Travel Update


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9 Best Things to Do in Switzerland

By: Catherine
Last Updated: 08/07/2024

Nestled in the heart of the Alps, Switzerland is home to some of Europe’s most breathtaking mountain landscapes. Think glacier-topped peaks, rushing waterfalls, and wildflower meadows. But there’s plenty to uncover beyond the Swiss Alps too.

Get inspired by this round-up of the 9 best things to do in Switzerland. Touring turquoise lakes, exploring medieval cities, and kicking back on scenic train rides are just the beginning. Read on for more Alpine adventure ideas.

Aletsch Glacier, Switzerland
Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in the Alps.

1. Glimpse the largest glacier in the Alps

There’s no doubt that Switzerland possesses some of the most astonishing mountain views in Europe, if not the world. One place you can see the Alps at their most dramatic is the Jungfrau-Aletsch Protected Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s here that you’ll find Aletsch, a mighty stream of ice that snakes through a rugged valley in the Valais region. At over 20 kilometres (12 miles) long, it’s the largest glacier in the Alps.

One of the best ways to see it in all its glory is to take the Jungfraujoch Railway to the “Top of Europe”. Perched 3,454 metres (11,332 feet) above sea level, this railway station has stunning views of Aletsch and some of the continent’s highest summits.

Don’t miss the Jungfraujoch’s Ice Palace, restaurant or Lindt chocolate shop while you’re there.

Bern clock tower, Switzerland
Bern's famous clock tower.

2. Discover the capital city of Bern

With so many natural wonders, you might not immediately consider Switzerland’s cities when planning your trip. But they’re not to be missed – particularly Bern, the Swiss capital.

Cradled in a wide bend of the river Aare, Bern is a picturesque medieval city best explored on foot. Take a walking tour, or simply stroll around at your own pace. There are charming covered shopping arcades in the Old Town and green paths along the peaceful river banks.

Make time to stop at the elevated Rose Garden too, which you’ll see in full bloom if you visit in summer. From here, enjoy unrivalled views of the city. You’ll be able to pick out the tall spire of the cathedral and the Zytglogge, Bern’s historic clock tower.

The Matterhorn from Zermatt in Switzerland
The Matterhorn from the chalet-town of Zermatt.

3. See the Matterhorn from Zermatt

There are few mountains as iconic as the Matterhorn. On your trip to Switzerland, you’ll have the chance to marvel at its spectacular pyramidal peak in person.

Head to the glamorous town of Zermatt for a glimpse of this unmistakable summit. You can see it clearly from the streets of this well-heeled resort.

For a closer look, take the funicular railway from the town centre. You can admire the Matterhorn’s snow-capped peak from many stops along the way, such as Sunnegga or Blauherd. Alternatively, walk from Blauherd station to Lake Stellisee to photograph its reflection in the lake’s crystal-clear waters.

Zermatt is a great base for exploring the Swiss Alps. Plus, with a wide range of restaurants, bars and shops, it’s the perfect place to unwind after a day of adventuring.

Neuchâtel Castle above the town in Switzerland
Neuchâtel Castle looking enchanting at sunset.

4. Tour fairytale castles

Visit Switzerland’s castles for magnificent architecture, captivating tales and enchanting gardens – all surrounded by thrilling Alpine views. As you’re travelling around the country, look out for lavish lakeside châteaux and formidable fortresses.

For instance, in western Switzerland, stop off in Neuchâtel. This area was once part of the Kingdom of Burgundy, and its castle dates back over 1,000 years.

Alternatively, head to Montreux, which sits on the shores of Lake Geneva (known locally as Lac Léman). In this vibrant city – known for its jazz festival in July – you’ll find Château de Chillon. This much-loved castle inspired Disney’s movie, The Little Mermaid.

Pralines displayed in a Swiss chocolate shop, Switzerland
Irresistible Swiss chocolate pralines.

5. Indulge with Swiss food and drink

Think of Swiss food, and chocolate might be the first thing that comes to mind. And that’s no surprise when one of the world’s most famous chocolate bars, comes from Switzerland – the Toblerone. Its triangular shape was even inspired by the Matterhorn.

While we recommend sampling the country’s creamy milk chocolate on your visit to Switzerland, make sure to enjoy other local favourites as well.

A must-try is fondue. Originally Swiss, this hearty meal of melted cheese is popular across the Alps. Dip bread into the cheese and, if you fancy, wash it down with a glass of dry white wine or perhaps a local cherry brandy.

Dinner table with food and wine, Montreux, Switzerland
Delicious local cuisine is waiting for you in Montreux.

For insight into Switzerland’s food heritage, head to the hilltop town of Gruyères, in the canton of Fribourg. Tuck into the area’s famous cheeses and rich clotted cream while you’re there, and make sure to check out the 13th-century Château de Gruyères.

There’s more to appreciate beyond cheese and chocolate though. For instance, outside the city of Lausanne, you’ll find UNESCO-protected vineyards. And, it’s also worth knowing Switzerland has one of the world’s highest densities of Michelin-starred restaurants – perfect for a foodie treat. 

City of Geneva and Lake Geneva (Lac Leman), Switzerland
The city of Geneva with Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) and its fountain in the background.

6. Visit Lake Geneva’s medieval towns

You’ll find Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) in southwest Switzerland, on the border with France. It’s the country’s largest body of water. With bustling towns and mountains on the horizon, the lake is one of the essential things to see in Switzerland.

Lausanne, a city on the lake’s northern shore is an ideal place to stop. Wander the colourful, cobblestone streets of the historic centre and visit the 12th-century Gothic cathedral. From the top of the bell tower, you’ll be rewarded with panoramas of the lake and surrounding summits.

Or for a taste of urban life in Switzerland, head to the hustle and bustle of Geneva, the country’s second-largest city. Soak up lakeside living, whether that means grabbing a table and dining al fresco, or promenading along the lake shore. You can drive directly from Lausanne, but a boat tour across Lake Geneva is much more rewarding. 

Piazza Riforma, Lugano, Switzerland
Piazza Riforma in Lugano.

7. Hop across the border to Austria, Germany or Italy

Switzerland borders 5 countries: Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Lichtenstein. While there’s plenty to do in Switzerland, we recommend dipping into its mountainous neighbours.

If you’re travelling in southern Switzerland, Italy’s Lake Maggiore and Lake Como are just over the border. Stop off in the elegant city of Como, complete with sumptuous villas and romantic piazzas. There’s also Lugano where you can experience charming Italian lakes combined with views of the Swiss Alps.

Neuschwanstein Castle, Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle in the German region of Bavaria.

You can also head east to the charming villages and towns of the Austrian Alps. The harbour town, Bregenz, on Lake Constance (Bodensee) is a captivating spot. Or why not venture into Liechtenstein, one of Europe’s smallest countries?

To the north, there’s the German region of Bavaria. World-renowned for its beer, the area is home to vast forests and royal palaces. Don’t miss the hilltop castle of Neuschwanstein or Munich, Bavaria’s magnificent capital.

Couple hiking in a meadow, the Alps
See snowy peaks from idyllic Alpine meadows.

8. Hike in the Bernese Oberland

If you love the outdoors, look no further than the Swiss Alps. With over 65,000 kilometres (40,390 miles) of hiking trails, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to what to do in Switzerland.

One of the country’s stand-out hiking destinations is the Bernese Oberland. This is also where you’ll find Jungfraujoch, the “Top of Europe”, which you read about earlier.

Jungfraujoch (aka the Top of Europe), Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
Jungfraujoch (aka the "Top of Europe") in the stunning Bernese Oberland.

For more iconic views, head to the village of Grindelwald beneath the Eiger, a world-famous mountain. There are many trails to choose from here, including a walk to the base of the Eiger from the Kleine Schiedegg train station. Or you could follow a trail to the jaw-dropping Gletscherschlucht, a narrow glacial ravine.

For something more laidback in the Bernese Oberland, take a boat trip from Interlaken. Located between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, the town’s name means “between lakes”. A boat trip here is a memorable – yet relaxed – way to take in the view.

Lucerne's waterfront, Switzerland
The waterfront in Lucerne.

9. Explore the Swiss Plateau

At the geographical heart of Switzerland, surrounded by mountains, is the Swiss Plateau. Here, Switzerland’s strikingly rugged mountains are replaced by lower peaks, glittering lakes and tranquil forests. This is also where you’ll find many of the country’s captivating cities. 

Alongside top attractions like Bern, Geneva and Lausanne, Lucerne is well worth a visit. Plus, it’s a great base for exploring the Swiss Plateau.

Stroll along the Musegg city walls dotted with defensive towers, and walk across the 14th-century wooden Chapel Bridge (“Kapellbrücke”). Or take a train up Mount Pilatus, which is topped with a hotel and restaurant.

As well as Lake Lucerne, the plateau is home to countless other lakes. Some of the largest and most scenic are Lake Zurich, Lake Constance and Lake Neuchâtel.

Mount Pilatus overlooking Lucerne, Switzerland
Mount Pilatus overlooking Lake Lucerne.

Experience the best of Switzerland with Nordic Visitor

Of course, this is just the start, there’s lots to see and do in this breathtakingly beautiful Alpine nation. Experience it for yourself on an unforgettable self-drive trip in Switzerland or a multi-country Alps driving tour.

Choose Nordic Visitor for your Swiss road trip, and we’ll take care of the details. An Alps-based travel consultant will organise your itinerary, accommodation and rental car. You’ll also get a hand-marked map with personalised recommendations for places to go and things to do.

Contact us to start planning your Swiss getaway. It’s time to escape the ordinary!

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Post by: Catherine

Born and raised in Scotland, Catherine has a background in trip organisation and design. When not travelling, or writing about travels, you can find her rock climbing and exploring remote corners of Scotland. Her top travel experiences include cycling along India’s Brahmaputra River, wandering the souks of Marrakech, and mountaineering in the Alps.

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Getting there

We'd love to give you the same amazing travel experiences as you read about in our blog! To visit the destinations and attractions mentioned in this post - and to discover a few new highlights along the way - check out these recommended Nordic Visitor tours.