A Good Turn for Bern

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The smell at the Emmental Show Dairy in Affoltern is just as intoxicating if you’re a cheese lover. About 80 local farms deliver milk daily for the production of this local delicacy known as Emmentaler. The Emmental Show Dairy in Affoltern lets visitors look into the way local cheese is produced and how it was made in centuries past, plus buy some regional delicacies. Tastings are available for about $7.50 pp plus $12 for background commentary.

The Emmental area is an idyllic spot to explore by Flyer e-bike. These are available for rent at a number of locations, including Landgasthof Lueg, an area country guesthouse with a fantastic restaurant. The fact that it’s an electric bike makes it an easier sail along the region. In fact, Switzerland offers thousands of miles for bikers to explore, with plenty of charging stations throughout, including one at Emmental Show Dairy. A half-day rental at Landgasthof Lueg is available for about $40.

stays, railways & tools Bern and its surroundings are not without its share of great stays for all budgets—even farmhouses where a barn full of straw and plenty of warm, comfy blankets keep visitors happy—but we like Hotel Schweizerhof Bern for its great location, a short walk away from the center of town and across the street from the train station. The historic hotel, which is more than 150 years old, reopened last spring after being closed for five years and has been beautifully renovated. This is also the site of Jack’s Brasserie, who’s seen more than its share of celebs stop by. Rates start at $552 per night.

Another great option in Bern is the four-star Hotel Allegro, whose highest modern and simple-chic rooms and suites provide gorgeous views of the historic district and of the Alpine peaks beyond. The hotel is currently being renovated yet remains open, along with its casino, four restaurants and a convention center. Rates here start at $306 per night.

Ask anyone who’s done independent travel in Switzerland and they’ll tell you that the easiest and best way to explore the country is with a Swiss Pass, best described by Hugo Furrer, head of Swiss Travel System, as “an entry ticket to Disneyland.” The Swiss Pass entitles you to unlimited travel on the Swiss Travel System rail, bus and boat network, plus city trams and buses. It also gives you free entrance to more than 400 museums plus significant discounts on most cable cars and mountaintop trains in Switzerland. We tried this time and time again, jumping in and out of trains and ferries and sailing into museums with nothing but a glance. From Bern to Zurich Airport to catch our flight home, it was an easy, breezy and scenic hour and 15 minutes. The Swiss Pass is available for sale in the U.S. thru Rail Europe for a different number of days, up to a month.

Speaking of traveling in style, flying to Switzerland is done serenely and luxuriously with Swiss International Air Lines, which offers daily non-stop service to Zurich from LAX, San Francisco, JFK, Chicago-O-Hare, Boston and Miami, plus six-day-a-week nonstop service from Newark. Swiss was just voted “Best Airline–Western Europe” in this year’s Skytrax World Airlines Awards for its top service on the ground and in the air and earlier this year debuted fully flat options on all its business class seating from the U.S. An LA-Zurich roundtrip starts at $1,414.

For much more practical information about transportation, accommodations, attractions and everything else Switzerland, agents can sign up for the Switzerland Travel Academy, which provides an e-learning platform with seven courses that allow them to become a Certified Specialist at their own pace.

the spa angle Soaking in all of Switzerland’s history and traditions is all well and good, but we can’t imagine a trip to Switzerland without taking a soak in at least one of its spas, and we’re not just talking about Baden’s famous thermal springs. We’ve handpicked three hotel spas around this European country that had us jumping out of our seats and wondering why we weren’t on the next Swiss International Air Lines flight to “this land of water.”

The Dolder Grand (thedoldergrand.com) in Zurich—with 173 accommodations and views of the city of Zurich, the lake and the Alps—is a sight to behold, and its spa facilities are even more impressive with more than 40,000 sq. ft. of space. The spa combines European and Japanese influences, which translates into a unique range of treatments such as the Bamboo Shiatsu treatment, performed on a shiatsu futon and using rhythmic tapping with bamboo to stimulate the body and senses, and the Hydraheaven by Kerstin Florian, incorporating a refreshing foot bath and scrub, a dry loofah massage, and a dip in a flotation tank, topped off with a scalp, foot and meridian massage. Guests can also opt for a Meditation Walk, yoga training, or can relax in The Aqua Zone, with a pool, outdoor whirlpools, sanarium, steambath a “snow paradise” room—where snow made from water and cold air falls daily—and sunaburo, Japanese-inspired tubs filled with warm pebbles. A 3-night spa retreat is available through Dec. 31 that starts at $3,892 dbl.