November 01, 2021
Switzerland is hard to beat with its ravishing alpine scenery and quaint villages with fairytale charm. The towering snow-capped peaks of the Alps, sparkling blue lakes, emerald green valleys, glaciers and picturesque lakeside villages give this landlocked country a fairytale beauty. Amidst the mountain valleys and lakes lie world-class international resorts and a long list of activities including hiking, biking, climbing, paragliding, skiing and tobogganing.
Travelers come here for the breathtaking scenery, but are also enthralled by the many cultural attractions. Cities such as Zurich, Geneva and Lausanne are steeped in history and offer excellent museums and galleries, historic buildings and renowned music festivals. The capital, Bern, has a beautiful medieval old town nestled on a bend in the river. Germany, Italy, Austria and France border Switzerland, and their languages and customs give this country a multicultural sophistication.
From the Italian architecture of palm tree-covered Ticino to the dialects of Swiss German and Latin-derived Romansh, Switzerland can sometimes feel like several countries in one - all with the slick packaging and punctuality it's famous for.
Explore this spectacular country with our list of the top attractions and best places to visit in Switzerland
The landmark of Switzerland, the Matterhorn is one of the highest mountains in the Alps. On the border with Italy, this legendary peak rises to 4,478 meters, and its four steep faces lie in the cardinal directions. The first ascent in 1865 ended tragically when four climbers fell to their deaths on the descent. Today, thousands of experienced climbers come here every summer.
At the foot of this mighty peak lies the charming village of Zermatt, an international resort with horse-drawn carriage rides, picturesque chalets and first-class restaurants and hotels. To preserve the air quality and peaceful atmosphere, motorized vehicles are prohibited in the village.
In winter, skiers can make their rounds on more than 300 kilometers of slopes. In summer, swimming and tennis are popular pastimes, as are hiking, biking and climbing in the surrounding mountains. Glacier skiing is also available in summer.
One of the most popular destinations in the beautiful Bernese Oberland is the train ride to the Jungfraujoch, the "Top of Europe", with a viewing terrace and scientific observatory at 3,454 meters above sea level. The longest glacier in Europe, the Great Aletsch Glacier, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, begins at the Jungfraujoch. The famous Eiger Trail from the Eiger Glacier Station to Alpiglen clings to the cliffs at the foot of the north face.
Other popular hikes include the Panoramaweg to the sunny south-facing First, the Gletscherschlucht and the Öpfelchüechliwäg, the high-level trail from Holenstein to Brandegg through flower-filled meadows, alpine pastures and forests. Those who are less active can take gondolas and cable cars to picturesque vantage points above the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
Picturesque Grindelwald is a glacier village in the Jungfrau region that makes an excellent base for excursions into the surrounding mountains. It nestles at the foot of the snow-capped mountains and is one of Switzerland's oldest and most popular resorts. Rising above this Alpine valley are the tiara-shaped Wetterhorn and the steep north face of the Eiger, one of the most dramatic and difficult climbs in the world. Between the mountains lie the two glittering glaciers of Grindelwald. The best views are from the Faulhorn at 2,681 metres, which offers a breathtaking panorama of the huge peaks.
Nestled between Lake Thun to the west and Lake Brienz to the east, Interlaken is one of Switzerland's most popular summer resorts. The Höhematte in the centre of town is a marvel of urban planning with 35 hectares of open space. Flower gardens, hotels and cafés line the Höheweg, the main boulevard with breathtaking views of the mountains.
The mighty peaks of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau tower above the city and offer excellent opportunities for alpine experiences. Hiking, climbing, abseiling and kayaking are the most popular activities.
More than 45 mountain railways, chairlifts and ski lifts take visitors to the surrounding countryside and offer many opportunities for sightseeing from above.
In winter, skiers and snowboarders can enjoy the surrounding ski areas and cross-country ski on the extensive network of trails. In summer, paragliders take off from Beatenberg-Niederhorn. Those wishing to admire the landscape from lower altitudes can take a round trip on the lakes on a paddle steamer.
Imagine a sparkling blue lake surrounded by mountains, a car-free medieval old town, covered bridges, lakeside promenades, frescoed historic buildings and sunlit squares with bubbling fountains. No wonder Lucerne is a popular destination for tourists.
Famous for its music concerts, this quintessential Swiss city attracts renowned soloists, conductors and orchestras to the International Music Festival every year. The Culture and Congress Centre houses one of the world's leading concert halls.
One of the city's most famous landmarks is the Chapel Bridge, built in the 14th century. In a small park stands the famous Lion Monument, a poignant sculpture of a dying lion that commemorates the heroic death of the Swiss Guard during the attack on the Tuileries during the French Revolution. History buffs will enjoy the Swiss Museum of Transport, which has extensive exhibits on all forms of transportation, including aerospace, railroad locomotives and a planetarium.
For a beautiful view of Lucerne, the Alps and the lake, take the funicular up Dietschiberg on the north side of Lake Lucerne, a cable car ride up Mount Pilatus or a visit to Mount Rigi, a famous lookout point.
Lake Geneva, the largest Alpine lake in Europe, straddles the Swiss-French border and laps around some of Switzerland's most popular cities. The city of Geneva (Genève in French; Geneva in German) is nestled among pretty snow-capped peaks at the point where the Rhône flows into Lake Geneva.
The French-speaking "Capital of Peace" is the European headquarters of the United Nations and exudes a pleasant blend of French joie de vivre and Swiss structure. Promenades, parks and gardens surround the lake, and the old town with its historic buildings is an inviting place for a stroll. A famous landmark is the Jet d'Eau, a fountain in Lake Geneva that shoots water 150 metres into the air. Cultural attractions include the Opera House and the Grand Théâtre, where international artists perform.
Lausanne is also located on the lake, about 62 kilometers from Geneva, and offers magnificent views of the surrounding region and lake, with the Alps rising in the distance. Take a stroll through the medieval old town with its pretty cafés and boutiques and impressive Gothic cathedral. At the foot of the Alps, on Lake Geneva, Montreux hosts the world-famous Montreux Jazz Festival in June/July.
On the shores of Lake Geneva, near Montreux, the Chateau de Chillon (Chillon Castle) has inspired artists and writers for centuries. Lord Byron, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Victor Hugo are among the personalities who have written about this architectural gem.
The complex, which has been the stronghold of the Counts and Dukes of Savoy since the 12th century, comprises some 25 buildings grouped around three courtyards. Particularly worth seeing are the Great Halls with their magnificent view of Lake Geneva, the Gothic underground rooms, the chapel decorated with 14th century paintings and the Camera Domini, a bedroom of the Duke of Savoy decorated with medieval wall paintings.
Mirror-smooth lakes, glaciers, craggy peaks, alpine forests and plenty of sunshine make St. Moritz one of the best mountain destinations in the world and a must on your list of things to do in Switzerland. Palatial hotels and expensive restaurants are a given in this sophisticated resort, which has hosted two Winter Olympics.
The resort is located in an alpine valley at 1,800 meters above sea level and is divided into two parts: St. Moritz Dorf is situated on a sunny terrace overlooking Lake St. Moritz. The other part of the village, St. Moritz Bad on the lakeside at the bottom of the valley, is a health resort with cheaper accommodation. Winter sports range from skiing, snowboarding, skating and bobsleighing to tobogganing on the famous 1.2-kilometre Cresta run.In summer there are many opportunities for hiking, cycling and water sports. Glacier skiing is also available in summer.
In addition to the spectacular mountain scenery, St. Moritz is also a cultural crossroads. Romansh, German, Italian, French and English are spoken in the surrounding areas - not to mention the various languages spoken by the many wealthy international visitors and expats.
The Swiss capital of Bern is stunningly situated on a peninsula of the Aare River and exudes old-world charm. The city's medieval old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Strolling through the cobbled streets, visitors can discover Switzerland's tallest cathedral with panoramic views from its tower, 16th-century fountains, the medieval Zytglogge clock tower with moving dolls, and six kilometres of shopping arcades, called "Lauben" by locals. The Rose Garden offers a beautiful view of the old town.
Bern has many tourist attractions to offer, including excellent museums. Art lovers will appreciate the impressive galleries, including the Zentrum Paul Klee, the world's largest collection of works by this famous artist, and the Kunstmuseum Bern.
Don't miss the markets on the Bundesplatz, overlooking the elegant Renaissance-style Bundeshaus. Families can enjoy a visit to the Bear Park.
Located on the Swiss-Italian border in Ticino, Switzerland's only official Italian-speaking canton, Lake Lugano offers a tantalizing taste of the Mediterranean. Citrus fruits, figs, palms and pomegranates thrive here in the mild climate - even as snow-capped peaks beckon in the distance.
In the towns around Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore to the west, the Italian attitude to life is unmistakable in the architecture, the squares and the passion for good food that spills over Italy's borders from the south, east and west.
Visitors can explore the area by taking one of the white steamers around the lake or renting a boat. For a panoramic view, Monte San Salvatore offers one of the most spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, lake and snow-capped mountain peaks.
Lugano, a financial center and the largest and most important city in Ticino, is a popular summer resort. Northwest of Lugano, in sun-drenched Locarno on Lake Maggiore, Swiss lakeside living has a subtropical feel with warm days, flowering gardens and palm-filled estates. In Bellinzona, the canton's capital, three magnificent castles are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Founded in 1914, the Swiss National Park in the Engadine is the oldest protected area in the Alps. Located right on the border with Italy, the park covers more than 170 square kilometres of flower-decked depressions, fast-flowing rivers and limestone cliffs. The scenery is particularly dramatic in winter, when the forested mountains are covered in a blanket of snow and the views from the cross-country ski trails are breathtaking.
Nature lovers can explore the region on an extensive network of hiking trails, although deviating from these trails is prohibited to protect the natural ecosystems. More than 5,000 species of animals call the park home, including marmots, red deer, chamois, ibex, foxes and more than 100 species of birds.
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