What Is Switzerland Known For? 15 Famous Things

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When thinking of Switzerland, the first things that come to mind are the towering snow-capped peaks of the Alps, pristine and tranquil lakes and excellent chocolate. Switzerland is also famous for its clocks, with many long-established horology experts based in the country producing some of the finest watches in the world. One of the most iconic sights associated with Switzerland is the Matterhorn, a distinctive mountain with its craggy snow-covered summit, which was once the symbol of the Toblerone chocolate brand.

Switzerland is also well-known for its historical and medieval cities, which are easily explored on foot. If you are planning on spending some time in Switzerland, choose a city like Zurich or Bern for a historical and cultural base before exploring the rest of this beautiful country. It is impossible to think about Switzerland without imagining the glitz and glamour of its ski resorts. Ski resorts in Switzerland are very popular with people from all walks of life, from European students on school trips to the British Royal Family taking to the slopes for a winter vacation.

Aside from its winter wonderland appeal, Switzerland is the perfect destination spring and summer vacations with peaceful hikes through the forests and mountains, pausing for picnics by the edges of one of the countries many lakes and enjoying its historical cities. What is Switzerland known for? Here are 15 things that make Switzerland such a unique place.

What Is Switzerland Known For?

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Matterhorn Peak In Zermatt Ski Resort, Switzerland
The Matterhorn is one of the famous mountains Switzerland is known for.

1- The Alps

Dramatic Jungfrau Mountain
Mountains are what Switzerland is best known for. Pictured here is the Jungfrau.

It is near impossible to think of Switzerland without thinking of the Alps, one of the most famous mountain ranges in the world.

Perhaps the most famous mountain within this range is the iconic Matterhorn which is right on the Swiss border with Italy.

At 4478m (14,691 ft) this near pyramidal peak has long attracted mountaineers and hikers to scale its jagged slopes.


Visit Jungfrau-Aletsch, a UNESCO World Heritage Site to see a glacial region of the alps with outstanding natural beauty.

For the brave of heart, climb the highest peak within the alps.

Dufourspitze is the highest peak of Monte Rosa, a massif formed of several peaks, with its heights reaching 4634m (15,203ft), and is best climbed over 2 to 3 days during the summer.

One of the most dangerous and challenging summits in the Alps is Eiger which, standing at 3967m (13,015ft), has stunning views across Grindelwald.

Climbing Eiger is difficult due to the variety of techniques needed, which include rock and ice climbing on top of traditional hiking.

2- Tunnels and Engineering

Winding Road And Tunnels Around A Swiss Lake
Engineering mountain tunnels is what Switzerland is known for.

As Switzerland is a highly mountainous country, incredible feats of engineering were developed to ensure people could move about with ease.

There are around 1300 tunnels in Switzerland spanning approximately 2000 kilometres (1242 miles).

The tunnels have been engineered for transportation, flood defences and to help in the support of power plants.

One of the most impactful and important tunnels in Switzerland is the Gotthard Base Tunnel which stretches for 57 km (35 miles), making it the longest railway tunnel in the world.

Adding to Switzerland engineering feats are their remarkable mountain railroads.

It is possible to catch trains running across the Alps by boarding the Glacier Express or the Bernina Express, or for a more exhilarating journey hop on the Jungfrau railway to take you to Europes highest railway station.

For record breaking engineering innovation journey up 1300m (4265ft) along the steepest funicular railway in the world, the Stoosbahn.

Get your pass to Lucerne’s Swiss Museum of Transport to find out more.

3- Watchmaking

Switzerland has been the home of luxury watchmaking since the 16th century when the industry began to boom in Geneva.

Today, many of the most highly regarded watchmakers in the world are based in Geneva.

Rolex, one of the best-known watchmakers in the world, is based in Geneva and designs, manufactures, assembles and tests all of its watches within Switzerland.

Today Rolex has 4 main sites across Switzerland where their watches are manufactured, and where their groundbreaking metallurgical advances are developed to ensure their brand remains one of the most innovative in the industry.

Another famous Swiss watchmaker is Omega, whose headquarters are in Biel/Bienne, having been founded in the early 1900s in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

In Biel, you will find Omega’s museum which is dedicated to sharing the companies innovations surrounding watchmaking, including their links to the Olympic Games and James Bond.

For those interested in horology, there are 8 museums in Switzerland dedicated to the art of watchmaking that are open to the public, and some private collections such as those belonging to Jaeger-LeCoultre and Audemars Piguet being by appointment only.

4- Luxury Ski Resorts

Swiss Alps, Verbier, Switzerland
The snow-capped Swiss Alps is what Switzerland is most known for. Pictured here is Verbier.

Switzerland is home to some of the most luxurious ski resorts in the world, with the rich and famous flocking to the snowy slopes.

One of the most well-known ski resorts in Switzerland is Verbier.

This ski resort is nestled within the Alps and has more than 200 kilometres (124 miles) of skiable routes ranging from beginner friendly blue pistes to the more daring and challenging black runs.

Aside from skiing, expect to find luxury dining, excellent apres-ski opportunities and of course bustling night life.

One of the most exclusive and desirable ski resorts in Switzerland is St Moritz, otherwise known as a millionaires playground.

St Moritz ski resort is the epitome of flash and luxury; expect to see fast sports cars, designer brands and opulence at every turn.

Another opulent and luxurious ski resort in Switzerland is Gstaad, where tradition meets glamour.

Here you will find spectacular historical architecture, luxury dining opportunities including a range of Michelin-starred restaurants, and of course ski resorts with plenty of slopes to explore.

5- Historic Cities And Architecture

Street In Lucerne, Switzerland
Switzerland is known for historic old towns like Lucerne.

Switzerland is well-known for its long and ancient history, with many historical buildings from centuries past still standing today.

Spend some time in Lucerne and admire its historical buildings, some of which date from the 15th century.

There are plenty of must-see historical sites in Lucerne including the Lion of Lucerne, a sculpture of a dying lion dedicated to the Swiss soldiers who died during the French Revolution, and the iconic Zytturm, a clock tower that forms part of the city’s medieval walls.

Bern is a true historic centre and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Basel has a charming old town too.

Bern was founded in the 12th century and its Old Town has buildings dating mostly from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Unlike the previous two cities, Zurich’s old town is decidedly modern, with the highest concentration of nightclubs and bars in the country set inside this medieval centre.

Step away from modernity and spend some time marvelling at the old by paying a visit to Fraumünster, a church dating from 853 with beautiful stained glass windows.

6- Having Four Official Languages

Stack Of Coins Money With Switzerland Flag
Finance and banking comes to mind when answering the question “what is Switzerland is known for economically”?

Unlike its European neighbours, Switzerland does not have just one official language, it has four.

The four languages of Switzerland are German, French, Italian and Romansh.

The majority of speakers in Switzerland speak German or Swiss German, which merges a variety of Alemmanic dialects to form this regional language.

As you venture closer to the Italian border, expect to find more Italian speakers.

The number of French speakers within Switzerland is increasing and is being documented further away from the French border than in previous decades.

The majority of Swiss nationals are multi-lingual, speaking the main language of their region, plus typically German and English as additional languages.

As a result, many of the signs in Switzerland, particularly in touristy areas or at the airports and train stations, will be written in multiple languages to help you navigate with ease.

As you venture into each canton, or region, be aware that the widely spoken language may change and therefore signs, menus and maps may not be translated into the language you are familiar with.

It is possible to get by using English in Switzerland, however being able to speak a few phrases in German will certainly benefit you.

7- Chocolate

Swiss Chocolates In Gift Box
Chocolates is another item Switzerland is known for.

It would be impossible to imagine Switzerland without thinking of chocolate.

Switzerland is world famous for its chocolates, in particular, it’s production of milk chocolate.

Switzerland’s chocolate history dates from the 19th century where chocolate production was developed to create not only quality recipes but a range of innovative manufacturing processes, allowing the country to produce some of the best chocolate in the world.

Swiss chocolate is so popular that around 70% of its chocolate production is exported out of the country.

Despite this, the Swiss eat a lot of chocolate with Swiss nationals eating more chocolate than any other nation in the world.

Switzerland doesn’t just produce delicious chocolate, as for centuries it has been a core part in developing machines to allow chocolate to be mass-produced.

François-Louis Cailler, a 19th century chocolatier, was the first person to make chocolate into a solid.

Rodolphe Lindt, the man behind the Lindt we know and love today, developed a machine which allowed chocolate to be melted and tempered at different temperatures, giving his chocolate its signature creamy filling.

8- Cheese

Retail Of Swiss Gruyere Cheese In Switzerland
Swiss cheese is one of the things Switzerland is known for producing.

Indulging in local delicacies is one of the best ways to get to know a new country, and indulging in Swiss cheese during your visit is an excellent way to excite your tastebuds.

One of the best ways to enjoy Swiss cheese is as a fondue which is often served in Swiss restaurants and of course on the snowy slopes of ski resorts.

Cheese fondue dates from the 18th century and was created to allow farmers to make their supplies last longer over the winter months.

Cheese fondue traditionally uses Gruyère and Vacherin Fribougeois cheeses combined with wine and garlic and melted over a flame till it forms a thick sauce.

The sauce is kept warm in a large pot set over a candle, and is eaten by dipping in chunks of crusty bread.

Fondue is traditionally served in the winter months and is the perfect way to warm up after a day on the slopes.

9- Roger Federer

Roger Federer is one of the most well-known Swiss nationals.

Born in Basel 1981, Federer was ranked at number 1 in the world for tennis players and secured 20 grand-slam titles including 8 Wimbledon wins.

Federer began playing tennis aged 8 and was the junior champion of Switzerland by the time he turned 14.

Alongside fellow Swiss tennis player Stan Wawrinka, Federer secured gold medals in the Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

After a highly successful career where he won 103 singles titles, 28 ATP Masters title and many more, Federer retired in 2022.

As well as being arguably the best tennis player in living memory, Roger Federer is involved with many philanthropic causes, including his long-established Roger Federer Foundation which helps support underprivileged children in both Switzerland, and South Africa where his mother was born.

10- Being A Neutral State

View Of The Bern Old City Center And Nydeggbrucke Bridge
Old towns like Bern are another thing Switzerland is known for.

Switzerland has long been considered a neutral state as it does not take part in any external armed conflicts, is not part of any military alliances and also provides no armed assistance during wartime.

It has been a neutral country since 1515, and while it still remains neutral with regards to political world events, it is also considered a neutral state in the world of banking and finance.

It has long been known that a Swiss bank account is the upmost in secrecy and anonymity, and the perfect place to secure large sums of money and valuables in an extremely safe environment.

Non-residents are able to open Swiss bank accounts, however you must be 18 to do so, and are typically required to share ID as with any bank account, and deposit a set amount to secure the account.

11- Montreux Jazz Festival

One of the most popular festivals in Switzerland is the Montreux Jazz Festival, or MJF as it is locally known.

Claude Nobs created the festival in 1967 which has been held on the shores of Lake Geneva for two weeks every summer since.

The festival hosts a variety of stages including those that are free to attend, and has an impressive roster of musicians taking part each year,

MJF is a perfect creative platform as artists and fans come face to face for performances and intimate gigs, as well as at workshops and jam sessions.

Despite its name, the festival is not just limited to jazz, with soul and hip-hop, to rock and pop all having been performed on the lakeside.

Throughout its history artists such as Nina Simone, David Bowie, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin have performed at the festival.

12- Swiss Lakes

Sailing On St Moritz Lake, View Above Engadine
Another thing Switzerland is known for is its lakes.

Switzerland has a staggering number of lakes given its size, with approximately 1500 lakes in total.

Switzerlands lakes are among some of the most beautiful in the world, with many having been formed from snow melt and other forms of freshwater creating crystal clear pools, many of which allow you to see the bottom of the lake.

Many of its lakes are overlooked by staggeringly beautiful mountains including parts of the Alps.

The largest lake in Switzerland is Lake Geneva which spans 580 square kilometres (224 square miles) with 60% in Switzerland and 40% in neighbouring France.

At the other end of the scale is the smallest lake in the country, Lago di Poschiavo, which covers 198 hectares.

Many of the larger and most popular lakes including Lake Geneva and Lake Lucerne offer lake cruises, with the opportunity to head out in your own vessel or on a canoe or kayak.

13- CERN

CERN Building In Geneva, Switzerland
CERN is something else Switzerland is known for.

One of the most famous engineering and scientific feats in Switzerland is the gigantic CERN facility, otherwise known as the Large Hadron Collider.

The Large Hadron Collider or LHC is the most powerful particle accelerator ever created, and was built to accelerate protons and ions to the speed of light.

The facility is 100m (328ft) underground in a 27 kilometre (62.13 miles) ring formed from superconducting magnets.

The collider fires protons and ions in opposite directions with the intention that they will collide at varying points around the machine, which provide particle physicists with answers to some of the worlds greatest questions around the creation of the universe.

Notable discoveries at CERN include the Higgs Boson, a particle associated with the universe, in July 2012.

Following this discovery, the collider was shut down to prepare it for further experiments.

The collider is now scheduled to run for approximately 20 years save for pauses for routine maintenance to allow scientists to further explore how our universe was formed.

14- Free-grazing Cows 

Cows On A Mountains Pasture
Swiss cows are what Switzerland is known for.

A popular souvenir from Switzerland has long been a decorated cow bell, however these traditional gifts have cultural significance for the Swiss and its dairy farmers.

During the summer months farmers attach bells to their collars, allowing them to be heard as they roam.

The farmers allow their cows to free-graze, meaning that their cows simply roam free across the mountains enjoying the freedom, grass and perhaps the views, sometimes reaching elevations of 5000ft (1524m).

Outside of this summer grazing period, the cows stay closer to their farms to allow them to be milked, which in turn is then transformed into delicious Swiss cheeses.

While you may not see the free-grazing cows, a popular Swiss event known as the Bataille des Reines or Battle of the Queens can be attended in November.

This unusual festival sees cows ‘fight’ together in a field, although there is little violence involved as the cows jostle with others of a similar weight and size to determine who is the leader of the heard.

15- Christmas Markets

The Old Town Of Zurich City In Switzerland
Old Towns, like the one in Zurich, are what Switzerland is known for.

Like many European countries, Christmas Markets are a traditional part of the winter festivities in Switzerland.

Making these markets uniquely special is the addition of towering mountains, glistening lakes and a potential dusting of snow.

One of the best and most beautiful Christmas markets in Switzerland is held in Basel, which has been voted the best in Europe many times.

Basel is covered in twinkling Christmas lights each year, turning its Old Town into a beautiful Hoist as scene.

The market here is held in Barfüsserplatz and Münsterplatz with market stalls set inside decorated wood cabins lining pathways dotted with Christmas trees.

Whatever city you visit to enjoy a Swiss Christmas market, you can be guaranteed to find a variety of traditional souvenirs and decorations, delicious food and warming drinks.

Check out these Christmas markets and challenges:

World Map With Magnified Switzerland

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Sarah Holmes
Sarah Holmes is a travel and fashion writer living in the heart of England. From family adventures in numerous parts of the UK and Europe to exploring cities as an adult, Sarah has a wide knowledge of the best areas, sights and local tips that the UK and the neighbouring continent can offer. Sarah grew up in the North East of England, with incredible sights and landmarks only a short drive away. Her favourite places to visit include Seaham Beach, the Lake District and Alnwick Castle. Sarah has written for a range of fashion and travel blogs and print publications.