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Sion (German Sitten) is a French-speaking Swiss town and capital of the bilingual (French/German) canton of Valais. With its 35,000 inhabitants, the town is the most populated in the canton and, allegedly, the sunniest. Located in the middle of the Rhone valley and surrounded by the highest Alpine peaks, Sion is an important economic centre with the sector of services (tourism), cantonal administration, parliament and court playing an important role in the structure of its activity. It also has a well-developed wine-production and vegetable cultivation sector, the importance of which is however declining. In the old days, Sion was a fortified town. The only remains of the former fortifications are the Witch Tower (Tour des Sorciers, currently an exhibition centre) and the Watchtower (Tour de Guet). The medieval old town, in turn, is well preserved. Perched on the two hills overlooking Sion are two castles: Valère (now the Basilica of Valère) and Tourbillon. The Basilica of Valère houses the oldest playable pipe organ in the world (dating back to 1430) that can be heard during the International Festival of Early Organ Music. The main attractions in Sion include Château de la Majorie, the Town Hall, the Maison Supersaxo and the Casino de Sion, which houses the Cantonal Parliament of Valais.
Sion is a small town with all the advantages of a city (sports and recreation facilities, libraries, theatre, hospital), but without its disadvantages. It is relatively easy to find accommodation here, and property prices are lower than in other Swiss cities. The renovated buildings in the old town have modern amenities, bright interiors and flower-dotted balconies. Sion abounds in fountains. On Fridays, the market square pulsates with life, filled up with fruit and vegetable stalls, local wines and cheeses, such as the PDO Raclette du Valais. The capital of the canton of Valais is situated in a beautiful setting, being a paradise for hikers and all those who seek peace and quiet, even though some of the largest Alpine ski resorts are only a 20-minute drive away. The canton of Valais has 46 summits over 4,000 metres, including Pointe Dufour (4634 m), Switzerland’s highest mountain peak. Interestingly, Sion is only about a 30-minute drive away from Montreux, Lausanne and the Swiss Riviera. The restaurants of Sion and the entire canton of Valais are perfect places to try raclette, a local dish served with potatoes, pickles and onions and accompanied with fendant, one of the wines produced in local wineries.