Are you in need of some travel right now? Perhaps you’ve considered Europe, but what about Switzerland in particular? As you’ll discover, it’s not just an idyllic place with world-class watches and chocolate. It’s also full of urban excitement, outdoor activities, and unique culture. Let’s get a head start on a wonderful trip by checking out some of the best places to visit in Switzerland.
The Best Places to Visit in Switzerland
Château de Chillon
Château de Chillon is one of the most visited historical monuments in Switzerland, and its location on a small island in the far western end of Lake Geneva makes it an exciting destination for a day out.
You can easily reach this gem of the Swiss Riviera thanks to its proximity to the popular town of Montreux. (The boat ride to the castle is a fantastic experience itself). You can also get to this castle via car, bus, or train if boats aren’t your thing.
Three sumptuous great halls await tourists in Château de Chillon. Plus, don’t miss the impressive weapons room!
The history of the chateau goes back to the 12th century and is the place where François Bonivard, a Genevan monk, was imprisoned from 1532 to 1536. Today, you can visit the dungeons where he was imprisoned, which are one of the main attractions of the castle. Other things not to miss include the toilets in the chambers of the Duke of Savoy, where you can spot a mix of art and humor in the decoration, and the views from the top of the 25 meter-high donjon.
Almost synonymous with Switzerland, Lake Geneva stretches from Geneva to Lausanne and is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe. When standing on the shores of the lake, you’re treated to splendid views of the Alps reflecting in the water. Plus, you can also indulge in water sports in the summer.
Take one of the scenic Geneva Lake shore paths to enjoy the quiet lakeside neighborhoods and impressive homes. Numerous landmarks await on the way, ranging from medieval churches to spas and resorts.
The Swiss capital is a jewel, even if tourists often overlook it in favor of Geneva and Zurich. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an enchanting place where you can stroll along the cobbled streets and marvel at the charm of the Zytglogge medieval clock tower with its unique moving puppets, beautiful shopping arcades, and 16th-century fountains.
Bern is also home to a plethora of museums with art and history treasures for you to discover. Don’t miss Zentrum Paul Klee, the world’s largest collection of the artist’s works. Also check out Kunstmuseum (Bern Museum of Art), which is home to more 51,000 paintings, sculptures, photographs, and more.
Nature lovers are sure to enjoy a walk in Rosengarten, one of the most peaceful places in Bern, a public park that boasts more than 200 types of roses and 200 other flower species.
International Balloon Festival
A one-of-a-kind event, the International Balloon Festival takes place every year in January. Don’t miss this very high-profile event hosted in Château-d’Oex, as it’s an excellent opportunity to see hundreds of hot air balloons with pilots from all over the world filing the sky over the course of nine days.
The sight of the colorful balloons against the majestic background of the Alps is truly memorable!
The Geneva Motor Show
You don’t necessarily need to be passionate about cars to enjoy a visit to the Geneva Motor Show.
Held every year in March, this is the first major international automobile exhibition of the year. As such, it’s one of the most prominent venues for carmakers to showcase their new models and designs.
Since it’s a hugely popular event with both the Swiss and international publics, don’t forget to book your tickets to the Geneva Motor Show early to avoid disappointment.
The Rhine Falls
The biggest waterfall in Switzerland, the Rhine Falls is located close to the border with Germany. It’s the second-biggest waterfall in Europe and a sight to behold.
The Rhine Falls is located approximately one hour away from Zurich by car or train. The best time to visit is during the months of June and July, when the mountain snow melts. There are viewing platforms on both sides of the river for visitors to take in the majestic vistas. Plus, you can also book a boat trip up the Rhine to enjoy beautiful views of the falls.
A postcard-perfect castle located close to Bern, on the shores of the Lake Thun, Oberhofen Castle was built in the 13th century and today is one of the most iconic buildings in Switzerland. The castle complex mixes Baroque and romantic architecture and boasts some very picturesque lakeside turrets.
Don’t miss the Oriental smoking room and the splendid park that surrounds the castles, offering beautiful views of Lake Thun. The castle is home to a museum that takes visitors on a walk through the history of the previous owners and inhabitants. Oberhofen Castle was inhabited until the mid-20th century, and today it offers a stunning setting for weddings, family celebrations, and christenings.
A lovely small city that looks like something you would find on postcards, Lucerne is located in central Switzerland, on the shores of the lake with the same name. The city embodies everything Switzerland is famous for, from towering Alpine vistas to a medieval Old Town with a lot to see and do, including the famous wood-covered Chapel bridge that dates back to the 14th century.
When visiting Lucerne, take a steamer across the Lake to soak in the beauty of the place. Or, take a cable car up to Mount Rigi to get a panoramic view of the city. If you visit in August, don’t miss the Summer Night Festival (Luzernfest) that features lots of live music events and food stands around the lakeside.
Schweizerischer Nationalpark (Swiss National Park)
Switzerland is a beautiful country, but Schweizerischer Nationalpark is a place where this beauty truly comes to life. The unforgettable landscape of the park is the perfect backdrop for a bike ride or simply a long walk or hike to enjoy some pretty remarkable vistas.
The Schweizerischer Nationalpark encompasses 172 square kilometers of unspoiled scenery, ranging from waterfalls and snow-encrusted glaciers to lush woodlands. Visitors can enjoy no less than 21 hiking routes that allow them to discover the magnificent flora and maybe spot one of the marmots, ibexes, and rare golden eagles that call this national park home.
The warm summers, language, rich cuisine, and romantic villas make this wonderful city the perfect location for a romantic escape. Sporting a quasi-Mediterranean scenery, Lugano is nicknamed the “Monte Carlo of Switzerland” and is famous for being the residence of Nobel prize winner Hermann Hesse.
Lake Lugano is by far the most popular attraction of the area. You can simply sit back on the shores to enjoy the spectacular views, or try boating or other water-based activities. Don’t miss the lovely Civico-Ciani park located right next to the lake. Plus, if you’re a hiking aficionado, you are likely to enjoy going up to Monte Brè. There, you can see amazing views of the Lake Lugano valley and the Bernese Alps.
Even those who have never set foot in Switzerland are likely to have seen The Matterhorn at some point in their lives because the majestic, pyramid-shaped mountain is one of the most photographed in the world. It is also home to the highest cable car station in the Alps, and the breathtaking views give you a reason to join Instagram if you haven’t done so already.
Compared by some with a jagged tooth, the Matterhorn stands tall at 4,478 meters, and it was first conquered by British explorer Edward Whymper on July 14, 1865. If you’re visiting, leave the climbing to the experts, but don’t miss the Matterhorn Museum in Zermatt and the chance to go skiing on the Theodul Glacier.
Boasting no less than 800 hectares, the terraced vineyards are located in the UNESCO Lavaux region and stretch as far as the eyes can see. This is the longest vineyard region in Switzerland and it allows visitors to go on a leisurely hike along the trail that has lots of educational signs with plenty of information about local wine cultivation.
Oh, and be sure to taste some of the wines!
While the word “Gruyère” might instantly bring cheese to your mind, this is actually the name of a city in Switzerland.
Home to a 13th-century castle and cobbled streets that have retained their original character, Gruyères is indeed the cheese capital of Switzerland. It is the place where the famous Gruyère cheese is made. Don’t miss the chance to visit the local cheese factory, La Maison du Gruyère. There, you’ll discover the details of how it’s made and taste some local delicacies such as raclette and fondue.
And if you’re keen to discover more of the food Switzerland is famous for, head to Maison Cailler, which is located very close to Gruyères. This is a place where you can see some of the country’s most famous chocolatiers in action and learn all about the craft of chocolate making. The highly interactive tour of the chocolate factory has multiple tasting sessions and is very likely to keep you full until dinner.
Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich
Perhaps the most famous street in Switzerland, Bahnhofstrasse is a shopper’s paradise, attracting millions of local residents and visitors every year.
The shopping street was created in the same place where city moats were 150 years ago. Today, it is home to a wealth of department stores and boutiques. It’s also the center of Swiss banking.
Whether you’re looking for a selection of shops selling the most famous watches in the world or just want to enjoy a stroll and a mug of mulled wine, Bahnhofstrasse is an unmissable spot when visiting Zurich.
Famous for being home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters, Lausanne is indeed one of the best places to visit in Switzerland. It’s located on the banks of Lake Geneva and surrounded by stunning mountains. Also, it’s home to an iconic 12th-century gothic cathedral with an ornate façade.
Lausanne welcomes visitors with its medieval cobbled streets lined with unique shops, and also allows tourists to go from one place to another in a matter of minutes since it is the smallest city in the world to have a metro system. Don’t miss the Olympic Museum that takes you through the entire history of the games. As well, you can hop on some of its simulators to try out some of the games yourself!
A quiet town near Geneva, Montreux is mostly famous for the Jazz Festival that brings more than 200,000 visitors to town every year.
If you’re not in town during Jazz Fest, there are still lots of things to do and see in Montreux. Besides visiting Château de Chillon, which stands very close by, you can also enjoy the beautiful lakeside promenade. It stretches between Clarens and the Château de Chillon.
Queen lovers will rejoice at “Queen: The Studio Experience”. It’s held at the Montreux Mountain Studios, where the band created parts of their famous albums. Don’t miss the original sound studio where Freddie Mercury recorded his last songs.
Swiss Grand Canyon
Known locally as The Ruinaulta, the Swiss Grand Canyon is one of the deepest gorges in Europe and is located in the eastern part of the country.
It’s the perfect site for nature lovers, bird-watchers and hikers, who can reach it on foot, across the water, by bike, or by train. The Swiss Grand Canyon is an ideal setting for canoers and rafters thanks to the wild rapids that alternate with gently sloping sandbanks.
As you may know, I like to include videos in my articles. Here are two. First up is just a high-res tour of Switzerland:
Next is a review of amazing places to visit in Switzerland:
Summing Up the Best Places to Visit in Switzerland
Ready for some travel? As we’ve seen, Switzerland offers far more than one may initially think. It’s got cities, sports, festivals, and picture-perfect nature.
I can’t wait to go!
What do you think are the best places to visit in Switzerland?