Switzerland - need to know

Cleo Murphy

Getting There

Swiss International Air Lines (1890 200 515; swiss. com) flies directly from Dublin to Zurich, starting at €113 for a return flight (including taxes). Aer Lingus (0818 365 000; aerlingus.com) flies from Dublin to Geneva. One-way fares start from €52.99 (including taxes and charges, subject to availability).

Where to stay

Gite de Lodze: Supervised self-catering in the nature reserve of Derborance, in which you chop wood and carry water, but your host has dinner underway when you arrive. Access is on foot with a guide and you spend the night in a genuine Swiss chalet with accommodation for 24 in the main building and six to eight in the Yourte (Alpine tent). Half-board is 50 Swiss Francs (€34) per night for adults. Tel: 0041 79 507 5609; gitedelodze.ch.

Gasthaus Engel: A good place to base yourself for exploring Zurich. Rooms are minimalist and modern. There's a fine restaurant and a terrace overlooking the lake. Doubles from €124, singles from €74. Tel: 0041 758 1196.

Lausanne Palace and Spa:

An old-world, luxurious pad with an emphasis on spa and wellness. The spa has its own health bar. It's in strolling distance of the sights of Lausanne as well as the Flon area, the trendy quarter of the old city. Doubles start at €360pn. Tel: 0041 213 313 131; lausanne-palace.com.

Five Great Things to do

Ride the Pilatus funicular:

This uphill train journey near Lucerne (top left) is a feat of Swiss engineering. The world's steepest rack railway, it travels 4.6km from the lake shore to the mountaintop in a breathtaking, gravity-defying climb. Mount Pilatus (2,132m) is just outside Lucerne and the funicular journey is a must if you are visiting the city.

See Charlie Chaplin Museum:

We're a little ahead of time, but it's expected to open at the end of the year in Corsier-sur-Vevey, where Chaplin lived for 25 years. There are plans for a 1920s Hollywood street, a 200-seat cinema showing Chaplin movies and a multimedia interactive exhibition featuring archive material -- a movie buff's dream.

Jazz it up in Montreux

The 44th Montreux Jazz Festival takes place from July 2 to 17 on the shores of Lake Geneva, gazing across at the Alps. World-class recording studios have drawn international artists here, and a bronze statue to the late Freddie Mercury is a big attraction.

Take the train: Switzerland was made for fabulous train journeys. Try the Chocolate Train from Montreux to Gruyère to visit the Cailler chocolate factory and the Gruyère cheese dairy. (mob.ch). Even if it's plain A-to-B travel, you'll have some lovely views and the joy of knowing that everything runs on time. Check the Swiss Pass for good value in train travel throughout the country (swisstravelsystem.ch).

Dine Swiss style: Fondue and raclette (below) are the great cheese dishes of Switzerland and nowhere does Swiss cheese taste as good. Pick some up for friends at the airport on the way home.