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matterhorn accommodation
matterhorn accommodation

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Switzerland's largest city is set on its own lake, Zürichsee, on the banks of the Limmat River, and is the country's main German-speaking business and banking center. The old part of the town (the Altstadt) is especially picturesque. On a walk through the old center do not miss the Gothic Basilica Fraumünster (11th to 13th century) with its three naves and stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall. Across the river, the skyline is dominated by the Grossmünster with its twin towers. Other sights include the impressive Town Hall, a fine example from the late Renaissance (17th century), the Swiss National Museum and the modern art collections at the Kunsthaus Zürich. Zürich also has a full cultural program. Plays are performed in the Zürcher Schauspielhaus, which is considered one of the most prestigious German-speaking theaters.

Zürich is set in the Mittelland ('middle country'), a very lush and picturesque region scattered with small historic towns, villages and vineyards. Local trains and buses provide easy access to the hills, woods and parks that surround Zürich; during the summer, steamer cruises on Zürich's lake are popular. A day-trip to the Uetliberg, a hill to the southeast of the city, is also recommended. On clear days, the panorama from the top of the hill includes a bird's eye view of Zurich, with the Valais and Berner Alps to the west and the Black Forest to the east. The medieval castle at Rapperswil, on the bank of the lake, is well worth a visit.

West and South of Lake Constance

This area of northeastern Switzerland rises slowly over the rugged range of the Churfirsten near St Gallen to the Glarner Alps. Appenzell, in the northeastern part of Switzerland, with its highest peak Säntis (2504m/8215ft), is ideal for hiking tours. Old traditions remain very much alive in Appenzell and national costume is still worn for village and folk festivals. The Rhine, which springs from Lake Toma in the St Gotthard, runs through the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and cascades near Schaffhausen into the Rhine Falls - one of the largest waterfalls in Europe. On the banks of Lake Constance, Stein am Rhein is an especially picturesque small town with cobbled streets, fountains, half-timbered houses and a medieval atmosphere. St Gallen's old city center is dominated by burgher houses from the 17th and 18th century. Not to be missed is the Baroque Cathedral and the famous Abbey Library (Stiftsbibliothek) in the courtyard of the old Benedictine monastery (incunabula and illuminated manuscripts), named a World Heritage Treasure by UNESCO.

Southeast Switzerland Graubünden

There are 150 valleys in the rugged mountainous region of Graubünden (known as 'Grisons' by French-speaking Swiss), the largest, least populated canton of Switzerland, famous for glamorous ski centers, spa resorts and dramatic alpine landscapes. Graubünden also has the longest history of any region of Switzerland with countless castles, fortresses, churches and chapels and, from valley to valley, the local language changes from German to Romansch to Italian.

The climatic health resorts of Arosa, Davos, Klosters and St Moritz are renowned the world over, and not only for their winter sports facilities. Typical Engadine stone houses characterize the towns of St Moritz, Pontresina and Zuoz. The highest peak in the canton is the Bernina (4049m/13,284ft), bordering Italy and Austria. Chur, the capital of Graubünden and the oldest Swiss settlement, is the hub for many other ski resorts. Sights of the city include the St Lucius Church, the Cathedral (12th to 13th century) and the Rhaetic Museum. In the Engadine valley, small villages beyond Zernez and the Swiss National Park have cross-country skiing and summer walking areas. One-third of the 168 sq km (65 sq mile) Swiss National Park is covered with dense forest and is home to several wildlife species, among them roe deer, eagles, marmot and lizards. matterhorn holiday accommodation