Switzerland is pretty much perfect, readers frequently tell us. However, seeing the fondue pot half-empty for a change, we wondered whether there were any places or experiences that had disappointed you or left you thinking “Is that it?”.
“What is the Swiss Mona Lisa?” was another question we asked. Most people who have seen Leonardo’s portrait will agree that he knows his way around a palette; they might also agree, however, that the painting is surprisingly small and perhaps not worth elbowing through smartphone-wielding crowds to see. Are there any Swiss equivalents?
“The Rhine waterfalls. Not that they’re not beautiful. It’s just that you’re expecting more when you hear ‘the largest in Europe’.” – Sofia Geo
Many readers agreed with this post about the Rhine Fallsexternal link – one of the most-visited sights in Switzerland (see box) – with several recommending the Trümmelbach Fallsexternal link in the Lauterbrunnen Valley instead: “10,000% more impressive”, according to Jen Schilling.
Obviously one person’s disappointment is another person’s delight. I’ve never tried to get a peek at the Mona Lisa, but I remember being slightly underwhelmed by the “birthplace of Switzerland”, the surprisingly small Rütli Meadow. That said, its location – overlooking Lake Lucerne – is stunning, and getting there by boat is half the fun. I’ve a feeling Jules might like it:
“The Jet d’Eau on Lac Léman. That’s literally all it is, a fire hose of water. Look up at the mountains instead, not at this complete waste of time.” – Jules
The Rütli also benefits from not being a tourist attraction as such. Like Tell’s Chapelexternal link across the lake, there’s no gift shop or tourist-focused infrastructure other than a chalet restaurant. Just a wonderful view and masses of symbolism.
Because many visitors are attracted to Switzerland by its natural beauty, jostling with crowds in a museum or gallery isn’t usually a problem. But there are exceptions:
“Blausee. So touristic, so many people that it’s difficult to see anything spectacular.” – Blanka Legowska
A couple of people agreed with Blanka about the Blauseeexternal link, the deep-blue, crystal-clear lake in canton Bern.
While readers invariably praise Swiss trains, the dash to make connections in certain busy hub stations, such as in Interlaken, can be challenging:
“On a visit to the Bernese Oberland I was surprised at how the transit system was not at all geared towards limited mobility users. Departure times between trains were too close together to navigate between platforms in time. The people, however, were very courteous and helpful, especially the cable car operators!” – Kristina Zimmermann
Staff in shops are also generally very welcoming – more so certainly than the bill:
“Does it count when I say: every time I spend CHF100 on groceries, I look at the basket and say ‘that’s it?’?” – Shiila Evel
You’re not alone, Shiila. Especially at the Zurich Street Parade:
“I’m glad if it brings business and money to Zurich without trashing the city, and it does appear the city is spotless the next day, but … really? What is so special about some beer-sponsored truck-pulls, with many half-naked, colourful and drunk people having a good time that it needs to block traffic and have non-stop television footage? The Swiss equivalent of the Times Square New Year’s Eve countdown and Ball Drop, in better weather. Blah.” – Giancarlo Malchiodi
In addition to one “blah” we also got a few “mehs”:
“Fondue. Most of it is meh. Would rather have a good raclette.” – Stacy Streuli
“Fondue, melted cheese and stale bread? Really, people rush to the alps for this. No, wait, it gets better (or worse depending on your taste buds), they add garlic or Kirsch (cherry) schnapps. Ewww. As you can see, I’m not a fondue fan. Hope this qualifies as a moany moment.” – Paul Douglas Lovell
It certainly does, Paul. This post triggered a huge debate on tips for the perfect cheese fondue and what to drink with it. Sometimes, however, emotions bubbled over:
“Swiss fondue. I mean bread dipped in molten cheese. That’s it? No wonder there’s nothing called ‘Swiss cuisine’.” – KaySeraSera
Harsh. And the food posts continued:
“My Swiss Mona Lisa are cervelat and bratwurst. How come these are Swiss national grill heroes? This is so basic and tasteless meat […] This is really bad food but I guess because you can’t bring more than 1kg of meat through customs the Swiss have really limited access to proper grill sausages 😊 . But this is my only complaint, so it means this is a great country.” – Uwe Zusammengestossen
“When you come to Switzerland, country of chocolate, you look forward to a hot chocolate. When you get served a hot milk with powder you get terribly disappointed. Where is the chocolate in hot chocolate in Switzerland???!” – Jonathan Mudry
Many readers agreed, with many others chipping in with tips on where to get a proper mug of the brown stuff. Suggestions included Confiserie Sprüngliexternal link in Zurich and Maison Caillerexternal link near Gruyère in western Switzerland.
Smoking is banned in Swiss chocolate parlours and other public buildings, but while the number of smokers in Switzerland is declining, people can – and do – light up on train platforms and outdoor areas for eating or drinking. This spoils trips to Switzerland for several readers:
“Too much smoking in public space. Why do smokers pollute the fresh air and others are forced to smell the dirty plus unhealthy air?” – Ya-Chuan Hsu
This is the issue that generated the most complaints from readers. While a few smokers argued that in a democracy they had the right to smoke, most readers angrily called on the authorities to clamp down:
“Absolutely agree. I find it disgusting as I am a lung illness sufferer. It is unbearable and on top of that some smokers are rude and flick cigarette butts in front of you 😡.” – Reto Gasser
From angry to philosophical:
“The ‘problem’ is not the place or thing (i.e. Mona Lisa) it’s that YOU expected a certain something from it or ate up all the hype. As always: people are the fault.” – Jake Marino
That’s the thing about travelling: how much you enjoy a holiday can often depend more on your mindset than the destination.
“I’m Swiss, living in Zurich my whole life and I've travelled the world and Switzerland. I cannot remember a time I got disappointed by a sight in my own country. The reason might be that I know what to expect.” – Peter Egloff
And Carlos’s Swiss glass was more than half-full – it was overflowing:
“Disappointed? The opposite. Everything was cleaner, fresher, tastier, more efficient and fashion forward than anticipated.” – Carlos Aguilar
A list of pleasantly surprising places or experiences in Switzerland – that’s another story…
Which destinations or experiences in Switzerland did you really love? Why? And what about pleasant surprises – was there an attraction or view, for example, that really made an impression on you or exceeded your expectations? Let us know in the comments! We’re collecting your input for a future article.
Switzerland’s ten most-visited destinations which charge an entry fee (2017)
1. Schilthorn cablecar 3,216,909 visitors
2. Dählhölzli animal park (fee) and Bern bear park (free) 3,054,820
3. Pilatus railway 2,847,597
4. Cruises on Lake Lucerne 2,676,060
5. Cruises on Lake Geneva 2,376,317
6. Gornergrat railway 1,754,000
7. Rhine Falls 1,500,000
8. Zurich Zoo 1,209,198
9. Titlis Engelberg railway 1,180,672
10. Jungfraujoch 1,041,500
(Source: Switzerland Tourismexternal link)