A natural and historic playground, Switzerland evokes a mystical aura. Her mountain villages are the scenes of fairytales, and the snow-capped peaks have long inspired poets and climbers alike. The peaks are the stuff of mountaineers’ dreams. Yet, they remain accessible for the likes of you and I, thanks to an abundance of fabulous cable cars.
Back in the lush valleys of Switzerland, trains that take you on a journey where some of Europe’s most spellbinding beauty is laid out before you. In between them all, medieval old towns hold fort with a timeless culture that sticks close to its heralded heritage. Medieval and Renaissance architecture becomes the everyday experience.
From the Rhine Falls to the terraced vineyards on Lake Geneva, there is no shortage of beautiful tourist attractions in Switzerland, where natural and human intertwine seamlessly. It’s time to find out why.
In this post, we'll cover:
In the Jungfrau region, Grindelwald has a cozy spot nestled in the Bernese Alps. The mountain town is the definition of idyllic. The old-time village is backed by spectacular scenery which quickly becomes a playground to be discovered.
You can relax here and take in the scenery as you please. Or, you can make the most of every second, as Grindelwald has a seemingly endless list of adventures and things to do to choose from. The first is the town’s original cable car which takes you up to 2,160m. From the top, you can fly 800 meters on a suspended cable at speeds over 80 km/h.
Later, take a ride to the top of Pfingstegg where you’ll find the Pfingsteggbahn! This sled zips you down into the valley with memorable views along the wild ride down.
16. Castles of Bellinzona
Set in a strategic position in the Swiss Alps, the three Castles of Bellinzona are a living masterpiece. With the addition of fortress walls and ramparts, these castles are incredible examples of medieval mountain architecture.
The three castles are Castelgrande, Montebello and Sass Corbaro. They helped the Milanese control the Alpine and San Gotthard passes. With a little help from modern restoration, the castles have now returned to their former splendor just in time for your visit.
Montebello and Castelgrande feature interior museums. These allow you to discover rich archaeology from the region and the castles themselves. The area boasts over 6,500 years of human touch.
15. Upper Engadine Lakes
Home to St. Moritz, Silvaplana and more, the Upper Engadine Lakes is a fairy tale plateau surrounded by classic Swiss peaks. Romance and beauty floats around every corner and off the leaves of the forested hills.
The alpine region basks in summer sunlight, one that provides travelers with the perfect balance between mountains and warmth. The lakes melt and shimmer through the afternoon where you can kayak, SUP, sail or simply admire the views from the hiking trails.
On Silvaplana Lake, wind and kite surfers make the most of the Maloja wind to speed across the water at 80km/h. If you’re traveling in winter, enjoy the snow-capped summits, ice skating and the White Turf. The latter is a frozen lake horse race.
14. Zurich Altstadt
Switzerland’s natural beauty will be all around you on your travels. But you’ll uncover an array of man-made creations that will pull at your heartstrings just as much. Perhaps the best example is Zurich Altstadt.
Set within an already gorgeous city, Zurich’s Old Town is split into two sections across the Limmat River. On either side, you’ll find cobbled narrow streets that have been worn smooth by centuries of footsteps.
Among the medieval homes are charming cafes and restaurants. You’ll even find Zurich’s best club scene. Save that for later and explore the areas 50 plus museums and major landmarks such as the St. Peter Church with the largest clock face on the continent.
A shared passion for knowledge and the thought that so much of the world is unknown turns the wheels behind CERN. The European Organization for Nuclear Research is at the forefront of physics. Its Hadron Collider sends 200,000 billion proton beams rushing towards each other at 11,000 times a second!
It’s an incredible experiment that hopes to uncover the nature of our world and what it may become. In Geneva, you can explore parts of CERN open to the public to learn more about what’s happening behind the scenes, including its major Higgs Boson discovery. You can even embark on a guided tour to the antimatter factory.
12. Lavaux Vineyards
In the Vaud region on the northern banks of Lake Geneva, the Lavaux Vineyards are like few others. These wineries are set upon terraces that rise from the lake’s edge like Tegalalang.
Much like the location and layout is unique, this beloved wine region is likely different to what you’ve experienced previously. Despite the opulent beauty, you won’t find an abundance of visitors in Lavaux.
When you add the fact that the main grape grown is Chasselas, with little export, it makes your time here all the more memorable. Be sure to make reservations for wine tastings as many of the vineyards are small operations.
11. Chaplin’s World
Over the last 25 years of his famous life, Charlie Chaplin lived here in Vevey, Switzerland. His neoclassical Manoir de Ban has been transformed into a living museum where various eras of his life are put on display. Now one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist attractions, you’ll find parts of the home were as he left it, with family photos and personal items frozen in time.
The house is joined by a modern, interactive studio which has a series of interactive exhibits and showcases some of his films. You’ll also be able to get up close to replicas of old movie sets. After exploring it all, check out the gift shop to complete the visit.
10. Jet d’Eau
A centerpiece of your Geneva experience, Jet d’Eau is a dramatic lakeside fountain. With the city, marina and lakeside villages encasing the lake, the fountain shoots up a thin veil of water over 140 meters.
The water flies towards the skies, a 200km/h before pluming out across the lake. On sunny days, multiple rainbows burst out from the falling droplets. At any given time, there may be seven tons of water in the air!
The Jet d’Eau is the completion of Geneva’s rich heritage of pencil fountains. The first burst upwards every Sunday between 1886 and 1890. This was improved upon with the 90m Jetée des Eaux-Vives from 1891 until the current which began in 1951.
9. Mount Pilatus
Standing proudly above Lucerne, the massif of Mount Pilatus has a spellbinding presence. From the valley, the range that features multiple 2,000 meter-plus peaks captures your attention and never lets go.
At the center of the snow-capped peaks is the monstrously beautiful Mount Pilatus, 2,128. From the summit, you’re spoiled with panoramic views that boast over 70 alpine peaks. It’s a true buffet for the eyes.
While you can hike to the top, most prefer the train departing from Lucerne from May to October. After taking in the view, take the 3km moderate trail to Tomlishorn Peak. Other adventures include the thrilling 1,350m toboggan run down into the valley.
8. Rhine Falls
You can relax or seek a heart-pumping adventure at Rhine Falls. At 150 meters wide and tumbling down over 20 meters, the Rhine Falls is one of Europe’s largest waterfalls. Before you can even see the majestic surge of water, you’ll be able to hear the thunderous roar of 600,000 liters bouncing down the rock face.
Those looking to take in the beauty of the falls can wander the hiking trails that enveloped Rhine Falls. This includes a walk across the viaduct, Schloss Laufen, that offers some of the best views.
However, you’ll find one of the most unique things to do in Switzerland here. In the heart of the falls stands a towering rock covered in bushes. A path snakes to the top where you can stand as if you’re floating above it all.
7. Bernina Express
There may not be a better way to cross the Swiss Alps than the Bernina Express. The scenic train route is a narrow-gauge railway then spans over 120 kilometers from Chur to Tirano, Italy.
The four-hour journey is akin to a Shakespeare play or Beethoven symphony. It’s pure, unspoiled mastery. From charming towns, you’ll venture up and over iconic passes with the views growing more spectacular with each rotation of the wheelset. This is topped off by traversing the famed Landwasser Viaduct.
The Bernina Express is as comfortable as the scenery is stunning. The railway is a UNESCO Heritage Site based on how it blends in with the landscape, while the incredible engineering has the locomotive floating on a cloud.
The city of Bern is littered with medieval and Renaissance masterpieces. However, Zytglogge should be your first stop in town. That’s a big call for a clock tower, but you’ll soon discover why.
Bern is a magical place, as the Zytglogge is the centerpiece of a medieval time warp. The gate was built in the 1100s, and the clock that graces the tower is one of the most spectacular and oldest clocks that can be visited anywhere in the world. Built in 1530, this clock was the city’s master clock for centuries.
As you make your way to the tower, get there a few minutes before the hour mark to experience old-time figurines dart out from the tower as they have for hundreds of years.
This joyful sight is your first step. Next up is wandering inside. Within are beautiful, giant wooden beams that run along the endless stone walls. The clicking of the clock is rhythmic and grows louder as you venture up the 130 steps. After learning how the ancient clock works, take in the view of the old town and the Bernese Oberland from the top.
If Grindelwald is the gateway, then Jungfraujoch is the destination. Known as the Top of Europe, this train station is the continent’s locomotive ceiling.
Standing between two monstrous 4,000m peaks, Jungfraujoch sits in a saddle at 3,454m above sea level. Surrounded by year-round snow and glacial action, you can already begin to picture the epic train ride. But that’s just the beginning.
Beyond the station is a vast mountain destination, where you can explore the Sphinx Observatory. This has an observation deck facing the enormous Aletsch Glacier. Afterwards, check out the Ice Palace and tube at the Snow Fun Park.
Travelers seeking some more adventure can lace up their boots. Between the months of March and October, you can trek to Monchsjoch Hut, the highest serviced hut in the country.
4. Chapel Bridge
In Lucerne, there stands a wooden bridge that expands over 200 meters across the Reuss River. This is Chapel Bridge, an iconic Swiss sight that will inspire more than just those enthused with old-world architecture.
In classic Swiss style, Chapel Bridge is as quaint and charming as it is practical. The covered bridge shimmers with auburn in the evening, illuminating the hedges and roses that bloom on either side.
It is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe, and one of main tourist attractions in Switzerland. The covered bridge, constructed in 1333, was designed to help protect the city of Lucerne from attacks. Inside the bridge are a series of paintings from the 17th century, depicting events from Luzerne’s history. Much of the bridge, and the majority of these paintings, were destroyed in a 1993 fire, though it was quickly rebuilt.
3. Château de Chillon
With its reflection bouncing of the calm waters of beautiful Lake Geneva, Chillon Castle (Château de Chillon) was built in a prime location. First a Roman outpost, the castle, was developed in the 10th century to become the home of dukes and counts.
With the lake and the rising Swiss Alps in the background, there’s a lot to take in when you first arrive. But once you cross a historic drawbridge, your attention will turn to the fortress walls, ballasts and towers that take you back to the Middle Ages.
The interior of Château de Chillon has been masterfully preserved. With the help of an audio guide, you can explore almost the entire castle to uncover old-time prisons, halls, and chambers. From its top, you’ll have an even better view of the lake and its surrounding villages.
2. Lauterbrunnen Valley
Picture a waterfall for me. It’s likely the image conjured is a waterfall tucked away in nature at the end of a winding hiking trail. That’s how it is for most, but not here in Lauterbrunnen Valley.
In a country rich in tumbling waters, Lauterbrunnen Valley takes the cake. There are over 70 here, each diving off the sandstone cliffs like a bridal veil. The most renowned may be the 297m Staubbach Falls. However, for photographers, nothing tops Trummelbach. It’s a conglomeration of 20 thin falls that form the backdrop behind ancient bridges and tunnels.
Beyond the spectacular waterfalls, the Lauterbrunnen Valley is easy to explore on bike or foot. A mecca for adventure, you’ll have your plate full hiking to the Sphinx Observatory, exploring the village of Murren and trying your hand at paragliding.
Such an epic mountain name deserves an epic mountain landscape and that’s what you’ll find as you gaze at Matterhorn. The soaring pyramid peak is an icon of the Swiss Alps. It’s a rugged mountain, whose edges are as thin as a knife’s edge.
For most of us, without a high level of mountaineering experience, seeing Matterhorn up close is the best we can hope for. That still creates one of Switzerland’s unforgettable experiences.
You can gawk up at the top from the charming village of Zermatt. Or, put on your hiking shoes and explore the mountain’s swarming trail system. The views promise to be just as captivating, away from the overhanging peak of Matterhorn. Turn your eyes to the waters of Lake Riffelsee, whose reflection is a mirror-like image of Switzerland’s celebrated summit.