Thoughts of travel in Switzerland are most often linked with stunning views of the snow-capped Alps, although you will find the entire country to be remarkable in respect to scenery.
As you wander the spectacular alps, you will come across a number of compact, elegant cities that are full of character and fun things to see and do. You will, also, encounter idyllic villages snuggling along lakes, rivers and, sometimes, in the shadow of the looming Alps.
The difficult question with all of this splendor is, “Where to go and what to see on your Switzerland vacation?” Check out our recommendations for the best places to visit in Switzerland.
The Swiss Alps
The Swiss Alps are among the most beautiful mountains in the world. Although you will be surrounded by scenic mountains almost wherever you travel in Switzerland, we urge you to see the Alps up close when you have a chance. The leading areas for spectacular vistas and wonderful touring are:
The Berner Alpen
- Considered by many to be the “Top of Europe” this mountain range in the Bernese Oberland is “must see”. Its main attraction is the:
- The Jungfrau holds a special place in the heart of the Swiss and if you visit it, you will understand and appreciate their admiration.
- Of course, the Jungfrau keeps company with the equally famous Eiger and the Mönch, as well as a host of high peaks to keep you occupied.
- You will find delightful villages during your travels to find the best viewing spot to photograph these exceptional mountains, so take your time to explore this delightful area.
- Sitting at the foot of the Matterhorn, Zermatt is a town that beckons the visitor and fills the role of the quintessential Swiss mountain resort. It’s compact, a little “clubby” and expensive, but worth every penny.
- You have seen it in pictures, but you will not be prepared for the grandeur of its natural setting. Before you decide to get your climbing gear on, relax; The view is the attraction and having seen it will become the memory of a lifetime!
- Known as the “city between the lakes” Interlaken offers wonderful scenery and a number of villages that are worth a visit.
- Interlaken may be considered” tourist” Switzerland by many, but it carries it off with such aplomb that even the Swiss revere this area.
- Surrounded by the Jungfrau, Eiger, and Mönch, some of the most impressive peaks in Switzerland, Interlaken is a great base for touring the Alps. In addition, this is one of the most idyllic areas of the country.
- Interlaken may be one of the best regions of the country to shop for “something Swiss”.
- Visit the official Interlaken tourism website for more details and online brochures for this spectacular section of Switzerland.
- In 1991, Bern celebrated its 800th anniversary: the Old City of Berne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a wonderful place to wander. Bern is both attractive and interesting and its many Renaissance fountains make touring the city a voyage through history.
- See the Münster Cathedral, a comely Gothic-style cathedral (reputed to be the largest in Switzerland) featuring great views of Bern and the countryside from its bell tower.
- Speaking of towers, the city’s clock tower (Zyytglogge) dates from the mid-16th century. It is a fanciful display with numerous mobile characters, a mechanical rooster that crows on the hour and enough action to amuse almost anyone.
- The Bundeshhaus, the site of the country’s Parliament, is open to the public.
- Its Square includes a bevy of attractive fountains representing the twenty-six Cantons (states) of Switzerland. Throughout the year a number of seasonal markets are held in the Square and are great fun to explore.
- Berne is offers a wide array of shopping, particularly luxury shopping, and is host to many of the finest restaurants in Switzerland.
- The city has an active art scene, which is, perhaps, best known for the Paul Klee Center where the works of this world famous, multi-talented artist are presented. Check out the official website of the Center to see if Klee’s art is something that might be of interest to you.
- Berne is known for some of the best breads in Europe, so be sure to visit a bakery and sample the many bread varieties available here.
- For more information on visiting Bern, see its official tourism website.
- Zurich blends the old and the new in a manner that makes the combination seem natural. The city is a delightful and compact place to tour and its narrow winding streets add to its mystery. Use the city’s efficient streetcar system for easy to travel to most places of interest.
- The Old Town is the city’s most enjoyable spot, but you may want to spend some time shopping on the Bahnhofstrasse (one of the finest shopping streets in Europe) or exploring one of Zurich’s fine museums (such as the Kunsthaus Zurich for modern art or the famous Museum of Design .
- Be sure to see the Schipfe (fine arts area), the Fraumünster Church, the Zurich Opera House and, of course, Lake Zurich.
- See the official tourism website for Zurich for more details on visiting.
Many tourists consider Lucerne (Luzern) and its mountainous surroundings one of Switzerland’s most beautiful places to visit. Its lakeside setting is among the best in Switzerland and view of the lakes are a staple of many of the towns restaurants – so take advantage.
- The well-preserved Old Town is a treat to explore and a great place to shop.
- Be sure to see the Chapel Bridge and Water Tower.
- The Wagner Museum, Picasso Museum and the Rosengart Collection are considered by many to be the highlights of the city’s impressive collection of museums.
- For more details on Luzern City, see this official tourism website
- For details on attractions in the Lake Luzern area, see this official tourism website .
ituated on the northern edge of Lake Geneva, Lausanne is considered the ideal base to tour Lake Geneva, the town of Geneva, and Montreux.
- Built across three hills, Lausanne ascends from the shore of Lake Geneva and it seems that going anywhere requires climbing steps. The city offers the visitor two superb areas for touring. Ouchy is and elegant area along the waterfront, while the Old Town includes an immense cathedral with sections dating from the 12th century.
- The city is known as the headquarters of the Olympics and includes the famous Olympic Museum.
- One odd but compelling museum in the town, the Collection de l’Art Brut, features art in various forms produced mainly by people who were impaired psychologically. The official website is here, but you will need Google Translator or a similar service to unravel details on the museum’s art offerings, which are both unique and evocative.
- Visit the city’s official tourism website for more details on the attractions you will find in Lausanne.
Lugano is a good town to base your explorations of the Ticino, the Italian speaking southern segment of Switzerland. This scenic town is situated on the northern bank of Lake Lugano and the Lake is the real reason to visit.
- While in Lugano, be sure to see The Madonna degli Angioli Church (and its magnificent frescos).
- Tour the city using the tourist tram the Red Arrow (La Freccia Rossa),
- The Parco Botanico San Grato, about six miles from Lugano is an attractive place to visit, especially in the Spring. Click for the Official Lugano Tourism website.
- Also, you might be interested in exploring our Guide to the Italian Lakes where we describe Lake Maggiori and Lake Lugano in more detail.
This well-preserved city offers a blend of the traits of German and Swiss cities. Located near the headwaters of the Rhine, Basel is the point of disembarkation for many Rhine River cruises. It is a little out of the way for land travelers, but is an interesting stop if you are in the area.
- Be sure to see the historic buildings on the Munsterplatz, as well as the Gothic-style, Basel Cathedral, which dates from the 15th century, when the building was restored after a significant earthquake.
- The Pfalz (Basler Pfalz), a small park high above the Rhine, is a good place for a panoramic view of the Rhine and Basel.
- Basel offers several interesting museums (including the Fondation Beyeler (art)) for those looking to discover more about this area and its people.
- Basel Tourismus publishes the city’s official tourism website, which can be found here .
- Geneva is the home base of many international organizations and that role has given it a cosmopolitan bearing mixed with a distinct international flavor. Geneva is known more as center for its role in world affairs than as a tourist destination.
- If you are in the area, Geneva’s Old Town is worth a visit, as is its lakefront area with its elegant residences and the beautiful English Garden (across the Mont Blanc bridge).
- Be sure to take in the view of the city and the lake from Saint Peter’s Cathedral, a building that was started in the 12th century and later modified due to fire and the fervor of the Reformation (16th century). See the official Geneva tourism website for more details on visiting this “international” city.
Extraordinary Train Journeys
The Glacier Express
- Since the ride takes the entire day, you will need hotel reservations at your destination..
- Only the first class cars are “panoramic”, featuring large windows and comfortable seating.
- Meals are available in the Dining Car, but reservations must be made in advance of the trip (there are not enough seats to accommodate all passengers).
- For more detail visit the Glacier Express official web site.
- Although rail travel in Switzerland is usually among the safest on the continent, the Glacier Express suffered a derailment with fatalities in the summer of 2010.
The Bernina Express
- The Bernina Express runs between Chur and Tirano, Italy. It is a shorter ride than the Glacier Express, but the mountains are very beautiful and the rail line itself is considered an engineering marvel. In summer, a bus connects with Lake Lugano. For more information, see the official web site.
The official Tourism website for Switzerland is MySwtizerland.com. It provides additional details about the places we recommend you visit, as well as information on attractions that we do cover.
For country facts on Switzerland, as well as travel information related to visas, driving rules, safety, medical conditions, visas and other travel-related information, see this page on Switzerland Travel from the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the U.S. State Department. Regardless of your home country, we think you will find the information provided to be useful when planning a trip to Switzerland.
The country commonly known as Switzerland is also known by other popular names, such as Schweiz (German), Suisse (French), Svizzera (Italian) and Svizra (Romansh). The country’s official name is the Confoederatio Helvetica (Latin ) is abbreviated CH (used, for example, by ISO to identify the country and also as its Internet domain name). The abbreviation CHF is used to represent the Swiss Franc. The official name of Confoederatio Helvetica renders as the “Swiss Confederation” in English.
Although Switzerland has a rich history and numerous prestigious cultural attractions, its countryside and mountains are the magnets that attract most tourists. Whether you travel to Switzerland for skiing, hiking, mountain climbing or just sight-seeing, you will remember the scenic vistas for the rest of your life. Saying that Switzerland is a beautiful country is an understatement, but you will not understand how much of an understatement until you visit.
If you are a railroad buff, consider taking one of the Extraordinary Train Journeys Switzerland’s cuisines differ based on the region of the country you visit, but in most locations you will find excellent restaurants featuring French, German and Italian cuisines.
We have found the Swiss preparation of German and French dishes, to be heavenly. Of course, Italian food is now a worldwide staple and you will find fine Italian dining throughout Switzerland. Dinner in Switzerland often is just the introduction to a memorable evening, as a variety of night life will be available to you almost anywhere you visit in the country.