A fusion of Italian, French, and German cultures but still with a strong identity of its own, Switzerland makes an alluring travel destination. The landlocked European country is known for its attractive cities, it’s apre-ski chic and famously idyllic mountain scenery complete with cuckoo-clock houses and bell-adorned cows – Switzerland is still a place where you can imagine Heidi skipping through the Alpine meadows! From my many visits to this breathtaking country over the years, here are my favourite best, and beautiful places to visit in Switzerland…
1. Lake Geneva – a beautiful crescent-shaped lake shared between France and Switzerland and overlooked by the Alps
Switzerland is often called the country of mountains and lakes – it harbors around 1500 lakes, and every single one of them is beautiful in their own way. The most mesmerizing water is perhaps Lake Geneva, the largest lake in the Swiss Alps and the second largest freshwater body in Central Europe.
It fascinates with its pristine beauty and unusually clear waters. Not for nothing is it compared with a mirror – the Alps covering it from the wind make the water surface unshakable. This natural mirror reflects picture-postcard mountain peaks, vineyards, tall spruces, buildings, and medieval castles scattered across the slopes.
A beach holiday on Lake Geneva is truly a unique pastime – only here you can sunbathe while admiring snow-capped summits.
2. Zurich – the stunning city nestled on a sprawling lake regularly recognised as one of the world’s most liveable cities
Located on the northern shores of the eponymous lake, Zurich wins hearts with a magnificent panorama of the snow-covered Alps on the horizon. The city center is bristling with tourist attractions, sights, and interesting things to do – more than 50 museums, 100 art galleries, boutiques, and a vibrant nightlife will keep you pretty busy.
Architecture lovers will appreciate centuries-old buildings adorned with fresco paintings and plants in flowerpots. When checking out the Old Town of Zurich, look closely at the St.Peter’s Cathedral, it has the largest clock face in Europe. If you prefer recreational activities outside of city confines, boating on the lake or hiking along the scenic Uetliberg Mountain trails are at your disposal.
3. Lucerne and Lake Lucerne – a beautiful lakeside city surrounded by snowcapped mountains
Lucerne – located at the foothills of picture-perfect Mount Pilatus – is a quintessentially Swiss city beloved of many a visitor and home to traditional town squares, historic buildings, painted facades, and narrow cobbled streets lined with shops selling traditional goods.
The gorgeous city is also famous for its beautifully preserved medieval bridges, one of which dates back to 1333. There are lots of things to see in do in Lucerne, make sure you add extra visiting time for the picturesque Lake Lucerne. It’s a huge irregularly shaped lake encircled by towering mountains – an area that is often said to be similar to Norway’s famous fjords.
- You may also like our post on the best places to visit in Norway.
4. Swiss National Park – part of the worldwide UNESCO Biosphere Reserve known for its stunning Alpine scenery
Switzerland has only one national park, but this one is pretty special. Located in the Western Rhaetian Alps, in eastern Switzerland, it’s part of the UNESCO biosphere reserve, it’s home to beautiful scenery, wildlife and 80 kilometres of paths which allows visitors to explore the carefully preserved alpine environment.
Expect to see winding wild azure rivers, stunning peaks and dense areas of beautiful alpine forest.
5. Chateau de Chillon – a beautiful and romantic castle nestled on Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva is one of the most famously beautiful lakes in the world but if you really want to crank up the fairytale factor then head for Chateau de Chillon. This medieval castle lords it over Lake Geneva from its rock island, and offers gorgeous views both inside and out.
Over a thousand years of history are displayed in the remarkably well-preserved castle and the building has inspired the works of famed writers Jeans-Jacque Rosseau and Lord Byron – if you visit you’ll see why!
6. Zermatt and the Matterhorn – the famous alpine peak ever and its neighbouring mountain resort village
Located in southern Switzerland’s Valais canton this is Switzerland’s highest ski resort. Zermatt is a car-free Alpine village famous for both its picture-postcard prettiness and its close location to the imposing Matterhorn. The steep slopes of this famous mountain once intimidated hikers from even attempting to scale it.
Since the first successful attempt in 1865, many more brave mountaineers have made it to the top of the famed mountain. This area is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Switzerland but this kind of scenery comes at a price – accommodation in Zermatt is among the most expensive in the country. Our blogger friend has also written a post on the best hikes in Switzerland.
- Check out our post on Exploring Zermatt
7. Bern – a UNESCO listed city filled with picturesque medieval architecture
There are many beautiful cities to visit in Switzerland but Bern, located near the centre of the country, is pretty special. It’s actually the capital of Switzerland but it’s one of Europe’s smallest capitals. The medieval streets of Bern’s Old Town is particularly scenic and has even earned itself a UNESCO World Heritage status.
It’s a compact, relaxed city where time moves slowly and the locals don’t seem nearly as busy as other cities. Expect to see covered arcades, whimsical fountains, cobbled streets, world-class galleries, fantastic urban swimming, and traditional architecture all framed by rolling hills and the glacial Aare River.
8. Wengen – a pretty Swiss Alpine village known for its timber chalets and belle époque hotels
The Alpine village in the Bernese Oberland region is easily one of the most stunning places to take a trip to in Switzerland. Wengen is an impossibly perfect example of an Alpine village where traditional timber chalets cling to the slopes of the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
It’s been developed into a car-free resort town that has an exclusive upscale feel and a fine collection of belle époque hotels. In winter the high altitude and gorgeous scenery attract a discerning skiing crowd, in fact, Wengen has so many skiers at this time its population increases almost ten-fold.
9. Lake Oeschinen – one of Switzerland’s best-kept secrets
Located in Switzerland’s Kander Valley, this pristine stunning lake is fed by the glacial brooks of three surrounding mountains. It’s a beautiful and tranquil spot where nature lovers come to swim, row, hike and – in winter – ride the 3.5-kilometer long toboggan run which travels from the lake to the gondola station.
The surrounding area is also known for its rich flora and fauna – orchids, gentian, edelweiss and herds of grazing sheep and cows all call this place home.
10. Interlaken – a pretty traditional resort town surrounded by stunning scenery
This is a traditional resort town located between two Alpine Lakes, although it’s not so much the town which has earned itself a place on this list but the surrounding area – Interlaken lies at the footsteps of the most beautiful alpine range in all of Switzerland and arguably the whole world.
The scenery is truly breathtaking with surrounding snowcapped mountains sprinkled with waterfalls, glacial lakes and lush green alpine meadows. It’s also the main transport gateway to the mountains and lakes of that region, making it an excellent base for exploring. Expect stunning mountains, dense forests, alpine meadows and glaciers, great for both hiking and skiing.
11. St Moritz – the glitzy alpine resort town
One of the oldest ski resorts in the world is the highlight of the Engadin Valley and it tends to attract a well-heeled crowd. While its counterparts often suffer from unpredictable weather, St. Moriz boasts 322 sunny days per year. Probably this is why royal dynasties, politicians, billionaires, and celebrities prefer St. Moriz as a resort of their choice.
The high cost puts many people off St. Moritz but those who get here benefit from a kind of ski ‘business class’. Skiing (as well as sledding, snowboarding, and cross-country skiing) is the best reason to visit these parts but not the only one. St. Moritz-Bad is also a famous health resort with lots of spas, thermal pools, massage salons, beauty parlors, mud baths, and saunas.
12. Brienz – a lovely lakeside village filled with 18th-century wooden chalets
Brienz is a traditional village located in the middle of towering mountains and right on the shores on the brilliant turquoise Lake Brienz. It’s located near Interlaken but deserves a special mention of its own.
For a touch of romance head for Brunngasse which was once awarded the title of the most beautiful street in Europe. Here most of the houses are wood carved and date back from the 18th century, giving it a chocolate box prettiness.
13. Villars-Sur-Ollon – a postcard-pretty mountain village and upscale resort
Sitting on the sunlit southern terrace in the Rhone Valley, the gorgeous upscale resort town of Villars-sur-Ollon offers breathtaking views of the Dan du Midi and the Mont Blanc massif, as well as Lake Geneva. The world-famous ski resort boasts 25 kilometers of premier snow slopes and 44 kilometers of cross-country ski trails.
Besides that, it has three snowparks, a snow kindergarten, sledding hills, and numerous winter hiking trails, not to mention the lively après ski activities. If after a busy day you want to experience true relaxation, a plethora of wellness centers in the thermal spring area are waiting for you.
In summer, the main activities of Villars-sur-Ollon are hiking, mountain biking, and golf. You can explore over 300 km of marked trekking routes and 150 km of mountain bike trails. One of the most exciting routes leads to the mountain lakes Lac de Chavonne, Lac de Bretaye, and Lac Noir.
- Check out our visit to Villars in Skis and Skidoos – a trip to Villars
14. Grindelwald – a dreamy mountain resort surrounded by unique Alpine landscape
One of the most famous ski resorts in Switzerland, Grindelwald, sits in the shadow of three magnificent peaks: Jungfrau (4158 m above sea level), Mönch (4099 m) and Eiger (3970 m). Nature skillfully crafted this one-of-a-kind landscape consisting of steep rocks, neat plateaus, and gentle slopes.
There is no such place in Central Europe where glaciers get so close to the valley. They are easily accessible for snow enthusiasts. Besides skiing, you can explore the mysterious Blue Ice Grotto and the sublime Glacial canyon, which are just a stone’s throw from Grindelwald.
However, the main highlight of this place is the cogwheel railway nestling on the summit of the Kleine Scheidegg Mountain.
15. Basel – home to a beautiful Old Town and plenty of culture
Divided in half by the Rhine River, Basel, the 3rd largest Swiss city, proudly sits between Germany and France. It owes its cultural diversity as well as a bizarre mixture of architectural styles to this unique geographical position. This is perhaps the only place on Earth from which you can travel to another country (more precisely, to two foreign countries) by tram.
If you decide to focus only on the Basel’s center, you’ll have so much to see and to do. Head to the market square with its richly embellished government buildings and the Gothic cathedral to soak in history or visit one of the 40 local museums – they are a concrete proof that Basel is a city of arts.
16. Lake Constance – the sprawling lake that borders Switzerland, Germany and Austria
Situated in northeastern Switzerland at an altitude of 400 meters, this lake is known by three names: Lake Constance, Bodensee, and the Swabian Sea. The huge reservoir, which is about 65 kilometers long, is the third-largest lake in Europe. Thanks to its enormous size, it washes the shores of three countries – Switzerland, Germany, and Austria.
The picture-perfect landscape unfolding around the lake is a true paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Water sports, hiking, roller-skating, and biking activities lure tourists from every corner of the world. While you are here, a cruise across these azure waters is a must-do.
17. Seebergsee – a stunning alpine lake surrounded by beautiful green hills
The Seebergsee lake, which home is the canton of Bern, seems almost a pond in comparison with other Swiss lakes. However, while being inferior to its counterparts in size, it is not inferior in beauty. This oasis of tranquility offers several routes for cyclists and backpackers running across ravishing green foothills.
Picturesque grassy landscapes framing the lake are an ideal spot for picnics, sunbathing, and chilling-out. Fell free to plunge into these cool waters and swim across the entire lake. After that, you can climb a couple of steep cliffs lending epic views of the Seebergee and the surrounding mountain terrains.
18. Jungfraujoch – a mountain region known for its beauty
A journey to Jungfraujoch Mountain is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for those who love mountain peaks, clear air, crystal clear sky, and chilling wind. You can get there by the cog railway Jungfrau running 9 km from the Kleine Scheidegg pass to Jungfraujoch.
By the way, the Jungfraujoch station, housed at an altitude of 3454 meters above sea level, is the highest in Europe. It offers fantastic panoramic views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountain peaks, as well as the longest glacier in the Alps. Spend a few minutes enjoying these divine views and then plunge through a tunnel to reach the Ice Palace exhibiting a large collection of ice sculptures.
After that, you can climb the Sphinx observation terrace or go for a stroll along the Alpine Sensation circular underground walk.
19. Spiez – a gorgeous lakeside resort surrounded by hills and vineyards
Spiez is a small town in the picturesque bay of Lake Thun. The town is especially beautiful in the summer when it is filled with lush greenery and flowers. Unlike many other cities in Switzerland, Spiez does not have an ancient core – except for an old castle, it’s dotted with small but lovely low-rise buildings.
However, the local nature is worth it to drop by Spitz on your trip to Switzerland. The skyey waters of Lake Thun are surrounded by the towering Swiss Alps, which carefully protect the mere from cool winds. The stunning greenery of Swiss nature and vineyards complement the blue-ish color palette.
Be sure to try the produce of local wineries and mouthwatering fish specialties. Besides in-town activities and attractions, you may take a look at many sights found within a 20-minute drive from Spiez; some of them you can reach if taking a boat ride on Lake Thun.
20. Appenzell – a charming tradition-rich mountain town
This beautiful region in Switzerland is a place where traditional Swiss culture is still very much alive. It’s only 66 square miles in size yet it’s packed with more charm and cultural richness than you’ll find in most other countries.
Protected by the surrounding mountains, gorgeous villages dot the rolling hills and historical pastimes like folk music and traditional dancing are still a regular occurrence here.