20 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Switzerland
Nestled in the cradle of the Alps, swathed by glacial lakes, and blessed by some of the clearest waters in the world, Switzerland offers a fantastic choice of Switzerland's top attractions for visitors.
From spectacular scenery, world-class recreation and adventure activities to mouth-watering cuisine and fascinating history, Switzerland's attractions are not only enough to keep you busy for weeks, they can also easily become your favorite travel memories.
Make sure you visit some of the top Switzerland attractions with our list of the top tourist attractions in Switzerland.
One of the most famous mountain destinations in the world is Zermatt, and for good reason. The region has more than 120 glaciers, of which 22 are protected by the Zermatt Landkreis, a hilly region in the heart of Switzerland. The vast majority of the glaciers are open to the public, and those accessible are perfect for trekking. Each glacier has its own unique characteristics, but they all make for dramatic hikes. Some of the best are found on the lower slopes of the Matterhorn, and these include the world's first cross-mountain ski resort, the Piz Gloria and the Weisshorn Glacier, which overlooks the village of Zermatt. Guides are usually hired to show you around and help you reach the top of the latter. Most people, however, choose to go with Zermatterbahn, which offers a fantastic bus service in the summer months between the village and the top. Other trips available include glacier walking with a local glacier expert, as well as golfing at two of the best golf courses in the world, the Château du Glacier and the Belle-Vue.
On Lake Lucerne stands the five-spired, medieval church of the Fraumunster Monastery, its massive height matching its magical, fairy tale history. The city of Lucerne, situated below the monastery, also makes a lovely sight with its arcades and buildings surrounded by pastel-colored houses and yellow-gold buildings. With its imposing architecture and central location in the Swiss Alps, Lucerne is a popular destination for tourists and business travelers. There are an abundance of services, hotels, and attractions. The Uetliberg mountain region, with its castles, wooded mountains, and valleys and wildlife can be reached in a day trip. Shopping in Lucerne is excellent, with a variety of art and souvenir stores as well as some wonderful souvenirs from the Alps region.
Lake Lucerne, Switzerland's largest lake and the most important freshwater lake in Europe, covers nearly 130 square kilometers (nearly 50 square miles) and has more than 240 islands. The lake's waters are connected to the Rhine and the Gotthard rivers and flow into the Rhine near Lake Constance. It is renowned for its clarity and the number of its karst caves and mountains on its northern shores. One of the best places to see these mountain glaciers is around the mountain village of Adelboden. The Jungfrau, Eiger, Mönch, and Pilatus mountains provide panoramic views of the lakes, surrounding Alps, and the southern Swiss plains. The best way to get around the lake is by boat or electric train. Bus services are also available and run through much of the city center.
The City of Bridges (Bärengraben) is the nickname given to this city's location. It's divided into seven districts that span hills, creeks, and major roads and the river Aare, surrounded by the Swiss Alps. The beautiful old town was created over many centuries to keep floods at bay, and now offers everything from museum treasures to towering hillside hiking trails. A visit to Bern should be started at the Bärenpark, the zoo with picturesque enclosures built into the Alpside. Next stop should be the Arboretum, where the city's botanical collection is displayed, or the Periodegal to walk up to the Rathaus (Town Hall) and across the Scheidplatz to the four-turreted Bern cathedral, the Zytglogge. Closer to the city center, leafy walks follow the river through the Stadtpark, where the two Bernese lakes of Kinzig and Laufen are located. The highlight of a tour is the Käserei in Hergiswil, Switzerland's most famous cheese factory, with good guided tours and a chance to smell the maturing cheese on display.
With picturesque valleys, glacier lakes, alpine meadows, rivers and waterfalls, the Oberland is an ideal place for mountain tourism. No fewer than 11 national parks, lakes and glaciers dot the region, and snow-capped peaks seem to pop up everywhere. The area boasts a number of top-class attractions, including Wengen in the Engadine Valley; Interlaken, Europe's largest contiguous urban agglomeration, a lively ski resort with a lively town center and pedestrian zone; and the enchanting city of Lucerne. Another place of some historic importance is Chur in the Engadine Valley, a town most famous for its religious significance. Things to see in Bernese Oberland include Luberon National Park with its fields of wildflowers in the spring and plenty of vistas and picturesque villages; the largest Swiss skiing area, Gstaad, known for its restaurants and hotels, as well as its nightclubs; and Interlaken, home to many international conference centers and universities.
The bustling city of Basel, situated on the Rhine River is a metropolitan town that is home to one of Europe's oldest universities. With a lot to offer visitors in terms of culture, Basel also makes an excellent base for exploring nearby regions such as the Alsace-Lorraine, Germany; and the Schwarzwald National Park and Schwarzwaldforschung nature reserve, Germany, just over the Swiss-German border. In the city itself you can enjoy a variety of attractions, with many hotels offering on-site restaurants, and the tourist office providing a wealth of information on the region and the city. In order to appreciate the city better, it is advisable to stay in Basel for several days, visiting its many museums, shops, galleries and landmarks.
St. Moritz is a town of discreet hotels, lush Alpine scenery, Swiss-Italian fusion cuisine, and magnificent summer weddings. It’s a paradise for lovers of the Great Outdoors and Nature, with long sledding runs and skii runs, hiking and horse-riding on its doorstep. St. Moritz is also a town that values appearances, and it shows: Outside of town, its famous promenades and restaurant terraces grace beautiful Swiss countryside, often with striking views of the snow-covered Alps. An excursion to Lauterbrunnen or Interlaken is obligatory to see the extraordinary views and the Ice Monuments. St. Moritz' top sights include Hotel Royal St. Moritz, a charming 17th century chalet that has hosted heads of state and international royalty, as well as its historic Hotel Metropole. The latter is a boutique hotel that offers excellent modern Swiss-Italian fusion cuisine, and a great location, overlooking the sun-kissed hillside of Paradise Park.
The only real way to enter Interlaken is from the north: from Bern, you follow the Rhine River up through the Swiss Alps to Lake Brienz, then continue on to Interlaken. Visitors pass through the village on their way to more adventurous alpine climbs such as across the Jungfraujoch or down the train-mounted Lauterbrunnen Gorge. Interlaken's town center is on the northeastern edge of Lake Brienz, in a green hilltop village with whitewashed houses and narrow winding streets. The train station sits at the base of the Jungfraujoch, Switzerland's highest mountain and the gateway to the two European alpine divisions. In winter, about 300 visitors per day make the climb to the 2,410-meter-high train station, many of them making a day trip from Zurich. In summer, the entire region's entire train network is made accessible to visitors.
While Zurich is known as a modern European city, there is also a strong sense of its Swissness. There's a charming old city center with narrow alleys and cobbled streets, as well as colorful markets and museums. In recent years, the city has been undergoing a revival, with luxury hotels and more contemporary-style apartments being built, as well as a number of interesting museums and galleries. Though you can spend a day shopping in Zurich's city center, the best place to see the Swiss way of life is in the nearby villages of Wallisellen, Stansstad, Trub, and Uster, where you'll find real Swiss alpine villages with their white-stucco houses, cutesy wooden chalets, and active cultural life. There are also several lakes nearby, which make a perfect base for canoeing, hiking, or cycling. The airport is located in Olten, about 5 km (3 mi) from Zurich.
The setting of Switzerland's most famous fictional fairytale, J. M. Barrie's The Little Professor, was filmed in nearby Lenzburg, where the dramatic Reichenbach Falls cascade down through Reichenbach's fairy-tale castle. After the filming in the 1930s, the castle and its hotel became a popular tourist attraction with guests including James Stewart and Clark Gable. In the pre-World War II days, the castle still functioned as a real Swiss castle. Today the building is open to the public as a museum, with displays of the original black-and-white films used to shoot the 1935 film featuring the Salzburg-born Stewart. The castle's surrounding grounds and pool are open to the public as well.
One of the largest glaciers in Europe, Aletsch Glacier is a spectacular sight to see at any time of the year. But the best time to visit is during winter, when giant icebergs break off the glacier and create a magical spectacle of icicles, ice and water as they move rapidly down the glacier. Walk along the meandering ice flow to gape at the epic scenery and admire the blue ice created as the glaciers flow towards the frigid, glacial lakes below. Don't miss the dramatic Tschuggenwand railway that climbs through the glacier at more than one kilometer per hour, the longest glacier-railway in Europe. The scenery is so spectacular that at the end of the 30 kilometer track, you'll feel like you have taken a step back in time, as the massive stones of the past are met by a fast-flowing river. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails through the area around the glacier, so you can combine the hikes and mountain biking into one amazing experience. There is also a leisurely cruise through the meltwaters that leaves from below the glacier.
Lausanne's River Leysse flows into the Lake of Geneva on its way through the small city. A pedestrian only bridge connects the old town with the train station, and the church of Notre Dame is located on the west side of the lake, which is connected to the rest of the city by a long bridge. The old town's sights include the Du Vin Tower and the Musée Historique des Travaux Publics de l'Isère, which was built in 1899.
For anyone seeking a relaxed and genuinely Swiss mountain adventure, Valais Alps makes an ideal choice. On clear days, the views from the Grosses Wässerchen (great waterfall) are awe-inspiring and a hike along the Seiljoch (Seil trail) to the nearby Hohtälli plateau makes for a memorable outing. To really get under the skin of the region and experience the Swiss Alps at its best, consider a high-altitude hiking or skiing holiday to make the most of the area's highest peaks, the Jungfrau, Monch and Wetterhorn.
Matterhorn is the highest mountain in the Alps, with its summit standing at 3,478 meters. Though high and unforgiving, the limestone monolith offers rewarding hikes for both hikers and climbers. Laid back in summer but a popular winter destination, the Alpine village of Zermatt sits at an altitude of 2,255 meters, giving a stunning view of the Matterhorn peak. Surrounded by meadows of flowers, the historic center of the town is lined with the black- and red-roofed buildings of the Old Town, where there are numerous antiques shops, wine cellars, and cafés. The largest and most famous ski resort in Switzerland, Zermatt also has an extensive network of well-groomed trails for hiking. The classic ascent is the Riffelalp-Männlichen trail, which leads to a mountain meadow before climbing to the summit. Some 130 mountain railways transport people up and down the mountain, and travelers of all ages can enjoy panoramic views on any of the many trains that pass over the many stations at an altitude of up to 3,478 meters. The region also is known for a variety of festivals, including the Advent festivities that mark the beginning of winter.
Sion is situated in the middle of the Alps, surrounded by its three sister cities, Meiringen, Brunnen, and Bulle. The easy-to-see town is home to a cathedral, several religious buildings, an unusual collection of grand hotel facades, and a castle on a small hill at the top of the village. It is the best place to stay in the region, and all parts of town are easily reached on foot from the train station. The historical heart of Sion is the 15th-century Petit-Saint-Martin church and a new museum, Sion Luberon/Aventure, in the old town hall, which showcases the natural setting of the Sion Valley. The town offers a number of easy-to-reach outdoor activities. In the summer, many activities take place in the surrounding area, including rock climbing, mountain biking, paragliding, and mountain hiking. It is best reached by train, and this beautiful town has many options for hotels, or you can stay in the old town with its famous historical and cultural significance.
In the heart of the old city, the Bevaix Maison du Travail now operates as a modern conference centre, hosting international conferences and the annual meeting of the League of Nations. From here, visit the Beaubourg Art Centre, with its collections of modern art. A lovely promenade runs from the Bevaix Maison du Travail to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, where there are many artworks dating from the 15th century onwards. Several other landmarks of historic interest can be seen throughout the city, including the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, the Palais de Rumine, and the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire. If you're visiting during the World Museum Open Days, you can also visit the natural history museum, the museum of contemporary art, and the Speicherstadt Art Center. Geneva, a city of 150,000 people, is known as a city of peace with more than 80 embassies based there, making it the international capital of diplomacy. Visit the CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) for a unique opportunity to visit the huge 27-kilometer (17-mile) underground particle accelerator and the General Directorate of Atomic Energy, a major producer of nuclear energy and has two reactors, and is home to the International Design Centre (IDC) in the heart of the city. Switzerland is a country that prides itself in security and offers protection and support to journalists and other groups who are actively working to uphold the values of human rights and justice for all.
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The chalet-lined streets of Neuchâtel are pleasantly alpine in the Swiss Riviera style. Having the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the headquarters of the International Sports Federations, there are endless opportunities for Olympic and sports-related activities. The Aare River joins Lake Neuchâtel in the center of the city and is host to a number of sport events, including the World University Swimming Championships every year. The fishing port on the lake is also one of the most beautiful in Switzerland and holds three to four sailboat regattas a year. The world's first Ski to Sea Day is held annually at the Schluein-see, a lake in the hilly surroundings of Neuchâtel.
On the northern tip of Lake Lucerne, the little town of Chur makes an excellent base for exploring the surrounding mountains. The town is dominated by the five-story, red brick Gothic cathedral, finished in 1441 and one of the most impressive examples of its type in Switzerland. Housing what was once the town's abbey and cloisters, the cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sion. Outside its bell tower, known locally as the Schneegarten, is a large bronze bell cast by the Italians in the 17th century, the work of a local foundry. Located at the foot of a steep hill, the steep, cobbled square in front of the cathedral was once the site of the city's tollbooth, and today still gives the square its name, Zollfreihof. An outdoor market and most shops are found in the street behind the cathedral. Gaspareas, or large wine and food stores, are ubiquitous, and provide the perfect place to sample local wines and delicacies such as Wasserburg ham. The town is also home to the famous Tobler brand of chocolate. Located 5km south of Chur is the town of Rorschach with its restaurants, hotels and the famous Museum Rorschach. On a hillside is a spectacular view of the Eiger and the Jungfrau, the majestic mountain peaks of the Bernese Alps.
Dotted along the Rhône valley in the south of Switzerland, this town of narrow cobblestone streets is at the foothills of the Matterhorn, and many of its 15,000 inhabitants still speak the local French dialect. Meiringen is surrounded by the Jura mountains that form the spine of Switzerland. The scenery is unspoiled and views are breathtaking. One of the highlights of this pretty town is a hike through the beech and oak forests to Lake Niederdörfli, where in spring and summer, colorful mountain flowers and trails make for a magical spot.
Accessible from the Netherlands, Aigle lies between the French and German borders, just east of Basel. On a clear day you can see the Alps. Despite being close to the border between two different countries, Aigle retains a distinctly Swiss feel. The French influence is evident in the architecture and particularly the language, while the Swiss influence is in the proximity to Switzerland, although Aigle feels more like a French village than a Swiss one. Noteworthy sights include the Romanesque St-Andre and the 13th century Romanesque St-Urbain, as well as the Roman Catholic Church of St. Peter. Aigle boasts a pleasant network of cycle paths, which are well signed. Public transport is not particularly easy, however, and if you are planning to cycle in Switzerland, consider taking a bus or train from Basel, near the border with Aigle.