Nature, culture and relaxation abound in cities from Lucerne to Locarno
If ever there was a time when the world needs to reconnect with nature and the great outdoors, it’s now. Lengthy lockdowns and social distancing have left many dreaming of wandering free in wide-open spaces, walking in sunshine, and breathing in fresh, crisp air.
Switzerland’s boutique cities offer just the tonic, alive with nature, blessed with idyllic lakes, parks and gardens, and a magnet for anyone wanting to relax and unwind. The beguiling mix of Swiss spirit, energy and renowned hospitality, combined with the country’s abundant beauty, encourages visitors to return time and again.
With so many breathtaking attractions to choose from, Switzerland’s charming and historic cities often have to vie for the spotlight, but each of these green, clean and serene urban centres from Bern to Zurich and Lucerne to Locarno deliver boutique-style holiday experiences replete with nature, culture and tranquility.
Zurich: The Gallery Mile … and millions of stars
Home to Switzerland’s largest art museum, Zurich has long been a capital of culture, but an exciting extension of the Kunsthaus Zurich by leading architect David Chipperfield will elevate ‘The Gallery Mile’ art experience on Heimplatz further. As Director of Zurich Art Weekend, Charlotte von Stotzingen and her team deliver a three-day showcase of art and culture every June, when public and private art institutions, galleries, and other project spaces open their doors for artists’ talks, art walks and special guided tours.
Visit hotspots such as Mai 36 Galerie on Ramistrasse; tour the newly arranged Giacometti exhibition at the Kunsthaus Zurich, and a performance at the Schauspielhaus Zurich, one of the most respected and progressive German-speaking theatre stages. From stars of the art world to a canopy of intergalactic stars, stay at one of Switzerland’s unique Million Stars Hotels, offering stunning views of the night sky. Zurich’s Widder Hotel offers a luxury rooftop ‘Bubble Suite’, complete with panoramas of the old town, lake, the Swiss Alps, and millions of stars above.
Lucerne: From mountains to city on the Tell Trail
One of the finest long-distance walking trails in central Switzerland, the William Tell Trail is a hiker’s delight leading from Altdorf to the Brienzer Rothorn, past soaring mountain peaks and on to picture-postcard Lucerne.
The more leisurely third section of the trail leads from the Rigi mountain to the station of Rigi Kaltbad. From here, the historic cog railway takes visitors to Vitznau where a ferry awaits for the lake trip to Lucerne with its historic alleyways, Chapel Bridge and 200-year-old Lion Monument. After the hike, the city invites you to relax, either at the Lido or wandering through the old town.
St. Gallen: The art and soul of a cultural capital
A living museum of art and culture, St. Gallen is a major drawcard for art aficionados. Join Dr Monika Jagfeld, director of the city’s Museum im Lagerhaus, for an informative online tour of St. Gallen’s renowned art centres.
An expert in naïve and brutalist art, Dr Jagfeld showcases artworks by Santiago Calatrava, Roman Signer, Pipilotti Rist, and other major artists as well as the Kunstmuseum St. Gallen and city buildings noted for their modern architecture. Then plan your own self-guided walking tour and discover St. Gallen’s cultural heritage for yourself.
Bern: Discover the capital’s Green Belt by e-bike
The Swiss capital Bern may be better known for its UNESCO World-Heritage-listed old town, but the city also features a wonderful ‘green belt’ which is ideal for exploring by e-bike. Part-vegetable garden and part-recreation space, the popular Bern Green Belt is a testament to Swiss sustainability and can be easily accessed via Cycle Route 888. Like many others, Thomas Wieland rides his e-bike every week from his organic farm in Thorishaus to the fruit and vegetable markets in central Bern to sell his produce. Join Thomas, a self-titled ‘vegetable mule’, for a digital tour of the Bern Green Belt and learn more about this 59km route and its fascinating story.
Locarno: Springtime in Switzerland’s ‘floral queen’
Switzerland is spectacular in any and all seasons, but Locarno literally blooms in springtime. With its chic Mediterranean flair and ambience, this delightful lakeside city is a riot of colour, fragrance and botanical glory when Switzerland’s ‘floral queen’ is a feast for the senses.
The city’s beloved Camellia Park features more than 900 varieties in an array of landscaped gardens forming a labyrinthine trail for flower enthusiasts and visitors to follow at leisure.
Switzerland maintains strict health and safety protocols
Switzerland has long been considered a paragon of wellbeing and its legion of tourism operators are continuing to take special measures to protect citizens and visitors during the global pandemic.
Supported by Switzerland Tourism, the Clean & Safe campaign has implemented advanced health and safety protocols across the country, especially in the accommodation and transport sectors. For further health details, visit MySwitzerland.com.
Lead image: Zurich © Daniel Loosli