WHAT ARE THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN SWITZERLAND?
Located in Central Europe and bordered on the west by France, on the south by Italy, on the east by Liechtenstein and on the north by Germany, Switzerland has all the assets to attract visitors.
Sports lovers swear by its alpine massifs where hiking trails and ski slopes are synonymous with thrills and clean air. The taste buds of lovers of good flesh can only be charmed by its gastronomy, synonymous with generosity and conviviality. As for its national culture, it will fascinate you with its strong traditions. However, the chocolate, the cows and the famous cuckoo are far from constituting the heritage of Switzerland.
Its stunning landscapes where nature is queen but also the privileged welcome that will reserve you its inhabitants will make your stay unforgettable, the time of a weekend or several days. And it’s without mentioning the richness of its medieval past, which offers the opportunity to visit monuments all equally wonderful.
Here are the 15 places you must visit in Switzerland (there’s more at the bottom of the list!):
Posted on the shores of Lake Geneva, Geneva is a cosmopolitan city full of life, surrounded by greenery. Stroll through the museum-rich old town, visit a 15th century wheat granary, and admire the Gothic-style tower and the sumptuous mosaics of St. Peter’s Cathedral erected between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Unmissable, the Russian church dating from the second half of the 19th century offers a total change of scenery. Its Byzantine-Muscovite style and its nine gilded bell towers instantly appeal to the visitor. Also worth visiting is the Philippe Patek Museum, and if you have children, the Natural History Museum (free admission). Give yourself a moment of relaxation at the botanical garden or during a boat trip on the lake to get close to the famous mighty fountain, symbol of Geneva. Finally, take the cable car to the top of Mount Salève to admire a superb panorama of Geneva and the surrounding area.
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2. LAVAUX VINEYARD TERRACES
Go hiking in the heart of the most authentic landscape in Switzerland. Classified as Unesco World Heritage in 2007, the terraced vineyards of Lavaux are an opportunity to walk in an idyllic setting in all seasons. Plunged literally into the translucent waters of Lake Geneva, the vineyard, supported by stone walls, spreads out about thirty kilometers in front of the snow-capped Alps, in a relaxing atmosphere. The slopes between picturesque villages and the lake benefit from exceptional sunshine, allowing the grapes to mature quietly. If you have your own vehicle, take the vineyard route from Aran to enjoy a beautiful landscape.
3. CHILLON CASTLE
Overlooking majestically Lake Geneva, the fortress of Chillon impresses from its 25 meters. Built on a steep rock during the 20th century, the dungeon is now classified as a historic monument after having been occupied by the Counts of Savoy since 1536, then by the Bernese until 1798. Serving from a military location, The building has undergone numerous modifications which enable it to be always in perfect condition. The visit of the tower, the numerous courses and the rooms is done in half a day during which one lives a true time travel. Stay longer to watch the sun set on the lake! If you can, try to access the castle by boat to enjoy a new perspective.
Ideally located at the foot of the Alps on Lake Lucerne, Lucerne attracts visitors from all over the world. Indeed, this picturesque town is nestled in the heart of what can be considered authentic Switzerland. Between steep mountains, crystalline lakes and meadows strewn with edelweiss, the historic monuments including the famous Chapel Bridge make a real postcard landscape. This 204-meter covered bridge, called Kapellbrücke, was built in 1333, and is the oldest fortified wooden bridge in Europe. In the shelter of its roof, it is possible to admire paintings retracing the past of the city since the Middle Ages. There a lot to see in Lucerne: you can visit exhibitions and museums, take a stroll along the Reuss, or trek in unspoiled nature, take a ride on a steamboat cruise, listen to concerts … so plan to stay several days in Lucerne. Not far from here, the fascinating Gletschergarten (the glacier garden) shows the existence of a subtropical palm-fringed beach located here more than 20 million years ago.
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5. THE TOP OF MONT PILATUS
Located in the vicinity of Lucerne, try to plan an excursion to the top of Mount Pilatus by taking the steepest cog railway on the planet. 48% slopes await you! The route is marked by splendid views of the mountains and lakes. To reach the summit, it is also possible to climb by cable car which will take you to 2,130 meters above sea level. Once on the top, you can admire an extraordinary panorama while enjoying a typically mountain dish on the terrace of a restaurant.
Crossed by the Aar, Bern is a city where it feels good to live. The provincial rhythm of this German-speaking city is enough to attract visitors. No matter where you are, the banks of the river are very close and have you believe that you are in the countryside. The medieval streets of the historic center, registered since 1983 as a world heritage site by UNESCO, attract tourists who come to see street shows. The festive atmosphere is permanent and transports us instantly to medieval times. Take advantage of the 6 kilometers of arches, a covered shopping promenade which is one of the largest in Europe. Go to the rose garden hanging above the bear park to discover an extraordinary panorama of the Swiss capital. The bell tower of the cathedral, the highest in Switzerland, also offers an extraordinary view. It is the biggest bell in the country.
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The financial heart of the country, Zurich attracts bankers, tourists and also a large number of young people who come to attend large-scale concerts. Here, the models rub shoulders with artists and students in a very convivial atmosphere. This powerful cultural metropolis is remarkable all over the world for its incredible creativity. Indeed, it was in Zurich that the ‘Dada’ movement appeared in 1916. Peacefully coiled on the banks of the Limmat at 408 meters above sea level, the German-speaking city is very pleasant to traverse. Take the winding pedestrian streets of the old town to discover 16th century mansions, courtyards and sublime squares of no fewer than 1,030 fountains. The very refined Bahnhofstrasse, built on the ancient ramparts, is a pleasant shaded avenue lined with luxury boutiques.
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8. SAINT-GALL AND ITS LIBRARY
Situated between Lake Constance and the Appenzell district, St. Gallen is an unmissable stopover in Switzerland. Its baroque cathedral has one of the richest medieval libraries in the world. Unesco’s heritage since 1983, the collegiate library contains ancient documents, some of which are millennia old, but also the most beautiful rococo room in the country. Hiking enthusiasts appreciate a visit to St. Gallen, which is the ideal starting point for excursions in a green landscape where nature has remained untouched.
9. THE RHINE FALLS
Considered to be the largest waterfall in Europe, the Rhine Falls discharge 750 cubic meters of water per second. The power of the falls is impressive when one approaches closer to the falls via a system of pontoons. A boat (paying) allows to approach the boiling waters that rush from a height of 23 meters to 150 meters wide. A steep rock emerges from the falls and allows to admire this natural spectacle, almost unreal close up. For those who love thrills, it is possible to rent canoes. Be sure to go up to the castle of Laufen which majestically overlooks the Rhine Falls. The panoramic view is striking!
10. THE CITY OF STEIN AM RHEIN
Renowned for its perfectly preserved old town, Stein Am Rhein systematically charm the visitor with its antique half-timbered houses and colorful facades. Built on the banks of the Rhine, this picturesque medieval town is worth a look especially for its magnificent natural setting. Not to miss: the Convent of St. George, where you can admire its carved ceilings, woodwork and sumptuous rooms adorned with furniture in marquetry. As for the Romanesque church of the twelfth century, you will recognize it by its gargoyles representing dragons. Finally, the castle of Klingen built in 1225 seems to watch over this Rhenish town which seems to have emerged straight from a fairy tale. Even though the town is tiny, it is worth a visit on a trip to Switzerland (it also serves as a good base for visiting the nearby Rhine Falls).
11. THE ALETSCH GLACIER
Standing majestically in the canton of Valais, the Aletsch glacier is the largest in Europe. A hike is necessary to contemplate the spectacular views. You will experience a unique adventure on trails that cross a polar landscape, with striking beauty. It is more than 23 kilometers long and is an immense monument of nature. It is a mass of 27 billion tons of ice, which earned it a label as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. Since the panoramic views of Moosfluh, Bettmerhorn and Eggishorn, you will instantly be fascinated by the 32 summits over 4,000 meters of altitude located around this colossal glacier.
Picturesque, peaceful and rural, Fribourg has retained its authentic character. Its old town immediately captivate the visitor with its narrow streets of gothic houses built in the fifteenth century, as well as its numerous fountains. Strolling along the banks of the Sarine is also an enchanting moment. In Fribourg, you will have the time to drink a coffee while enjoying the constant animation that reigns in the medieval streets. Climb aboard the funicular that connects the historic district of Neuveville to the high town, ideal for resting. Finally, for the more sporty, enjoy the impressive 360 ° panorama that unfolds in front of you from the tower of the cathedral, standing at 74 meters above this charming city.
Interlaken is situated between the lakes of Thun and Brienz, at the foot of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau summits. It’s an ideal starting point for trekking in the area. Its imposing alpine environment makes it a tourist destination very appreciated by nature lovers from all over the world. Trains, cable cars and chair lifts multiply to carry more and more visitors to the ski slopes and the countless hiking trails. Expect to meet chamois and marmots! After a trek in the middle of an intact fauna and flora, or a flight in paragliding, a paddle-wheel boat trip will complete your stay in the most remarkable way.
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14. THE VALLEY OF LAUTERBRUNNEN
Lauterbrunnen is surrounded by vertiginous rock faces and huge summits and is nestled in an amazing landscape. The 72 waterfalls that surround it create a unique atmosphere and offer a striking natural spectacle. The place had inspired Tolkien to write The Lord of the Rings. A must see: the Staubbach waterfall, one of the highest in Europe. Its roaring waters flung themselves from a colossal rock 300 meters high. Camouflaged behind imposing cliffs, the Trümmelbach waterfall will leave you speechless. On the Unesco hiking trail starting from Stechelberg, you will have the opportunity to observe eagles and black grouse that live freely in the heart of one of the largest nature reserves in Switzerland.
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15. THE MATTERHORN
A true myth for mountaineers and shot by many photographers, the Matterhorn culminates at an altitude of 4478 meters on the Italian-Swiss border, near the Aosta Valley. The village of Zermatt is worth visiting for its chic and picturesque side, but also because it is the ideal base for visiting the surroundings of this imposing alpine summit. If you are in search of thrills, its ascent will give you chills. The route of the Hörnligrat ridge is best to reach the summit, provided of course to have enough endurance and an excellent physical condition. You can also conquer the Matterhorn down the ski slopes. Hikers suffering from vertigo, don’t go there!
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MORE PLACES TO VISIT IN SWITZERLAND:
There’s so many places to visit in Switzerland that we can’t be limited to 15! Here are more beautiful spots you should see:
- The cities of Montreux, Basel and Lausanne
- The villages: Mürren & Gimmelwald, the village of Appenzell, Gruyère, Schaffhausen (must see: the view from the castle Munot), and the village of St Ursanne.
- The lakes: Thun (Lake Thunersee), Lake Lucerne, Lake Constance or Lugano
- The ramparts of the medieval town of Murten (in German: Murten)
- The Swiss National Park
- The Tectonic Arena Sardona
- The ski resort of Kandersteg (to see: the blue lake)
- The Panorama at the summit of the Säntis (2502 meters)
- The region of the Jungfrau, the village of Grindelwald (must see: the glacier gorge – Gletscherschlucht)
- The region of Ticino (see the village of Giornico)
- The region of Engelberg: canyoning, bungee jumping, paragliding …