canton of Ticino. Since then, large international companies have been set up to produce chocolate in the alpine nation. Nestlé, Lindt & Sprüngli, and Tobler (the first makers of the Toblerone) were all established in the 19th and 20th centuries, and many are still operating today. It was in 1875 that a Swiss confectioner, Daniel Peter, would develop the first-ever milk chocolate, creating a light, smoother blend of the dark chocolate that was standard at the time.
Today, Switzerland’s chocolate companies produce some of the world's most premium chocolate brands, and Switzerland has the highest rate of chocolate consumed per capita in the world, at around 7,7 kilograms a year.
4. Railways in Switzerland
Switzerland has one of the densest public transport networks in the world, with over 5.300 kilometres of track linking all the major cities, towns and villages of Switzerland together. While it is rare for a village to not have a railway, it is very hard to find an area of Switzerland without a bus to a nearby station.
Unlike other European nations, Switzerland has chosen to improve and upgrade slower regional routes around the country, instead of building new “high-speed” rail lines. The most impressive achievement for Swiss railways would have to be the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which slashes the travel time from Milan to Zurich by 35 minutes.
5. Swiss mountains
Of course, no list about Switzerland would be complete without mountains. The Alps cover more than half of Switzerland’s landmass, with over 40 peaks standing at over 4.000 metres above sea level. The mountains have inspired writers, painters and rock climbers with their sheer beauty and presence amid lush alpine valleys.
The most famous mountains in Switzerland are the Matterhorn, Jungfrau, Eiger and Pilatus. Many of the famous mountains have gondolas or cable cars to their summits so that locals and tourists alike can sample the scenery.
6. Ski resorts
On these mountains are the reason why hundreds of thousands of adrenaline junkies flock to Switzerland every winter: Swiss ski resorts are well known for the quality of the snow and their exciting array of different ski runs.
7. Swiss lakes
Finally, dominating the landscape at lower altitudes, Swiss lakes are famous for their clean water and beauty. Many of the largest Swiss cities are on lakes, but this has not stopped the water from remaining clean - so much so that you can swim in most lakes in the country.
Instead of visiting beaches, locals go to Swiss lakes to swim, as some lakes’ water temperature can reach up to 25 degrees Celsius during the summer. To start to feel like a true local, a swim in a Swiss lake is an excellent place to start.
Landscape and culture makes Switzerland great
The things that Switzerland are famous for are just the tip of the iceberg of a diverse set of traditions, culture and lifestyle. To truly sample all that Switzerland has to offer, there is nothing better than seeing it for yourself.