Switzerland is a small, but beautiful country in the heart of Europe with a perfect combination of breathtaking landscape, interesting culture and efficient infrastructure, which enables everyone to explore even the most remote areas. Although it’s small in size and population, the country has four national languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh) and consists of 26 Cantons (like states), each of which offers its unique culture and character. In addition, Switzerland is a very safe country, so you don’t have to worry for your personal wellbeing or your stuff getting stolen, when walking down the streets, but can instead relax and enjoy your well-deserved holiday. Other than trying out the world famous chocolate and cheese, here is a list of activities, which you should consider while vacationing in Switzerland.
Whether it is hiking, cycling, climbing, swimming or summer sledding, Switzerland is a perfect place for spending time outdoors.
The country offers endless hiking possibilities (66’200 km of marked paths), with the most famous options being Zermatt with its majestic mountain called Matterhorn and its scenic lakes trail to the top of the Riffelalp. A hike worth doing would be also the one including a walk on the longest mountain bridge in the world! It measures at almost 500 m long. This was just built recently and must be a lifetime adventure! Another wonderful option is the world-famous Pilatus. With its height of 2’128 m it provides one of the most spectacular views over the lake Lucerne. To the top of the mountain Säntis is quite a stretch but do not worry, there is a cable car taking you straight to its highest point. The same goes for Titlis, a cable car takes you to this beautiful mountain perched just in the middle of Switzerland! Let’s not forget among the tourists favorite mountain with a height of 3’466 m. It is called Jungfraujoch and Swiss wouldn’t be Swiss if they didn’t build a railway straight to the top of this peak! Unbelievable.
In addition, the country offers around 9000 km of official cycling routes, as well as an additional 4500 km of mountain bike routes, all well marked, safe and in good condition. Many routes feature breathtaking scenery with crystal clear lakes and mountains, for example the ride around Lake Brienz at Interlaken. Another beautiful bike tour can be done around the Murten lake if you like vineyards, medieval towns and hilly surroundings.
For the adventurous souls there are two significantly beautiful rivers worth your time on your Switzerland vacation. First of all this is the legendary Aare river, known for its turquoise colour. In the summer, it is possible to go boating, kayaking or swimming in this beautiful river, which floats through the center of Berne. A great experience, for sure. There is another green-coloured river in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland (called Ticino) and goes by the name Verzasca river. It is a 30-km long mountain river perfect for a short summer plunge or if you are like James Bond in the movie Goldeneye, you can test your courage by going bungee jumping from the famous Verzasca dam.
The fact that Switzerland doesn’t have a sea doesn’t seem to bother the locals or the expats living in Switzerland. The alpine country has more than 1’500 lakes and many of them are a good choice to go swimming. The most recommendable are the Lake Lucerne with its surrounding mountains, the Brienz Lake due to its water colour, the Cresta Lake for its remoteness, Oeschinen lake for a quick refresh in the mountains, the Zurich lake for its vibe and the Lago Maggiore for its Mediterranean flair. A great tip is also the Walensee lake.
A funny thing to do in the summer is to go summer sledding in the Swiss mountains. Imagine sitting in a small lookalike car and do the sled run from the top of the mountain down to the valley in a toboggan. So much fun and something totally unique! There are many places to try it out; a good one is the one in the Flumserberg mountains along the Walensee lake.
To top that, Switzerland can be proud of its fantastic viewpoints. One definitely stands out which was mentioned before – the Pilatus mountain. There are alternatives to that. Rigi or Stoos offer views of the Lake Lucerne too and are even friendlier to one’s wallet. Consider visiting these viewpoints in the afternoon for a romantic sunset over the lake. If talking about romance, each year many hikers love to climb the mountain Grosser Mythen in the early morning hours to soak up a gorgeous sunrise above the lake and the mountains. When exploring the area of Ticino, it is worth to take the steep railway or hike 1 hour and 30 minutes to the top of the Monte Bre to enjoy the views over the Lake Lugano. There is also a nice viewpoint close to the Zurich airport. A great way to see the Zurich city from above is to go on a 40-minute hike to the top of the Uetliberg mountain. The 360° panorama view over the city as well on the lake with the surrounding Swiss Alps is simply fantastic.
Besides being rich on natural wonders, Switzerland can also boast with wonderful medieval and modern cities. Among the bigger cities, make sure to visit Zurich, Berne, Lucerne, Lugano and Lausanne. The first three cities belong to the German-speaking part of Switzerland, while Lugano speaks Italian and Lausanne’s official language is French. All of the aforementioned cities offer a unique atmosphere and are all very clean.
Zurich with its Prime tower, the second highest building in Switzerland, its national museum (aka Landesmuseum), opera house, botanical garden (no entrance fee), pretty squares, the river and lakefront and not to be missed its old town has plenty of things to offer to a visitor. Always to a big visitors’ satisfaction is also the free walking tour of Zurich, so add it to your plan when visiting this city.
Berne is the capital city of Switzerland rich in many historical buildings. The most picturesque among them are the Federal Buidling (in German Bundeshaus), the Clock tower and the Cathedral at the Munster square. To enjoy the views over the city, make sure to ascend to the viewpoint called Gurten.
Lucerne is situated in the centre of Switzerland and is a well-known tourist hub. Once in Lucerne walk the famous wooden bridge called Chapel Bridge (in German: Kappelbrücke), already built in the 14th century. Take some additional time to explore the old town of this city to get a glimpse of old colourful houses with pretty squares and fountains. Another must thing to do when wandering around the city is embarking a boat and cruising around the majestic Lake Lucerne.
In Lugano, there are spectacular viewpoints to enjoy from the mountains like Monte San Salvatore and the Monte Bre. When ascending to the aforementioned mountain, you will pass the picturesque village called Bre. Another advice, plan your stay at the end of July or beginning of August to enjoy Lugano’s open festivals with free concerts!
Lausanne is the fourth largest city in Switzerland and lies on the shores of Lake Geneva. When walking its streets you will see in many parts it is quite steep and the roads are narrow but exactly these characteristics make the city special. Take the train to Lutry and start a 3-hour walk through the scenic vineyards of Lavaux, a trail along the Lake Geneva, leading to the village St. Saphorin.
While bigger cities are an experience of its own, it is worthy to get an insight of a small Swiss medieval town too. One that comes into the mind first is the Stein am Rhein – a historic town perched along the lake Constance. Its narrow cobbled streets with small shops and lots of restaurants and bars make the town worth a visit! A short drive of 20 minutes from this town will bring you to the Europe’s biggest waterfall – the spectacular Rhine falls. Go for a boat ride to get a closer look or simply take a walk around this natural wonder. In case exploring small Swiss towns is your favourite activity to do, there is also plenty to see in Rapperswil-Jona, Brunnen, Thun, Ascona, Estavayer le Lac and Vevey.
The Switzerland trip shouldn’t come to an end after some unforgettable outdoor activities and some great sightseeing in the Swiss cities. There are photogenic castles in the northern part of Switzerland, in the canton of Aargau, such as the Lenzburg castle, built on a hill with stunning views over the surrounding landscape, as well as the Hallwyl castle at the Halliwil Lake or the very old Habsburg castle.
Back to the Swiss clichés. To make your Switzerland stay as memorable as possible Maison Cailler is a great choice if you want to see a typical chocolate factory in Switzerland. It is located in Broc, in the southeastern part of Switzerland and provides great insights into the Cailler chocolate production process. During the tour which lasts about 1,5 hours, the visitors are allowed to make their own chocolate and take it afterwards home.
While Switzerland is a relatively expensive vacation spot for tourists, it more than makes up for it in the quality of the experiences it offers. To save some expenses, consider the option of the Swiss Rail Pass for traveling around or check the Internet for carpooling options. Last but not least, consider buying food in local stores for a few meals per day, as opposed to eating out in restaurants all the time, which might save you some money.