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Tips and Advise for visiting Switzerland by Road to Travel Inc.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Bellinzona: the city of ancient fortresses

Often overlooked by tourists, Bellinzona is a stunning city with the best-preserved medieval castles in Switzerland.

Due to its strategic position as a gateway to the Alps, Bellinzona had been at the forefront of defence line since ancient Romans built the first castle here in the 1st century A.D., which was enlarged and further fortified in the Middle Ages to withstand continuous sieges, raids and invasions. Today three formidable fortresses stand as silent reminders of those bellicose days and offer spectacular vistas over the Alps.

Castelgrande, the oldest of the three citadels, blocks the passage through the Ticino valley. Its two towers, Torre Nera (28 metres) and Torre Bianca (27 metres) rise above Bellinzona's old centre. The fortress houses an excellent Archaeological Museum and can be reached by an elevator or on foot following the steep winding streets of the old town.

Deep moats surround Castello Montebello and massive city walls connect it to Castelgrande. It is fascinating to walk around the fortress to see drawbridges, ramparts and murder holes. On a clear day, from the top of the castle, you can see as far as Lago Maggiore

The third fortress, Castello di Sasso Corbaro, is perched on a hill a few miles from the centre of Bellinzona. In the he city itself is studded with beautiful Italian-style buildings, old churches, pretty squares and atmospheric cafes. Stroll along the narrow streets of the Old Town, check out an beautiful collection of Swiss and Italian paintings at Villa dei Cedri, admire the 19th century Italian Classical style building of Teatro Sociale that was inspired by La Scala in Milan.

Castello Montebello
Bellinzona is abuzz with interesting events all year around. The famous Rabadan Carnival takes place in February; in summer international blues stars arrive to the city for the Piazza Blues Festival; in September everyone celebrates PerBacco, the wine-growers' festival.

Photos via Flickr by: Kurt Zwahlen, Luca Pedroni, Aanjhan Ranganathan.

Bern: the city of bears, fountains and Einstein 

Founded just over 800 years ago Bern, the capital of Switzerland, might not be the oldest city in Europe but it is, certainly, one of the best-looking and best-preserved. 

Start exploring the city from the Old Town (Altstadt), awarded UNESCO World Heritage status for its unique medieval features. Rows of arcaded old buildings form almost four miles of covered-shopping promenades (“lauben”), some of the longest in the world. Here you can find couture boutiques, fragrant coffee shops, up-market antiques. There are many magnificent 16th century fountains in the Old Town. Each one more ornate than the other, they are topped with statues of Samson killing a lion, a bear in full armour, child eating ogre. 

In the heart of Altstadt stands Gothic Bern Cathedral (Berner Münster). It is filled with treasures: over 200 wood and stone 15th century sculptures depicting the Last Judgment, stained glass windows dating back to the 1400s. Climb up 254 steps to the upper viewing gallery for spectacular views of the city a the Swiss Alps. 

Clock Tower
The 13th century Clock Tower (Zytglogge) is one of Bern’s iconic symbol. Its large astronomical clock displays fascinating dancing mechanical figures at three minutes to the hour. 
No visit to Bern would be compete without spening some time at The Einstein Museum. The famous scientist lived in the city for six years during which he published some of his most important works. In the museum you can see Einstein’s school reports, letters, his Nobel prize certificate and many other interesting objects, films and interactive displays.

Bern Cathedral
Art lovers shouldn’t miss the Museum of Fine Arts (Kunstmuseum) with its excellent collection of 3000 painting, which include works by Picasso, Monet, van Gogh, Cezanne.

Bern has had a special connection with bears since the animal became part of the city’s coat of arms in Middle Age. The legend also has it that the Swiss capital was named after a plantigrade who lived in the forest nearby. Today, a family of bears lives in a large enclosure in the Bear Park (BärenPark) which attracts many curious visitors. 

Photos via Flickr by: Martin Abegglen, Heinz-Eberhard Boden, Andrew Nash.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Lucerne: the city of music, art and bridges

Located in the German speaking part of central Switzerland, photogenic Lucerne is one of the country’s most visited destinations. Sprawling along the shores of Lake Lucerne, the city commands spectacular views of the Mount Pilatus and Rigi in the Swiss Alps


The iconic Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrücke) built in 1333 on the Reuss river is a great place to start exploring Lucerne. One of the oldest covered wooden bridges in Europe, Kapellbrücke is rather well-preserved apart from a portion that was damaged by fire in 1993. Under its roof, you can see a series of 17th-century paintings telling Lucerne’s story. Another beautiful, albeit less famous, is the 15th century Spreuer Bridge (Spreuerbrücke) that feature colourful plague paintings dating back to the 1600s.

Spend a few hours wondering around the pretty pedestrian Old Town (Altstadt), which has a several half-timber buildings with painted facades and picturesque squares. 

Chapel Bridge

Old City Walls built in 1386 remain virtually intact with three of watch towers (Schirmer, Zyt and Männli), which are open to the public offering magnificent views over the old town and lake. The oldest clock in Lucerne on the Zyt tower has 'First Strike rights' by local law and so strike every hour one minute before all other clocks in the city. 

Make sure you check out the 17th century Jesuit Church St. Franz Xaver (Jesuitenkirche), one of the most beautiful Baroque churches in Switzerland that nowadays hosts classical music concerts. All year around Lucerne is filled up with sounds of music as many festivals take place here. Summer Night Festival (Luzernfest) in August, Lucerne Festival with concert series of classical music, Lucerne Blues Festival, the World Band Festival in September and many other.


During summer months, you can hop on a steam boat for a cruise or go for a refreshing dip in Lake Lucerne at a few clean well-organized beaches. The Ufschötti has neat lawns and ice cream kiosks, at the Strandbad you can enjoy the diving platforms, play table-tennis, volleyball and mini-golf. 

Photos via Flickr by: Patrik M. Loeff, Carlos Garcia, Patrick Nouhailler.