Straddling the Alps in central Europe, Switzerland is a land of stunning natural beauty and interesting cities. The country is renowned for its ski resorts and hiking trails, but there are plenty of other attractions in Switzerland for those who want to experience something different. And being the country of chocolate, it is indeed one of the most desired by travelers to Europe. And with that in mind, I have prepared this article with the 15 Best Places and Things to Do in Switzerland to help you decide where to go.
Things to do in Switzerland, Places to Visit, and Attractions
1. Bern, Capital of Switzerland
If you ask, “what is the capital of Switzerland?” The immediate answer for many people is likely to be one of the two largest cities in the country (Geneva or Zurich). But, in fact, the capital of Switzerland is the very charming Bern. This is one of those nice cities to visit on foot, and that can be explored in 1 day of itinerary or even in a well-planned “day trip.” Not because it is a small city, but because its historical center is very well preserved and concentrated. This makes it one of the best places to visit in Switzerland if you are short on time.
In the Old Town of Bern, you will find a medieval city that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of the largest conservation areas in Europe and includes 6 kilometers of well-preserved fortifications. The Zytglogge is the most famous clock tower in Bern and one of the symbols of Switzerland. Nearby is the Kramgasse, the street with the highest concentration of restaurants, cafes, and shops in the city.
In addition to its historical heritage, Bern is also a city of culture. The Bern Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Arts) is one of the most important in Switzerland and has a collection of more than 4,000 works, including paintings by Paul Klee. The Bern History Museum is also worth a visit and tells the history of the city in an interactive way.
Finally, Bern stands out for its many fountains, a legacy left by the city’s wealthy 16th-century merchants. There are around 100 fountains in the city, and they are all different. The most famous is the Kindlifresserbrunnen, located in the square of the same name, which represents a man devouring children (a not-so-reassuring figure for a fountain).
The main city of Switzerland is undoubtedly Zurich, the largest and most important in economic terms. But anyone who thinks that, because of this, Zurich is an uninteresting city for tourism or focused only on finance is very mistaken. Zurich is a city with an intense cultural and leisure offer, in addition to being one of the main fashion capitals in Europe.
Zurich’s old town is simply gorgeous and definitely deserves a place on this list of things to do in Switzerland. Walking through its streets is like traveling back in time, with buildings from the 13th century, churches and cathedrals, squares, and fountains. In the old town, there are also some of the most important museums in the city, such as the Swiss National Museum (with collections of objects from prehistoric times to the present day) and the Grossmunster, a Romanesque church with two characteristic twin towers.
Leaving the old town and walking towards the Limmat River, you will find one of the most charming neighborhoods in Zurich, Niederdorf. With its colored houses, small shops, and cafes, this is the perfect place to take a break and relax.
Zurich is also a great city for shopping, with its luxury stores, designer boutiques, and large shopping centers. And if you are looking for nightlife, Zurich has no shortage of bars, nightclubs, and live music venues.
And although this town is located in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, English is widely spoken here, so there is no language barrier. All in all, Zurich should be at the top of your list of places to visit in Switzerland as it has a little bit of everything for everyone.
3. The Matterhorn
The Matterhorn is undoubtedly one of the most famous attractions in Switzerland and an absolute must-see on any trip to the country. This mountain, which has an altitude of 4,478 meters, is one of the highest in Europe and is located in the Swiss Alps.
The Matterhorn is one of the most coveted peaks by mountaineers from all over the world, and although it may seem like a simple task to climb, the truth is that it is a very complex ascent that should only be attempted by experienced climbers.
In any case, even if you don’t intend to climb the Matterhorn, it is still possible to enjoy this natural wonder in various ways. One option is to take The Matterhorn Glacier Ride l, which reaches a height of 3,883 meters and has the title of highest cable car station in Europe.
If you don’t like heights, another option is to stay at one of the many mountain lodges located at the foot of the Matterhorn. From here, you can go on hikes and walks to enjoy the landscape without having to take any risks. One of the most recommended mountain lodges is Matterhorn Focus, located in the village of Zermatt. This 4-star hotel has large rooms with views of the Matterhorn, a spa area, and an excellent restaurant.
4. Lake Geneva
One of the things that makes Switzerland a top destination for nature lovers is its large number of lakes. Among them, the largest and most famous is Lake Geneva. This lake is located in the French-speaking part of the country, bordering the city of Geneva. In fact, a good part of the lake is within the city limits and can be explored on foot or by bike.
The best way to get to know Lake Geneva and its surroundings is by taking a boat trip. There are several companies that make cruises with different routes and durations, which makes it possible to explore the lake according to the time you have available. The most famous route is the one that goes from Geneva to Montreux, a city located at the eastern end of the lake and famous for its music festival that happens every year in July.
On the shores of Lake Geneva, there are also several small towns and villages worth visiting, such as Vevey, Renens, Nyon, Lausanne, and many others. Each has its own charms and is worth a visit.
In short, a visit to Lake Geneva is one of the best things to do in Switzerland and a must-see for anyone traveling to the country.
Being among the most visited tourist destinations in Switzerland, Lucerne is certainly a city that cannot be missed on any itinerary through the country. This city is very picturesque and is known for its well-preserved medieval center with its colorful houses, streets full of flowers, and covered bridges.
The Chapel Bridge, also known as Kapellbrucke, was built in 1333 and is Lucerne’s most famous landmark. This bridge is the oldest covered wooden bridge in Europe and is considered a symbol of the city. In addition to the Chapel Bridge, another must-see attraction in Lucerne is the Lion Monument, a tribute to the Swiss guards who died in 1792 during the French Revolution.
Lucerne is located right on the shores of Lake Lucerne, which makes the city even more charming. The best way to get to know this lake is to take a cruise and enjoy the scenery. There are several cruise companies that operate in Lucerne, offering different routes and duration times.
In addition to its natural beauty, Lucerne has another great attraction: Mount Pilatus. This mountain can be reached by cable car. And once you’re at the top, there are several hiking trails with different levels of difficulty. The panoramic view from the summit is simply incredible and makes the trip up Mount Pilatus well worth it.
As you can see, Lucerne is home to some of the top Swiss attractions and a must-see for any traveler to the country.
The Jungfraujoch, nicknamed the “Top of Europe,” is one of the top tourist attractions in Switzerland, especially for those who enjoy skiing and winter sports. The Jungfraujoch is a high mountain pass located in the Alps between the mountains Jungfrau and Monch.
Access to the Jungfraujoch is made by the famous train Jungfraubahn, which starts the journey in Kleine Scheidegg and, after passing through 2 tunnels inside the mountain, reaches an altitude of 3,454 meters, being the highest railway station in Europe. The landscapes that can be seen during the trip and at the top of the Jungfraujoch are simply breathtaking, with an impressive view of the mountains, glaciers, and valleys of the Alps.
In addition to the landscapes, at the top of Jungfraujoch, there are several tourist attractions, such as the Ice Palace, a series of caves and tunnels sculpted in the ice where it is possible to admire amazing ice sculptures; the Sphinx Observatory, located at an altitude of 3,571 meters and from where you have a 360 degrees view of the Swiss Alps; or the Alpine Sensation, a walkway that allows you to cross part of the Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in Europe.
A visit to the Jungfraujoch is included in most Swiss travel itineraries, especially in winter, and is an experience not to be missed for those who enjoy skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports.
7. Visit the Castles of Bellinzona
The Castles of Bellinzona are a group of 3 medieval fortresses that have been classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The castles are part of the city’s fortifications and were built in the 14th and 15th centuries to defend the city from the attacks of rival dukes. The three castles, located on top of a hill, can be visited independently or together on a guided tour. They include Castelgrande, Montebello and Sasso Corbaro.
The most famous is Castelgrande, which stands out for its impressive size and being the first castle to be built in Bellinzona. Montebello, on the other hand, is located on a hill and offers beautiful views of the city. Finally, Sasso Corbaro is the highest and most recently built castle.
The best way to visit the Castles of Bellinzona is to start at the lower part of the hill, at the Castelgrande. The visit starts with a walk through the old city walls, which offer beautiful views of the city and its surroundings. Then you will visit the castle itself, with its different rooms and chambers, as well as the museum dedicated to the history of Bellinzona and its fortifications.
After visiting Castelgrande, you can walk to Montebello, which is about 10 minutes away. The visit to this castle is very similar to the previous one, with a walk through the city walls and a visit to the different rooms of the castle. The last stop on tour is Sasso Corbaro, the highest and most recently built castle. This castle was built in the 15th century and was used as a military barracks until the 19th century. Today, it houses a museum with different exposition rooms.
A visit to the Castles of Bellinzona is definitely one of the best things to do in Switzerland. Not only because of the beauty of the castles, but also because of their historical importance.
Interlaken is undoubtedly one of the most famous places in Switzerland, and one of the places tourists visiting the country cannot miss. The city is located in the Bernese Oberland region, between two majestic lakes: Thun Lake and Brienz Lake.
But what makes Interlaken so special and well known is its privileged location, which allows visitors to enjoy stunning landscapes of mountains, lakes, and glaciers. The mountainous region around Interlaken is perfect for adventure activities such as hiking, mountain biking, and even paragliding.
For those who want to enjoy the scenario without so much physical activity, Interlaken also offers the option of taking a cable car or even a mountain train to the top of one of the nearby peaks. Among the most famous are the Jungfrau, Monch, and Eiger mountains, which can be seen in the postcards of Switzerland.
Hohematte is the main square in Interlaken and the perfect place to start getting to know the city. Around it are several hotels, restaurants, cafes, shops, and flower gardens. The main street, Hoheweg, is the busiest in the city and is perfect for a leisurely walk or some window shopping.
Although it is not one of the cheapest places to visit in Switzerland, Interlaken is worth a visit, especially if you want to enjoy the Swiss Alps in all their splendor.
9. Swiss National Park
The Swiss National Park is one of the main tourist attractions in Switzerland, located in the canton of Graubunden, in the southeast of the country. The park was created in 1914 and covers an area of almost 170 square kilometers. The park’s main objective is to preserve the typical landscape of the Swiss Alps, with forests, valleys, and high mountain peaks.
The park has a rich fauna with animals such as deer, chamois, bears, lynxes, foxes, and many species of birds. There are also a few hundred plant species, some of which are quite rare.
The best way to get to know the park is on foot, with a large number of hiking trails available for visitors. There are also mountain bike trails and, in winter, cross-country ski trails.
A very special experience that can be had in the park is spending a night at Chamanna Cluozza (mountain hut), the only structure of this type inside the park. It is worth mentioning that it is necessary to book in advance, as the huts have a limited capacity.
Geneva is among the best-known cities in Switzerland and has a guaranteed presence on almost all travel itineraries. Due to Geneva’s international airport, it is common for almost every itinerary through Switzerland to start or end right here. Some people consider Geneva a bit of a “boring” destination, but honestly, that was not the impression I had of the city. On the contrary, there is a lot to do in Geneva, and it is worth booking at least two days to explore the city properly.
The first stop on any visit to Geneva must be Jet d’Eau, one of the symbols of the city and one of the top Swiss attractions. In fact, this is the world’s tallest water fountain, with water reaching 140 meters high. Nearby is the Palais des Nations, the former headquarters of the League of Nations and now a United Nations office.
If you are interested in art and culture, a must-see stop is the Musee d’Art et d’Histoire, one of the largest and most important museums in Geneva. The museum has a collection of more than 1 million objects, divided into several sections such as archaeology, numismatics, ethnography, and decorative arts.
For those who enjoy being outdoors, walking or cycling along the Geneva waterfront is a great option. The walk or ride takes you along the edge of Lake Geneva, with excellent views of the water and mountains. If you want to take a break, there are several parks along the way, such as the Parc de la Grange.
Finally, no visit to Geneva is complete without tasting the city’s famous chocolate. There are several places where you can find good chocolate, but the best option is Chocolate Frey. This is one of the oldest and most famous Swiss chocolate brands and has a store right in the center of Geneva.
A tour of Geneva is definitely one of the best things to do in Switzerland if you want to visit some of the most famous Swiss attractions. So, if you have the chance, don’t miss it!
11. Oberhofen Castle
Oberhofen Castle, one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland, is located on the shores of Lake Thun. The castle was built in the 13th century and has undergone several architectural changes over the centuries.
The present appearance of the castle, with its beautiful gardens, is due to a renovation carried out in the late 19th century. At that time, the property belonged to a wealthy English family, and they were responsible for the major changes made to the castle. Guided tours of the castle are available, which allow visitors to learn more about its history and get to know its most important rooms.
And being one of the top attractions in Switzerland, Oberhofen Castle is also one of the most photographed places in the country. The best time to photograph the castle is probably in spring when the gardens are in bloom. But the place is also beautiful in winter when it is possible to see the castle covered in snow.
12. Swiss Grand Canyon
A visit to the Swiss Grand Canyon is one of the most recommended things to do in Switzerland. This is one of the most beautiful places in the country and should not be missed on any trip.
The canyon was created over 10,000 years ago by the retreat of a glacier. Its particularity is its shape, which resembles that of a horseshoe. The canyon has a depth of over 500 meters and is about 14 kilometers long.
The best way to enjoy the canyon is to hike one of the many hiking trails that run along its edges. There are different routes, some more challenging than others, but all very rewarding. In addition to the main attraction, which is the canyon itself, there are also several waterfalls, bridges, and viewpoints from which to admire the landscape.
All in all, this is an ideal place for those who enjoy nature and hiking, as there are many things to do and see in this part of Switzerland.
13. Chateau de Chillon
Another one of the top tourist attractions in Switzerland is the Chateau de Chillon, located on the banks of Lake Geneva. This is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval castles in Europe, which is definitely worth a visit.
The castle has a fascinating history dating back to the 12th century when it was first built. Since then, it has been the scene of many important historical events and has even served as a prison. Currently, there are 25 buildings, three courtyards, and over 100 rooms open to the public, which makes it a very large and complete castle to visit.
The castle has a very complete guided tour which can last up to 2 hours and takes you through the different rooms and buildings of the castle. After visiting the castle, you can take a walk around the island or have a picnic in one of the many green areas.
Since Chillon Castle is one of the most popular places to visit in Switzerland, it can get quite crowded during peak season. And to avoid the crowds, I recommend visiting early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
14. Tour the Rhine Falls
Thinking about fun things to do in Switzerland? How about a visit to the famous Rhine Falls? Located on the border between Germany and Switzerland, the falls are considered one of Europe’s largest waterfalls, with a width of 150 meters and a drop of 23 meters.
The best way to get to know the falls is by taking a boat ride that departs from the Swiss side of the river. The tour lasts about 30 minutes, and you will have about 15 minutes to enjoy the falls up close before returning to shore.
In case you want to extend your stay near the Rhine Falls, the nearby city of Schaffhausen is worth a visit. This small city located on the banks of the Rhine River has a beautiful historic center with medieval buildings and houses covered in flowers.
Can you guess what’s so special about Basel that makes it one of the best places to visit in Switzerland? Art? Museums? Artists? You are right, all of the above. Basel is considered to be the cultural capital of Switzerland, and it is not hard to see why. The city is home to 40 museums, the highest density of museums in any city in the world. And these are not just any museums. I’m talking about some of Europe’s most important and influential museums. These include the Kunstmuseum Basel (the first public museum of art in the world), the Museum Tinguely, and the Fondation Beyeler.
And what else makes Basel so special? The city is located on the border with two other countries, France and Germany. This makes it the perfect place to enjoy a true Swiss experience while being able to explore the neighboring countries with ease. In fact, Basel is one of those cities that can be easily included in the itinerary, both for those traveling only in Switzerland and also for those traveling through neighboring countries.
All in all, due to the large number of museums, theaters, and art galleries per inhabitant, Basel is a very interesting city to visit. Therefore, it is worth looking carefully when planning your itinerary.
There are many things to do in Switzerland, regardless of your preferences and travel style. The country has a little bit of everything, from cosmopolitan cities full of history and culture to charming mountain villages surrounded by natural beauty. When planning your trip, be sure to consider including a mix of activities to make the most of your time in Switzerland. And don’t forget to try some of the local specialties, such as Swiss chocolate, cheese and, of course, Swiss wine.