Switzerland, made famous thanks to the fictional character of Heidi, cuckoo clocks, and alpine scenery, is often described as one of the most beautiful places on earth. So beautiful in fact, that you may think that you have stumbled into a picture postcard filled with gorgeous deep blue lakes, romantic snow capped mountains, and lush verdant forests.
All of this exists of course but, not to be outdone, Switzerland’s cities are now leading also that way in terms of art, culture, and cuisine, and while they may still be nestled in between stunning natural wonders, they show a vibrancy and diversity that is not to be missed.
Lets explore the best places to visit in Switzerland:
Zurich lies on the picturesque shores of Lake Zurich as well as at the base of the Alps, ensuring that wherever you look, you are sure to find beautiful vistas and stunning scenery.
Popular activities in Zurich include boating on the lake, or simply strolling along its pristine edges, or you can go for a light hike at Utliberg Mountain.
Not just a one hit wonder, Zurich is also a city of culture and there are a plethora of museums to visit such as the Swiss National Museum housed within an alpine style castle. If you are an art lover then this city doesn’t disappoint with over 100 galleries to choose from, or if you prefer shopping then you can make for one or several of the high end boutiques that Zurich is known for and indulge in some retail therapy of famous Swiss brands.
Part of the Lake Geneva Region, the town of Lausanne is perhaps most famous for being the base of the International Olympic Committee, who certainly can’t resist its charms, having been housed there since 1914.
The old part of the medieval town features a towering Gothic cathedral that is said to be the finest example of its kind in all of Switzerland, and Lausanne also has a quaint city centre for visitors to explore on foot, and as such a vibrant cafe culture where you can relax and watch the world go by.
The surrounding area of Lausanne is also simply breathtaking, from Lake Geneva that rests at the base of the town, to the vineyards that grow rampant and provide excellent and ever-flowing wines if you fancy trying some of the local tipple.
Perhaps most famous for being the home of the United Nations, there is also much more to Geneva than just its humanitarian heart, and although it may be dubbed the ‘Capital of Peace’ by many, the city also has a diverse and exciting undercurrent for visitors to uncover.
For those who want to stroll around the city at their leisure, there are chic boutiques, galleries, winding streets, and quaint quays. Also not to be missed on a trip to Geneva is the iconic fountain that erupts from Lake Geneva and launches jets of water up to 500 feet in the air.
If you are a culture fiend, then Geneva is home to theatres and opera houses, as well as museums including one dedicated entirely to Switzerland’s famous timepieces.
Interlaken, in the Bernese Oberland Region, used to be famous as the centre for watch making in Switzerland, although nowadays it is best known as a nature resort, or a kind of theme park that takes place in the natural world.
If you like all things related to the great outdoors then Interlaken won’t disappoint with idyllic mountain railways, cable cars, ski slopes, and hiking trails for those who want to visit in the warmer summer time.
If you don’t fancy skiing or hiking, then there are lots of other activities to choose from like paragliding or even wood carving classes available. If you are feeling hungry after a day of exploring outside, then you can try the local delicacy of raclette, which features lots of melted cheese.
Come to Appenzell in the Alpstein Region, if you want to learn all about the culture and folk traditions of Switzerland.
Positively steeped in local flavor, Appenzell still follows and showcases centuries old traditions such as the annual descent of the cattle in anticipation of the winter months, as well as cultural practices like folk dancing and traditional music, or there is also the Appenzell Museum for those who want to delve into the history of the region even further.
Many visitors also come here to hike or climb in the area, and there are rock formations that tower over 2500 meters high.
Located close to the magnificent Matterhorn, Zermatt has made a name for itself as the place to go if you enjoy skiing and mountaineering in the winter, or if you just want to go for a hike in the summer months.
Whatever time of year you visit, there is a cable car to allow you access to the summit of the neighboring mountains, and you can also travel around the area by scenic mountain trains, 63 of them in fact, that service the area. Skiers in the region can enjoy over 200 miles of slopes that cater to all levels of ability, or if you prefer to walk then there are over 400 kilometers of hiking and nature trails to follow.
Zermatt is also famously unpolluted as gasoline run vehicles are not allowed in the town and only cars that run on battery power can access the area. This means that you will get clean air, stunning views, and a range of outdoor activities in what is said to be one of the prettiest towns in the world.
Bern is often said to look much like it must have done 500 years, all sandstone buildings and cobbled stone streets, although the city actually dates back to the 12th century and still has medieval architecture in places to prove it.
The city lies in a peninsula of the River Aare and the old town section has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including the waterside promenade that stretches for over four miles.
Also of note in Bern is the Zytglogge, a clock tower that features puppets that dance around to the chimes of the clock, as well as the city’s main Gothic style cathedral named the Munster.
Nestled on the banks of Lake Lucerne, with the imposing Alps in the background, Lucerne is almost so pretty that it looks like a painting.
If you want to get out on the water then you can float around Lake Lucerne on a cruise ship, or you can choose to browse the streets of the old town, now car free, where you will find wooden bridges, dainty town squares, and ornate frescoes. That isn’t to say that Lucerne is stuck in the past however, and you can also catch some of the up and coming cultural events that are being promoted and which make use of the Culture and Convention Centre, a building that is leading the way in modern architecture in the city.
If you like to try the local foods, then you can’t miss Luzerner Chügelipastete, a shell made of puff pastry filled with veal, mushrooms, and cream sauce.
9. The Matterhorn
Marking out the basic border between Switzerland and Italy, the Matterhorn is one of a series of mountains that makes up the Alps. It’s also one of the most photographed mountains in the world, perhaps due to its almost perfect pyramid shape, sometimes said to resemble a jagged fang.
The Matterhorn used to only be accessible to harden climbers, but now there are cable cars and trains that will take you near to the summit. If you do indeed decide to trek on the Matterhorn, then expect the trip to take 10 days, walking along trails that have been in use for centuries, and passing by natural wonders such as meadows, forests, and glaciers.
10. The Rhine Falls
If you venture to the town of Schaffhausen, it may well be in preparation for a trip to the Rhine Falls which are located nearby. Standing tall at 23 meters high, these are the largest plain falls in all of Europe, and you can take a boat trip up the Rhine to near the base of the falls to see them in all their glory.
If you fancy getting even closer to the action then you can observe the falls from one of the special viewing platforms that are accessible via stairs built into the mountainside.
Visitors can also follow guided tours around the immediate area that culminate in a trip to the Rhine Falls, and there are picnic spots and local restaurants dotted around if you fancy trying some local food as you watch the clouds of billowing spray.
11. Engadin, St Moritz
Said to be one of the most clement areas of Switzerland, many visitors come to this region to experience fresh air, stunning lakeside views, and small homey villages that are scattered all over the countryside.
If you want to get to know a little more about local rural life in Switzerland then this is the place to come, or you can take in the scenery during a hike in the surrounding mountains. Interestingly, this region of Switzerland is a melting pot of languages with some areas speaking German, French, or even English.
Close to Italy, Ticino has a strong Mediterranean feel, and this is reflected in the fact that it is the only part of Switzerland to speak Italian. Even the flora, fauna, and architecture appear different when you get to Ticino, with warm sun kissed color palettes and even some palm trees.
The capital of this area, known as a canton, is the city of Bellinzona, and period features of the old part of this town are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, including three castles and the remains of the old fortification wall.
Ticino is also famous for the food and drink, with a great love of pasta being another sign that you are close to the border with Italy, as well as an abundance of locally produced wines.
The city of Basel is located between France and Germany, as well as being neatly bisected by the River Rhine, and this geographical mix is reflected in the atmosphere of the city, also the third largest in Switzerland.
There is a diversity felt here in the different cultures, architecture, and influences seen in the city, which is well known for its cultural pursuits such as an abundance of art galleries, museums, orchestras, theatres, and the world famous Basel Art Museum. No wonder therefore that Basel is often also called the ‘City of Art’.
Aside from the attractions and exhibitions on display, the architecture in Basel is art in itself, as many of the buildings are sculpted from red sandstone, particularly around the town square.
Lugano is an Italian speaking section of Switzerland, and is said to be increasingly popular with the glitterati thanks to its calm and serene atmosphere and all round air of sophistication.
The city is said to date all the way back to the 9th century, and as such you can expect to see a whole host of relics from bygone eras, such as churches, cathedrals, museums, and libraries.
Lugano is nestled close to the shores of Lake Lugano, and you can tour the lake on a speedboat if you want the full celebrity effect of a trip to the ‘Monte Carlo of Switzerland’ as it is sometimes teasingly known.
15. Jungfrau Region
Whether you choose to visit during the summer or winter months, you won’t be disappointed with a trip to the Jungfrau Region which has something for visitors to enjoy all year round.
In the summer there are miles of hiking trails so that you can check out the local plant and wildlife, or you can go climbing if you prefer something more strenuous. In the winter skiing is a popular pastime in the region, and there are also biking trails for when the terrain allows for you to take to a set of wheels.
The Jungfrau Region is made up of four Alpine towns and three mountains, and there is a mountain railway to take you across the region in style.