From mountain excursions to architectural wonders, culinary delights and shopping sprees, Switzerland offers amazing things to see and do. Indonesia Design (iD) was lucky to have been invited by Switzerland Tourism to explore the country this autumn. Through this reportage, we take you through the highlights of a wonderful eight days!
Photos from various sources (Jungfraujoch, KKL Luzern, The Hey Hotel, Bürgenstock, Indonesia Design)
Switzerland’s transport system is one of the best in the world. It is punctual and comfortable with the integration of trains, buses, boats and cable cars. The train system connects all regions, cities and villages. Moreover, the Swiss Travel Pass makes travel easy for tourists because it covers unlimited rides by train, bus and boat as well as admittance to museums and selected mountain excursions. From day one, through the train windows, we were blessed with gorgeous view of meadows, grazing cows, charming villages and waterfalls.
Highland and Mountain Excursions in Switzerland
Arriving in Zurich early in the morning after flying SWISS air from Singapore, our journey continued on the first class train to Chexbres, then a light hike through the beautiful terraced vineyards of Lavaux. The area contains 830 hectares of grape vines and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are 300 wines cultivated in Lavaux region available at the wine tasting centre, Lavaux Vinorama. That’s where we sampled three Chasselas, a smooth white wine produced in the region.
The next day, five hours on connecting trains, brought us to the popular destination: Grindelwald. When visiting a country surrounded by the Alps, you can expect many mountain-related activities. Our first was The First Cliff Walk by Tissot, an elevated walkway built along the rock face leading to a cantilever viewing platform at 2,168 m above sea level. It was quite a heartstopper, especially with the glass floor at the edge. However, the majestic view of the snow-capped Alps was totally worth it.
Our next mountain excursion was the guided tour on Jungfraujoch, a saddle between the summits of Jungfrau and Mönch. Known as ‘Top of Europe’, it is the highest point (3,454 m) in Europe accessible to tourists by train since 1912. The excursion begins at the recently renovated Grindelwald Terminal, continues with the Eiger Express tricable gondola to Eigergletscher station, and then an elevator up to the Sphynx Observatory. There is an outdoor viewing deck at 3,571 m, to marvel at the view of Mittelland up to the Vosges mountain range and Aletsch glacier covered by snow.
The regular gondola seats 26 people comfortably. For visitors with VIP pass, there is a Platinum gondola which seats 10 people in the same size car, which means more space for everyone. Plus, access to the Platinum Club waiting room, designed elegantly by BOFOR Design.
The Ice Palace, established during the 1930s is a must-visit attraction at Jungfraujoch. Walking through a tunnel of ice with sculptures formed from ice – a piano, eagles, penguins, and the acorn-crazy saber-toothed squirrel from the “Ice Age” movies for example. Have lunch at one of the restaurants and send a postcard from the highest mail box in Europe to complete your experience.
Another highlight of Jungfrau region is the Thrill Walk at Birg, the midpoint of Schilthorn mountain at 2,677 m. It is a steel structure, about 200 m long, which closely hugs the rocky mountain. The walk contains a variety of segments that you can choose to walk on for extra adventure: the tightrope and cattle grid, glass bottom, and crawl-through tunnel. If thrill-seeking is not your thing, opt for the Skyline Walk, an observation deck suspended over the vertical abyss. Both offer magnificent views of the Alps above the clouds including Eiger, Jungfrau and Mönch.
Exquisite mountain scenery can also be enjoyed from the 360° revolving Piz Gloria Restaurant made famous by 007. The 1969 movie, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” was filmed there. The James Bond Brunch serves delicious food ranging from snacks to regional dishes, like rösti and the Zurich-style sliced veal, pork steak with mushroom sauce. For 007 fans the James Bond package also includes a visit to the interactive Spy World museum and cinema onsite.
Harder Kulm, on top of the towns of Interlaken and Unterseen, features overwhelmingly beautiful views at 1,322 m asl. On a clear day, you can venture onto the overhanging Two Lakes Bridge to enjoy the scenery. A special meal waited for us at Panorama Restaurant Harder Kulm which offers various menu options from steaks to Asian delights. We enjoyed cheese fondue, one of Switzerland’s iconic foods, which is best enjoyed communally. The fondue was a delicious mix of Swiss cheese, wine and garlic, which we dipped bread and boiled potatoes in.
A hike on Rigi mountain was our final mountain excursion. The Rigi Känzeli hiking route was relatively easy and scenic overlooking Lake Lucerne, Lucerne city and the Alps. The mountain itself is surrounded by three bodies of water: Lake Lucerne, Lake Zug and Lake Lauerz. Then we rode a Rigi Railways train to Rigi Kaltbad along one of Europe’s oldest mountain railways.
Unfortunately it was too foggy for our planned hike to the summit, Rigi Kulm, at 1,798 m so we ended our hike at Kräuterhotel Edelweiss and enjoyed lunch at the Regina Montium bistro. The menu features many ingredients from the restaurant garden, like the rose petals in the pumpkin soup and a vegetable mix combined with Rigi beef ragout.
The city of Luzern or Lucerne in Central Switzerland is known for its preserved medieval architecture. It is also one of Switzerland’s big cities with rows of modern architecture. One must-visit place is KKL Luzern (short for Lucerne Culture and Congress Centre). Located in the heart of the city, within walking distance from the Old Town and next door to the train station, Bahnhof Luzern.
Designed by an award-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, it was built between 1995 and 2000. Amongst many of its sophisticated features, KKL Luzern has an area on the ground floor where the lake water protrudes into the building via water channels. The building houses a conference centre and two concert halls. The most iconic is the white Concert Hall, which has hosted countless music performances. American acoustic engineer Russel Johnson was responsible for the top-notch acoustics which include a wooden part on the ceiling that can be lowered or raised, according to the audio requirements of each concert. Like a cathedral, it has an organ with 4,367 pipes made of wood and metal.
Swiss Museum of Transport
A visit to Switzerland’s most visited museum, Verkehrshaus der Schweiz or Swiss Museum of Transport, in Lucerne is far from boring. Opened in 1959, it displays the past, present and future of mobility with highly interactive exhibits enjoyable for both children and adults.
Aside from displaying vehicles, and the real submarine designed by Auguste Piccard in 1963, the museum also provides interesting insights about many facets related to transportation. For example, there is a car crash simulation in the automotive section, an air traffic control activity, and a wind velocity test on a bicycle. The open-aired Arena features a large boating pool, go-karts and buses for children, amongst others. And outside the museum, a gigantic drill sits beside the entrance, which used to drill through mountains to create a tunnel for the railways.
The Hey Hotel
The hotel occupies a stylish old building at the heart of the town of Interlaken. The four-star hotel combines creativity with a relaxed ambience with paintings, photographs and statues displayed in the reception area. An art gallery is located by the lobby, displaying artworks on intentionally unfinished panels.
The Hey Hotel’s guest rooms are simple and cosy. Some rooms provide three to five beds, which cater for families and friends traveling together, and some have a balcony that overlooks the city backdropped by the mountains. It is just a few minutes walk from shops to buy chocolates, watches or any other souvenirs.
The hotel is designed by Erik Nissen Johansen, an award-winning Norwegian architect who founded the Sweden-based Stylt Trampoli AB. “We believe that personality and character are much more important than the latest design trend,” Erik said. And the hotel’s playful yet elegant interior proves this true.
Bürgenstock Hotels & Resort
Our last night in Switzerland was spent at the exclusive Palace Hotel, one of The Bürgenstock Collection. Overlooking the beautiful Lake Lucerne, the hotel first opened in 1903 and has hosted big names like Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn and Jimmy Carter through its long history. The latest renovation was executed in 2017 by Rüssli Architekten AG, a local Lucerne company. The 109 rooms and suites range from 33 to 120 sqm, and event venues cover a generous 2,200 sqm.
We took a ferry ride and a funicular cable railway ride to reach the resort, which offers rich culinary diversity: several restaurants, bars and lounges cater from local Swiss cuisine to classic French brasserie, Asian delights and Persian specialities. The hot water infinity pool and sauna at Bürgenstock Alpine Spa is not to be missed, as well as a ride on The Hammetschwand Lift, the highest outdoor lift in Europe at 1,132 m for more jaw-dropping views. With panoramic scenery, luxurious accommodation and delicious food, it marked a delightful end to our tour of Switzerland.