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Switzerland Information

Switzerland is a beautiful country with spectacular scenery and a unique cultural mix of French, German and Italian influences. There are four official languages - German, Italian, French and Romansch, a language derived from Latin that is spoken in the centre of the country. Each of these languages is spoken in a different region of Switzerland. The northeast of the country speaks the Swiss dialect of German and is also culturally German. Similarly, the south-west is where French is spoken and the cultural atmosphere is unmistakably French. Finally, there is the south-east, where Italian is spoken in Italian-style plazas.


Zurich, Switzerland's biggest city, is an international banking centre and boasts thriving nightlife. It is also a Euro 2008 Host City. There are many historic sites. Grossmunster is an old Romanesque church and was a centre of the Reformation. It is where Huldrych Zwingli was appointed the people's priest in 1519. Landesmuseum is a museum of Swiss history, the largest such museum in Switzerland. You can also learn about the various traditions of the cantons comprising Switzerland. It's currently undergoing major refurbishment works until 2009 though many exhibitions are still open. Kunsthaus is a Swiss art museum. Its specialities are modern sculpturer Giacometti and the surrealist 18th Century painter Fuseli, both Swiss. The Chinese Garden was a gift to Zurich from the city of Kunming, after Zurich helped Kunming with technical knowledge. The Bahnhofstrasse is one of the world's best known shopping streets. Jacob Coffee Museum looks at the history of coffee culture.

Things to do in Zurich: Take the Polybahn, a 19th century funicular, up the steep hill for a fine view. Take a trip on the Zürichsee with one of the two old steam ships. There are a few different routes you can choose from, which will vary mainly in the distance. Or rent a small rowboat. Go up Uetliberg, a hill overlooking Zurich. You can hike up, or take a train from the main station. Enjoy the 360 degree view from a tall viewing tower (not for vertigo sufferers!). Go club-hopping — Zürich has proportionately the largest number of clubs per capita in Europe.

In August, Zurich hosts the Streetparade, currently the biggest open air techno rave in Europe. After the Streetparade the party doesn't stop, there are open air parties along the route until midnight and club parties at various locations in town until late the next day, to keep the party going.

For shopping in Zürich there are three different areas in the centre:

    * Bahnhofstrasse, which runs from the Zürich Train Main station "Hauptbahnhof" right down to the lake. Bahnhofsstrasse is famous for being one of the most exclusive and expensive shopping streets in the world. Here you can get anything from diamond rings to chocolate and fur coats. Globus and Jelmoli are two fiercely competitive department stores, both of whom carry items from many high-end brands.
    * Niederdorf, which is the Old Part of Zurich and expands from "Bellevue" by the Lake right to "Central" which is just over the River from the train station. The Niederdorf is more for young people. Aside from a lot of fast food places you will find a lot of trendy clothes stores here.
    * Löwenstrasse, which runs west of Bahnhofstrasse from the main train station, has lower range shops and a large branch of Migros, a department store chain.


Geneva is Switzerland's second-largest city, and renowned for arts and culture, and an emormous number of restaurants. It is also one of the world's major diplomatic centres; many United Nations organisations are based here, as is the Red Cross. It was the centre of the Reformation, being Calvin's home from 1541. This history is commemorated in the International Museum of the Reformation and Saint-Pierre Cathedral. Geneva also has the Museum of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

One of the crowning symbols of Geneva is the monumental Jet d'Eau, a fountain of water pumped 140m into the air. The spectacular plume was once an occasional pressure release for hydro-power generation on the Rhône River, but people liked it so much that in 1891 the city created a permanent pumped fountain. It's beautifully lit at night. Best viewed from a distance — the surrounding half kilometer is soaked with water.

Cathédrale St-Pierre, Place St. Pierre (At the highest point in the Old Town). The new Espace Saint Pierre pass includes entrance to all three sites of Cour Saint-Pierre, a noteworthy space of unique spiritual and cultural importance. The Cathedral and its towers, which both embody the high point of the Reformed tradition and explore the origins of Christianity with an extensive archaeological site are now complemented by the International Museum of the Reformation on the ground floor of the Maison Mallet. An underground passage, reopened when the Museum was created, connects the two buildings. Nearby, the Auditoire, where Calvin taught, completes a complex that is both representative of the past and open to current questions. The new Espace Saint-Pierre thus aims to contribute to our understanding of today’s world – between tradition and modernity, cultural experimentation and spiritual practice.

For shopping, La Rue du Marché, a 5 minute walk southwards from the train station, has just about everything. From the traditional to the modern, from souvenirs to household appliances to libraries to prescription glasses. This is one of Geneva's busiest streets, and is kept clean and appealing. Prices are fair for the most part.


Berne, the capital city, has a hostoric old-town that has been meticulously preserved. It sits on a peninsula formed by the meandering turns of the river Aare. The remarkable design coherence of the Berne's old town has earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It features 4 miles of ar