Everything Tourists Get Wrong About Eating in Switzerland (and How to Do It Right)

Switzerland, known for its stunning landscapes and rich history, is also home to a diverse culinary scene that reflects its multicultural heritage.

However, many tourists make common mistakes when dining in Switzerland. Here’s what you need to know to eat like a local and fully enjoy Swiss cuisine.

1. Misunderstanding Fondue Etiquette

Many tourists see fondue as just another meal and often eat it incorrectly.

I can certainly understand as it looks simple enough. Bread on fork, dip it into the cheese, and then eat!

But the devil is in the details

Do It Right:

Fondue is a social event in Switzerland with its own set of rules.

  1. Avoid double-dipping.
  2. Stir the pot regularly to keep the cheese from burning.
  3. If your bread falls into the pot, tradition dictates you owe a round of drinks or perform a playful dare.

2. Overlooking Regional Specialties

Many tourists stick to generic Swiss dishes like fondue or chocolate, missing out on the regional specialties that vary across the country.

Do It Right:

Switzerland is divided into regions with distinct culinary traditions.

🇩🇪 In the German-speaking part, try “Rösti” (a crispy potato dish similar to hash browns). It can come in all sorts of variations (bacon, cheese, and egg on top) and is great after a long day in the mountains!

🇫🇷 In the French-speaking region, don’t miss “Papet Vaudois” (leeks and potatoes with sausages).

🇮🇹 In the Italian-speaking Ticino try Polenta. Although I was reluctant at first to try it, it turned out to be a hidden gem!

3. Not Make Reservations

Tourists often show up at popular restaurants without a reservation, especially in popular areas, expecting to get a table.

Not only is summer a busy time and I would reserve in a restaurant anywhere in the world.

But in Switzerland, people plan their spare time weeks or months in advance!

Do It Right:

So, don’t forget to reserve, as far ahead as you can. Especially if the restaurant is popular!

4. Missing Out on Local Drinks

Many visitors opt for the drinks they know when in a foreign country, which means missing out on Switzerland’s unique drinks.

Do It Right:

Switzerland offers a variety of local wines, beers, and spirits.

Try a glass of Swiss wine, like a crisp Fendant from the Valais region or a robust Pinot Noir from Graubünden. And did you know, most Swiss wines are not even exported! so make the most of them

For beer lovers, Swiss craft beers offer an exciting range of flavors. Years ago, I lamented how bad beer was here. Not any more!

And, don’t forget to sample “Rivella,” a popular Swiss soda made from milk serum. This is something that is synonymous with Swiss and their childhood. So, why not bond with the locals!

5. Expecting Quick Service

waiter in switzerland

Tourists used to fast-paced service might find Swiss dining slow and frustrating.

Do It Right:

Dining in Switzerland is meant to be a leisurely experience. Meals are enjoyed slowly, and service reflects this cultural attitude. Embrace the slower pace, savor your food, and use the time to enjoy your company and the ambiance. If you’re in a hurry, inform your waiter when you arrive.

6. Not Understanding Tipping Practices

Tourists may over-tip or under-tip due to confusion about Swiss tipping customs.

Do It Right:

Tipping in Switzerland is more modest compared to some other countries. Service charges are usually included in the bill, so rounding up the total or leaving a small tip (5-10%) is often enough and more than appreciated.

Remember, salaries in Switzerland are quite good, even at the low end, so people do not rely on tips to make ends meet.

7. Overlooking the Importance of Bakery Visits

Chocolate croissants in Migros bakery

Visitors often miss out on local bakeries and don’t get to experience the quintessential Swiss breakfast experience.

Do It Right:

Start your day like a local by visiting a “Bäckerei” (bakery) for fresh bread, croissants, and pastries. Try a “Gipfeli” (Swiss croissant) or a slice of “Zopf” (a traditional Swiss braided bread). Pair it with a cup of Swiss coffee for a perfect morning treat.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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