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Make My Switzerland

Local tips from local people, helping you make the most of your visit to Switzerland’s vibrant cities

By Time Out in association with Switzerland Tourism
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basel, switzerland
Basel

bern, switzerland
Bern

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geneva, switzerland
Geneva

lausanne, switzerland
Lausanne

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lucerne, switzerland
Lucerne

lugano, switzerland
Lugano

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zurich, switzerland

Who better to lead you on a guided tour of Switzerland's most vibrant cities than the residents themselves? Which is why we asked a team of local ambassadors to share their secret spots. Choose your city – Bern, Basel, Lucerne, Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne or Lugano – and decide whether you're feeling active, stylish, social or cultural, and our ambassadors will know just the place for you.

Wait, we haven't finished! Every time you use the Make My Switzerland app on holiday in Switzerland, you'll automatically be entered into a prize draw to win £1,000 in cash. In other words, you could end up having your entire holiday for free.

See www.makemyswitzerland.com to download the app and for full terms and conditions.

Bern

In the country's relaxed capital you can wander the 'lauben', the characteristic arcaded streets designated a World Heritage Site, and nip into a few hip boutiques while you're there. You can drink and dine in baroque splendour at Kornhauskeller, immerse yourself in Swiss pop culture at the Museum of Communication or cool off with a swim in the River Aare.

bern, swimming, switzerland

Swim in the Aare

What's the vibe? Active

The outdoor baths at Marzili, in the shadow of the grand parliament building, are among the oldest in the country, and free to use. Consequently they're a popular draw with the Bernese in the summer, who like to cool off in the green waters of the River Aare right in the heart of the city. The river is fast-flowing – many people start upstream and allow themselves to be carried down – but there are lots of paddling pools, lane pools and diving pools. Get back into the river after the weir and float on around the city peninsula (or hop into a raft) for a sightseeing tour with a difference.

Details Freibad Marzili, Marzilistrasse 29, 3005 Bern. www.aaremarzili.info. +41 (0) 31 311 00 46.

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bern, shopping, switzerland

Shop in the Äussere Neustadt

What's the vibe? Stylish

Part of Bern’s World Heritage Zone medieval city centre, the streets of the Äussere Neustadt quarter around Aarbergergasse, Neuengasse and Ryffligässchen are the place to shop, or maybe just browse, depending on your budget. At Fizzen you'll find streetwear brands, accessories and vintage fashion, while Aerni offers a higher-end designer experience with a chic spa and a coffee bar attached.

Details Fizzen, Ryffligässchen 13, 3011 Bern. +41 (0) 31 311 11 16. Aerni, Aarbergergasse 60, 3011 Bern. +41 (0) 311 24 68.

bern, Kornhauskeller

Dine in baroque splendour at Kornhauskeller

What's the vibe? Social

Kornhauskeller positively drips baroque exuberance, with its high-vaulted painted ceiling, chandeliers, wooden balconies and ornate candlesticks, and is the most atmospheric setting in which to experience perfectly executed Bernese dishes. None of this comes cheap, of course, but those not on expenses or celebrating a big occasion can soak up all that beauty for the price of a cocktail in the gallery bar.

Details Kornhauskeller, Kornhausplatz 18, 3011 Bern. www.bindella.ch/de. +41 (0) 31 327 72 72.

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museum communication, switzerland

Interact at the Museum of Communication

What's the vibe? Cultural

Explore human communication, from gestures and body language to media, telecommunications and pop culture, through interactive exhibits and artefacts like horse-drawn mail coaches, early radio sets and retro computers. Even the philately collection (one of the largest in the world) is a lot more fun than it sounds. Their current exhibition, 'Oh Yeah!', takes you on a colourful journey through Swiss pop since the 1950s.

Details Museum für Kommunikation, Helvetiastrasse 16, 3006 Bern. www.mfk.ch. +41 (0) 31 357 55 55. ‘Oh Yeah!: Pop Music in Switzerland’ continues until July 19.

Basel

Cultural and cosmopolitan, nestled in a corner of the country next to France and Germany, Basel will have you dancing till dawn at Hinterhof and up early seeking out flea market bargains in Petersplatz. If your visit doesn't coincide with the annual contemporary art fair Art Basel in June, there's more modern art and design at Fondation Beyeler and the Vitra Design Museum just out of town.

basel, bikes

Hire an e-bike

What's the vibe? Active

Switzerland's popular e-bikes or pedelecs have a bit of extra va-va-voom. These electrically-assisted bikes can be rented at the rail station (from a kiosk tucked between the post office and the entrance) and are a nippy way to get around town or explore more of the region's lush countryside, including the historic town of Liestal. Batteries last for about 60km before needing to be recharged. Many organised e-bike tours are also available.

Details Wenger 2-Rad-Shop, Gartenstrasse 143, 4002 Basel. www.wenger-2-rad.ch (in German). +41 (0) 61 283 80 80.

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basel, fleamarket

Bargain hunt at the flea market

What's the vibe? Stylish

Saturdays in Basel are for strolling through leafy Petersplatz, in the heart of the University complex, and having a rummage at the weekly flea market. Here you never know what you might find – some rare vinyl, a Fendi bag, curious antiques or amusing trinkets. In the middle of the square is a mini-market where children set up stalls to sell their toys. A second flea market takes place in Barfüsserplatz every second and fourth Wednesday of the month.

Details Flohmarkt Petersplatz, Petersplatz, 4001 Basel. www.marketing.bs.ch. +41 (0) 61 267 70 43. Saturdays 7.30am-4pm.

basel, hinterohf

Dance till dawn at Hinterhof

What's the vibe? Social

Hinterhof is a former fruit market born again as a complex of bars and nightclubs, hosting celebrity DJs and touring bands as well as local talent. If it all gets too much, the reasonably priced rooftop bar offers calm respite, cocktails and sunsets over the train tracks. Although it's out on the industrial edge of the city, Hinterhof's easily reached by tram.

Details Hinterhof, Münchensteinerstrasse 81, 4052 Basel. www.hinterhof.ch.

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vitra design, switzerland

Make a pilgrimage to the Vitra Design Musuem

What's the vibe? Cultural

A veritable pilgrimage for design and architecture fans, the Vitra Design Museum is 30 minutes away by city bus. The museum was Frank Gehry’s first European commission, set in an amazing campus by the world’s leading architects, including Tadao Ando, Herzog + De Meuron and Zaha Hadid’s first completed building. The collection includes key pieces by Charles and Ray Eames, Alvar Aalto and Verner Panton. The current exhibition, ‘Making Africa’, looks at contemporary design from this aesthetically overlooked continent.

Details Charles-Eames-Str 2, 79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany. www.design-museum.de. +49 (0) 7621 702 3200. ‘Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design’ continues until September 13.

Lucerne

Beautifully situated between Lake Lucerne and Mount Pilatus and straddling the River Reuss, Lucerne is a city of light, bridges and mountain views. Explore the city via the beautiful Musegg Wall and its nine towers, part of the intact medieval fortifications, or be led on an urban safari following cryptic clues round intriguing neighbourhoods. For night-time entertainment there’s world-class jazz, blues and classical in the architecturally imposing KKL concert hall and outdoor gigs and local beer at chilled lakeside bars.

lucerne, switzerland

Escape the city bustle at Seebad lido

What's the vibe? Active

Escape the city bustle for a while – for swimming, eating or simply relaxing over a drink. The Seebad lido, in the heart of Lucerne on Nationalquai, looks like a big wooden box projecting out onto the lake, but its unique charm easily rivals that of the neighbouring palace hotels. Established in 1884 and recently refurbished, it offers two pools as well as direct access to the open water. The lido is especially attractive at sunset and there are occasional gigs and DJ nights.

Details Nationalquai, 6006 Lucerne. www.seebadluzern.ch.

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Stiefvater,lucerne, switzerland

Look sharp at Die Stiefväter

What's the vibe? Stylish

Billing itself as 'your guardian for style, fashion and being different', this bijou concept store stocks clothes and accessories from urban brands such as Minkpink and Just Junkies, and Eviltwin. Finish off your look with a haircut at the in-house salon. Cultural offerings include photography exhibitions and DJ sets, but anything goes as long as it's creative and the shop has become a platform for young local and independent artists.

Details Die Stiefväter, Hirschengraben 11, 6003 Lucerne. www.diestiefvaeter.com. +41 (0) 79 472 37 32.

voliere, switzerland

Drink the local craft beer at Volière

What's the vibe? Social

In the clement months, youth radio station Radio 3FACH opens its alfresco bar on the site of a former aviary on the shores of Lake Lucerne. The emphasis is on the local – homemade iced tea, Luzerner Bier on draft and freshly made snacks. The 12-franc vegan and vegetarian lunchtime menus are a big draw for students and penniless musicians who come to shoot the breeze, listen to live music and play ping pong and table football.

Details Volière, Inseliquai, Lucerne. facebook.com/voliere.3fach. +41 (0) 410 00 70. Open early May to late September.

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lucerne, KKL, switzerland

Hear a world-class concert at KKL

What's the vibe? Culture

Lucerne’s striking concert hall has made the city a big draw for classical, jazz and blues fans. The KKL (Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern) is designed by Jean Nouvel, its dramatic roof cantilevering out over Lake Lucerne. The hall’s superb acoustics draw world-class talent and it's a fine home for the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra and the centrepiece of the Lucerne Festival, held at Easter and throught August and September.

Details KKL, Europaplatz 1, 6005 Lucerne. kkl-luzern.ch/en. +41 (0) 41 226 70 70.

Zurich

Chic, sleek Zurich is attracts a fashion crowd. Established and up-and-coming indie labels and streetwear brands such as Freitag and Townhouse gravitate to the arty-industrial Zurich West area. Balance the cutting edge with a bit of history at the Landesmuseum, where roomsets re-create Swiss domestic life through the centuries and tin soldiers re-enact the battle of Murten.

zurich, pedalo

Hire a pedalo

What's the vibe? Active

Don't just stand there on the promenade admiring the lake, get out and enjoy it. Pedalos can be hired from the lake's many boat hire companies and although it may look like you're messing around with an oversized child's toy, you'll be burning more calories than on a bike ride up an Alpine pass. For something a bit more classic, rowing boats, speedboats and yawls are also available. And don't forget to look back and take in the views of the city as you work out.

Details Reka & René Sutter, Mythenquai 25, 8002 Zurich. bootsvermietung-zuerich.ch. + 41 (0) 44 211 2262. Open March to October.

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freitag, switzerland

Bag a bag at Freitag

What's the vibe? Stylish

Local boys Markus and Daniel Freitag have gained a worldwide following for their messenger bags fashioned from old truck tarpaulins, car seatbelts and bicycle inner tubes. As befits the recycled industrial aesthetic, this landmark store is a tower of rusty shipping containers. It's located in the arty, indie Zurich West neighbourhood or Industriequartier, where you'll also find other streetwise boutiques such as Townhouse (famed for their slogan T-shirts), Little Black Dress (classic dresses of many hues), and Viadukt, an old viaduct now housing shops, bars and cafés in its arches.

Details Freitag, Geroldstrasse 17,  Industriequartier,  8005 Zurich. www.freitag.ch. +41 (0) 43 366 95 20.

quai 61, switzerland

Sail through Sundays at Quai 61

What's the vibe? Social

Take in the sun and the views of Zurich, the Alps and the lake with a drink in your hand and call it multitasking. Quai 61, right beside the lake, makes you feel like you're on an ocean liner. The snug bar and rooftop sun deck provoke enforced relaxation, while the restaurant serves up fine fare like grilled meats and marinated octopus. A popular choice for Sunday brunch, with newspapers and a selection of novels on hand so you won't be tempted to leave too soon.

Details Quai 61, Mythenquai 61, 8002 Zurich. quai61.ch/en. +41 (0) 44 405 61 61.

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landesmuseum, switzerland, zurich

Learn about Swiss life at the Landesmuseum

What's the vibe? Cultural

Designed in the style of a French château, the Landesmuseum or National Museum is easy to spot next to the main railway station. Its broad collection will fill you in on Swiss history and culture, and highlights include period sitting rooms showing how domestic life and tastes have changed over the past 100 years, an armoury with pieces dating back to the Middle Ages and a diorama of the 1476 Battle of Murten re-enacted by 6,000 tiny tin soldiers.

Details Swiss National Museum/Landesmuseum Zurich, Museumstrasse 2, 8001 Zurich. www.nationalmuseum.ch. +41 (0) 44 218 65 11.

Geneva

Business and banking push Geneva's buttons, but there's more to the UN's European HQ than shiny offices and sharply-tailored suits, though you’ll find chic shopping aplenty. Lake Geneva (Lac Léman in French) offers lots of active waterborne pursuits, and there’s more sedate sightseeing at the city’s galleries and museums, not least the vast Musée d'Art et d'Histoire. In the summer months, open-air festivals make the most of the elegant parks and lakeside panoramas, many of them free.

geneva, paddleboard

Learn to paddleboard

What's the vibe? Active

Hawaii's current craze for stand-up paddleboarding comes to Lake Geneva. The idea is to stand upright on a long surfboard and use a paddle to propel yourself across the water. It's a fun way to travel, as long as you're prepared to fall in once in a while, and a good upper-body workout. There are plenty of other watersports, such as windsurfing and wakeboarding, on the lake. Book lessons at Tropical Geneva and reward yourself afterwards with a drink on the palm-fringed beach, a more secluded location than the main yacht-crammed marina.

Details Tropical Geneva, Centre Nautique de Genève-Plage, Geneva. www.trop.ch. +41 (0) 22 786 16 79. Open May to September.

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teinturerie, geneva, switzerland

Find unique fashion at La Teinturerie

What's the vibe? Stylish

This marvellous shop tucked away in Place des Augustins is known for its selection of unique pieces by Swiss and international independent designers. The focus is womenswear from diaphonous dresses to cashmere, funky gold jewellery and leather bags, but there's also a natty line in children's furniture.

Details Place des Augustins 3, 1205 Geneva. +41 (0) 22 320 78 81.
parc grange, switzerland

Enjoy free alfresco films and music

What's the vibe? Social

As the weather brightens and summer takes hold, the city heads outdoors for alfresco screenings, concerts, theatre, bars and more. Music lovers can kick back on the lawns of Parc de la Grange for free concerts on Wednesdays and Fridays, with a programme ranging from jazz and chanson to hip hop and punk. There are also free film screenings at Perle du Lac park. Bring a picnic, a blanket and friends.

Details Théâtre de Verdure, Parc de la Grange, Avenue William-Favre, 1207 Geneva. ville-ge.ch. From June 28 to August 19. Ciné Transat, Parc de la Perle du Lac, 1202 Geneva. cinetransat.ch. From July 9 to August 16.

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geneva, art museum

Travel through time at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire

What's the vibe? Cultural

One of Switzerland's biggest museums, with more than 650,000 artefacts over five floors. It's great for fine art (Swiss artists Liotard, Hodler and Vallotton and big guns like Picasso, Rubens and Monet) and applied art (the silverware gallery is a highlight). Explore the collection of over 800 musical instruments and the county's biggest stash of Egyptian antiquities. Too much choice? Follow the museum's portrait-themed tour leading you to such diverse treasures as a Coptic wall hanging and a Corot landscape of Lake Geneva.

Details Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Rue Charles-Galland 2, 1206 Geneva. institutions.ville-geneve.ch. +41 (0) 22 418 26 00.

Lausanne

Like Geneva, Lausanne is one of the main cities in the French-speaking part of the country and enjoys the spoils of a position on the shores of Lake Geneva/Lac Léman. The city is built on three hills, but fear not, the metro will take the strain. Stay in town to enjoy the famously lively bar scene, or head for the hills to explore the vineyards of Lavaux. Sport fans will also appreciate the ultimate collection of Olympic memorabilia at the International Olympic Committee's HQ.

lausanne, vineyards of lavaux

Discover the vineyards of Lavaux

What's the vibe? Active

The northern shores of Lake Geneva boast the terraced vineyards of Lavaux, whose winemaking heritage stretches back to the eleventh century. Now a World Heritage Site, it's a beautiful landscape with spectacular views of the lake and some great cellars to sample, most notably chasselas whites and pinot noir and gamay reds. Several hiking trails wind their way up the steep slopes, or you can ride the Lavaux Express tourist train, which departs from Lutry or Cully harbours, near the railway station.

Details Lavaux Express departs from Lutry or Cully landing piers. www.lavauxexpress.ch. +41 (0) 848 848 791.

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Lausanne, les arches

People-watch at Les Arches

What's the vibe? Stylish

This great bar has one of the best people-watching locations in town – under the arches of the Grand Pont, the nineteenth-century bridge that cuts through the centre of town, and in a prime position on the edge of Place de l’Europe. From a morning coffee in the sunshine to a pre-clubbing apéro, or just a hard-earned pick-me-up after a strenuous shopping spree, Les Arches is the perfect place to sit and watch tout Lausanne go by.

Details Les Arches, Place de l'Europe, 1003 Lausanne. www.lesarches.ch.

la cave, music club, switzerland

Hang out at the Bleu Lézard

What's the vibe? Social

The Bleu Lézard and subterranean Cave Bleu are a lively bistro and club with seasonal cuisine and eclectic music that attract a friendly crowd. With iPod battles, dating nights, ’80s nights, theatre shows and exhibitions, there’s always something going on at this local institution. Try the sensational Sunday brunch and stay for the dancing.

Details Bleu Lézard, rue Enning 10, 1003 Lausanne. bleu-lezard.ch. +41 (0) 21 321 38 30.

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Lausane, Olympic museum

Go for gold at the Olympic Museum

What's the vibe? Cultural

In the home of the International Olympic Committee it would be rude not to visit the Olympic Museum. Reopened last year after a major refurbishment, it hosts exhibitions, interactive exhibits and events promoting the history and spirit of the Games. The museum has the definitive collection of Olympic memorabilia, including every past torch and Usain Bolt's Jamaica vest. The current year-long exhibition ‘Broadcasting the Olympics’ looks at how the Games have been broadcast around the world. Even those who aren't mad about sport will appreciate the lakeside views from the café.

Details Olympic Musuem, quai d'Ouchy 1, 1006 Lausanne. www.olympic.org/museum. +41 (0) 21 621 65 11. ‘Broadcasting the Olympics’ continues until January 26 2016.

Lugano

Lugano, in the south of the country in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, is dreamily situated on lovely Lake Lugano and attracts a starry cohort of the affluent and beautiful. But even mere mortals can make the most of the stunning scenery and milder climate, whether from the top of the dramatic mountains that soar around the city, wandering the fairytale gardens of Parco Scherrer or sipping cocktails down by the water's edge.

lugano, Monte San Salvatore

Take the funicular up Monte San Salvatore

What's the vibe? Active

Where Lugano doesn't border the lake it's surrounded by mountains: Monte Brè, Monte San Salvatore and Monte Sighignola. At 912m and popular with climbers, dramatic Monte San Salvatore looms above the city, one side forest, the other sheer rock face. The view from the summit is, you won't be surprised to hear, spectacular; the good news is that a funicular railway will take you to the top. Seek out the mountaintop church and climb up to the roof for an even better view.

Details Funicolare Lugano-Paradiso to Monte San Salvatore, Casella Postale 442 and Via delle Scuole 7, 6902 Lugano. www.montesansalvatore.ch. +41 (0) 91 985 28 28. Open April to October.

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parco scherrer, switzerland

Dream in the fairytale landscape of Parco Scherrer

What's the vibe? Stylish

Heading out of the city on the road to Morcote are the fairytale gardens of Parco Scherrer. Lugano's southerly location and comparatively mild climate favour lush vegetation and a sub-tropical ambience. The landscaped terraces – Indian, Oriental and Mediterranean in theme – are adorned with sculptures, fountains, gazebos, temples, tranquil pools and shady arbours. Cedars, Mexican pines, eucalyptus and Chinese magnolia make the air fragrant and sensuous. Gratifying the taste buds, the park's restaurant, Grotto del Parco, serves Italian dishes such as homemade ravioli and fresh fish from the lake.

Details Parco Scherrer, Riva di Pilastri 24, 6922 Morcote. www.grottodelparco.ch. +41 (0) 91 996 22 07. Open March to October.

mojito, lugano, switzerland

Go tropical at El Mojito

What's the vibe? Social

El Mojito Tropical Lounge is a throbbing summertime cocktail bar-cum-beach shack on a lakeside jetty. Admire the view or the beautiful people, or both. Chill on deckchairs or dance to DJs. The mojitos, as you might imagine, are sublime.

Details El Mojito, Riva Albertolli, Lugano. www.facebook.com/mojito.lugano. +41 (0) 58 866 74 40. Open until October.

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bellinzona castle, lucerne, switzerland

Pace the battlements of Bellinzona

What's the vibe? Cultural

Among the most famous monuments of Ticino are the impressive collection of medieval castles at Bellinzona, the capital of the canton, just north of Lugano. Castelgrande (home to an archaeological museum), Castello di Montebello and Castello di Sasso Corbaro are strung out along the original defensive wall, or Murata, which spans the Ticino valley. It's a reminder of the region's historic past at the centre of Europe and has been designated a World Heritage Site.

Details www.bellinzonaunesco.ch.

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