"swiss-made":souvenirs and luxury goods
Switzerland is the watch-making capital of the world, and "swiss made" on a watch face has long been a mark of quality. while the french-speaking regions of switzerland are usually associated with swiss watchmakers like rolex, omega, and patek philippe, some fine watches are made in the swiss-german-speaking region, such as iwc in schaffhausen. every large town will have quite a few horologers and jewelers with a vast selection of fancy watches displayed their windows, ranging from the fashionable swatch for chf60 to the handmade chronometer with the huge price tag. for fun, try to spot the most expensive of these mechanical creations and the ones with the most "bedazzle!!".
Switzerland may always have a rivalry with belgium for the world's best chocolate, but there's no doubting that the swiss variety is amazingly good. switzerland is also home to the huge nestlé food company. if you have a fine palate and a fat wallet - you can find two of the finest swiss chocolatiers in zurich: teuscher try the champagne truffles and sprüngli. for the rest of us, even the generic grocery store brand chocolates in switzerland still blow away the hershey bars found elsewhere. for a good value, try the "frey" brand chocolates sold at migros. if you want to try some real good and exclusive swiss chocolate, go for the pamaco chocolates, derived from the noble criollo beans and accomplished through the original, complex process of refinement that requires 72h quite expensive though, a bar of 125g costs about chf8. for lindt fans, it is possible to get them as low as half the supermarket price by going to the lindt factory store in kilchberg near zurich.
Holey moley!Have you ever wondered why Swiss cheese, known locally as Emmentaler, always has those distinct holes? Bacteria are a key part of the cheesemaking process. They excrete huge amounts of carbon dioxide which forms gas bubbles in the curd, and these bubbles cause the holes.
Many different regions of switzerland have their own regional cheese speciality. of these, the most well-known are gruyère and emmentaler what americans know as "swiss cheese". be sure to sample the wide variety of cheeses sold in markets, and of course try the cheese fondue! fondue is basically melted cheese and is used as a dip with other food such as bread. the original mixture consists of half vacherin cheese and half gruyère but many different combinations have been developed since.
Swiss Army knives
Switzerland is the official home of the swiss army knife. there are two brands victorinox and wenger. both brands are manufactured by victorinox. the wenger business went bankrupt and victorinox purchased it 2005. victorinox knives, knife collectors will agree, are far far superior, in terms of design, quality, functionality. the most popular victorinox knife is the swiss champ which has 33 functions and currently costs about chf78 . most tourists will purchase this knife. the "biggest" victorinox knife is the swiss champ 1.6795.xavt- this has 80 functions and is supplied in a case. this knife costs chf364. the 1.6795.xavt may in years to come be a collector's model. most shops throughout switzerland stock victorinox knifes, even some newsagents stock them. they are excellent gifts and souvenirs. the original "swiss army knife" is not red with a white cross as usually seen by tourists, but gray with a small swiss flag. the swiss army knife is also produced by victorinox. its main particularity is to have the production year engraved on the basis of the biggest blade and no cork-screw because the swiss soldier must not drink wine on duty.
Note that Swiss Army Knives must be packed in hold luggage.
Ski and tourist areas will sell the other kinds of touristy items - cowbells, clothing embroidered with white Edelweiss flowers, and Heidi-related stuff. Swiss people love cows in all shapes and sizes, and you can find cow-related goods everywhere, from stuffed toy cows to fake cow-hide jackets. If you have a generous souvenir budget, look for fine traditional handcrafted items such as hand-carved wooden figures in Brienz, and lace and fine linens in St. Gallen. If you have really deep pockets, or just wish you did, be sure to shop on Zurich's famed Bahnhofstrasse, one of the most exclusive shopping streets in the world. If you're looking for hip shops and thrift stores, head for the Niederdorf or the Stauffacher area.
There is no sugar-coating: Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world to buy stuff in. This is due to a confluence of several factors, not least of which include high minimum wages, limited real estate, and the perceived superior quality of the goods being produced.
Switzerland is not part of the European Union and the currency is the Swiss franc or Franken or franco, depending in which language area you are, divided into 100 centimes, Rappen or centesimi. This is symbolised internationally and throughout our guides with CHF placed immediately before the amount with no intervening space.
However, many places - such as supermarkets, restaurants, sightseeings' box offices, hotels and the railways or ticket machines - accept euro and will give you change in Swiss francs or in euro if they have it in cash. A bill or a price-label may contain prices both in francs and in euro. Usually in such cases the exchange-rates comply with official exchange rates, but if it differs you will be notified in advance. Changing some money to Swiss francs CHF is essential. Money can be exchanged at all train stations and most banks throughout the country.
Switzerland is more cash-oriented than most other European countries. It is not unusual to see bills being paid by cash, even CHF200 and CHF1000 notes. Some establishments but fewer than before do not accept credit cards so check first. When doing credit card payments, carefully review the information printed on the receipt details on this can be found in the "Stay Safe" section below. All ATMs accept foreign cards, getting cash should not be a problem.
Coins are issued in 5 centime brass, rare, 10 centime, 20 centime, ½ Franc, 1 Franc, 2 Franc, and 5 Franc all silver colored denominations. One centime coins are no longer legal tender, but may be exchanged until 2027 for face value. Two centime coins have not been legal tender since the 1970's and are, consequently, worthless.
Banknotes are found in denominations of 10 yellow, 20 red, 50 green, 100 blue, 200 brown, and 1000 purple francs. They are all the same width and feature a variety of security measures.
Swiss employment law bans working on Sundays, so shops stay closed. An exception is any business in a railway station, which is deemed to be serving travellers and so is exempt. If you want to find an open shop on a Sunday, go to the nearest big railway station. If a business is family-owned, you aren't employing anybody so you can open, hence small shops can also open on Sundays.
Bear in mind that swiss supermarkets and most shops close by 6 or 6.30pm. Even earlier on Saturdays. It is advisable to check the working hours. Swiss people are 'sort of' strict about the closing time.
Swiss supermarkets can be hard to spot in big cities. They often have small entrances, but open out inside, or are located in a basement, leaving the expensive street frontages for other shops. Look for the supermarket logos above entrances between other shops.
For the "self catering":
Migros (http://www.migros.ch) - This chain of supermarkets in fact a cooperative provides average to good quality food and no-food products and homeware. However, they do not sell alcoholic beverages nor cigarettes. Brand name products are rare as the chain does their own brands quality is good, which chain that you go to does not matter. Migros stores can be spotted by a big, orange Helvetica letter "M" sign. The number of "M" letters indicates the size of the store and the different services available - a single "M" is usually a smaller grocery store, a double M "MM" may be larger and sells other goods like clothing, and a MMM is a full department store with household goods and possibly electronics and sporting goods. Offers change weekly on Tuesdays.
Coop (http://www.coop.ch) - Also a cooperative. Emphasis on quality as well as multi-buy offers, points collection schemes and money off coupons. Sells many major brands. Come at the end of the day to get half-priced salads and sandwiches. Coop City is usually a department store with a Coop grocery store inside, a multi-floor layout provides space for clothing, electrical items, stationary, paperware as well as beauty products and perfume. Offers change weekly some exceptions - fortnightly, on Tuesdays.
Denner (http://www.denner.ch/) - A discount grocery store, noticeable for their red signs and store interiors. Relatively low priced. Offers change weekly, usually from Wednesday. Denner was bought by Migros in late 2006, but will not be rebranded at present.
Coop Pronto - a convenience store branch of Coop, usually open late at least 20:00 seven days a week. Usually has a petrol, filling-station forecourt.
Aperto (http://www.aperto.ch/) - also a convenience store, located in the railway stations
Manor (http://www.manor.ch/) - the Manor department stores often have a grocery store on the underground level.
Globus (http://www.manor.ch/) - in the largest cities the Globus department stores have a grocery store on the underground level.
As of March 2005, Coop launched low-price-line Coop Prix-Garantie. In Migros, you find "M-Budget" products. Sometimes it's exactly the same product, just for cheaper price. They also offer pre-pay mobiles as cheap as 29.80 CHF, including 19 CHF money on the SIM-Card and the some of the cheapest call rates.
The German discounter, Aldi Suisse started with 5 discount shops in the eastern part of Switzerland in early 2006. The prices are a little lower than at the other supermarket chains, but still significantly higher than in Germany.