Shopping in Switzerland

Switzerland boasts some of the continent’s most glittering shops, neatly arrayed  along  wide pedestrian streets and charming alleys. The country is home to such well-known items as the Swiss Army knife and Swatch watches. Often viewed as  the Mecca of steep prices and specialty shopping, the Swiss offer an incredible array of gifts to take home. Starting with traditional pottery and cutting-edge art plus ceramics,  continuing on with fabulous  watches,  hand-carved crystal, embroidery, woodcarvings, and bizarre cuckoo-clocks, Switzerland will make even the most demanding shopper's mouth water. Here you can purchase Williamine liquors, music boxes, delicious Swiss cheeses, antiques, sports items, clothing, shoes and excellent chocolates. Shopping takes place in large department stores, small family owned-shops or directly on the street.

Owing to the country’s relatively small size, most  shopping is concentrated in the capital, Bern. Abounding in arcades, specialty shops, larger department stores, malls, art galleries and traditional shops, the country’s most popular venues are concentrated on the famous quandrangle of  Spitalgasse, Kramgasse, Postgasse and Marktgasse streets. A shopping hub for the entire country, the Globus department store is also located here. Loeb ag Bern is a further shopping haven, mostly sought after for its quality designer clothing. The Oberlander Heimat is a store specialising in traditional goods and handicrafts. Here  you'll also  come across  well-known Swiss textiles, music boxes and woodcarvings. Gerechtigkeitsgasse is the local centre for  antique sales, while coins and stamps dealers can be found on Zeughausgasse.

Bern’s fashion scene is unsurpassable, although most outlets may be geared towards a distinctly top-end clientele. Leather footwear from Bally, the well-known Swiss shoe manufacturer, and the leather goods producer Gygax Mode are excellent options, even if just browsing. Fashionable women’s and men’s clothing is distinctly European, classy and with impeccably good taste. Hats and handbags are at their best in the KB Accessories, a shop held by designer Brigitte Keller. Swiss chocolates, which, sadly, may not be really made in Switzerland, can be found almost anywhere, in specialty shops as well as in supermarkets. In the city of Paul Klee, art shouts its name from just about every corner. The local galleries sell almost all kinds work, from modern paintings by local artists to tribal African objects, Tibetan jewellery, Iranian carpets and miniatures, as well as a vast range of bizarre statuary and eccentric decorative items. 

Lucerne, the country’s second best venue, is literally brimming with miscellaneous shops, mostly dubbed 'arts and crafts'. Here, apparently due to the steady stream of tourists, the number of regular shops selling everyday items has significantly diminished giving  way to a sprawling trade in  souvenirs. Wrist watches and handicrafts are  sold by the thousands  and displays of luxury items abound. Still, more reasonably priced options remain  outlets for handicrafts, such as Casa Grande, Leinden and Schmid Linder. Locally crafted embroideries, laces and linens can be found at the Sturzenneger shop. Lucerne’s deparment stores, Manor and EPA, sell clothing, stationery, household goods and local souvenirs. The town also boasts a memorable  open-air market selling local produce, as well as a flea market.

Shops are usually open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 12pm and from 2pm to 6:30am. On Saturday, shops are open from 8am to 12 pm and from 1:30pm to 4pm. The local currency is the Swiss Franc (CHF), available in denominations of 1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of 5, 2 and 1 CHF, and 50, 20, 10 and 5 centimes. Money can be exchanged at  numerous bureaux de change at train stations and banks. Swiss banks normally work Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 4:30pm. Credit cards are widely accepted, the most popular cards being American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard and Visa. ATMs can be found almost anywhere. Traveller's cheques in popular currencies are accepted at banks, airports and railway stations. If wishing to avoid additional exchange rate charges, take traveller’s cheques in pounds sterling, euros or US dollars with you.