The Top 20 Things to Do in Switzerland

Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, Switzerland

Chinnaphong Mungsiri/GettyImages

In Switzerland, there really is something for every type of traveler. In just around 16,000 square miles, the landlocked country manages to encompass a huge variety of scenery: large, modern cities; quaint, pastoral towns that have changed little in hundreds of years; and lakes and mountains that form some of the most picturesque landscapes in Europe. Beautiful, clean, efficient, and easy to navigate, Switzerland offers adventure and awe around every corner—or on the other side of every mountain. While it was hard to narrow down a list, here are 20 of our favorite things to do in Switzerland.

01 of 20

Cross the Alps on the Bernina Express

Viaduct on the Bernina Express

 Dirk von Mallinckrodt / Getty Images

No trip to Switzerland would be complete without embarking on one of the most magical train journeys in the world. The Bernina Express forms part of the famous Rhaetian Railway, deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 for its engineering ingenuity. 

The Bernina Express runs from Tirano, Italy to St. Moritz, taking in all of the scenery tourists flock to Switzerland for: snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and picturesque Alpine villages. The iconic red trains pass through Poschiavo Valley, Alp Grüm, and the sparkling Miralago, to name a few destinations you'll see along the way. Travel tip: Heading north, the right side of the train has the best views.

02 of 20

Tram-Hop Your Way Around Zürich

A tram on the streets of Zurich

TripSavvy / Michela Sieman

Address
Zürich, Switzerland

If you're flying into Switzerland, you're likely to land in Zürich, Switzerland's largest city. Before you rush off to explore the Alps, take some time to discover the city's diverse charms. Don’t miss the medieval architecture of Zürich's Altstadt (Old Town), a scenic cruise on Lake Zürich, or the chance to sample some of the city's upscale chocolatiers. 

Although the city can be expensive, one of the best (and most affordable) ways to explore it is by public transportation. The city has a huge tram network that will take you just about everywhere you want to go, and the system is simple to navigate. For the best value, purchase a Zürich Card travel pass, which offers unlimited travel over 24 or 72 hours.

03 of 20

See Lake Geneva by Boat

Geneva Switzerland lakeside with Mouette (Yellow boat)
CharliePhotox / Getty Images
Address
Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva is the crown jewel of Switzerland’s many stunning lakes. It’s not only the largest, it also boasts some of the purest, most crystal-clear water in the world. Straddling the French and Swiss border, Lake Geneva is a swimmer’s playground in the summer, with 116 public beaches from which to take a (chilly) dip.

The lake is best explored on a boat cruise, where you can take in the Alpine vistas, medieval villages, vineyards, and castles that line the lakefront. The majority of sightseeing cruises run from May to October and depart from ports including Geneva, Lausanne, and Montreux.

The lake itself isn’t the only star of the show—many cruises are aboard heritage Belle Époque paddle steamers, grand vessels that evoke nostalgia from an era long past. 

04 of 20

Bliss Out on Swiss Chocolate

Chocolates in Zurich

TripSavvy / Michela Sieman

If there’s one delectable treat Switzerland is known for, it’s chocolate. This sweet delight has been produced in the country for centuries, thanks to Swiss chocolatiers who perfected the taste using high-quality cocoa combined with milk from Alpine cows.

Some of the world’s most famous chocolate brands are Swiss, including Toblerone and Lindt. However, for something truly unique, visit some local chocolate shops to learn more about the production process, watch chocolate being made, and, of course, enjoy a few samples. A few chocolatiers to visit include Auer Chocolatier in Geneva, Sprüngli in Zürich, and Maison Cailler in Broc.

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05 of 20

Dip Into Cheese Fondue

Fondue pot with cheese, bread and potatoes

Linxiao Xie / Getty Images

Chocolate isn’t the only national dish here. Switzerland is also famous for fondue and raclette, and you'll find both on restaurant menus all over the country. Served in a hot earthenware pot, fondue is eaten by taking a long-stemmed fork and dipping bread, apples, potatoes, or pickled vegetables into it. Raclette, meanwhile, is heated on a grill and scraped onto your meat, potatoes, or bread. Both make for a savory lunch or dinner, or a restorative après-ski snack.

06 of 20

Walk Through a Glacier

Inside the Rhone Glacier ice grotto

Roland Gerth Jahr

Address
Rhône Glacier, 3999 Obergoms, Switzerland

There are few places in the world where you can see a glacier; luckily, Switzerland is home to plenty of these fascinating natural formations. The source of the Rhône River, the Rhône Glacier is one of the few glaciers that visitors can actually walk through.

Marvel at the glacier from inside as you meander through both a 100-meter long tunnel and ice chamber. The earth’s glaciers, including the Rhône, are melting at a rapid pace, so a visit is a stark reminder of the human impact on our planet. 

07 of 20

Tackle a Challenging Via Ferrata Hike

Mother and daughter ascend rock cliff, exchange 'high-fives'
Ascent/PKS Media Inc. / Getty Images
Address
Stäger Sport Sportchalet, Enzian, 3825 Mürren, Switzerland
Phone +41 33 856 86 86

For those who don't have a fear of hikes, adventure-seekers shouldn’t miss out on a Via Ferrata (Iron Way) hike, which involves a harness, helmet, and an experienced guide.

One of the shortest and most popular is the 2.2-kilometer trek from Mürren to Gimmelwald. You’ll reach Mürren, at the base of the Schilthorn peak, via a mountain train. From there, hikers navigate an intimidating series of iron rungs, cables, ladders, and a swinging bridge over a deep gorge. From Gimmelwald, you can return by ski gondola to Mürren. It’s a challenge that will leave your quads burning, but you’re rewarded with some of the best Alpine views in the country. 

08 of 20

Count the Holes in Swiss Cheese

Swiss cheese for sale in a gourmet shop
xavierarnau / Getty Images

Swiss cheese, known to the Swiss as Emmentaler, has been enjoyed in the country since around the 15th century. Smooth Gruyère, too, is another common cheese that originated in Switzerland. Be sure to sample one or both while visiting, either at a fondue restaurant or at a visit to a local cheese factory.

There’s no shortage of cheese factories in Switzerland that are open to the public, including La Maison du Gruyère, the Appenzeller Cheese Factory, and the Engelberg—the only public cheese factory situated within a monastery. 

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09 of 20

Discover Swiss Wines of the Vaud

Terraced vineyards of Domaine Blaise Duboux

Courtesy of Domaine Blaise Duboux

Address
Vaud, Switzerland

The dramatic hills of Vaud, on the north shore of Lake Geneva, are worth a few days of your time, especially if you're a wine lover. The Vaud region is known for its wine production, particularly the Chasselas grape, which creates fresh and fruity white wines. First cultivated by Cistercian monks, wine has been produced in the region since the Middle Ages.

While there’s never enough time to visit them all, a few winery highlights include Luc Massy, Cave Castle Glérolles, and Domaine Blaise Duboux. Vaud isn’t just about wine, though, as it also offers plenty of fine dining experiences and sightseeing—don't miss out on a visit to medieval Chillon Castle, near Montreux.

10 of 20

Delight in a Festive Christmas Market

Zurich Christmas Market at Bellevue and Sechseläutenplatz
sack / Getty Images

The charming, snow-covered Alpine towns of Switzerland are an ideal place to celebrate the holidays, especially if you’re a keen skier. However, anyone visiting Switzerland in the winter should also visit the country’s Christmas markets. Some of Switzerland’s most beautiful festivities include Münsterplatz in Basel and Montreux Noël.

These magical outdoor festivals light up the dark winter nights with entertainment like carnival rides and ice skating rinks, holiday shopping, and delectable food and baked treats. If you're feeling chilly, be sure to order a mug of gluhwein, a spicy mulled wine that will warm you up. The Christmas markets generally run from late November until Christmas Eve.

11 of 20

Cross the Chapel Bridge in Lucerne

Lucerne, Switzerland

TripSavvy / Michaela Sieman

Address
Kapellbrücke, 6002 Luzern, Switzerland
Phone +41 41 227 17 17

Lucerne’s Chapel Bridge, known as Kapellbrücke, is the oldest wooden covered bridge in Europe. It’s charming and picturesque from any angle, and still functional—it was built in the 14th century to help fortify the city, but pedestrians still use it to cross over the River Reuss.

As you stroll across, take your time to notice the paintings on the bridge’s internal roof. These 17th-century triangular frames—some painted by Hans Heinrich Wägmann—tell the story of Lucerne’s history.

You’ll also notice a striking tower next to the bridge. This is the Wasserturm (water tower), and has been used for everything from a prison to municipal storage, but was never actually used to hold water. 

12 of 20

Ride the World’s Highest Railroad

the Jungfrau railway
JaCZhou / Getty Images
Address
Eigergletscher-Jungfraujoch, 3818 Grindelwald, Switzerland
Phone +41 33 828 72 33

The Jungfrau Railway in the Bernese Alps is the highest railway in the world, topping out at 3,454 meters above sea level. A ride on the Jungfraujoch doesn’t come cheap, but this two-hour scenic train ride is one of the most beautiful in the world, making it worth the splurge. 

The journey itself is part of the fun; boarding in Interlaken, the train takes passengers through tunnels and stops halfway at Eismeer, an underground railway station. You'll disembark in Jungfrau, or "the Top of Europe," where you'll be greeted by Switzerland's most famous panoramic view.

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13 of 20

Watch the Zytglogge Toll in Bern

Zytglogge Clock, Bern Switzerland

joe daniel price / Getty Images

Address
Bim Zytglogge 1, 3011 Bern, Switzerland

The Zytglogge is Bern's most famous landmark. Built in the 1500s, it’s an incredibly elaborate astronomical calendar clock. Meanwhile, the tower in which it stands has been in place since the 1200s, when it was constructed as a guard tower.

Time your visit just before the Zytglogge strikes the hour, as you’ll get to see the clock in all its glory. In a six-minute "show," moving mechanical figures—including jesters, roosters, and bears—emerge from the clock and dance around, delighting passersby. It’s free to observe, but to learn more, the city also offers 60-minute guided tours of the interior of the tower.

14 of 20

Marvel at the Abbey of Saint Gall

Abbey Library of St. Gallen, Switzerland

Stuart Dee / Getty Images

Address
Klosterhof 6B, 9000 St. Gallen, Switzerland
Phone +41 71 227 33 40

St. Gallen, near Lake Constance, is a charming, traffic-free town—ideal for strolling and sightseeing at your leisure. The star of the city is the Abbey of Saint Gall, founded in the 8th century and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Baroque cathedral is an artistic marvel, but even more so is the Abbey Library. Home to more than 170,000 texts—many of which are handwritten—it's decorated with intricate artwork, painted ceilings, and ancient treasures. If you’ve purchased a Swiss Travel Pass, library admission is included with your ticket. 

15 of 20

Find Folk Culture in Appenzell

Colorful houses at Appenzell Village in Switzerland
takepicsforfun / Getty Images
Address
9050 Appenzell District, Switzerland

The fairytale village of Appenzell and the larger canton surrounding it are one of the best places in Switzerland to discover traditional folklore and culture. The livelihood of the region has long centered around farming and dairy, and a visit to Appenzell might find you watching an Alpine cattle parade, joining in on traditional dancing, or shopping for local crafts. Local residents still wear traditional clothing, which for men typically includes a long, dangling earring in one ear.

Set in the foothills of the Alpstein Mountains, it’s also the perfect place to base yourself for a few days of summer hiking. In the winter, it's a non-glitzy mountain getaway set in a dreamy, snow-covered landscape.

16 of 20

Toast the Après-Ski Scene in St. Moritz

Village beneath mountain on snow covered landscape illuminated in the evening, Sankt Moritz, Switzerland
Francesco Meroni / Getty Images
Address
St Moritz, Switzerland

Switzerland is one of the most challenging skiing destinations in the world. But even if you prefer to remain firmly on the ground, you can still join in on the fun of Swiss skiing culture. St. Moritz is the skiing playground for the rich and famous, where you'll find fine dining, five-star chalets, and plenty of après-ski partying.

As skiers wind down for the day, around 3 or 4 p.m., the après-ski scene comes alive and this quiet town turns into a jumpin’ party. Whether you’re looking for something quiet and civilized or you want to dance ‘til dawn, you’ll find it in St. Moritz.

St. Moritz also famously hosts an annual snow polo tournament in January, which is worth watching if you’re in town. 

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17 of 20

Marvel at the Matterhorn

Panorama of the Matterhorn mountain range, covered with fresh snow, and blue sky in the cloudless background. Christmas season, winter and ski slopes on the Swiss Alps.
Enrico Tricoli / Getty Images
Address
Matterhorn

The village of Zermatt is famous as a skiing destination, but it’s also a great place to see the Matterhorn, one of the most famous mountains in the world. Its iconic, jagged peak is instantly recognizable, even from a distance.

The best way to see the Matterhorn is via the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, a gondola that departs from Zermatt. The journey takes about 40 minutes and will drop you off at a 360-degree viewing platform. In the summer, there are also plenty of great hikes that give you clear views of the Matterhorn. 

18 of 20

Take to the Waters in Baden

Address
Baden, Switzerland

If all of Switzerland’s steep hills have left your body in need of some R&R, head to the spa town of Baden for plenty of relaxation. The thermal springs here have been used to soothe sore muscles for more than 2,000 years, when the Roman legions first arrived. Baden is now one of Switzerland’s top spa towns.

Located just outside Zürich, it’s easy to visit Baden as a day trip. While you’re there, ease into the warm, sulfurous waters at one of the town’s many spas and hotels. When you've had your fill of soaking, be sure to explore the pretty, historic old town.

19 of 20

Expand Your Mind at CERN

Open Days At CERN Particle Physics Lab
Ronald Patrick / Getty Images
Address
Espl. des Particules 1, 1211 Meyrin, Switzerland
Phone +41 22 767 84 84

Switzerland is home to one of the most prestigious research facilities in the world. Located in Meyrin, the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) is the birthplace of the World Wide Web and also contains the world’s largest particle accelerator.

A visit to CERN provides a fascinating insight into how science and research have improved our understanding of the world, including the origins of the universe. Visits to CERN are free but need to be booked in advance of your trip. 

20 of 20

Hike Grindelwald First to Bachalpsee

The Grindelwald First-Bachalpsee hike

Courtesy of Grindelwald Tourismus

The 6-kilometer roundtrip hike from Grindelwald First to Bachalpsee lake is considered one of the most beautiful hikes in Switzerland. From the village of Grindelwald, take the cable car up to Grindelwald First, a summit in the Bernese Oberland. 

From there, you'll take in spectacular Alpine views on your way to Bachalpsee. One of Switzerland’s most photogenic lakes, the sparkling waters produce a gorgeous reflection of the mountains above.

Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. "Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes." Retrieved on September 14, 2021.

  2. Swiss Wine Promotion. "Vaud." Retrieved on September 14, 2021.

  3. University of Notre Dame. "Chapel Bridge: Detail, entrance to the bridge." Retrieved on September 14, 2021.

  4. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. "Abbey of St Gall." Retrieved on September 14, 2021.

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The Top 20 Things to Do in Switzerland