Switzerland offers captivating Alpine vistas, world-class shopping, incredible gastronomy, charming towns and big city life. For those of you who have been or are planning to a trip to Switzerland for the first time, here is our list for the top 10 places to visit in Switzerland. This is by no means a comprehensive travel guide of what to see and do, but we hope it will inspire you to go!
Geneva is the largest city in Switzerland. Situated on the lovely Lake Geneva (largest freshwater lake in Europe) with a beautiful mountain backdrop, you’ll find it hard to get bored here. Don’t miss the St. Peter’s (St. Pierre) Cathedral, best known for being where John Calvin preached about the Protestant Reformation.
Near the cathedral is an interesting underground archaeological site. Another important point of interest is Jet’ d’Eau, the world’s tallest fountain. It shoots water over 140 meters into the air. Geneva is also a fantastic shopping destination, especially down the streets of Rue de Rive and Rue de Rhone.
See our episode on Visiting St. Pierre’s Cathedral in Geneva
Basel is known as Switzerland’s city of culture. Located along the picturesque Rhine River, Basel is home to gorgeous buildings, both modern and traditional. Stroll around Basel’s Old Town to see the Münster Cathedral, the Markplatz (Market Place) piazza, Rathaus (City Hall) and Spalentor gate dating back to the 15th century.
Zürich’s Old Town is a labyrinth of narrow streets and Renaissance-era architecture. Main sights in the Old Town include the Grossmünster (Great Minster) double towers, Europe’s largest clock at St. Peter’s Church, Münsterhof Square and Limmatquai shopping street. Bahnhofstrasse is another popular shopping street spanning 1.2 kilometers from Central Station to Bürkliplatz. During summer, Lake Zürich is a great opportunity for a sail, swim, or picnic on the tiny island of Lützelau. A must-try dish in Zürich is Fischknusperli – batter-fried lake fish.
Bern is the capital of Switzerland. Its medieval Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the longest covered shopping promenade in the world. Points of interest include the Münster Cathedral, Zytglogge medieval clock tower and the Untertorbrücke Bridge. The most charming streets in the Old Town are Postgasse, Grechtigkeitgasse and Junkerngasse. The symbol of the city is a bear, which makes it no wonder why the city boasts a Bear Park (BärenPark) alongside the Aar River.
Lugano is unique for its Mediterranean flair. It forms part of the canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland, which is largely influenced by Italian culture. Here, people speak and eat Italian. The town sprawls alongside beautiful Lake Lugano, which gives travelers plenty of opportunities to visit gorgeous lakeside villages, indulge in water sports, take a lake cruise and enjoy the mouthwatering gastronomy of the region (French + Italian = delicious!)
Watch our episode: Touring Via Nassa in Lugano
Its location along Lake Geneva gives the town of Lausanne several breathtaking viewpoints from which to appreciate this gorgeous city. Lausanne’s Old Town contains historical monuments, charming streets and a plethora of museums. Don’t miss the 12th century Lausanne Cathedral, where every night from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. a watchman calls out the exact time, and the impressive Gothic-style Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Other places to visit in Lausanne include the lakefront of Ouchy, the Palais de Rumine Museum and the Sauvabelin Forest.
See our episode on Swiss Fondue in Lausanne
Lucerne lies at the northern end of Lake Lucerne, at the foot of the Alps in central Switzerland. It is best known for its fairytale-like feel and beautiful lake views. Tour the Old Town’s beautiful city squares, and walk Chapel Bridge across the river. Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke) is the oldest surviving medieval wooden bridge in all of Europe. Also see the iconic Lion Monument honoring those who died in the French Revolution of 1792, and the Baroque-style Jesuit Church (Jesuitenkirche). If you have time, take the gondola lift and aerial tram to Pilatus Mountain for a day of walking, hiking, climbing, or testing your courage at the Pilatus Rope Park.
Check out our episode on Lucerne’s Chapel Bridge
If Geneva is the watch capital of Switzerland, Interlaken is the sports capital. This resort town lies in the center of the country, situated between Lakes Thin and Brienz. Interlaken is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true. Some of the activities offered here include skydiving, hiking, horseback riding, bungee jumping, river rafting, mountain biking, paragliding, and more!
Gruyères is the town of cheese and chocolate. Treating yourself to a fondue meal here is a MUST, as is stocking up on the world’s best Swiss chocolate to bring back home with you. Gruyères has an amazing medieval atmosphere that will make you feel like you’ve time traveled back 800 years ago. Foodies will revel in a cheese-making tour at La Maison du Gruyères, where every step of the cheese-making process is explained, and there is plenty of opportunity to taste the merchandise before buying. The town also has a 13th century castle, charming cobblestone streets and several fantastic restaurants.
Check out our episode on Switzerland’s Best Cheese: Touring Gruyeres
Bellinzona is recognized as Switzerland’s “most Italian town” and is home to 3 of the best-preserved medieval castles in the country, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Situated in the Ticino canton in southern Switzerland, Bellinzona’s main attractions include the castles of Castelgrande, Montebello, and Sasso Corbaro with its fortified walls, and the 15th century Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Reserve a table to have an unforgettable dinner at the restaurant of Castelgrande. A great day trip idea is to take the 12-minute cable car lift from Monte Carasso up to Mornera.
We hope you enjoyed our list of top 10 places to visit in Switzerland. If you have anything to add, please leave us a comment below!