Take a seat… because what I am about to tell you may well leave you weak at the knees.
Switzerland, the land of sublime chocolate, heavenly cheese, movie star cows, and scenery that leaves you breathless, is now the land of free transport. Keen to dispel the notion that their country is an expensive place to travel, the clever, resourceful Swiss have introduced free travel cards for hotel guests.
I came upon this wonderful concept during my last visit to Switzerland in 2017. When I checked into Les Trois Rois in Basel, I was handed a magical card which gave me free access to the city’s public trains, trams, and buses so I could whiz around the city without paying a single Swiss Franc.
But wait, there’s more: the Basel Card also gives holders free Wi-Fi at 17 spots around the city, a ferry ride on the Rhine River, 50 percent off admissions to Basel Zoo, Theatre Basel, a two-hour sight-seeing bus, and a walking tour of the old town and scheduled river cruises. Isn’t that awesome? (You can read more about my terrific Basel experience here.)
When I was in Bever near St Moritz on a hiking expedition last autumn, Bever Lodge issued me with the Engadin St Moritz Card which gave me free unlimited use of mountain railways, cable cars, and public transport. I absolutely treasured that card because it enabled me to ascend to restaurants perched on 3,000 to 4,000-metre peaks in time for lunch and champagne in the sun and then hike a myriad of high-altitude alpine tracks with ease.
In Bern, they’ve gone all-out. The Bern Ticket not only offers hotel guests free travel on the city’s public transportation, but also airport transfers, rides on the Gurten Mountain Funicular, the funicular Marzilibahn, and the elevator to the Minster Terrace.
The Lausanne Transport Card allows holders up to 15 days of free travel while staying in any hotel in Lausanne. The card also offers special discounts at selected shops, eateries, cinemas and theatres, nightclubs, museums, and a wide range of places of interest.
The Montreux Riviera Card offers complimentary welcome drinks at the Montreux-Vevey Tourism Office, 50 percent off the city walking tours in Montreux and Vevey, a Queen Studio Experience, and 50 percent discounts on a series of iconic rail journeys, cruises, and activities in the Lake Geneva Region.
The Lucerne Mobility Card entitles hotel guests to free travel on the city’s trains and buses for the duration of their stay, while the Swiss Travel Pass covers ferry rides, mountain railways, cableways, and free entry to more than 500 museums.
Talking of Swiss cities, here’s one for the gourmands out there. Switzerland Tourism has launched a new culinary campaign called Taste my Swiss City, culinary tours available in 11 cities across the country. Designed to enhance your experience of the city by introducing you to what and where the locals eat, each tour includes up to seven handpicked restaurants, bars, bistros, and cafés all linked by a leisurely walk. Sign me up!
The tours will also help visitors gain a better understanding of the local way of life, culture, and the ongoing evolution of the city through the eyes of its residents. At each eatery, you are served a specialty dish or even a drink so that by the end of the tour, you will have consumed the equivalent of a full meal… and a few drinks. You will have also discovered culinary treasures and secret spots that are off the touristy path.
The tours are self-guided and take between two and three hours on foot. Priced from CHF60 to CHF130, Taste my Swiss City tours are available in Basel, Bellinzona, Bern, La Chaux -de-Fonds, Lausanne, Locarno/Ascona, Lugano, Lucerne, Neuchâtel, Vevey/Montreux, and Winterthur.
For more information, visit www.MySwitzerland.com/cities and www.MySwitzerland.com/tastemyswisscity.
(Editor’s Note: Be sure to watch the accompanying video to this story on Luxury.TV.)
Contributing Editor Justine Tyerman is an award-winning travel writer, journalist and sub-editor from Gisborne, New Zealand, with 20 years’ experience in newspaper and freelance work. Check out her work at www.just-write.co.nz and Tyerman’s Travels Facebook.