The Best Country in the World? Switzerland

Earlier this week, an annual survey ranking the best countries in the world was released by U.S. News & World Report.  The 2017 rankings were calculated based on three primary factors, peace, quiet and prosperity, attributes I think we can all agree make for an enjoyable getaway. Given all of the buzz, I began thinking about planning a trip to the famously neutral, top ranked nation.  I put together a list of the must visit cities in Switzerland, which I had to share with you in case you’re planning a trip too. Cheers to wanderlust!

Geneva

Photo courtesy of Mihai-Bogdan Lazar / Shutterstock

Photo courtesy of Mihai-Bogdan Lazar / Shutterstock

Sleek, slick and cosmopolitan, Geneva is a rare breed of city: it’s among  Europe’s priciest, its people chatter in every language and it’s constantly perceived as the Swiss capital (it isn’t). Superbly strung around the shores of Europe’s largest Alpine lake, Switzerland’s second-largest city has only half the population of Zürich; yet the whole world is here: 200-odd governmental and nongovernmental international organisations fill Geneva’s plush hotels, feast on its international cuisine and help prop up its famed overload of banks, luxury jewelers and chocolate shops.

But where’s the urban grit? Not in the lakeside’s silky-smooth promenades and iconic fountain of record-breaking heights, nor in its pedestrian Old Town. To find the rough cut of the diamond, dig into the Pâquis quarter or walk along the Rhône’s industrial shores where local neighbourhood bars hum with attitude. This is the Geneva of the Genevois…or as close as you’ll get to it. –Lonely Planet Geneva

Bern

Photo courtesy of  Pecold / ShutterstockPhoto courtesy of  Pecold / Shutterstock

Wandering through the picture-postcard Old Town, with its provincial, laid-back air, it’s hard to believe that Bern (Berne in French) is the capital of Switzerland – but it is, and a Unesco World Heritage Site to boot.

Bern’s flag-festooned, cobbled centre, rebuilt in distinctive grey-green sandstone after a devastating 1405 fire, is an aesthetic delight, with 6km of covered arcades, cellar shops and bars, and fantastical folk figures frolicking on 16th-century fountains. From the surrounding hills, you’re presented with an equally captivating picture of red roofs arrayed on a spit of land within a bend of the Aare River.

In a nutshell, Bern seduces and surprises at every turn. Its museums are excellent, its drinking scene dynamic, its bear park utterly unique, and its locals happy to switch from their famously lilting dialect to English – which all goes to show that there’s more to Bern than bureaucracy. –Lonely Planet Bern

 Lucerne

Photo courtesy of M. Dawes / FlickrPhoto courtesy of M. Dawes / Flickr

Recipe for a gorgeous Swiss city: take a cobalt lake ringed by mountains of myth, add a well-preserved medieval Altstadt (Old Town) and a reputation for making beautiful music, then sprinkle with covered bridges, sunny plazas, candy-coloured houses and waterfront promenades. Lucerne is stunning, and deservedly popular since the likes of Goethe, Queen Victoria and Wagner savoured her views in the 19th century. Legend has it that an angel with a light showed the first settlers where to build a chapel in Lucerne, and today it still has amazing grace.

One minute it’s nostalgic, the next highbrow. Though the shops are still crammed with what Mark Twain so eloquently described as ‘gimcrackery of the souvenir sort’, Lucerne doesn’t only dwell on the past, with a roster of music gigs keeping the vibe upbeat. Carnival capers at Fasnacht, balmy summers, golden autumns – this ‘city of lights’ shines in every season. –Lonely Planet Lucerne

Basel

Photo courtesy of Lonely PlanetPhoto courtesy of Lonely Planet

With museums galore, a scenic setting on the Rhine and one of Europe’s best winter carnivals, Basel makes an appealing stopover, especially for lovers of art and contemporary urban design.

The city’s year-round attractions, including the engaging Old Town, are mostly concentrated in Grossbasel (Greater Basel) on the south bank of the Rhine. Over the river, Kleinbasel (Little Basel) is a grittier area, long home to this rich city’s working class. The relief bust of Lällekeenig (Tongue King) – near the southern end of Mittlere Brücke – sticking his tongue out at the northern end, just about sums up the old attitude between the two sides of town.

Basel is also the closest Switzerland comes to having a seaport; the Rhine is navigable for decent-sized ships from this point until it reaches the North Sea in Holland. It follows a gentle bend through the city, from southeast to north. –Lonely Planet Basel

Zürich

Photo courtesy of Alexander Chaikin / ShutterstockPhoto courtesy of Alexander Chaikin / Shutterstock

Culturally vibrant, efficiently run and attractively set at the meeting of river and lake, Zürich is regularly recognised as one of the world’s most liveable cities. Long known as a savvy, hard-working financial centre, Switzerland’s largest and wealthiest metropolis has also emerged in the 21st century as one of central Europe’s hippest destinations, with an artsy, post-industrial edge that is epitomised in its exuberant summer Street Parade.

Much of the ancient centre, with its winding lanes and tall church steeples, has been kept lovingly intact. Yet Zürich has also wholeheartedly embraced contemporary trends, with the conversion of old factories into cultural centres and creative new living spaces. Nowhere is that clearer than in Züri-West, the epicentre of the city’s nightlife. – Lonely Planet Zürich

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