Curious about the things worth buying in Switzerland? Whether you’re gift-hunting or treating yourself, having knowledge about Switzerland’s best buys can be quite helpful. In this article, we discuss the best things to buy in Switzerland.
What to Buy in Switzerland
Switzerland is a beautiful European country that is famous all over the world for its mountains, lakes, and Alps. You can do a lot in Switzerland – from skiing, hiking, skating, paragliding, and shopping.
There are many products that originate or are produced in Switzerland. From sweets to handmade crafts and watches, there are many options to choose from.
If you are traveling to Switzerland for the first time (or even second or third) and want to know what to look out for, then you should know the 12 most famous things that you need to buy in Switzerland. Here are some suggestions:
Probably the most famous thing to buy in Switzerland – Chocolates!
Who doesn’t like chocolates? If you are in Switzerland, you must buy them for your loved ones and yourself because – why not? There are stores like Sprüngli and Läderach where you can choose from rows and rows of chocolates – truffles and pralines alike.
For a more in-depth chocolate experience, check out the Cailler Chocolate Factory in Broc, Lindt’s Home of Chocolate in Kilchberg, or Maestrani in Flawil. The chocolate factories smell so sweet and good. They typically show the lifecycle of chocolate production inside – from harvesting the beans, transforming them to their edible form, and forming them with machines into chocolate bars or various fancy shapes. You can taste different chocolates for free and buy more from their shops if you wish.
The best thing about Swiss chocolate is that even the basic chocolates from your common local store will taste as good as those from a big fancy and expensive Chocolate Café. The yummy chocolates will melt in your mouth and give you immense pleasure. Switzerland is definitely one of the best places to buy chocolates in the world.
You can buy Swiss chocolates everywhere. They carry a huge variety in bigger supermarkets like Coop and Migros. Smaller stores like kiosk and avec will carry a smaller variety. There are also chocolate shops on Zurich’s shopping street Bahnhofstrasse, the airport, and some tourist places. You can also visit one of the chocolate factories such as Cailler Chocolate Factory in Broc, Lindt’s Home of Chocolate in Kilchberg, or Maestrani in Flawil.
2. Swiss Pocket Army Knife
Another one of the famous things to buy in Switzerland – the Swiss Pocket Army Knife
We all have seen the Swiss Army Knife at least once in our homes or at somebody’s place. These knives are very famous because they are multipurpose. Most of them have the main blade, several screwdrivers, and small blades attached to them.
Head to a Victorinox shop as they are the number one producer of Swiss Army Knives. They even acquired competitor Wenger back in 2005. So Wenger Swiss Army Knives are now also sold under the Victorinox brand.
A small pocket army knife may contain one of the following: LED, pressurized ballpoint pen, keyring, small blade, bigger blade, orange peeler, scraper, cuticle pusher, bottle opener, screwdriver, wire stripper, nail file, nail cleaner, ruler, and scissors. Amazing, isn’t it? All of that is very well organized in one structured palette.
It can be a very edgy and cool gift for your friends and family if you want to present them with something quite useful that is originally from Switzerland
Swiss Army Knives are available in Victorinox shops and authorized dealers nationwide.
3. Swiss Watches
The most popular watch brands are originally from Switzerland. So, if you are visiting Switzerland, you might want to buy at least one Swiss (luxury) watch.
The most well-known brands are the following:
- Patek Philippe (Geneva)
- Rolex (Geneva)
- IWC (Schaffhausen)
- TAG Heuer (La Chaux-de-Fonds)
- Omega (Biel/Bienne)
- Jaeger-LeCoultre (Le Sentier)
- Piaget (Geneva)
- Baume & Mercier (Geneva)
- Vacheron Constantin (Geneva)
- Audemars Piguet (Le Brassus)
- Zenith (Le Locle)
- Longines (Saint-Imier)
- Tissot (Le Locle)
- Breitling (Grenchen)
- Arnold & Son (La Chaux-de-Fonds)
- Blancpain (Paudex/Le Brassus)
Breguet is originally from France but was acquired by the Swiss Swatch Group. Cartier, on the other hand, is not a Swiss watch. It is a French luxury watch, which is sometimes falsely thought of as a Swiss watch.
You can buy it for your husband and wife or anyone important to you. Swiss watches are high in quality and scream expensive. They can go with any dress code and that’s why they can be the perfect present to gift someone. Or you could purchase it for yourself.
Swiss watches can be bought from the producers directly, from Bucherer shops, or at the airport.
4. Cuckoo Clock
This is probably not the first thing that you will think of when choosing to buy something from Switzerland. Nevertheless, lots of tourist shops carry this item. A cuckoo clock is a pendulum-regulated clock that makes a cuckoo bird’s call when the clock strikes the hours. The cuckoo clocks sold worldwide originated from the Black Forest region in Germany. It is nowadays a popular souvenir from the German-speaking mountainous regions of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
The Swiss-made cuckoo clocks have a chalet style and are highly sought-after souvenirs worldwide. It would be cool to purchase an original Swiss-made cuckoo clock for your home, your parent’s home, or anyone you want to gift it to.
Cuckoo clocks can be bought in lots of shops. Schweizer Heimatwerk carries them, and they have several locations around Zurich and Lucerne.
5. Children’s Books
If you have children with you, then you can buy children’s books for them. Two of the most popular children’s books are also translated into English from German and Romansh. These two children’s books are unique souvenirs from Switzerland that you can buy for your loved ones back home. A third alternative book, especially for German speakers, is called Globi.
The first book is called Heidi by Johanna Spyri. It is a children’s classic book published around the time Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain came out. In fact, a whole place in Switzerland is dedicated to this book. This place is known as Heidiland with a Heidi village located in Maienfeld. You can read up more in this article – Stunning Location of Heidi in Maienfeld, Switzerland. Heidi has been made into numerous films, cartoons, and shows. It has been translated into multiple languages as well.
A Bell for Ursli
The second book is called A Bell for Ursli (Schellen-Ursli in German) by Selina Chönz. It also has an English version alongside Romansch, German, Japanese, and Afrikaans. The story is about a boy who lives in the Swiss Alps looking for a cowbell to lead the spring procession in his village.
These two are traditional Swiss children’s stories loved in other parts of the world. There are translated versions of them available in bookshops and tourist shops. Your kids (or nieces/nephews, or friends) will enjoy the books a lot.
Another popular children’s book is Globi – a curious blue parrot with lots of adventures at the Hospital, on the Alp, in Ancient China, on the Farm, in Switzerland, on Pirate Island, at School, and many more.
Swiss cheese is to die for. It is one of the things that you can buy from Switzerland but would probably have to consume as soon as possible. The cheese comes ultimately from the cows who live a peaceful life in the Swiss Alps. There are so many options and varieties that you can choose from. Each region will have its own local cheese.
One of the most known cheeses in Switzerland is Emmental cheese. It is the most recognized cheese type all over Switzerland. Not only Swiss but also people from other countries love this cheese. It has a mild taste compared to others.
You can buy Swiss cheese from bigger supermarkets like Coop and Migros. There are also normally cheese shops in mountain villages nationwide.
7. Cheese Fondue Pots
Have you ever considered buying a cheese fondue pot? If you have not, then you can think of it now. Cheese fondue pots is a good buy, particularly those designed with alpine folk art or cows.
Cheese fondue is eaten by stirring melted cheese in a common ceramic or porcelain pot while a candle or spirit lamp burns under it. The blend of cheese fondue consists of cheese, wine, and seasoning.
While the candle burns, you stir a small piece of bread in the communal pot and then eat it. You can also exchange the bread for other food such as vegetables or potatoes. Actually, you can pretty much mix anything with cheese. But the Swiss typically use bread with cheese.
The cheese fondue pots of Switzerland are extremely famous. And a cool fact about cheese fondue is that it is one of the national food dishes of Switzerland. So, give it a try at least and see for yourself if you like the dish or not.
You can buy Swiss cheese fondue pots from tourist shops and department stores like Manor or Coop City.
8. Alpine Nut Cake (Bündner Nusstorte)
The nut pastry (Bündner Nusstorte in German) is a traditional sweet available in Graubünden with caramelized nuts mixed into the dough. You can buy it anywhere in Switzerland as it is widely available in big supermarkets like Coop and Migros.
As this is a specialty of Graubünden, most local bakers in this area will have it on hand. Most of the bakers use flour, sugar, egg, butter, and a bit of salt together with the nuts. The cake is sweet but not overly so. You will love it with coffee, tea, or whatever drink you prefer.
Meierbeck from Sta. Maria in Val Müstair is one of the award-winning producers of this nut cake.
You can buy the nut pastry (Bündner Nusstorte) from supermarkets like Coop and Migros. It is also widely available in Graubünden bakeries.
We all know that every place we go even within our own country has so many unique features. For Switzerland, it means that much of traditional life was experienced in the mountains with cows, sheep, goats, and so on.
One such reminder of mountain living and heritage is the cowbell. Swiss cowbells represent a traditional craft dating back hundreds of years. Each decorative cowbell is handcrafted with the use of organic cow leather, Alpine brass pieces, and adorned with Alpine figures (hamlets, shepherds), flowers (typically the Edelweiss), or Swiss flags. Each cowbell is made by hand.
On the pastures or alps, the cows have simpler cowbells on their necks. But in the valleys and tourist shops, as well as during the traditional Alpabzug (procession to bring the cows back to the valley prior to winter), the cowbells are more decorative in nature.
You can find cowbells in most tourist shops scattered all over the country.
10. Sigg Water Bottles
Founded back in 1908 by Ferdinand Sigg and Xavier Küng, SIGG water bottles are popular in German-speaking countries in Europe. What makes SIGG water bottles special? All bottles use the same diameter head and thread system. This means that bottles and caps are interchangeable. The bottles themselves are made from aluminum, which makes them both lightweight and sturdy. Bottles produced nowadays are also BPA-free and phthalate-free.
11. St. Bernard Plush Toy Dog
St. Bernard or St Bernard is a large working dog breed from the Alps of Switzerland (and Italy). The St. Bernard dogs were acquired back in 1660 and 1670. These dogs were bred for rescue work in the Great St Bernard Pass. This area is located right by the Italian-Swiss border and connects Martigny (Switzerland) with the Aosta Valley (Italy). It lies between the two highest mountains of the Alps – Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa.
In Martigny lies a St. Bernard museum called Barryland that touches on the history of the Mountain Pass, and the dogs, and provides interesting activities for children. They also have several dogs and if you are in luck, they might have a cute little puppy whenever you visit.
If you would like to learn more about Barryland, you can check out this article – Barryland in Martigny, Switzerland: A Quick Guide.
Stuffed toy or plush toy souvenirs of St. Bernard dogs are normally available in most tourist spots, the airport, and souvenir shops. In Bern, Bernese Mountain (Berner Sennenhund) stuffed dog toys are also available. The Bernese Mountain Dogs derive from Roman mastiffs and serve as companions to alpine herders and dairymen. This breed is a general farm dog.
12. The Dirndl
Last but not least is the dirndl. The dirndl is the traditional Swiss dress that women wear. It is a feminine dress worn also in other German-speaking Alpine regions (Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Alpine regions of Italy).
It is a beautiful skirt dress that consists of several parts: a bodice, the skirt, the blouse, and an apron. It can have full or half sleeves. It can also be knee-length or floor-length. The traditional dirndl typically has a white blouse with intricate details on the collar and sleeves, a bodice, and a full skirt with folds gathered in the waist.
The dirndl looks beautiful on all women as it highlights the feminine form. So, take a beautiful piece of Switzerland forever with you and buy that dress.
You can buy Dirndls from tourist shops, department stores like C&A in September and October prior to Oktoberfest, or specialty clothing stores nationwide.
Summary: What to Buy in Switzerland
For those who want to buy some food that Switzerland is famous for, you can choose from chocolates, cheese, and nut cakes. For those who are practical, you can get a Swiss watch, a Swiss Army Knife, a fondue pot, or a Cuckoo clock. Children might enjoy a new book or two – Heidi or A Bell for Ursli. And women might want to take a dirndl home as a special reminder of the country.
There are other things to buy in Switzerland such as cookies from Kambly, biscuits from Basel (Basler Läckerli), handkerchiefs from Glarus, alpine ibex products, and many more. But the list above covers the most famous things to buy in Switzerland. I do hope that you found something to your liking.
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.