A view of Zurich from the Grossmunster with St Peter's Church centre. Picture: Kaitlin Shawcross

The sky's a clear blue, interrupted only by mountain peaks delicately laced with snow, as if someone has sprinkled icing sugar on them.

In the foreground, green hills roll out to meet the base of the mountains.

Little villages sit high on the hilltops and nestle low in the valleys, interspersed between collections of oak trees.

It's a very pleasing backdrop for our journey through Switzerland to the medieval town of Gruyeres.

We are travelling from Zurich, where the previous day I enjoyed exploring the city, shown around by a friend. After a walk down Bahnhofstrasse, a famous shopping street that extends from Zurich Main Station to Lake Zurich, we stopped to take in the view. The shops become more exclusive as you approach Lake Zurich but it's worth walking to the lake.

Looking out over the water I could see the buildings of the city extending to meet magnificent snowy mountains along the horizon.

I stood breathless, absolutely transfixed by the sight before me. I couldn't believe I was able to admire all this while the people of Switzerland's biggest city went about their shopping behind me.

I think it was the first time I'd used the words "it's breathtaking" and seriously meant them. It wasn't the last time I'd use that phrase in Switzerland.

Visitors to Zurich can also admire St Peter's Church, home to the largest church clock face in Europe.

The circumference measures a massive 8.7m. The golden hands and numerals are spectacular, and they and the church tower can be spotted from most places in central Zurich.

The beauty of the city continues into the old town. Wandering off Bahnhofstrasse on to the beautiful, narrow Augustinergasse felt like stepping into a whole new place.

Elegant little boutiques line the quaint street. The old buildings are painted in an array of colours and delicate patterns. A walk down this street towards St Peter's Church really transports you to the past.

When we leave Zurich, bound for the town of Gruyeres, it is a sunny winter's morning and I am excited to see more of this beautiful country.

The drive is magnificent. As we travel, more and more snow covered mountains creep into view until they tower over us in every direction.

It is like a scene from The Sound of Music - or maybe I just think so because we play the soundtrack for most of the journey - and I keep waiting for this breathtaking backdrop to fall away.

But, to my delight, it only gets prettier.

We park and climb the hill to the medieval town. Apart from the souvenir stores tucked away in the old buildings, Gruyeres feels untouched by time.

We clamber across cobblestones, past ageing houses turned into eateries, and make our way towards the castle that looms overhead.

The Castle of Gruyeres stands majestically on the hilltop. Before exploring its rooms, we watch a film that explains its history. It is fascinating to think that not far from where we sit many courageous battles were fought over the ownership of this kingdom.

The castle's symbol was a bird, the crane - or "grue" in French. This inspired the name of the town of Gruyeres, which would later become well-known for the famous Gruyere cheese.

Before departing, we sample some of this cheese in a quaint cafe by the castle.

We try it in its solid form, but customers can choose to enjoy a traditional Swiss cheese fondue. Not only is a cheese fondue inherently Swiss and all a part of the experience, it's also a very fun meal.

On the drive back, we are treated to a spectacular red and orange sunset behind snowy peaks - another breathtaking moment. I only stop looking out the window when it becomes too dark to see anything but my own reflection.

At the end of my trip to Switzerland, I reflect on how much I underestimated this place. I was sure this much-visited western European nation would be just like the countries around it. Now I really understand why people call this place beautiful.

But not only is Switzerland a good-looking country, they make some of the world's best chocolate - a stop off at Maison Cailler in the Gruyeres region had me sampling some real delights.

You can also enjoy swimming all year round thanks to the many thermal spas.

There's nothing quite like swimming in one of the outdoor heated pools, feeling nice and warm when there's snow on the ground.

And there are plenty of opportunities to practise all your language skills, be they French, German or Italian.

If those are not enough reasons to visit, you'll have to go and discover some yourself. They're not hard to find.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save