Roger Federer’s guide to what to do and see in Switzerland

The tennis champion, now a tourism ambassador, shares some off-the-beaten-path recommendations

Roger Federer is now an unpaid spokesman for Switzerland Tourism. Photograph: Roger Federer

Roger Federer is now an unpaid spokesman for Switzerland Tourism. Photograph: Roger Federer

 

Roger Federer, the Swiss 20-time Grand Slam tennis champion, recently became an unpaid spokesman for Switzerland Tourism. In a Zoom call from his home in Switzerland’s Graubünden canton, he explains why travellers should visit his country when it reopens.

Federer has had plenty of time to rediscover his own backyard during the pandemic, and reflect on how much his country means to him while he recovered from a knee injury. (He will return to the ATP Tour in Geneva this month.) Here he holds court on his favourite hiking trails, some under-the-radar Swiss getaways and his love of Swiss chocolate, among other topics.

Many tennis players live in Monte Carlo for the tax benefits, but you’ve stayed in Switzerland. And now you’re promoting Swiss tourism. Why?
It’s good timing for me to do this now. I feel like I’ve always represented Switzerland and I’ve done my fair share to be an ambassador for the country. But for me to do it in an official mission is a nice thing to do. I feel like I had to be a bit older to do this. At around 40 years old, I’ve been to maybe 60 countries. I live in Switzerland now and I will continue to live in Switzerland. I know tourism here very well; I know the restaurants and hotels here very well. And I know how everyone is hurting right now. It’s a good time for me to be able to step up to the plate and help the country as we’re hopefully going to open again soon.

On Switzerland’s tourism website, you’ve outlined some of your favourite hiking trails. Tell us about a few of those and also where you like to cycle.
I’ve been told there’s something like 65,000km of cycling trails in Switzerland. Hiking and cycling are the go-to things for everyone to do in Switzerland. Some of the most spectacular hiking trails I like are by Gstaad in the Bernese Alps. It’s not so brutally up and down, it’s more of an even slope, which is great for hiking.

The same goes for Appenzell, which is a very nice place that is not so famous. It’s also where I always went hiking when I was a boy. When I was hurt in 2016, I spent a lot of time on the hiking trails in Graubünden, where I live now. We have the Swiss National Park over there – that whole area is incredible for hiking. Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, has some amazing places, little valleys and canyons and such.

One of my goals when I retire is that I’ll have time to explore our mountain-bike trails. Mountain biking has become really big in Switzerland, because we want to make the mountain regions year-round destinations.

Can you give us a few off-the-beaten-path recommendations?
We Swiss people [often] go to the less famous places... but even we Swiss like to visit the classics, like the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, the Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen, the Rhine, the Old Town of Bern. You can base yourself in one of the cities and take nice day trips into the mountains from almost anywhere. Even in Zurich or Geneva, you drive 20, 30 minutes max and you are in the countryside. That’s the beauty of Switzerland.

It’s also interesting because we have four separate languages here in Switzerland, which makes very different cultures. I’m from Basel and I have a Basel accent, but if you drive a half-hour away from there, the accent changes and the people are a bit different, too. I think the trails in Ticino are not as well known, and they are very beautiful.

I love to walk through small villages where life is still normal. Small places where people are driving tractors and there is one baker, one church. The people in these places aren’t multitasking. They go about their days in a normal way. Someone shows up and they want to know, “Hey, what brought you here?” It’s very friendly, so you can always have a chat with people.

Tell us about some of the Swiss tennis clubs where visitors can have a great meal and play some tennis.
Tennis club life in Switzerland is important. This is how I grew up. There are many scenic places where you can play tennis in Switzerland. Tennis Club Geneva, where the Geneva Open tournament is played, is very beautiful. Tennis Club de Geneve Eaux-Vives is also really nice. The clubs in Basel where I played growing up in the Interclub competition are quite nice.

There was a boom building tennis clubs when I was growing up, so every second village has its own club. We have to protect this tennis culture we have. The restaurants at the tennis clubs are very important. A lot of the clubs where I’ve played, they have really good chefs, really good service and very high quality. People spent a lot of their time at the clubs, so the food has to be good and it’s usually at a good price, too.

Roger Federer: ‘Hiking and cycling are the go-to things for everyone to do in Switzerland.’ Photograph: Roger Federer
Roger Federer: ‘Hiking and cycling are the go-to things for everyone to do in Switzerland.’ Photograph: Roger Federer

When you come back to Switzerland from abroad, what are the Swiss dishes or treats you crave? And if that includes chocolate, are you more of a milk-chocolate guy or a dark-chocolate guy?
I mean, chocolate, hello, you have to love chocolate if you’re Swiss. I used to be white, then I was milk, and now I even like going dark. I like it all. Then I like the Bündner Nusstorte, which is like a nut tart from the region of Graubünden. That’s beautiful. And then, of course, there’s rosti, a potato-fritter dish. We have a dish called Zürcher Geschnetzeltes that’s like minced meat with a mushroom sauce, and I love to eat cordon bleu – that’s beautiful, too.

Play the role of travel agent for us. Where should we go if we have a week or two in your country?
Fly into Zurich or Geneva and go from there. In the summer, I think you would want to visit Lucerne and Interlaken and maybe visit the Jungfrau, Basel, Zurich, Bern, the capital – its inner city is also really beautiful. We also have some incredible museums in Switzerland. The Fondation Beyeler art museum is great. I grew up visiting the Tinguely Museum, which is very interesting.

In Lucerne, there is the Swiss Museum of Transport, which is still my favourite place to take my children. It’s a wonderful place where you can see old trams, trains, planes, cars, bikes, you name it. Of course, we also have a huge festival culture in Switzerland. There’s Fasnacht, a Lenten carnival in Basel, in March, and we have all these jazz and film festivals. The summer music festivals in Switzerland are incredible, actually, though I don’t think they’ll happen this year. The Montreux Jazz Festival is maybe the most famous, but there are many smaller ones as well. There’s one in Lucerne, there’s one in the Alps as well. The atmosphere here in the summer when everyone can be outside is amazing. – New York Times

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.