Switzerland is a safe and quiet country with much to offer the active traveller. Snow-capped mountains, crystal clear lakes and rolling farmland provide the perfect landscape for a wealth of physical pursuits, including hiking, outdoor swimming and skiing. Having stayed out of 20th century conflict, very pretty town centres offer street after cobbled street of medieval buildings, although modern architecture can be a bit drab there is almost no high-rise or iconic architecture.
Nestled between France, Germany, Austria and Italy, the country varies greatly from canton to canton, in language (there are 4 official Swiss languages, not including English) cuisine and culture.
Switzerland sits in the middle of the European continent and, as such, has hot summers and cold winters. Autumn and Spring are delightful times to visit, characterised by clear blue skies and mild temperatures.
Summers can be uncomfortably hot, especially given the rarity of air-conditioning. When temperature are over 35 C for days on end, a great way to cool off is swimming in the many lakes or rivers - you can even swim in parts of the Rhine!
Although little snow falls in the cities, venture into the countryside or up into the mountains between Advent and the end of April and you're likely to find the white stuff. In recent years, the ski season has had a slow start, so we would recommend booking a trip after January and a higher altitude resort to be snow-sure.
The Swiss franc (1 CHF : $1 US) is a strong currency, often used as a safe-haven for investments. Most things in Switzerland are expensive, so be prepared to spend up to 20 CHF on a light, casual lunch and upwards of 300 CHF on a hotel for the night - 5* hotels in the major cities are usually over 500 CHF per night. Credit cards are widely accepted including American Express.
As a Schengen-member state, travel from most of Europe is very easy with no passport checks. Most of the Western world can enter Schengen without a visa, including nationals of the USA, most of S America, Australia and Japan. Nationals of Africa, India, Russian and most Middle-Eastern countries require a visa, which costs €60.