Sion became the capital of the Valais region in 580, and in its day its bishop princes turned the place into a city of almost imperial grandeur. Even with a population of just 30,000 people, Sion still lives life like a capital, boasting an elegant town hall, an extensive array of museums and medieval churches, and a café culture that puts much of the Mediterranean to shame.
Sion is a ski hub in winter but comes alive year-round with music festivals, shows and birds of prey flying beneath the castle.
- Swiss vineyards are terra incognita to most British œnophiles, but that’s mainly because the Swiss drink all the wine themselves. If you can’t make it into the beautiful Valais vineyards that surround the city, both Provins Valais (rue de l’Industrie 22; 0041 840 666112; provins.ch) and Le Verre à Pied (avenue Grand-Pont 29; sionpassion.ch) are one-stop tasting shops with wines by the glass from all over the region.
- Market day on Friday is a real treat, with wonderful local produce, and fills much of the medieval town centre.
Zermatt is a municipality in the district of Visp in the German-speaking section of the canton of Valais in Switzerland. It has a population of about 5,800 inhabitants and is famed as a mountaineering and ski resort of the Swiss Alps.
Zermatt is a standard car-free zone. Almost all vehicles in Zermatt are battery driven and almost completely silent. Electric vehicles are allowed for local commerces. The Cantonal police can issue a permit which allows residents to drive and park at the northern outskirts. Some emergency (fire trucks, ambulances, etc.) and municipal (buses, garbage trucks, etc.) vehicles are also allowed to use combustion engines.
Most visitors reach Zermatt by cog railway train from the nearby town of Täsch (Zermatt shuttle). Trains also depart for Zermatt from farther down the valley at Visp and Brig, which are on the main Swiss rail network.
Zermatt is known throughout the world for its skiing. The high altitude and Glacier results in consistent skiing continuously throughout the summer.
Martigny, surrounded by vineyards and orchards, is famous for its gastronomy which is celebrated at many outstanding restaurants and guesthouses. Blessed with the warm Valais sunshine, the region is ideal for growing strawberries, apricots, grapes, asparaguses etc. And in the past famous figures, such as Rousseau, Goethe, Stendhal and Liszt, already succumbed to the delights of the region’s culinary delights.