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Switzerland Guide

Small, mountainous and wealthy, with a population of just 7.5 million, Switzerland is renowned for its enviable quality of life in a country that ticks along like clockwork. Its products are sought after the world over, from its delicious cheese and chocolate to luxurious watches whose timekeeping is as sharp as a Swiss Army Knife, another popular export from this sophisticated Alpine nation. Switzerland is not only a place for professionals, though. As a stylish tourist destination it offers such top ski resorts as Zermatt, Verbier and celebrity-studded St Moritz, while the white peaks of mountains set against blue skies make a wonderful backdrop for summertime hiking. The ancient capital of

a> provides superb opportunities for sightseeing, shopping and traditional folk entertainment while the largest city, Zurich leads the way in arts, design and nightlife, from opera and world-class theatre to stylish bars and nightclubs.

While browsing in the elegant boutiques along Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse, one of the most beautiful shopping areas in Europe, you'll notice that the streets may not be paved with gold, but you can be certain that a couple of meters below, unimaginable treasures are lying in underground vaults. Visitors can spend days exploring Zurich's cobbled streets, wandering through its museums, exploring its flea markets or walking away with free gifts from its chocolate factories.

With a pleasant setting, green parks, colorful gardens and lakeside promenades, Geneva is considered one of the healthiest places to live in the world. The city sits astride the River Rhône, where it streams into Lake Geneva, and is set against a dramatic backdrop of mountains. At the lake's south shore the Jet d'Eau shoots water 460ft (140m) into the sky from the end of a pier - the city's landmark attraction and Europe's most powerful fountain.

The Alps contain some of Switzerland's most dramatic landscapes, in a country already well endowed with spectacular scenery and fabulous alpine vistas. Situated at the heart of the Alps, Switzerland shares the mountain range with France, Italy and Austria and provides winter and summer time enjoyment for skiers, snowboarders, walkers and climbers.

Switzerland boasts the first ever ski resort, and since then over 200 first class resorts have attracted thousands of Swiss and international downhill and cross-country skiers as well as snowboarders. The tradition of skiing goes back two centuries. Today, with more than 1,700 mountain railways and ski lifts, renowned ski schools and instructors, the best ski equipment in the world, and outstanding slopes and facilities catering for all levels of ability, it deserves to be called 'Europe's winter playground'.

The ideal resort for beginners or families is Grindelwald in the Jungfrau region, while intermediates and snowboarders head for the twin resorts of Davos and Klosters, with miles of excellent ski terrain and acclaimed to be one of the top snowboarding destinations worldwide. Expert skiers can enjoy the challenge of 7,200 ft (2,700m) vertical drops on the Klein Matterhorn at Zermatt, and the ski valley of Verbier is ideal for shoulder-season skiing as its location provides early snow that lingers late into the spring. The stylish resort of St Moritz offers the most energetic and varied nightlife out of all the Swiss resorts. The ideal ski season runs from January to late March, but is most crowded during the Christmas holidays and the month of February.

Beautiful wedding and honeymoon destinations extend from the warm Riviera-style resorts of Ticino to the snowy slopes of the Swiss Alps. There are romantic hotels, resorts and chalets countrywide to accommodate couples. Seasonal, and regional, weather differences ensure there will be a time to suit most preferences. Switzerland has many things to see and do for wedding and honeymoon couples. The medieval castle, Château de Chillon, is romantically set on the shores of Lake Geneva against an exquisite mountain backdrop. Still in Geneva, the Jet d'Eau is the tallest fountain in the world and definitely worth seeing. Old Town in Zurich is also beautiful, with historic buildings lining it's charming streets. Skiing in the Swiss Alps is a world-famous option for couples, and then of course there's the Swiss cheese, and chocolate...

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