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Holidays to Switzerland Travel Podcast Episode 94 Transcript

May 25, 2024 Last Updated on May 25, 2024

World record experiences for your Switzerland vacation

You can see the full show notes and listen to this episode > here.

Welcome to the podcast!

It may be the incredible scenery of mountains and lakes that attracts most visitors to Switzerland but the country is also famous for its engineering prowess.  In fact Switzerland is home to many examples of pioneering innovation and design – many of which are world firsts – that both locals and visitors can experience.

Time-keeping and watches are one example of Swiss engineering that you’re probably familiar with but did you know that velcro and the zipper were invented in Switzerland? And so was the World Wide Web. Milk chocolate and Nespresso coffee capsules are two of Switzerland’s culinary inventions and it probably won’t surprise you to learn that the World’s first ski lift opened in Davos in December 1934.

On this podcast, we’re always talking about places to visit in Switzerland and the many fantastic things to do there, as well as the wonderful array of transport options that you can experience on your Swiss vacation, and this episode is no different.

Today I’d like to share with you some of the impressive world-firsts that you can see for yourself when you’re in Switzerland. I don’t share this list so that you race around the country and tick off each and every site, but rather, if you are already planning to visit a particular region, you can keep an eye out for them and marvel at the expertise that has brought them to life.

Let’s start with a couple of world-firsts:  Mt. Titlis is a popular mountain in central Switzerland and the journey to reach the summit involves a cable car ride from Engelberg to Stand where passengers then board the World’s first revolving aerial cableway for the final leg of the journey to the summit. 

During the 5 minute ride on the Titlis Rotair, the cabin rotates 360 degrees so no matter where you are standing in the cabin, you can witness the entire panorama. It’s quite a surreal experience but rest assured, the rotation is so smooth you wouldn’t even realise you were rotating if it weren’t for the changing view.  The rotating cable car operates year round except for two weeks in November.  Engelberg is just 40 minutes from Lucerne.

Another world-first can be found at Mt. Stanserhorn, also not far from Lucerne.  It was here in 2012 that the world’s first double-decker aerial cableway started service.  To get to Stanserhorn, you start your journey in the town of Stans, where a funicular takes you part-way up the mountain.  

You then change to the CabriO cableway, with its open-air rooftop balcony, for the final section of the mountain ascent. You can choose to either travel inside the lower cabin or outside on the upper deck and breathe in that fresh alpine air on the 10 minute ride. Mt. Stanserhorn can only be visited from mid-April to late November.

Still in the Lucerne region, it’s at Mt. Pilatus that you can enjoy a ride on the World’s steepest cogwheel railway.  Opened way back in 1889, the Pilatus cogwheel railway traverses a gradient of 48% on its journey between Alpnachstad and Pilatus Kulm. Whilst the track remains the same today, new train carriages started operating in 2023. 

The Pilatus cogwheel train forms part of what is known as the Pilatus Golden Round Trip – a round trip from Lucerne that includes travel by bus, cable car, cogwheel train and boat, which is quite a unique experience in itself and one that I highly recommend if you’re planning a visit between late May and late November when the cogwheel train is operating.

If you listened to episode 93 you’ll recall that the World’s steepest cableway is  due to open at the end of 2024. The first leg of the new Schilthorn cableway will connect the valley station at Stechelberg to Murren and will overcome an altitude difference of 775 metres and achieve a maximum incline of 159.4%.  So steep are the cables that the cabins will enter the valley station through the station roof, rather than the sides of the station building as is normally the case.  

Whilst you’re visiting the Schilthorn, you can also enjoy a drink, meal or just the views from the world’s first revolving mountain restaurant.  The Schilthorn is located in the Jungfrau Region and can be reached from either Lauterbrunnen or Stechelberg, both of which are just 30 minutes from Interlaken.

It’s not only above ground that the Swiss are great at creating world class achievements, either.  The World’s highest underground funicular above Saas-Fee connects Felskinn with Mittelallalin via a 1,749 metre-long tunnel. The Metro Alpin actually holds two world records – highest funicular and highest subway, thanks to the fact it runs totally underground.  

After you’ve ridden the underground funicular, you can enjoy 360 degree views at 3,500 metres above sea level from the World’s highest revolving restaurant at Mittelallalin.  Saas-Fee is in the canton of Valais and there are regular bus services from Visp.

Also in the canton of Valais, thrill-seekers can cross the World’s longest suspension bridge at Randa near Zermatt. This is one world-record-holder that I’m not planning to experience for myself!  As someone who has a fear of heights, walking across the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge which is almost 500 metres long and, at its highest point is 85 metres above the valley below, is not something that appeals to me even though it apparently only takes around ten minutes to cross. 

The bridge can be reached via a medium-level circular walk of 8.6 kilometres. To get to Randa to start the walk, you can catch a train from Zermatt – the trip takes around 15 minutes.

If bridges are your thing, a visit to the World’s highest peak to peak suspension bridge at Glacier 3000 might appeal. The Peak Walk is an elevated walkway which stretches for over 100 metres and is only 80 centimetres wide. 

It is the only suspension bridge in the world that connects two mountain peaks and it offers views of the Mont Blanc Massif, the Matterhorn, the Mönch, the Jungfrau and the Eiger.  To reach Glacier 3000 you take a cable car from Col du Pillon which is around 35 minutes from Gstaad and 90 minutes from Montreux.

Those folks who travel between Ticino and central Switzerland onboard one of the intercity trains, you’ll get to travel through the World’s longest railway tunnel. The 57 kilometre-long (35.5 miles) Gotthard Base Tunnel was opened in 2016 after 17 years of construction. 

The tunnel can handle up to 260 freight trains and 65 passenger trains a day. You won’t see much for the 20 minutes that you are inside the tunnel but this route takes a couple of hours off the journey time between Lucerne and the south of the country.  

It’s highly unlikely you’ll get to climb the World’s longest staircase at Mt. Niesen (if for some crazy reason you wanted to!) as it is used solely for maintenance checks on the adjoining funicular track – except for once a year when the Stairway Run is held. Built beside the Niesen Bahn funicular track, there are 11,674 steps in total and they are rather steep.  

My suggestion is to hop aboard the funicular at Mülenen for the half hour ride to the Niesen summit and leave the stair climbing to someone else! If you’d like to see the stair climbers in action, this year’s Run takes place on Saturday, 8th June. Mt. Niesen is another mountain that closes over the winter.  It will re-open late April and operate until early November.  

The valley station at Müelenen is just 10 minutes from Spiez and around 50 minutes from Interlaken.

Yet another world-record mode of transport in central Switzerland is the world’s steepest funicular which connects the town of Schwyz with Stoos. The funicular, which opened in 2017, navigates a gradient of 47.7 degrees, or 110%, as it climbs 744 metres in altitude.  The unique aspect about the cabins on the funicular are that they are round, and despite the steepest of the track, thanks to the automatic leveling of the cabins, you are standing on a level surface at all times.  

During the short journey, the funicular travels over two bridges and through three tunnels before it arrives in the holiday village of Stoos, at around 1300 metres above sea level.  From Schwyz train station, buses take about 20 minutes to reach the “Stoosbahn” bus stop. And one handy tip to know: travel on the Stoosbahn is fully covered by the Swiss Travel Pass.

Earlier I mentioned three world-class modes of transport that you can ride near Lucerne and if you’re visiting the city itself, don’t miss seeing the world’s oldest surviving truss bridge and Europe’s oldest covered wooden footbridge, Chapel Bridge.  Built in the 14th-century, Chapel Bridge once formed part of the city’s fortifications. It spans the River Reuss, connecting the medieval Old Town with the New Town. 

If you’re visiting during the warmer months, the bridge is likely to be decorated with flower boxes, with colourful blooms spilling over – a beautiful sight but it’s just as picturesque in winter when snow dusts the roof. On the ceiling of the Chapel Bridge you can see pictorial panels which were added in the 17th century.  These panels portray scenes from both Lucerne and Switzerland’s history.  

Sadly, a fire on the Chapel Bridge in August 1993 caused much destruction and only the two bridgeheads and the adjoining water tower could be saved.  Of the 147 pictorial panels that were still in existence in 1993, 110 of them were affected by the fire. The bridge was rebuilt in a record 8 months and it continues to be the most recognisable landmark of Lucerne.

If you happen to be in Appenzellerland at the end of July or beginning of August, keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the World’s largest Swiss flag.  To help celebrate Switzerland’s National Day on August 1, it’s become a tradition to unfurl the huge flag, which measures 6,400 square metres and weighs 700 kgs, on the cliff face of Mt. Santis.  
Passengers heading up the mountain by cable car get the best views of the massive flag.  The valley station for the Mt. Santis cable car is at Schwagalp, around 40 minutes by train from Appenzell, and 1 hour from St. Gallen.

Switzerland holds the honour of the world’s densest public transport network so it’s not surprising that all of the world record innovations I’ve mentioned today can be reached by public transport.

If you’d like to know more about travelling around Switzerland by train, head on over to holidaystoswitzerland.com where you’ll find loads of articles about rail travel and the various Swiss rail passes that are available.  

Whether you choose to buy a rail pass and plan everything yourself, or you’d prefer to book a rail package where tickets and accommodation are pre-booked for you, you’ll find all the info you need to plan your dream vacation.

The show notes for this episode will include a list of all the world record sites mentioned today so if you’d like to check out one or two of them whilst on your vacation, visit holidaystoswitzerland.com/episode94 for all the details.

Thanks for joining me today.  Next time we’re going in search of some of Switzerland’s most beautiful waterfalls.  

Until then, tschuss.

Switzerland holds the honour of the world’s densest public transport network so it’s not surprising that all of the world record innovations I’ve mentioned today can be reached by public transport.

If you’d like to know more about travelling around Switzerland by train, head on over to holidaystoswitzerland.com where you’ll find loads of articles about rail travel and the various Swiss rail passes that are available.  Whether you choose to buy a rail pass and plan everything yourself, or you’d prefer to book a rail package where tickets and accommodation are pre-booked for you, you’ll find all the info you need to plan your dream vacation.

The show notes for this episode will include a list of all the world record sites mentioned today so if you’d like to check out one or two of them whilst on your vacation, visit holidaystoswitzerland.com/episode94 for all the details.

Thanks for joining me today.  Next time we’re going in search of some of Switzerland’s most beautiful waterfalls.  

Until then, tschuss.

You can see the full show notes and listen to this episode > here.