13 Most Interesting Heritage Sites To Discover In Switzerland
When you think about the Swizz nation, many thing comes to mind: the swizz mouthwatering cuisine, hot swizz chocolate (a testimony of long flavor and yummy taste value) and swizz fizzy and intoxicating drink. But the big question is, have you ever been to Switzerland for a site-discovery? I guess no. The landlocked nation is an ornament of verdant planetary landscape, a blue wispy radiant sea in it encompasses, a craggy hilly mountain for a breathtaking view and historic tradition of culture. From the Ancient and Primeval Beech Forest of the Carpathians to the Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch which is the first Alpine to be the UNESCO heritage site in 2001 and Old City of Berne found 12 centuries ago on a hill surrounded by the Aare River. Switzerland might look small, but It exude great features that will blow you mind to the brim. A country with a true testimony of western tradition. We have taken our time to curate the best place to visit in Switzerland to give you that excitement you have always dreamt of.
Abbey of St Gall
The Abbey of St Gall is located in the town of St Gall in the north-eastern part of Switzerland, and largely owes its present appearance to the construction campaigns of the 18th century. It is an impressive architectural ensemble comprising different buildings regrouped around the main square of the abbey: The west side includes the ancient abbatial church (the present cathedral), flanked by two towers and the ancient cloister, which today houses the abbatial Library; located on the east side is the “Neue Pfalz”, the present seat of the canton authorities. The northern part of the square is composed of buildings of the 19th century: the ancient arsenal, the Children’s and Guardian Angels’ Chapel and the former Catholic school.
The Abbey of St Gall is an outstanding example of a large Carolingian monastery and was, since the 8th century until its secularisation in 1805, one of the most important cultural centres in Europe. It represents 1200 years of history of monastic architecture and is a typical and outstanding ensemble of a large Benedictine convent. Almost all the important architectural periods, from High Middle Ages to historicism, are represented in an exemplary fashion. Despite the diversity of styles, the conventual ensemble gives the impression of overall unity, bordered on the north and to the west by edifices of the town of St Gall that are, for the most part, intact.
The High Baroque library represents one of the most beautiful examples of its era, and the present cathedral is one of the last monumental constructions of Baroque abbatial churches in the West. In addition to the architectural substance, the inestimable cultural values conserved at the Abbey are of exceptional importance, notably: the Irish manuscripts of the 7th and 8th centuries, the illuminated manuscripts of the St Gall School of the 9th and 11th centuries, documents concerning the history of the origins of Alemannic Switzerland as well as the layout of the convent during the Carolingian era (the only manuscript plan of that time remaining worldwide, conserved in its original state, representing a concept of monastic organisation of the Benedictine order).
Benedictine Convent of St John at Müstair
The Benedictine Convent of St John at Müstair, located in a valley of the Grisons in the extreme south-eastern part of Switzerland, south of the Alps, was founded around 775, probably on the orders of Charlemagne. At the beginning of the 9th century it was noted as being an establishment of religious Benedictines, and became a women’s abbey in the first half of the 12th century. Religious activities have continued uninterrupted until the present day, with the abbey becoming a priory in 1810. Today, the convent ensemble comprises the Carolingian conventual church and the Saint Cross Church, the residential tower of the Abbess von Planta, the ancient residence of the bishop, including two rectangular courtyards. To the west the courtyard is surrounded by cloisters, two entrance towers and agricultural buildings.
The property reflects both the history of its construction and the political and socio-economic relations in this region and throughout Europe over more than 1200 years, and thus provides a coherent example of Carolingian conventual architecture over time.
The conventual church houses the most important cycle of frescoes of the Carolingian era conserved in situ. The creation of these frescoes is dated around the first half of the 9th century. The church, which is conserved for the most part in its Carolingian style, was initially destined as a space to be decorated with paintings: representations of the history of Christ decorate its entire perimeter, the apses and the inner walls. The scenes are laid out in a decorative way with elements connected by thematic and spatial correspondence and represent an outstanding example of Christian iconography.
La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle, Watchmaking Town Planning
The watchmaking urban ensemble of La Chaux-de-Fonds and Le Locle demonstrates outstanding universal value as these twin manufacturing-towns constitute an exceptional example of organic urban ensembles entirely dedicated to a single industry. They have been constructed by and for watchmaking. They are the product of an extremely close symbiosis between socio-technical needs and responses provided by town planning choices. Watchmaking has given rise to a remarkable architectural typology in the built structure. Housing designed for home working is situated alongside owners’ houses, workshops, and more recent factories, in a homogeneous and rational urban fabric that is open to the outside. The two towns bear witness to the exceptional uninterrupted continuation of a living and world-renowned watchmaking tradition, which has succeeded in coping with the socio-technical and economic crises of the contemporary world.
Lavaux, Vineyard Terraces
The Lavaux vineyard landscape is a thriving cultural landscape that demonstrates in a highly visible way its evolution and development over almost a millennia, through the well preserved landscape and buildings, and also the continuation and adaptation of longstanding cultural traditions, specific to its locality. It also illustrates very graphically the story of patronage, control and protection of this highly valued wine growing area, all of which contributed substantially to the development of Lausanne and its Region and played a significant role in the history of the geo-cultural region; and, has prompted, in response to its vulnerability next to fast-growing settlements, exceptional popular protection.
Old City of Berne
The Old City of Berne, federal city of Switzerland and capital of the canton of Berne, is located on the Swiss plateau between the Jura and the Alps. Founded in the 12th century according to an innovative foundation plan, and located on a hill surrounded by the River Aar, Berne has experienced an expansion in several stages since its foundation. This development remains visible in its urban structure, mainly tributary to the medieval establishment and its clearly defined elements: well-defined wide streets, used for the market, a regular division of built sections, subdivided into narrow and deep parcels, an advanced infrastructure for water transportation, impressive buildings for the most part dating from the 18th century mainly built from sandy limestone, with their system of arcades and the facades of the houses supported by arches. Public buildings for secular and religious authorities were always located at the periphery, a principle also respected in the 19th century during the construction of the large public monuments confirming the function of Berne as the federal city from 1848.
Berne developed along the lines of exceptionally coherent planning principles. The medieval establishment of Berne, reflecting the slow conquest of the site by urban extensions from the 12th to the 14th century, makes Berne an impressive example of the High Middle Ages with regard to the foundation of a city, figuring in the European arena among the most significant of urban planning creations. The features of Berne were modified to reflect the modern era: in the 16th century, picturesque fountains were introduced to the city and restoration work was carried out on the towers and walls and the cathedral was completed. In the 17th century, many patrician houses were built of sandy limestone, and towards the end of the 18th century, a large part of the constructed zones underwent transformation. However, this continual modernization, right through to the present day, was carried out observing the need to conserve the medieval urban structure of the city. The Old City of Berne is a unique example demonstrating a constant renewal of the built substance while respecting the original urban planning concept, and presenting a variation of the late Baroque on a theme of High Middle Ages.
Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps
The series of 111 out of the 937 known archaeological pile-dwelling sites in six countries around the Alpine and sub-alpine regions of Europe is composed of the remains of prehistoric settlements dating from 5,000 to 500 BC which are situated under water, on lake shores, along rivers or in wetlands. The exceptional conservation conditions for organic materials provided by the waterlogged sites, combined with extensive under-water archaeological investigations and research in many fields of natural science, such as archaeobotany and archaeozoology, over the past decades, has combined to present an outstanding detailed perception of the world of early agrarian societies in Europe. The precise information on their agriculture, animal husbandry, development of metallurgy, over a period of more than four millennia, coincides with one of the most important phases of recent human history: the dawn of modern societies.
In view of the possibilities for the exact dating of wooden architectural elements by dendrochronology, the sites have provided exceptional archaeological sources that allow an understanding of entire prehistoric villages and their detailed construction techniques and spatial development over very long time periods. They also reveal details of trade routes for flint, shells, gold, amber, and pottery across the Alps and within the plains, transport evidence from dugout canoes and wooden wheels, some complete with axles for two wheeled carts dating from around 3,400BC, some of the earliest preserved in the world, and the oldest textiles in Europe dating to 3,000 BC. This cumulative evidence has provided a unique insight into the domestic lives and settlements of some thirty different cultural groups in the Alpine lacustrine landscape that allowed the pile dwellings to flourish.
Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes
The Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina Landscapes represents an exemplary railway development for the disenclavement of the Central Alps at the beginning of the 20th century. The railway’s socio-economic consequences were substantial and lasting for mountain life, the interchange of human and cultural values, and changes in the relationship between man and nature in the West. The Rhaetian Railway offers a wide diversity of technical solutions for the establishment of the railway in often severe mountain conditions. It is a well designed construction that has been realised with a high degree of quality and it has remarkable stylistic and architectural homogeneity. The railway infrastructure moreover blends in particularly harmoniously with the Alpine landscapes through which it passes.
The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement
Chosen from the work of architect Le Corbusier that survives in eleven countries on four continents, the sites in seven countries on three continents, implemented over a period of half a century, for the first time in the history of architecture attest to the internationalization of architectural practice across the entire planet.
The seventeen sites together represent an outstanding response to some of the fundamental issues of architecture and society in the 20th century. All were innovative in the way they reflect new concepts, all had a significant influence over wide geographical areas, and together they disseminated ideas of the Modern Movement throughout the world. Despite its diversity, the Modern Movement was a major and essential socio-cultural and historical entity of the 20th century, which has to a large degree remained the basis of the architectural culture of the 21st century. From the 1910s to the 1960s, the Modern Movement, in meeting the challenges of contemporary society, aimed to instigate a unique forum of ideas at a world level, invent a new architectural language, modernize architectural techniques and meet the social and human needs of modern man. The series provides an outstanding response to all these challenges.
Some of the component sites immediately assumed an iconic status and had world-wide influence. These include the Villa Savoye, as an icon for the Modern Movement; Unité d’habitation in Marseille as a major prototype of a new housing model based on a balance between the individual and the collective; Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut for its revolutionary approach to religious architecture; the Cabanon de Le Corbusier as an archetypal minimum cell based on ergonomic and functionalist approaches; and the Maisons de la Weissenhof-Siedlung that became known worldwide, as part of the Werkbund exhibition.
Other sites acted as catalysts for spreading ideas around their own regions, such as Maison Guiette, that spurred the development of the Modern Movement in Belgium and the Netherlands; the Maison du Docteur Curutchet that exerted a fundamental influence in South America; the Musée National des Beaux-Arts de l’Occident as the prototype of the globally transposable Museum of Unlimited Growth which cemented ideas of the Modern Movement in Japan; and the Capitol Complex that had a considerable influence across the Indian subcontinent, where it symbolized India’s accession to modernity.
Many of the sites reflect new architectural concepts, principles, and technical features. The Petite villa au bord du Léman is an early expression of minimalist needs as is also crystallized in the Cabanon de Le Corbusier. Le Corbusier’s Five Points of a New Architecture are transcribed iconically in Villa Savoye. The Immeuble locatif à la Porte Molitor is an example of the application of these points to a residential block, while they were also applied to houses, such as the Cité Frugès, and reinterpreted in the Maison du Docteur Curutchet, in the Couvent Sainte-Marie-de-la-Tourette and in the Musée National des Beaux-Arts de l’Occident. The glass-walled apartment building had its prototype in the Immeuble locatif à la Porte Molitor.
A few sites inspired major trends in the Modern Movement, Purism, Brutalism, and a move towards a sculptural form of architecture. The inaugural use of Purism can be seen in the Maisons La Roche et Jeanneret, Cité Frugès and the Maison Guiette; the Unité d’Habitation played a pioneering role in promoting the trend of Brutalism, while the Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut and the Capitol Complex promoted sculptural forms.
Innovation and experimentation are reflected in the independent structure of concrete beams of the Maisons de la Weissenhof-Siedlung, while pre-stressed reinforced concrete was used in the Couvent de La Tourette. In the Capitol Complex, concern for natural air-conditioning and energy saving led to the use of sunscreens, double-skinned roofs, and reflecting pools for the catchment of rainwater and air cooling.
Standardisation is seen in the Unité d’Habitation de Marseille, a prototype intended for mass production, while the Petite villa au bord du Lac Léman set out the standard for a single span minimal house, and the Cabanon de Le Corbusier presented a standard, minimum unit for living. The modulor, a harmonic system based on human scale, was used for the exterior spaces of the Complexe du Capitole, which reflect the silhouette of a man with raised arm.
The idea of buildings designed around the new needs of ‘modern man in the machine age’ is exemplified in the light new workspaces of Manufacture à Saint-Dié, while the avant-garde housing at the Cité Frugès, and the low-rent Maisons de la Weissenhof-Siedlung, demonstrate the way new approaches were not intended for a tiny fraction of society but rather for the population as a whole. By contrast, the Immeuble Clarté was intended to revolutionise middle class housing. The Athens Charter, as revised by Le Corbusier, promoted the concept of balance between the collective and the individual, and had its prototype in the Unité d’habitation, while the Capitol Complex, the focal point of the plan for the city of Chandigarh, is seen as the most complete contribution to its principles and to the idea of the Radiant City.
Three Castles, Defensive Wall and Ramparts of the Market-Town of Bellinzona
The fortified ensemble of Bellinzona located in the canton of Ticino in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, south of the Alps, is the only visible example in the entire Alpine Arc of medieval military architecture comprising several castles, linked by a wall that once closed off the whole Ticino Valley, and the ramparts which surrounded the town for the protection of the civilian population.
Bellinzona thus constitutes an exceptional case among the greatest fortifications of the 15th century, both by the dimension of its architecture, influenced by the site and topography, and by the excellent state of conservation of the ensemble.
The origin of Bellinzona is linked to the strategic situation of the site that controls, by the Ticino Valley access to the principal Alpine pass constituting the passage into the Milanese, in fact, the whole of north Italy to the regions located farther north to the Danube and beyond.
The ensemble comprises three castles and a network of fortifications with towers and defence works that command the Ticino Valley and dominate the town centre.
Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe
The “Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe” are a transnational serial property comprising 94 component parts across 18 countries. They represent an outstanding example of relatively undisturbed, complex temperate forests and exhibit a wide spectrum of comprehensive ecological patterns and processes of pure and mixed stands of European beech across a variety of environmental conditions. During each glacial phase (ice ages) of the last 1 million years, European beech (Fagus sylvatica) survived the unfavourable climatic conditions in refuge areas in the southern parts of the European continent. These refuge areas have been documented by scientists through palaeoecological analysis and using the latest techniques in genetic coding. After the last Ice Age, around 11,000 years ago, beech started expanding its range from these southern refuge areas to eventually cover large parts of the European continent. During this expansion process, which is still ongoing, beech formed different types of plant communities while occupying largely different environments. The interplay between a diversity of environments, climatic gradients and different species gene pools has and continues to shape this high diversity of beech forest communities. These forests contain an invaluable population of old trees and a genetic reservoir of beech and many other species, which are associated with and dependent on these old-growth forest habitats.
Monte San Giorgio
The pyramid-shaped, wooded mountain of Monte San Giorgio beside Lake Lugano is regarded as the best fossil record of marine life from the Triassic Period (245 – 230 million years ago). The sequence records life in a tropical lagoon environment, sheltered and partially separated from the open sea by an offshore reef. Diverse marine life flourished within this lagoon, including reptiles, fish, bivalves, ammonites, echinoderms and crustaceans. Because the lagoon was near to land, the fossil remains also include some land-based fossils including reptiles, insects and plants. The result is a fossil resource of great richness.
Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch
The Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn region is the most glaciated part of the European Alps, containing Europe’s largest glacier and a range of classic glacial features, and provides an outstanding record of the geological processes that formed the High Alps. A diverse flora and fauna is represented in a range of habitats, and plant colonization in the wake of retreating glaciers provides an outstanding example of plant succession.
Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona
The Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona presents an exceptional and dramatic display of mountain building through continental collision. The property is distinguished by the clear three-dimensional exposure of the structures and processes that characterise this phenomenon in a mountain setting, its history of study, and its ongoing contribution to geological sciences.