The journey to Switzerland


Since the end of the Second World War, Switzerland has implemented a policy of welcoming foreigners involved in the arts and culture as well as journalists from abroad. Thanks to the initiatives of Pro Helvetia and other institutions, the journey has turned into an essential element of the ongoing dialogue between Switzerland and the world.

Foreign travellers have played an important role in developing the Swiss identity. Before the age of modern communication and the instantaneous transmission of information, travellers’ stories and reports were the only way to get to know another country. As most founding myths about Switzerland originated abroad, the impact of travelling on the country’s image and self-portrayal cannot be underestimated.

From the late 17th century onwards, the Confederation began to attract the interest of the European elite. The Alps and the mountain communities, as an opposite to urban civilisation, were regarded as the reflection of a lost golden age, places where the ideals of genuine equality and democracy were put into practice. Glorifying the political and social environment, foreign travellers’ accounts were instrumental in creating the myth of a paradise regained in the Swiss Alps. In the 19th century the idyllic perception of Switzerland persisted. The myth of William Tell, reinvented by Friedrich Schiller, became an effective symbol for the struggle for freedom and democracy.

Nowadays travellers’ reports have lost their monopoly of information as the only messages between Switzerland and the world. However, articles on Switzerland, films and radio broadcasts published by foreign media remain influential elements of the country’s image abroad. Furthermore, touristic promotion continues to cultivate the alpine myth created by travellers as early as the time of the enlightenment.

The use of the journey as a means for public relations after the Second World War led to the implementation of a systematic information policy by the Federal authorities. In the early 1950s, Pro Helvetia created its own foreign press news service, focussed on the cultural aspect of the invited journalists’ and other guests’ travels through Switzerland. By the 1970s, the journey to Switzerland was fully established as the country’s way of opening up to the world. Invitations to trips organised by Pro Helvetia and other institutions went out to countries as far away as China, Saudi Arabia, and Senegal.

The long tradition of the journey to Switzerland continues today as proven by Swiss cultural and information policy. Whereas Pro Helvetia puts emphasis on the dialogue between cultures by way of its cultural exchange and cooperation programmes, official institutions like “Presence Switzerland” and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs use the journey to promote Switzerland’s image abroad.


A “second path” for Third-World countries

1970 to 2000

By their very nature, museums of ethnography are part of a country’s cultural relations.

The Swiss abroad – promoting cultural influence

1916 to 1976

For  a long time, Switzerland had been a country of emigration, its inhabitants leaving because of

Cultural relations and the National Commission for UNESCO

1949 to 2016

By joining UNESCO in 1949, Switzerland not only became part of one of the agencies of the UN, but

Rousseau made in Switzerland

1945 to 1968

Quite often, Rousseau was instrumentalised, reinvented and “helvetised” by Switzerland’s cultural

A brief survey of Swiss culture in Japan

1950 to 1970

In Japan book fairs enjoy high regard.

A young historian thinking about Switzerland’s cultural influence


Pro Helvetia was founded in 1939 to join the struggle for the Spiritual Defence.

The architects and the renewal of cultural relations between Switzerland and Germany after World War II


After the war, the question of cultural relations with the German neighbour remained something of

The origins of the Swiss pavilion at the “Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris"

1925 to 1933

Combining cultural and science diplomacy, the Swiss pavilion at the “Cité Internationale Universit

Men and women working for Pro Helvetia

1939 to 2012

First and foremost, Pro Helvetia is a Board of Trustees, originally consisting of 25 members, and

Switzerland and UNESCO - a culture of peace


“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must b