Monday, December 7, 2015

Brienz: romantic streets, waterfalls and violins

The stunning village of Brienz has been on the tourist map since the 19th century when “The Grand Tour of Europe” became en vogue. Nested at the foot of the Brienzer Rothorn, on the northern shore of Lake Brienz, the village boasts stunning vistas and beautiful streets lined up with wooden chalets. The picture-perfect Brunngasse was once voted the most beautiful street in Europe. It is flanked by wooden traditional style 18th century houses decorated with elaborate carvings, bright flowers and armies of cute gnome figurines. 

Famous for its wood carving tradition Brienz is home to an old school that has been training woodcarvers since the 19th century. The Swiss firm Lötscher that makes the only genuine Swiss cuckoo clocks builds its exquisite clocks in its workshop in Brienz. There is also a reputable  Violin Making School in the village, the only school of its kind in Switzerland. You can book a tour 
to have a glimpse into the craft of string instrument making and learn about the trade secrets.

Brienzer Rothorn Mountain 
Brienz’s main attraction is the crystal-clear lake with its traffic-free promenade and cruises on a restored steam boat “Lötschberg”. In summer, there are many lake tours to satisfy any taste: the “Fondue boat”, “Alpine-style brunch”, “Swiss BBQ Cruise” and others. By boat you can reach the spectacular Giessbach Falls that roar down into the lake from the height of 500 metres.
Another vintage means of transport that to enjoy is the oldest steam rack railway in Switzerland, the Brienz-Rothorn Railway, that takes visitors to the Brienzer Rothorn summit to admire stunning panoramas of the Swiss Alpes.

Ballenberg Open-Air Museum
The village is home to the lovely Ballenberg Open-Air Museum where you can see 80 reconstructed  houses and farm buildings dating from the 16th to the 19th century that were brought here from all over Switzerland. From mid-April through October the museum runs fascinating traditional crafts demonstration and workshops.

Photos by: Andrew Bossi/Wikipedia Creative Commons, Miles Sabin/Flickr, Martin Hilber/Flickr.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Top five things to see in the Ticino region

Ticino is often referred to as the most glamorous region in Switzerland because of its Italian feel with waterfront promenades, palm tree-lined beaches, beautiful piazzas and sunshine. Here are the top five things to see in the Ticino region.

Sunny Lugano

Located on the northern side of Lake Lugano, the city offers a perfect mix of Italian chic and Swiss standard. Several large gardens are lush with camellias, magnolias and sub-tropical plants. The meticulously restored traffic-free Old Town has stunning architecture and a great atmosphere. Lugano boasts a number of excellent galleries and museums with works by world-famous artists such as Klee, Renoir, Degas and others.

Stunning Centovalli

Hope on the train for one of the most scenic rides in Europe, between Locarno and Domodossola, in the stunning area called Centovalli (“one hundred valleys” in Italian). From the vintage rail cars, you can admire the formidable Alpine peaks, picturesque villages, waterfalls and gorges while slowly making your way across 83 bridges.

Glamorous Ascona

Located on the northern shores of Lake Maggiore, Ascona is one of the most popular Swiss resorts with smart hotels, splendid sunshine and mild winters. Its lake promenade is dotted with charming cafes and elegant boutiques. Tennis courts, an open-air swimming pool, boat trips on the lake, hiking, excellent restaurants keep the visitors busy.

Bellinzona’s castles

The town’s famous three castles Castelgrande, Montebello, Sasso Corbaro will take your breath away. Due to its strategic position in the Alps, Romans, Longobards, various Milanese power houses  built and enlarged the formidable fortresses in Bellinzona over many centuries. Today, the castles offer a glance into the region’s fascinating history and spectacular panoramas over the Alps. The town’s cobblestone narrow street, well-preserved Medieval buildings overlooked by the citadels will take you back in time.

Historic Lucerne

Surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Rigi, Pilatus and Stanserhorn, Lucerne combines innovative architecture with well-preserved old gems such as the covered, medieval Chapel Bridge, historic houses decorated with frescoes and many beautiful Baroque churches.

Photos via Flickr by: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, Emmanuelle Nater, Michael Dawes.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The GoldenPass, an unforgettable journey in the Swiss Alps

Stretching over 150 miles, The GoldenPass train line takes travellers on an unforgettable journey across the Swiss Alps. It links six beautiful lakes and two very different regions: German-speaking Lucerne in central Switzerland and French-speaking Montreux

Golden Pass Train
You can choose to travel in sleek modern golden-colored trains or take opulent Belle Epoque coaches, which are stocked with Swiss wines and delicacies to keep you happy along the way. Some trains have VIP seats right at the front with large panoramic windows where nothing obstructs the spectacular panoramas. It is up to you whether you want to take the entire scenic train ride in one day or split and stop along the route to visit the towns along the way, which include Meiringen, Interlaken, Spiez, Zweisimmen and Gstaad.

After leaving Lucerne, the GoldenPass travels past the majestic Pilatus Mountain, shimmering Lake Sarnersee and Lake Lungernsee and starts climbing the Brünig Pass at an altitude of 1008 m, which connects the Bernese Oberland and central Switzerland. The train stops in the quiet town of Meiringen where you can get off and discover the ruined Castle of Restiturm, the Reichenbach Falls and taste famous meringue dessert, which the town claims to have invented.

After Meiringen the GoldenPass continues on past stunning Lake Brienz to Interlaken, a great base for exploring the Jungfrau region with its magnificent mountain peaks. Next stop – the picturesque town of Spiez located on the South shore of Lake Thun. The town is dominate by a medieval castle and surrounded by vineyards with the Bernese Alps as a backdrop.

The train line proceeds into the Simmen valley studded with quaint farms and pretty villages overlooked by dramatic mountain peaks. On to Zweisimmen with its ski resorts and the glamorous car-free mountain resort of Gstaad with its luxurious hotels, gourmet restaurants and boutiques, which has become a magnet for international celebrities.

Photos via Flickr by: Paula Funnell, Timo Newton-Syms, Manfred Morgner.

Friday, July 24, 2015

What to see around Lake Geneva in Switzerland

There are many things to see around LakeGeneva (Lac Léman), so take some time to plan your trip. The city of Geneva is a perfect base for exploring the region. You can go hiking, biking, cruising the lake, wine tasting, skiing, shopping or simply relaxing and taking in the stunning scenery around.


Spend a day in Montreux with its surprisingly Mediterranean climate, streets lined up with palm trees and pines, magnificent Belle Epoque buldings. Stunning views over Lake Geneva and the Alps in the background remind you that you are in Switzerland. The beauty of the area have attracted many celebrities to Montreux: starts such as Charlie Chaplin, Freddie Mercury and many others have live here. Every summer the capital of the Vaud Riviera, as Montreux is often called, hosts a world famous Jazz Festival featuring the greatest jazz, blues, rock, and soul musicians.

Chillon Castle

A few minutes from Montreux, on the rocky banks of Lake Geneva sits Chillon Castle (Château de Chillon), one of the most beautiful castles in Europe. The castles origins can be traced to at least to the 11th century although it is believed to have being built before that. It served as an outpost on the road from France to the Great Saint Bernard Pass, royal summer residence of the Counts of Savoy and prison. Chillon is the most visited historic building in Switzerland, which comes as no surprise given its dramatic setting with the snow-capped Alpes as the backdrop, stunning medieval murals inside, great halls and well-preserved structures. In the 19th century Lord Byron was so impressed by the castle that he immortalised it in a beautiful poem “The Prisoner Of Chillon”.

Lavaux - Vineyards

The northern shores of Lake Geneva with the vineyards of the Lavaux region are a paradise for wine lovers. The wine making traditions were started by Benedictine and Cistercian monks in the 11th century and since then the terraced vineyards haven-t changed much. There are a few marked trails going through the vines but you can also admire the manicured landscape from a boat cruising around the lake.

Photos via Flickr by: Alessio Maffeis, Uwe Brodrecht, Vasile Cotovanu.

Lugano: the Mediterranean side of Switzerland

Walking in Lugano, you might forget for a moment that you are in Switzerland. Relaxed atmosphere, Italian-influenced Lombardy style architecture, sunshine, locals speaking melodic Italian, - the neighbouring Bel Paese certainly lends its Mediterranean flair.

Lugano, the main city in the Italian-speaking Swiss canton of Ticino, sprawls along the shores of Lake Lugano. It is a destination for mature travellers seeking a balanced mix of comfort, culture, nature and a healthy dose of shopping. You can wonder around the traffic-free historic city center with its fancy boutiques, good restaurants, art galleries and museums. 

Pop in to the elegant Grand Café al Porto where exiled Italian political players discussed the country’s unification in the 19th century, and later, Clark Gable, Sophia Loren and a few other stars enjoyed a coffee.


Via Pessina is a paradise for foodies: here you an stock up on local cheese, breads, salami, Swiss chocolate and wine. The Lugano open air farmers’ market is a great place to scour for local delicacies and enjoy the buzz.

Lugano - Parco Ciani

On a hot summer day head to Parco Ciani where you can stroll in the shade of old trees, admire English-style gardens with plants from all over the world, statues and fountains. The Villa in the park houses and excellent fine arts museum. For an additional culture fix, visit the 15th century lakefront church St. Mary of the Angels (Chiesa Santa Maria degli Angioli) to see the best Renaissance fresco in Switzerland.

The Lake Lugano Navigation Company runs various boat trips: cruises and excursions any time of the day will take you to the small villages around the lake, for a shopping spree in Italy or a relaxing romantic dinner aboard.

Lugano - City Hall

You do not need to break sweat to explore the mountains around Lugano as many of them can be ascended in a funicular. Take a lift to Mount San Salvatore where from the rooftop of the small San Salvatore church you can admire sweeping views of the Lombardy plain and the Alps. Another funicular will take you to the top of Monte Brè for spectacular vistas of Lugano and its surroundings.

Photos via Flickr by: Vasile Cotovanu, Leonora Giovanazzi, Luca Mascaro.