Let summer in Switzerland wash away any après-lockdown blues with a combination of outdoor adventure and well-earned indulgence. Here's our inside guide.
Summer in Switzerland
Disclosure: I travelled to Switzerland last summer as a guest of Verbier Tourism. As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. Really, otherwise, what is the point?!
Summer in Switzerland sits ripe on the calendar like an open secret that everyone ignores. Distracted by talk of chocolate, cheese, clocks and army knives, imaginations whisk people along the ski slopes and snow-laden chalet roofs to the postcard pretty view of Switzerland in winter. Dripping with ice diamonds and cosy Christmas markets, snow-cloaked pines and visible puffs of breath, winter in Switzerland makes it easy to overlook the obvious.
That summer in Switzerland is pretty good too.
Why you should go
I should know, I was one of those people who thought of mountains and thought of winter. Until lockdown came along and my focus shifted.
My little stunted heart yearned to see a great expanse of horizon again. To witness the sun slide behind the jagged, purple-dimmed rock of a mountain range. To feel my boots clump along the earth with a spring in my step and a soar in my soul.
And so, my first trip outside the country after lockdown was to Switzerland. Not the cities, oh how I had had my fill of cities. But to the clear, breathe-easy skies of the mountains.
I went to Verbier.
Things to do in Switzerland in summer
While Switzerland does know how to run a good city, let's face facts. People fall in love with the country for its mountains.
Winter months, winter sports, summer months, summer sports. The mountains have seen it all, can provide it all. But it's not all just about getting a sweat on.
It's a place to treat yourself: through indulgent food, relaxing spas, fascinating culture and soul soothing views.
And why Verbier? It's winter-famous for challenging ski routes, spectacular views and the royal seal of approval. It's also very easy to get to and infused with local tradition.
So I went to take a took at what you can do in the Swiss mountains in summer.
Hey hey! E-biking is the new skiing only you don't have to get cold to do it.
My first e-bike experience was a few years ago and, dear readers, let me tell you that the whole ethos around this has changed.
Originally, e-bikes had heavy batteries that didn't last too long. They were seen as "cheating" devices to help the unfit trundle along on the flat.
Not so any more. Today's e-bikes come with batteries that will last all day and are used by elite athletes and couch potatoes alike when it comes to the mountains.
The brave can take to the steep slopes and jump around off road. The more, erm, inexperienced can swoop and swerve along gentle mountain roads, enjoying the view and stopping for gourmet experiences en route. I even saw someone e-biking with a baby carried in a sling.
This is such a big game changer for having fun in the mountains in summer that I'm going to write a whole dedicated post about it. Watch this space! And try an e-bike! Update. The article is live! Read about e-biking in Verbier here.
- I'd highly recommend cycling with a guide if it's your first time e-biking in the mountains (and often for a few times after that!) They can help with your technique, build your confidence and show you routes that much your ability. In Verbier, I suggest you contact Vincent Boucon, a Swiss MTB guide, on [email protected]
Hiking, of course, is the old fashioned and authentic way to get around the mountains. And even in one village, like Verbier, you can get to see so much.
Cable cars still operate during the summer months, allowing you to hike along grassy meadows and snowy steps or just watch the scenery unfold beneath you from the glassy vista of the cable car.
Highlights you can reach from Verbier include the Sentier des Sens, a gentle walk along Bisse de Saxon in La Tzoumaz, and the mighty Mont Fort. At 3330 metres high, Mont Fort is the highest peak in the 4 valleys area. And even when I visited in summer, it was covered in a light dusting of snow.
Although you can simply pick up a lift pass and hike around by yourself, I would highly recommend walking or trekking with a guide. Not only will they keep you safe but they can introduce you to routes, berries, bisses, art and factoids that you otherwise might miss.
- In Verbier, I'd recommend Cherries von Maur. You can contact her via email at [email protected] or via her website at www.CherriesWalks.com
Yoga is the perfect activity for washing away those lockdown blues, especially at sunrise on the peak of a mountain!
Unfortunately for me, the clouds rolled in for my sunrise yoga session but you'll find that plenty of mountain resorts in Switzerland offer indoor yoga as well.
My mountain peak appointment on the terrace of the altitude restaurant Le Mouton Noir with Inspire Yoga Studio in Verbier switched to this handy studio just a few minutes from my hotel.
Dining & Gastronomy
Food in Switzerland extends beyond Swiss cheese and chocolate. Although, let's face it, sometimes I wonder whether anyone needs anything more than that.
In the mountains, cheese reigns supreme as the perfect way to preserve the milk from cows raised on the Alpine slopes. Cheese forms the basis of the traditional fondue and the raclette, a giant disc of cheese melted at the table and served with boiled potatoes, vegetables and pickles.
Fondue & Cheese
As an aside, Cherries told me that restaurateurs have switched from stale bread to fresh for their "traditional" fondues as too many visitors complained about the staleness of the original way of making it. Ah, progress.
Emmental cheese is the cartoon favourite Swiss cheese, with big holes and a hard rind. Gruyère, meanwhile, is a slightly sweet, slightly salty firm cheese that's frequently found in fondue. And then there are the softer tommes, each with their own character from where they are made (see below.)
Neighbouring France and Italy have also infused their characters into the dining options in Switzerland and you'll find many authentic Italian and French restaurants across the country as well.
Recommended spots in Verbier include:
- La Nonna - a warm and welcoming Italian themed trattoria
- L'Ecurie - cosy and characterful dining with gruyere cheese, olive tapenade and Parisian bread.
- Maison de la Forêt in La Tzoumaz - wooden chalet snack bar with local specialties and spectacular views
- Le Dahu in La Chaux - panoramic restaurant serving traditional Swiss food. Try the fondue...
Why stop at just eating cheese when you can learn to make it as well?
Enter the family-owned Laiterie de Verbier in Bagnes and its Université du Fromage. The entrance may appear to be a simple delicatessen, with saucisson, pear juice and jam. But behind the cheese counter lies a stainless steel classroom with copper pots and bunsen flames. And it is here that you can craft your own Tomme de Verbier.
Lessons take place in French and English and over the space of a few hours, you can heat milk, add rennet, bathe in salt (the cheese, not you) and wander through the cheese cellars to the charismatic instruction of owner and teacher, Marc.
If you're in Switzerland for the whole summer, you can pop back at some point between three weeks and three months to allow your tomme to age fully in the cellar. Otherwise, you can trade on the day or choose to leave with the fresh, creamy cheese that took only an afternoon to craft.
It's a lovely way to meet people and learn more about the local region and it's great for kids as well. (Seriously, I was the only adult in the group!)
All those aching bodies from the ski season need saunas and spa pools to recover in. And the good news is that during summer in Switzerland, those facilities are all still there!
Think pine-fringed open air pools and the scent of fresh timber in the sauna. Indulge in après-ski without, well, the ski.
Great Reasons to Visit Switzerland in Summer
- E-biking. Seriously, I'm hooked!
- A wonderful sense of fresh air after all those lockdowns
- A chance to celebrate with the Swiss on 1st August, their National Day
- Better weather! Probably!
- Music and food festivals
- Fewer crowds
What to know about summer in Verbier
Here's your Verbier summer guide:
Verbier Official Website
For up to date information about Verbier, visit their website www.verbier.ch
How to get to Verbier
Easy Jet operates flights to Geneva, Switzerland from London Gatwick, Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, and Glasgow from as little as £23pp one-way (although be aware that the Economy Light fare only includes hand luggage).
About the Verbier Infinite Playground (VIP) Pass
The VIP Pass offers free entry or discounts to more than 25 of Verbier’s top activities and attractions including:
- Free admission to mountain lifts on foot
- 50% discount on mountain lifts for mountain bikers
- Free transport by postal bus
- More than 45 free activities or at reduced prices
The VIP Pass is delivered to every guest staying a minimum of one night in the region and paying the tourist tax.
For more information visit http://www.verbier.ch/en/vip-pass.htm
Where to stay in Verbier
Try the centrally located and atmospheric 4* Hotel de Verbier from 186chfs/£149 per night per room for two people sharing (£74.50pp) Please visit https://hoteldeverbier.com/ or call +41 27 564 40 00 for more information.
How to get to Verbier from Geneva
The Swiss Transfer Ticket covers a round-trip between your arrival point at the airport or Swiss border and Verbier. Prices are £131.50pp in second class and £211pp in first class. The timetable may look as though things are cutting it fine but the trains really do run like clockwork in Switzerland. If your ticket says that a two minute transfer window is all that is required, then you will find yourself transferred with one minute to spare, wondering why you have to wait ;-)
Cheese in a Vending Machine
Look out for these fun sights: cheese vending machines found across the mountains. It's not a stereotype. Switzerland really is serious about its cheese.
When is the best time to visit Switzerland?
When it comes to the weather, then typically the Switzerland summer months of May to September provide the mildest temperatures and lowest chance of fog and rain. Of course, if you want the snow, you'll need to head to Switzerland in winter, which is between December and March, at a push. Bear in mind that some facilities close during the shoulder seasons, particularly in the mountains.
Beyond the mountains in the summer in Switzerland
While, to me, summer in Switzerland is mostly about that fresh mountain air, visiting Switzerland is about more than just that. There are the famous Swiss cities and also some other natural landscapes like...
- Lake Lucerne, a jigsaw shaped natural swimming pool with postcard pretty villages just outside.
- The Glacier Express, a train route between Bern and St Moritz with death defying swoops and swerves.
- Lake Lugano, a serene stretch of water on the border with Italy.
Summer in Swiss Cities
Geneva is one of the most enjoyable cities in Switzerland for the summer for several reasons. On the practical side of things, it has easy international connections plus straightforward routes to the mountains. On the pure joy side of things, you can easily splash around in Lake Geneva (Lac Leman) and even catch the Montreux Jazz Festival in summer.
But it's not the only city in town (sorry.) Check out these others.
Beautiful Basel ranks as one of my favourite cities in Europe, never mind in Switzerland. The medieval old town centre satisfies the drive for nostalgia and its curious position at the crossroads between Germany and France give Basel an unmistakably international outlook.
Petite Bern looks like the setting for a fairy tale and makes a good base for exploring the Jungfrau region. Jungfrau itself translates to mean "the top of Europe."
As the biggest city in Switzerland, Zurich is also the country's financial centre. Yet don't imagine a sprawling metropolis with identikit skyscrapers. You'll still find church spires, shutters and terracotta tiles and a mere one hour drive to the Rhine Falls will wash away any thoughts of cramped city life.
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