You are probably thinking about Swiss chocolate, Swiss cheese, and clocks, too. These are some of the things that you know about Switzerland already. But this landlocked country is a haven for anybody who might be looking for some truly picturesque and sweepingly dramatic landscapes. It’s in the middle of the Alps, so how couldn’t it boast the picture perfect look that it does?
You might find yourself getting a cogwheel railway up a mountain one moment and visiting slices of medieval heritage nestled on lakes the next. You’d better prepare yourself for some breathtaking views of craggy peaks from Swiss mountain towns, exploring historic districts on a crisp backdrop of glittering water, and marveling at majestic alpine meadows ringed by snowy mountains. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Switzerland:
See also: Where to Stay in Interlaken
Interlaken used to be known as a watch making center, but today it’s more popular as a tourist resort. Tourists started coming to Interlaken in the early 1800s to breathe in the mountain air and partake of spa treatments. Its popularity only grew from there. The Swiss city is located directly between two major Alpine lakes: Thun and Brienz. As a result, you’ll never be too far from the chance to go swimming, boating or biking around the lakes.
Offering spectacular views of three famous Swiss mountains, the Eiger, the Jungfrau and the Monch, the city is also a popular base camp for outdoor acitivites in the surrounding Bernese Oberland Alps. Travelers looking for something different to do might want to sign up for a class or two at a woodcarving school. Hungry tourists may want to try raclette, a classic Swiss dish made from cheese.
Right on the shores of Lake Geneva, and with views of both the Swiss Alps and the French Alps, is the city of Lausanne. Serving as a gateway to a major ski area and the home to two major universities, it is easy to see the universal appeal of Lausanne.
The city is divided into districts, and the Cité district is by far the most important for travelers. In Cité, you can explore what was once known as the Old Town, and you can explore some of the architecture, which includes everything from cathedrals to castles. If you only have time to explore one attraction in Lausanne, make it the Palais de Rumine. This Italian Renaissance-style building is home to five different museums, making it the perfect place to spend an entire day learning more about local art, culture and history.
A part of the Swiss Riviera, Lausanne has been popular with writers over the centuries, include Lord Byron, the Shelleys and Ernest Hemingway. Located in the French-speaking sector of Switzerland, Lausanne boasts an impressive cathedral and wonderful outdoor markets.
See also: Where to Stay in Geneva
Geneva is a city where international influences reign supreme. It is home to the International Red Cross Committee and the European headquarters of the United Nations, as well as 20 other international organizations. Environmental travelers will enjoy the fact that Geneva is a “green” city, with 20 percent of its land devoted to parks, earning it the nickname of “city of parks.”
A highlight of a visit to Geneva is a chance to see the iconic Jet d’Eau, an enormous fountain seen from the Lac Léman waterfront that spews water high into the air. In the Old Town, the towers of Cathédrale St-Pierre are the tallest things you can see, and you will definitely want to stop for some photographs of the exterior and a tour of the interior. Geneva also is a good city explore by bike or rest weary feet by taking a boat ride on Lake Geneva.
Read more: Top Geneva Attractions
The city of Zurich is the largest in Switzerland, and it is known for being a major financial hub in Europe. Even if you’re not a part of the business world, Zurich has plenty to offer to visitors. To start, Zurich is located right on the edge of Lake Zurich. You can hike or cycle around the perimeter of the lake for some exercise, you could rent a boat and head out onto the water or you could check out some of the man made beaches and jump into the refreshing water for a lake swim.
Zurich is also home to a number of historic churches, world-class museums and renowned architecture. Not to be missed is the Swiss National Museum, located in a fairytale castle, it is dedicated to Switzerland’s cultural history. To see as much of Zurich as possible at once, hop aboard the Polybahn, a funicular dating back to the 19th century, for amazing views and a chance to dine at the charming cafe terrace at the top.
Read more: Top Zurich Attractions
See also: Where to Stay in Zermatt
Zermatt is a small town that is famous for skiing and mountaineering due to its proximity to the Matterhorn, one of Switzerland’s highest mountains. Cable cars whisk skiers up surrounding mountains in the winter and hikers in the summer. Zermatt is a good town for walking to various sites, since gasoline-driven vehicles are not permitted; any vehicles within the city limits must be battery-operated. Fortunately, for visitors, it takes 30 minutes or less to walk between sites. The town is accessible via scenic train routes that connect it with the outside world.
The Jungfrau Region is one of the best places to visit in Switzerland, both in summer and winter. A century or two ago, this Alps region was only visited by hard-core adventurers who wanted to ski or climb through the mountains. Now, thanks to an extensive network of railways and well-maintained foot and bike paths, the area is accessible to many types of travelers.
The Jungfrau Region consists of four picturesque towns: Grindelwald, Murren, Lauterbrunnen, and Wengen, and three imposing mountains: Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. One of Switerland’s most scenic rail trip, the Jungfraubahn takes visitors from the Kleine Scheidegg mountain through the Eiger and Mönch up to the Jungfraujoch.
Lugano has been nicknamed the “Monte Carlo of Switzerland,” because of its growing popularity with celebrities. The city is located on Lake Lugano, in the Italian speaking section of this alpine country. Lugano, which is blessed with warm summers, dates back to the 9th century.
A major draw to Lugano is outdoor recreation, and there are plenty of ways to stay active in and around the area. You might spend the day hiking along the clearly signposted Olive Tree Trail, or you could go for a swim at the easily accessible Lido di Lugano right by the city center. After strolling through the Old Town to enjoy the architecture, view it all from a unique perspective at the charming and fascinating Swiss Miniature Village.
Read more: Top Lugano Attractions
One of the largest lakes in Europe, Lake Geneva lies on the course of the Rhone river on the frontier between France and Switzerland. Aside from the city Geneva most destinations in the Lake Geneva region are in either the Swiss canton of Vaud or the French department of Haute Savoie. The geography is varied, with the Jura mountains in the north, a hilly plain in the center and in the southwest the Alps. The main attractions here are the elegant cities and towns surrounding the lake, the opportunities for skiing and hiking in both mountain ranges, and of course the lake itself.
See also: Where to Stay in Lucerne
Lucerne, located in the German-speaking section of Switzerland, is a city that has it all: city life, a lake and mountains. Considered one of the world’s prettiest cities, Lucerne is most famous for its 14th century Chapel Bridge and Water Tower, which is said to be the most photographed monument in Switzerland. Another famous monument is the Dying Lion, which was carved out of rock to honor Swiss mercenaries who died in France in 1792. Hungry visitors may want to try Luzerner Chügelipastete, a local specialty made from puff pastry, veal and mushrooms doused in a cream sauce.
Read more: Top Lucerne Attractions
Bern is a picturesque medieval city with a history that dates back to the 12th century, though it did not become a part of the Swiss Confederacy until the 16th century. While not the largest city in Switzerland, Bern is the capital. Its most famous attraction is the Zytglogge, an ancient clock tower with moving puppets. Other popular sites in Bern include the Munster, a Gothic cathedral that rises from the old town, and its town hall.
The bear is the symbol of Bern, with several being kept in an open-air pit. Shoppers will appreciate the old town that boasts four miles of arcades, making it one of the longest covered shopping areas in Europe.
Read more: Top Bern Attractions