From rösti to raclette, chocolate to cherries, Swiss food is as enticing and diverse as its natural landscapes.
Switzerland is known for its striking natural beauty and diverse cultures. And, with its punctual rail service as big a plus as its flag, exploring Switzerland by train is easy. Whether you take in the country’s lakes and mountains, or visit its scenic cities, be sure to indulge in Switzerland’s singular cuisine. Reflecting its melting-pot of French, German and Italian cultures, Swiss food is a culinary mashup of tradition and taste. Here are some of the best Swiss foods to try on your travel adventures.
Meaning “delicious little thing from Basel,” these biscuits were created by Basel spice merchants in the 16th century. Very similar to German lebkuchen biscuits, Läckerli are made with honey, dried fruit,nuts, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, and cut into squares once baked. Sticky, sweet and spicy, Basler Läckerli can be enjoyed all year round but are most often eaten during the Christmas season.
Another Basel-born dish, Basler Mehlsuppe is a roasted flour soup made from butter, flour, beef stock and grated Gruyère cheese. Legend surrounds this fortifying soup, the story said to stem from an accident when a distracted chef left flour cooking in a pot too long. Whether accidental or not, Basler Mehlsuppe’s popularity has endured and is considered one of Switzerland’s most famous recipes. The soup is particularly popular during Basler Fasnacht (Basel Carnival) in February and March, officially launched every year with servings of the soup at 4am.
Switzerland is world-renowned for its chocolate, with many Swiss chocolate-makers pioneering techniques that are still used in confection-creating today. Geneva and Zurich both battle for the title of best place to visit in Switzerland for chocolate, each one boasting countless historic chocolate shops touting tantalising treats and creative concoctions like cherry kirsch batons. Read more about Switzerland’s best chocolate makers and factory tours in our blog.
Meaning “melted” in French, fondue is an iconic Swiss dish consisting of melted cheese, wine and garlic in a big communal pot called a caquelon, which people dip chunks of bread, pickles and onions into with long forks. Although fondue is also found in France and Italy, the dish originated in 18th century Switzerland as a result of farming families needing to stretch their often limited resources during the winter months. A symbol of Swiss unity and identity, fondue is a communal dish shared between friends and family. Beware though, tradition dictates that whomever drops their bread into the fondue has to face a penalty. At a restaurant this might mean paying the bill, or at home, it could be washing the dishes.
Visit Switzerland in winter and you’ll likely be greeted by the pungent aromas of raclette cheese sizzling in restaurants and hillside haunts across the country. Originating in the canton of Valais, traditional raclette is made from a block of local cow’s milk cheese melted over a flame, with slices of it cut and poured over boiled potatoes, cured meats and pickles. Often paired with Fendent, a Valais region wine, raclette is a social meal to be shared with friends and family. While raclette is eaten in many regions of Switzerland, for the true Valais variety, make sure to treat yourself when you visit Zermatt, Brig, Martigny or Visp.
Rösti is an iconic Swiss dish consisting of grated potatoes fried in butter until crispy and golden. Similar to hash browns, rösti is a regular accompaniment to many Swiss meals and enjoyed all over the country year-round. Although the exact origins of this comfort food aren’t known, farmers living in the canton of Bern traditionally ate mounds of these fried potatoes for breakfast before a long day’s work. For an upscaled version of the dish, try Rösti Valaisanne from the canton of Valais, which is topped with bacon, fried egg, melted raclette cheese and served alongside gherkins and pickled onions.
Spezzatino di manzo
In Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland, spezzatino di manzo is a much-loved dish. This hearty beef stew, served over polenta, is most often enjoyed during the colder months, and was traditionally cooked in a copper cauldron over a fire. Bellinzona, Lugano and Locarno are all located in the Ticino region, and aside from boating beautiful lakeside landscapes, all three are culinary heavyweights championing this singular blend of Italian-Swiss cuisine.
First appearing in cookbooks in 1947, this classic Zurich-born stew is made with veal, white wine, cream and stock. A hearty dish perfect for a cold winter’s day and a much beloved food in Switzerland, Zurcher geschnetzeltes is typically served with potato rösti. Some of the best-known Zurich restaurants that serve this traditional dish are Zeughauszeller and Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten.
Image credits top to bottom: Zermatt village with view of the Matterhorn iStock ©extravagantni, assortment iStock ©AnnaPustynnikova, Cheese fondue iStock ©GI15702993, Cheese wheel on shelf iStock ©zorazhuang, Traditional Swiss zürcher geschnetzeltes iStock ©juefraphoto
Powered by Froala Editor
The best train station restaurants
We love trains and we love to eat, so we've gone in search of Europe's finest train station restaurants. Please note that this article was originally written by Kate Andrews, founder of Loco2, which went on to be rebranded as Rail Europe. It has been tweaked by our editor to give up to date links in the body of the text. Bon appetit.
Steve McCurry's epic train photography
Inspiring images from Steve McCurry's journeys on the Indian railways