Switzerland is difficult to visit and cover for breathtaking Alpine landscapes and small villages exuding fairytale charm. The Alps’ soaring snowcapped peaks, sparkling blue lakes, verdant valleys, glaciers, and charming lakeside hamlets provide a fairy-tale splendour to this landlocked nation. World-class international resorts and a broad variety of activities, such as hiking, bicycling, climbing, paragliding, skiing, and tobogganing, are nestled among the mountain valleys and lakes.
Visitors come for the breathtaking beauty, but they are also captivated by the numerous cultural attractions. Cities with a strong history, such as Zurich, Geneva, and Lausanne, have superb museums and galleries, old structures, and world-renowned music festivals. Bern, the capital, has a magnificent mediaeval old town that hugs the bend of a river. Switzerland is bordered by Germany, Italy, Austria, and France, and their languages and cultures imbue this nation with a cosmopolitan elegance.
Switzerland may often feel like several nations in one–from the Italian architecture of palm-studded Ticino to the languages of Swiss-German and Latin-derived Romansch–yet all with the sleek packaging and timeliness for which it is famed.
Explore this magnificent nation with our selection of the greatest locations to visit in Switzerland.
One of the tallest mountains in the Alps is Switzerland’s renowned Matterhorn. This renowned hill rises to 4,478 metres on the border with Italy, and its four steep slopes face the compass points. The first summit attempt in 1865 ended tragically as four climbers died on the descent. Every summer, thousands of expert climbers visit.
The lovely hamlet of Zermatt, at the foot of this magnificent peak, is a top international resort with horse-drawn carriage excursions, quaint chalets, and world-class restaurants and hotels. Motorized vehicles are prohibited in the village to protect the air quality and the tranquil atmosphere.
Skiers may schuss down more than 300 kilometres of slopes in the winter. Swimming and tennis are popular summer activities, as are hiking, riding, and climbing in the neighbouring mountains. There is also summer glacier skiing.
Jungfraujoch: The Top of Europe
The train ride to Jungfraujoch, the “Top of Europe,” with an observation deck and scientific observatory positioned at 3,454 metres, is one of the most popular things to do in the picturesque Bernese Oberland. The Great Aletsch Glacier, Europe’s longest glacier, originates near Jungfraujoch and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The famed Eiger Trail, which runs from the Eiger glacier station to Alpiglen, clings to the cliffs at the north face.
Panorama Way to the bright, south-facing First slope; Gletscherschlucht (Glacier Gorge); and pfelchüechliwäg, a high-altitude route from Holenstein to Brandegg via flower meadows, alpine pastures, and forests. Gondolas and cable cars transport visitors to magnificent vistas overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Picturesque Grindelwald is a glacier settlement in the Jungfrau area that serves as an excellent base for alpine excursions. It is one of Switzerland’s oldest and most popular resorts, nestled at the base of snow-capped mountains. The tiara-shaped Wetterhorn and the sheer north face of the Eiger, one of the world’s most stunning and challenging climbs, tower over this alpine valley. Grindelwald’s two gleaming glaciers are nestled between the Alps. Faulhorn, at 2,681 metres, provides stunning perspectives of the big peaks.
Interlaken, located between Lake Thun to the west and Lake Brienz to the east, is one of Switzerland’s most popular summer vacation destinations. Höhematte, located in the heart of town, is an urban design miracle with 35 acres of open space. The Höheweg, the major avenue through here with beautiful mountain views, is surrounded by flower gardens, hotels, and cafés.
The Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau peaks loom above the town, giving superb options for alpine excursions. Hiking, climbing, abseiling, and kayaking are all popular activities.
More than 45 mountain railroads, cable cars, chairlifts, and ski lifts take guests into the surrounding area and provide several opportunities for aerial observation.
In the winter, skiers and snowboarders may choose from a variety of nearby destinations and cross-country ski along the wide route network. Paragliders take off from Beatenberg-Niederhorn in the summer. Take a paddle steamer trip around the lakes to see the beauty from a lower perspective.
Consider a glistening blue lake encircled by mountains, a car-free mediaeval old town, covered bridges, waterfront promenades, frescoed ancient buildings, and sun-splashed plazas with bubbling fountains. It’s no surprise that Lucerne (in German, Luzern) is a popular tourist destination.
This traditional Swiss village attracts renowned soloists, conductors, and orchestras to its yearly International Music Festival. One of the world’s premier music venues may be found inside the Culture and Convention Center.
The Chapel Bridge, erected in the 14th century, is one of the city’s most recognised attractions. The iconic Lion Monument, a sorrowful sculpture of a dying lion, is located in a small park and celebrates the courageous sacrifice of Swiss Guards during the attack on the Tuileries during the French Revolution. The Swiss Transport Museum, which features extensive displays on all modes of transportation, including air and space travel, train locomotives, and a Planetarium, will appeal to history aficionados.
Ride the funicular to the Dietschiberg on the north side of Lake Lucerne for stunning views of Lucerne, the Alps, and the lake; take the cableway to Mt. Pilatus; or visit the Rigi, a popular vantage point.
Lake Geneva, Europe’s biggest Alpine lake, crosses the Swiss/French border and lapping at the coastlines of several major Swiss towns. The city of Geneva (in French Genève; in German Genf) is located at the confluence of the Rhône River and Lake Geneva.
The European home of the United Nations, this French-speaking “city of peace” emits a delightful combination of French joie de vivre and Swiss structure. The lake is surrounded by promenades, parks, and gardens, and the old town is a great place to meander amid the ancient buildings. The Jet d’Eau, a prominent sight in Lake Geneva, shoots water 150 metres into the air. The Opera House and the Grand Théâtre, which hosts international performers, are cultural highlights.
Lausanne, also on the lake, is about 62 kilometres from Geneva and offers beautiful views of the surrounding countryside and the lake, with the Alps towering in the background. Take a walk around the ancient old town, which has lovely cafés and stores as well as a gorgeous Gothic church. Montreux, located at the foot of the Alps on Lake Geneva, holds the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival in June/July.
Chateau de Chillon, Montreux
For ages, the Chateau de Chillon (Chillon Castle) on the banks of Lake Geneva near Montreux has inspired painters and poets. Among the geniuses who have written about this architectural gem are Lord Byron, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Victor Hugo.
The complex, which was formerly the bastion of the Counts and Dukes of Savoy since the 12th century, consists of roughly 25 structures centred around three courtyards. The Great Halls, with beautiful views of Lake Geneva; the Gothic subterranean rooms; the Chapel, with 14th-century paintings; and the Camera Domini, a bebedroom inhabited by the Duke of Savoy and covered with mediaeval frescoes, are among the highlights.
St. Moritz is one of the world’s top mountain destinations, with mirror-like lakes, glaciers, craggy peaks, alpine forests, and plenty of sunlight. It’s a must-see on any list of things to do in Switzerland. This stylish resort town, which has hosted two winter Olympics, is known for its opulent hotels and costly restaurants.
The town is divided into two parts and is located in an alpine valley 1,800 metres above sea level: St. Moritz Dorf situated on a sunny terrace overlooking the Lake of St. Moritz. The second half of town, on the valley bottom near Lake St. Moritz, is a health resort with less costly hotels. Skiing, snowboarding, skating, and bobsledding are all popular winter activities, as is tobogganing on the famed 1.2-kilometer-long Cresta Run.
Hiking, riding, and water activities are popular in the summer. In the summer, glacier skiing is also possible.
St. Moritz is also a cultural crossroads, which adds to the stunning alpine environment. In the neighbouring neighbourhoods, Romansch, German, Italian, French, and English are all spoken, not to mention the many languages of the numerous well-heeled foreign tourists and expats.
The Swiss capital of Bern oozes old-world elegance, nestled on a peninsula of the River Aare, and its mediaeval old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors may see the highest church in Switzerland, with panoramic views from its tower, 16th-century fountains, the Zytglogge mediaeval clock tower with moving puppets, and six kilometres of retail arcades, known locally as “Lauben.” The Rose Garden (Rosengarten) provides stunning views of the historic centre.
Bern has several tourist attractions to offer, including outstanding museums. The outstanding galleries, notably the Zentrum Paul Klee, which houses the world’s greatest collection of paintings by this famous artist, and the Bern Museum of Art, will appeal to art aficionados (Kunstmuseum).
Don’t miss the markets, which take place in the Bundesplatz (parliament plaza) and provide views of the exquisite Renaissance-style parliament architecture (Bundeshaus). The Bear Park is very popular with families.
Lake Lugano and Ticino
Lake Lugano is located in Ticino, Switzerland’s only official Italian-speaking canton, and provides a tempting taste of the Mediterranean. Even while snowcapped peaks beckon in the distance, citrus, figs, palms, and pomegranates thrive in the warm temperature here.
The architecture, piazzas, and enthusiasm for great cuisine that pours over the Italian borders from the south, east, and west are obvious in the towns around Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore to the west.
Visitors may visit the lake in one of the white steamers or rent a boat to explore the region. Monte San Salvatore provides one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, lake, and snowcapped summits.
Lugano, the largest and most important town in Ticino, is a popular summer destination. Swiss lakeside living takes on a subtropical touch at sun-drenched Locarno on Lake Maggiore, northwest of Lugano, with sunny days, flowering gardens, and palm-studded estates. Three spectacular castles in Bellinzona, the canton’s capital, are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Zurich is the biggest city in Switzerland, a significant transit hub, and a popular starting place for travellers. The city is located on the Limmat River, near the northern extremity of Lake Zurich. Beyond its prim exterior, this opulent financial centre is home to a plethora of cultural treasures.
The cobblestone lanes of Old Town, with their charming shops, cafés, and galleries, are an excellent site to start a walking tour. One of Europe’s most beautiful shopping streets, Bahnhofstrasse, beckons with luxury boutiques selling apparel, watches, and jewellery.
Away from the shops, there are more than 50 museums and 100 art galleries, as well as several other tourist attractions. The Kunsthaus Zürich, a museum of fine arts, is a top choice, with an exceptional collection of paintings from the Middle Ages to the present day. The Rietberg Museum, which focuses on non-European art and has numerous items from China, India, and Africa, is another choice.
The Swiss National Museum, located a short distance from Zürich’s main station, highlights Swiss cultural history. The Zurich Zoo, which features an elephant park, a penguin parade, and a Madagascar pavilion, is ideal for families. Take a train from the city to Uetliberg Mountain for panoramic views of the city and countryside.
The Rhine Falls
The Rhine Falls (Rheinfall) in Schaffhausen are the biggest in Central Europe, spanning 150 metres. The finest months to visit are June and July, when the mountain snow melts and the falls increase to pour over a 21-meter-high ledge of Jurassic limestone.
Boat cruises up the Rhine, as well as observation platforms on both banks of the river, allow superb views of the falls.
Swiss National Park
Swiss National Park in the Engadine Valley, founded in 1914, is the Alps’ oldest reserve. The park, which borders Italy, covers more than 170 square kilometres of flower-filled hollows, fast-flowing rivers, and limestone crags. The environment is especially spectacular in winter, when the wooded mountains are blanketed in snow, and the views from the cross-country ski paths are breathtaking.
Nature enthusiasts may explore the region on the extensive network of trails, while deviating from these lines is prohibited in order to maintain the natural ecosystems. The park is home to over 5,000 kinds of animals, including marmots, red deer, chamois, ibex, fox, and over 100 bird species.
The Albula/Bernina Railway Line
The Albula/Bernina line of the Rheatian Railways is one of only a few railway lines in the world that has been listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. The 122-kilometer route winds through the Albula and Bernina landscapes, passing around 200 bridges, the Graubünden Alps, and a number of tunnels and viaducts along the way.
A journey on this train provides sweeping views of unspoilt alpine vistas, including the Piz Bernina, the Eastern Alps’ highest peak at slightly over 4,000 metres. The train runs all year, and the sights are equally as beautiful in the summer as they are in the winter.
This 13th-century castle, located on the shores of Lake Thun and encircled by a 2.5-hectare park, is one of the most beautiful in Switzerland. Oberhofen Castle changed hands several times throughout the ages, and new owners kept adding rooms to it, resulting in a wonderful combination of numerous styles: Bernese Baroque-style structures, Romantic-style façade, and exotic new regions inspired by Prussians (including a library and a smoking room).
The castle also has a living museum that depicts the periods and lives of feudal communities that lived in the castle (and its environs) from the 16th to the 19th century.
Swiss Grand Canyon
The Ruinaulta (also known as the “Swiss Grand Canyon”) is a steep canyon bordered by wooded cliffs and large meadows. It was formed approximately 10,000 years ago in Eastern Switzerland, when the Ice Age Rhine Glacier withdrew, triggering a cascade of events that ended in a catastrophic rockslide in the Rhine Valley. The gorge filled up with water when the Rhine river seeped through the limestone walls.
The Swiss Grand Canyon is now not just one of Switzerland’s most picturesque regions, but also a popular destination for hikers, bird watchers, and nature enthusiasts. Between May and October, you may raft the rapids or rent a canoe or kayak for a quieter path with beautiful views of the surrounding rocky cliffs.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with this little mediaeval town, you’ve definitely heard of the hard yellow cheese that bears its name. That is now one of the town’s biggest attractions. Visitors may take a tour of a cheese production, try local delicacies, and wave to the cows who live in the surrounding lush hills. If cheese isn’t enough, there’s also the Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory in town.
The 13th-century Castle of Gruyères and its two small arts and regional museums, as well as Saint-Germain Castle, which was purchased by Swiss surrealist painter and sculptor H. R. Giger and now houses a museum dedicated to his work, may be small – it covers an area of only 28.4 square kilometres and is home to around 2,000 permanent residents – but it makes up for it with plenty of things to do. A visit to the Tibet Museum, which is situated in an ancient church in town, is also recommended.
The Gorges de la Jogne (preferred with hikers) and the neighbouring Mont Moléson, popular with climbers in the hot months and home to ski and snowshoe paths in the winter, surround Gruyères.