Breathtaking scenery? Check. Cultural immersion? Check. Food trip? Check. The great outdoors? Check.
Whatever your reason for traveling may be, there’s a long list of to do’s that anyone can tick off their bucket list with a visit to Switzerland. Despite the country being relatively small as compared to other destinations in Europe, Switzerland has just as much, if not more, to offer as a destination. Boasting of the perfect balance between picturesque landscapes, urban cities, and off-the-beaten track excursions, the challenge is actually figuring out where to go because every city and town seems to be an excellent location.
With one of the best transportation systems you can ever find in any country, it’s fairly easy to make a stop at these locations when you find yourself heading over to Switzerland:
The city, the lake, and the mountains – three things that make the city of Lucerne a must-see for anyone traveling through central Switzerland. Dubbed as Switzerland’s “city of delights”, Lucerne feels like an ancient town telling of the country’s history: the medieval Chapel Bridge regarded as one of the oldest wooden bridges in Europe, the Jesuit church that is Switzerland’s first sacral Baroque building, and Old Town, which sits on the bank of Reuss and preserves many old burgher’s houses and town squares. At the same time, Lucerne is home to cutting-edge and modern designs such as that of KKL, otherwise known as the Culture and Convention Centre, which is a concert hall and art gallery.
While sightseeing around Lucerne is a cultural immersion on its own, visitors cannot pass on what nature has to offer in the areas surrounding Lucerne. Whether it’s a relaxing steamship cruise on Lake Lucerne or a cableway trip to Pilatus, one of the most legendary places in Central Switzerland, excursions into the nearby mountains and Lake Lucerne is a must.
Any time you look up information on Switzerland, you will surely come across the Matterhorn, one of the world’s most famous and beautiful mountains, which is one of the best reasons to make a trip to Zermatt. Located at the foot of the Matterhorn at an altitude of 1,600 meters, the car-free town of Zermatt lies in the middle of a ski region that covers 54 mountain railways and 360 kilometers of pistes – groomed and maintained for every skill level of skiers and snowboarders.
Heading to Zermatt via the Glacier Express, which runs from Brig, to Visp, Täsch, and on to Zermatt, offers views of the Monte Rosa range, and passes a number of quaint attractions like chalets, villages, and gardens. Once at the town, visitors can choose any activity from walking, cycling, mountaineering, and, of course, skiing and snowboarding. A cog railway also brings you up to an altitude of 3,089 meters to Gornergrat for a magnificent panorama of the Swiss alps. Zermatt is also home to luxury hotels, world-class spas, and excellent shopping, which makes this town great for both adventure-seekers and family vacationers.
Another favorite for mountain-lovers headed to Switzerland is Grindelwald – a quaint town tucked within the heart of the Bernese Alps, surrounded by lush foliage and surrounded by the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau mountains. While relatively at a lower altitude than Zermatt, Grindelwald is still a fantastic destination for skiing, boasting of the largest ski resort in the Jungfrau region and the world-famous Lauberhorn World Cup piste near Wengen. There are 300 kilometers of walking trails around Grindelwald as well, offering some of the most beautiful hiking trips in the region.
Key events also take place in Grindelwald, such as the World Snow Festival in January where artists from all over the world construct snow figures and sculptures, and the Spring Mountain Festival in June or July held on the Männlichen that is a burst of culture with dances in traditional costumes, folk music, and flag throwers.
Probably one of the most popular destinations in Switzerland is also the country’s largest city. Zurich is a metropolitan city that sits by the waters of the splendid Limmet river. While perceived as an upscale banking city famous for its thriving corporate industry, high-end shopping, and fancy chocolates, Zurich does not fall behind in splendor with exquisite views of the snowcapped Alps, walking streets leading to over 50 museums and more than 100 art galleries, and the Niederdorf, a section of town where flamboyant nightlife comes alive.
Not to be missed is the thriving food scene in Zurich. While dining out tends to be pricey, foodies can spend days scouring the many gastronomic experiences in the city, from traditional dishes in the century-old Kronenhalle and regional cuisine in the upscale Razzia, to the more eclectic and zany restaurants found in Zurich West.
No trip to Switzerland can be complete without a visit to its capital city, Bern. While most capital cities are characterized by hectic and hurried lifestyles, Bern has successfully retained its medieval flair, most often described as a tranquil city filled with museums, churches, and historic buildings. Perhaps the most distinct landmark in the city is the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with cobbled streets, limestone buildings, the iconic Clock Tower, and six kilometers of independent shops and is considered as the longest covered shopping promenade in the world. And because Switzerland is all about nature, Old Town is also surrounded by the turquoise water of the Aare River, which becomes a summer destination for swimming and boating activities.
Being the seat of government, a trip to Bern needs a trip to the House of Parliament, looming above the city and open to visitors when the Parliament is not sitting. Fronting this building is the Parliament Square, which holds a traditional weekly market and serves as a communal space for residents and visitors to spend the day just taking in the beauty and peace of the city.
Hopefully, you have enough time to fit every destination listed here into your itinerary because taking a trip to these cities and towns pretty much gives you a full experience of what it means to live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. If you’re not that lucky, traveling to any of these destinations will surely make your visit to Switzerland worth every penny.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. Roger is the founder of Expert World Travel – A place to get tips, tricks, advice and reviews on everything related to travel. He has visited over 40 countries and is currently living in Switzerland, which enables him to get around Europe easily and often. His site talks about all things travel, but mostly about travel gear, as he goes through a lot of it (buying, breaking, trying). His tips and tricks and destinations are always a great source of information. If you have a specific request or question, don’t be shy. You can pop over to his contact page and send him a message! You can also connect with him on Twitter @RogerWillTravel