Switzerland lives up to and exceeds expectations - it is as beautiful as you dream it will be. Sure, there's delicious chocolate, cheese, & cute cows - but it's the lifestyle--one of the best in the world--that really got me hooked. You feel healthier (the air is perfect!) and more relaxed, while indulging in the best that the world has to offer. There are four official languages and regions, which makes it feel so distinct and yet wholly part of Europe. I always feel giddy touching down in Switzerland! Get yourself a Swiss Travel Pass - it's the BEST way to travel by train and public transport in cities. You also get free admission to nearly 500 museums and a 50% discount on mountain railways, like the Gornergrat Railway in Zermatt.
Do: The Bear Pits - There have been bears in Bern since the 1500s and today, there are three bears in a nice new home. Check to see if they're on vacation or hibernating - you never know with these bears.
Climb to top of Cathedral (Berner Münster) - This climb (ax. 250 steps) is so worth it for panoramic views over the red roofs of Bern.
Shop: Küche & Raum - Great kitchen shop in the center of town. There are so many great local, Swiss shops to browse on the main street under the Old Town arcades.
Confiserie Tschirren - for chocolate and cakes. Family-run for many generations. You'll see the locals buying mini pretzel sandwiches in the morning.
Heimatwerk Bern for all Swiss-made products, small to large.
Einstein Haus - Get a small dose of Einstein right in the apartment where he used to live on the main drag in Bern. A nice 30-minute stop (spoiler alert: Einstein was NOT a great guy!) with a little cafe downstairs. If you're really into him, there is the Einstein museum (Bern Historical Museum) just outside the city center.
Farmer's Market - A wonderful, colorful market held every Tuesday and Saturday (daily in summer - check times here).
Stay: Hotel Bellevue Palace - As elegant and sophisticated as the Swiss themselves. It's the grand hotel in Bern with a wonderful lobby, restaurant overlooking the river, and room views out on to the red roofs or river.
Eat: Bar Volver for coffee, wine, and tapas - start at 5pm and stay all night. A place you'll want to return to. Centrally located across from the Rathaus (City Hall).
Büner - Located in a quiet residential neighborhood, you'll be the only non-local at this cozy, upscale dinner spot outside of the tourist center. I loved it.
Kornauskeller - One of Bern's most beautiful Baroque-style interiors. Worth seeing even if you don't eat here. Service can be hit or miss. Touristy but beautiful.
Adriano's - Great for lunch or coffee. They have perfect paninis and a large selection of local beer. Try Gazosa blueberry soda - it's hard to find outside of Switzerland.
Restaurant Rosengarten - Very well-known restaurant for the views in Bern's Rose Garden, close to the Bear Pits.
Schwellenmätteli - Three restaurants right on the Aare River and perfect for a summer night - Italian, fondue, and a great bar and terrace.
Tibits at the train station - Tibits is a high-quality vegetarian chain in Switzerland (and England). If you want to grab something casual on your way to the train, this is it.
The Lion's Monument - Mark Twain called it the "saddest monument in the world." It is the only statue I've seen where I've actually felt pain. Must-see in Lucerne.
Lucerne Farmer's Market - On Tuesday & Saturday mornings, stalls line the river on either side of the Chapel Bridge. It's my favorite time in Lucerne.
Central Optik - I've bought three pairs of sunglasses here. Wonderful, nice people, like Bernadette!
Stay: Hotel Schweizerhof - Classic five-star digs close to the lake.
Art Deco Hotel Montana - My personal favorite in Lucerne - absolutely stunning views over the lake and Mount Pilatus (a lake view room is a must!). Also fantastic bar!
Hotel Waldstätterhof - Great three-star property close to the train station!
Cascada Hotel - A very nice four-star option near the train station.
Day Trip (or to Stay): Burgenstock resort and hotels - This is probably the biggest hotel opening in Switzerland in the past few years - a collection of 5 properties on top of Burgenstock, about a 40-minute boat ride from Lucerne. It was THE place in the 50s/60s, where Audrey Hepburn got married, where Sophia Loren had a house. New investors came in, spent a gazillion dollars, and now there are five different hotels, a 100,000 square foot spa, etc. The views are absolutely incredible and you can hike around, eat something (Spices for Asian! Look at this view!), take photos, find the famous Hammetschwand elevator. For anyone looking for a truly spectacular excursion!
Park Hotel Vitznau - Our wedding hotel on the shores of Lake Lucerne, and absolutely spectacular. All-time favorite! Take a beautiful boat from Lucerne for the best arrival. You can combine with a day trip to Mount Rigi.
Eat: Helvetia - Delicious food in a lovely square - 5-minute walk from the center, away from the tourists.
Mill'Feuille - Great place for outside breakfast, lunch, or just coffee (that's the beauty of Europe - you can just order coffee and no one cares). Centrally located near the river, but away from the crowds.
Restaurant Rebstock - Classic & cozy place for Swiss specialties. I love this place so much.
Bistro du Theatre - Alex has been coming here forever. It's a super casual, pubby kind of place where you have to try the "knusperli" - famous chicken wings with curry sauce (I don't normally even like chicken wings).
Opus - Best for outdoor seating for coffee, a drink, food - with a view of the Chapel Bridge and river.
Libelle - 10-min bus ride from center - very local's only!
Cafe de Ville - Located on the second floor of a building smack-dab in the middle of old town, this place is actually beloved by locals. Great for coffee or a meal (try to reserve ahead if you're going to eat).
La Perla - Wonderful higher-end Italian in Lucerne.
Casa Tolone - A favorite in Lucerne. Zero tourists, outside the city center.
Hotel des Balances restaurant/terrace - Nice for lunch, tea, or cocktail in the lounge overlooking the river.
Museum - The Rosengart Collection - Incredible collection of Picassos with a very personal touch - founder Angela Rosengart was one of his muses. My favorite pieces included Marc Chagall's palette (imagine the beauty that came from paints on a board!), and a small, simple sketch by Paul Klee called "A Man in Love" - a man's head filled with a woman on a pedestal.
Kafe Dihei: Warm, homey spot in District 3 - I could stay here for hours, whether it's winter inside or on the patio in the summer (except for the stupid bees...).
Kafischnaps: Love brunch here for baked eggs and hearty, soft Swiss bread.
Zurich West - All media has written about Zurich West in the past few years - at first I didn't want to visit. Who needed another neighborhood trying to be Brooklyn? But it's very cool to walk around during the day (I prefer to go when the shops at Viaduct are open).
Clouds - A somewhat odd, behemoth office building in Zurich West (Prime Tower) has some of the best views of Zurich at the top. The restaurant has the best lake views, but you can also grab a drink at the bar (check out the New York murals).
Museums - National Museum Zurich, Kunsthaus Zurich (Museum of Fine Arts), FIFA World Football Museum
Stay: The Dolder Grand - for a resort experience in the city. Not for a first-time visitor.
The Park Hyatt
25Hours Hotel Langstrasse - Overly hip and yet somehow works. The rooms are great - giant showers, easy technology. Close to Zurich HB, near all the construction of the Europaallee, a new ultramodern district in Zurich.
Razzia - Trendy Italian in the neighborhood of Seefeld on the lake. Seefeld is one of Zurich's most popular neighborhoods to live in. Great bar and restaurant - perfect for dinner.
Hiltl - The original, ultimate vegetarian paradise. There is a giant vegetarian buffet and it's so delicious - you won't miss meat at all if you're a carnivore. Next door is Bovelli, a fantastic coffee house - great vibe in the mornings.
Babu's Bakery & Coffeehouse - Also close to Hiltl, this bakery/brunch spot is that Nancy Meyers-movie spot I've been looking for in Zurich. Packed on weekends - go early or on a weekday.
Kronenhalle - Old-school, beautiful wooden interiors with Marc Chagall paintings adorning the wall. Great for a winter's night. I love the bar next door, too.
Cafe Schober - This is the first place I visited when I went to Zurich many years ago. It's famous for its hot chocolate and is well-known by tourists, but still worth it for a nice, charming vibe.
Cafe Henrici - Located in the Old Town, this is a great spot to linger and get coffee or lunch - known for their coffee. Great salads, quiches.
Cafe Lang - A simple, Parisian-style cafe in Limmatplatz behind the train station. Great coffee and 'gipfeli' (Swiss croissant). Fast Wifi!
John Baker - Amazing, organic bread - especially the olive bread. I love olive bread and this is my favorite ever. There are only five ingredients: Wheat white flour, water, organic olives green, sea salt, homegrown yeast. Try it! The location near Stadelhofen is close to the opera house.
Brasserie de Montbenon - One of the best views in Lausanne and the place for people to meet and have dinner. Absolutely wonderful - and the best summer place.
The Great Escape - Lausanne's version of a dive bar - but it's not very dive-y. Great music (not too loud), burgers, and a young crowd. Nice indoors and they also have a big terrace outside.
Beau-Rivage Palace - The epitome of a grande dame hotel, located in Ouchy near the water. Absolutely incredible. If you don't stay, come for drinks or dinner at their award-winning restaurants.
Lausanne Palace - A great hotel and a beloved hang-out for locals - either at their brasserie, their Japanese/sushi restaurant, or the wonderful bar.
Remember when William and Kate's relationship was revealed to the world? No? I'm the only one? Well...it was in the Swiss ski town of Klosters where William kissed Kate on the slopes and the pictures were splashed over every newspaper and magazine in the world. While the royals have loved Klosters for decades, I was surprised at how much I loved it. It's discreet and lovely and romantic, with no splashy Chanel or Louis Vuitton stores.
Stay: I loved Chesa Grischuna, right in the center of town. There are no chain hotels here, just lovely three and four-stars. Barbara's family has run it since the 1930's (the guestbook has a number of names you'd recognize), and the rooms are cozy and comfortable - nothing fancy. There is also a kegelbahn (European bowling) that was loved by Princess Margaret, a piano bar (packed in the high season), and a wonderful restaurant.
Berghaus Alpenrösli: If you want a nice 45-minute hike up from Klosters, this great alpine restaurant is your reward at the end. Fantastic mountain views, and the food/chef has won a lot of awards. Don't miss the Prättigau wedding soup, especially when it's cold out.
Höhwald: Another wonderful, cozy restaurant in the neighboring village of Monbiel. It's a 45-minute fairly flat walk or you can grab an 8-minute taxi. We walked home after dinner and it started to snow. Pretty magical.
Al Capone: The pizzeria in town which is always busy and fun.
Coop grocery store: I love the Coop chain throughout Switzerland, and this one is big and bright and you can spend at least an hour wandering the aisles. This one is more like a mini-Target rather than the typical Coops with just groceries.
Chez Vrony - My favorite restaurant view in the entire world. Simply magical. Nothing better on a beautiful day in Zermatt - definitely hike there and back from town!! Ask your concierge for clarification but here is a good forum on how to get to Chez Vrony - it's not hard and beyond worth it.
Restaurant Blatten - A short "hike" behind Zermatt up the mountain, about a 20-minute walk. Typical Swiss chalet restaurant - so cute.
The restaurant at Hotel Julen is wonderful and cozy.
You have to take the Gornergrat Bahn up to the top for a great view of the Matterhorn. Get the apple strudel at the mountain restaurant and stare at the Matterhorn. The Matterhorn often hides, but when it comes out of the clouds - WOW.
Stay: The Mont Cervin Palace - there are so many places to stay in Zermatt, but the Mont Cervin is five-star magic.