The Most Beautiful Lakes in Switzerland

Spiez castle by lake Thun in Canton of Bern, Switzerland
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There are around 7,000 lakes in Switzerland. That's a lot of lakes for a relatively small European country! Of these thousands of lakes, only 103 are larger than 74 acres, and they're all fed by the Danube, Rhone, Rhine, and Po river systems. Countless Swiss lakes were formed by receding glaciers and, as a result of global warming, about 1,000 new lakes have been added to the Swiss Alps since the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid-19th century.

Swiss lakes are famous for their scenic beauty and many are outdoor playgrounds, especially in the summer months when the water is warm enough for swimming. When you visit Switzerland, your tour will almost certainly include one or more of these stunning lakes. To help you choose which lakes to dip a toe into, here's our list of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland, listed in order from large to small.

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Lake Geneva

Switzerland, Lake Geneva, Montreux, cityscape with paddlesteamer
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Lake Geneva

Covering nearly 225 square miles, Lake Geneva (also called Lac Leman) is Switzerland's largest lake. Located in French-speaking Switzerland, much of the lake's shoreline belongs to neighboring France. You could easily spend days exploring the beautiful and expensive city of Geneva, the second-largest in Switzerland and home to the United Nations and the International Red Cross. But don't overlook Lausanne, Montreux, Vevey, and the terraced Vaudois wine-growing region on the northern shores of the lake. You could easily spend several days on Lake Geneva, taking lake steamers and waterbuses from one pretty city or town to the next.

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Lake Constance

Bathers on Lake Constance

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Lake Constance

The waters of Lake Constance lap the shores of three different countries: Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Maybe that's why it has so many different names, including Constance, Konstanz, Bodensee, Obersee, and Untersee. Thanks to the waterbus service across the lake, it's possible to visit all three countries in one day and you can add a fourth if you make a jaunt to nearby Lichtenstein. The lake's big draw is its active pursuits, including swimming, SUPing, and sailing, as well as hiking and biking. The Lake Constance Cycle Path circles the entire lake. There are plenty of places to rent a bike or e-bike, allowing visitors to bike the whole way while stopping at various towns to enjoy a meal or spend the night.

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Lake Neuchatel

waves crashing against the rock shore of Lake Neuchatel in winter. There is short boardwalk with a small building at the end
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Lake Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Lake Neuchatel is a large lake set mostly in French-speaking Switzerland. It's a part of a trio of scenic lakes, along with Biel (Bilersee) and Murten (Murtensee). Neuchâtel town has a well-preserved medieval town center and an imposing castle. There are even more charming old towns lining the northern side of the lake, which is backed by the Jura mountain chain. The southern side of the lake is less developed and is a haven for migratory birds—it also has a number of sandy beaches. Yverdon-les-Bains, at the southern tip of the lake, is a famous spa town with ancient origins.

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Lake Lucerne

Sailboats on Lake Lucerne with Mt Pilatus in the background
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Lake Lucerne, Switzerland

Stunning Lake Lucerne (or Lake Luzern) is nicknamed the "lake of the four cantons" as its irregular, fjord-like branches stretch into four different Swiss cantons, or states. The delightful city of Lucerne sits on one end of the lake and serves as a base for exploring the farther reaches of the lake and the trails that skirt the surrounding mountains. Historic steamboats connect visitors to many of the historic sites on Lake Lucerne, including the Rütli, the historic meadow where the Swiss Confederation was born in 1307. While boat rides are offered on almost every decent-sized lake in Switzerland, those on Lake Lucerne are definitely not to be missed.

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Lake Zurich

Lake Zurich in autumn, Switzerland
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Lake Zurich, Switzerland

Lake Zurich might be Switzerland's most perfectly situated body of water. The bustling city of Zurich sits at one end with the lake and the adjacent Limmat River forming the heart of the city. Visitors can easily reach lakeside beaches and historic towns (medieval Rapperswil is a popular day trip) or bike, hike, swim, kayak, or paddleboard on the water. In the city or on the outskirts, a lakefront lunch or dinner is a year-round treat. Waterbuses and tour boats run year-round, though more frequently in the summer.

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Lake Lugano

A town on Lake Lugano

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Lake Lugano

Lake Lugano and its surrounding region, the Ticino, may seem more Italian than Swiss. That's because large sections of the lake are within Italy and Italian is the official language of the region—a throwback to when the area once belonged to the Duchy of Milan. The lake itself was formed by receding glaciers which left behind a dramatic mountain landscape. Pastel-colored towns dot the lakeshore, interrupted by impenetrable cliffs. Hiking the trails around the lake is a big pastime here and it's even possible to walk or bike into Italy. Lugano, far and away the largest city on the lake, is a hub for arts, shopping, and nightlife.

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Lake Thun

Thun Castle on Lake Thun

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Lake Lugano

Of all of Switzerland's fabulous lakes, Lake Thun may offer the most storybook setting. Surrounded by the snow-capped mountains of the Bernese Oberland the lake is dotted with charming medieval towns, including Oberhofen, where a spired 13th-century castle hangs over the lake. Cable cars connect hikers and skiers to points far above the turquoise-colored lake. Swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and windsurfing are popular lake activities.

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Lake Silvaplana & Lake Sils

Larch trees mirrored in Lake Silvaplana in autumn, St. Moritz, Switzerland
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Lake Silvaplana, Switzerland

Set in the Engadine canton, with the Bernina Alps in the distant background, sparkling Silvapland and Sils lakes are famous as windsurfing and kitesurfing destinations, thanks to the Majola wind, which provides a consistently strong breeze across the lakes. The lakes attract lots of young, athletic visitors, who come either for summer watersports or challenging winter downhill and cross-country skiing on the Corvasch or other nearby peaks. There are hotels, lodgings, restaurants and watercraft outfitters all along both lakes. If you want a ritzier vibe, St. Moritz is just a few miles away.

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Oeschinensee

Larch trees mirrored in Lake Silvaplana in autumn, St. Moritz, Switzerland
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Oeschinen Lake, 3718 Kandersteg, Switzerland

For what it lacks in size, petite Oeschinensee (Oeschinen Lake) makes up for in spectacular scenery. The glacial lake sits high in the Bernese Oberland. Even better, it can only be reached by cable car from nearby Kandersteg and from there, it's still a 30-minute walk to the lake. Once there, the visual rewards are huge—turquoise waters surrounded by meadows and sheer mountain cliffs, with the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Jungfrau-Aletsch in the near distance. In the wintertime, pack your ice skates and glide across the frozen lake.

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Seebergsee

Seebergsee

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Seebergsee, 3770 Zweisimmen, Switzerland

Another high-altitude lake that can only be reached by foot, tiny Seebergsee (covering only 15 acres) is beloved for summer swimming, picnicking, and hiking. It's located in the Canton or Bern and is part of the Diemtigtal Nature Park. In the summertime, two mountain huts are open to serve hungry hikers. If you're driving, park at the Meienberg parking lot and hike about 30 minutes to the lake.

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Blausee

Mountain lake Blausee in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland
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Blausee, 3717 Kandergrund, Switzerland

Blausee, which means "blue lake," is a tiny, amazing lake in the Bernese Oberland. Surrounded by forests, this spring-fed lake is famous for its remarkable clarity. You can see right down to the bottom and clearly see fish swimming past! The lake is just 1.6 acres, but there's the larger Blausee Nature Park surrounding it, with hiking trails, picnic areas, and panoramas galore, as well as a hotel and several simple eateries, plus a playground and an organic trout farm.

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Riffelsee

Riffelsee alpine lake below the famous Matterhorn mountain
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Riffelsee, 3920 Zermatt, Switzerland

Riffelsee may be tiny, at just 1.1 acres, but it has something no other lake in Switzerland can offer: a high-altitude view of the Matterhorn, one of the most famous peaks in the entire world. When the water of the lake is still, the triangular peak is reflected perfectly on its surface. An incline train between Riffelberg and Gornergrat passes close by—the station at Rotenboden is only about a 10-minute walk from the lake. Zermatt, the jumping-off point for exploring the area around the Matterhorn, is the closest town of any size.

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Switzerland's Top Lakes