These are the Top 14 Places in Switzerland that needs to be on everyone’s list when they visit this very charming country. Switzerland is everything and more than you imagined. The soaring snow-covered Alps will take your breath away. The cuter than cute fairy tale villages, the cows wandering around the lush green meadows with their bells cheerfully ringing, will have you captivated with this Heidi Country. Switzerland has it all – clear lakes, glaciers, a rich cultural history, cheese, skiing, hiking, history, castles and the people are totally lovely.
Seeing this idyllic country is easy and seeing it by the mega efficient train system means that you can appreciate the breathtaking awesomeness of the country, without navigating the Alps. If you want art, music, and hospitality then Switzerland delivers on all fronts. Gordon and I have been fortunate to have explored a lot of this amazing country, yet there are still places that we are yet to visit – but we will.
Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city and is located on the river Limmat. Zurich is a banker’s centre, but Zurich is also a culturally rich city, with many things to see and do.Zurich in Switzerland is chic and cool, historical and interesting. The city is one of the easiest cities to navigate either on foot or by tram.
Lake Zurich is a very big draw card, particularly with locals. They will be down to the lake as soon as the sun comes out. Visiting Niederdorf, the Old Town on the eastern bank of the river Limmat, is where history meets a very lively café scene. There are medieval alleys and small squares as well as beautiful Renaissance buildings, to admire as you are walking through the old town.
There are over 1,500 restaurants and cafes that span every cuisine as befits such a multicultural city. Interestingly two of the most favoured foods are kebabs and tapas. Prices will vary so it pays to read the menu before you go in. Restaurant Orangerie is a pleasant choice. Zurich is chic, interesting and an easy city to visit. Lindt chocolate is made just outside of Zurich and there are samples to be had if you visit the factory.
Interlaken is located between Lake Thun to the west and Lake Brienz. There are 35 acres of open space, the Höhematte in the middle of the town The mighty peaks of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau tower above the town providing excellent opportunities for alpine adventures. It is a popular summer and winter destination with a lot of activities drawing both international and domestic travelers. Hiking, climbing, abseiling, and kayaking are all very popular.
3. Jungfrau Region
The villages of Grindelwald, Murren and Lauterbrunnen and Wengen are about as pretty as you can get and are also the gateway to the Jungfraujoch: The Top of Europe.
Grindelwald is one of the villages of the Jungfrau Region and is situated in the heart of Switzerland, in the Bernese Oberland, at the foot of the three famous mountains – the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. The Jungfrau region is known as the top of the world for obvious reasons much of which is associated with the Jungfraujoch, which is the cog railway line that has the highest railway station in Europe and is where you can get to the Top of Europe.
Taking the cog wheel train to Wengen is one of the prettiest of many very pretty train journeys in Switzerland. Here you can then take the aerial gondola to Mannlichen where you can enjoy the Mountain Brunch and Barbecue at the Männlichen mountain restaurant.
4. Jungfraujoch: The Top of Europe
One of the most popular experiences in the beautiful Bernese Oberland is the train journey to Jungfraujoch, with an observation terrace and scientific observatory perched at 3,454 meters. To go to the top of the world means travelling to Switzerland and taking the cogwheel train to Jungfraujoch, which is the highest-altitude railway station in the world
The longest glacier in Europe, the Great Aletsch Glacier begins at Jungfraujoch, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. People are a little concerned about two things with going to the ‘top of Europe’ – the altitude and the cost of the trip. The train ticket is not cheap so avoid an overcast day with low visibility. When you do go however it is an ethereally stunning scene. Altitude sickness is a tricky one. Some people get it and others don’t. I approached the trip with some trepidation and while I was lucky in that I just got a very slight headache, which I forgot about pretty quickly, others needed to sit down. The signs are very good and tell you to take it easier – walk slowly, sit down for a rest etc. Others swear by drinking a power drink on the way up so it may well be worth trying this. I guess at the end of the day, it is a unique experience both travelling on the cog wheel trains, seeing the inspiring Jungfrau, Eiger and Mönch mountains and looking all around the world from this vantage point.
Lucerne, like Zermatt has a car-free medieval old town,. Revel in the beauty of the historic buildings, waterfront promenades, and stop and have a coffee or a wine in one of the many plazas. Lucerne is a music mecca, and there are concerts on at all times.
The most famous landmarks are the Chapel Bridge, built in the 14th century. In a small park, lies the famous Lion Monument, a poignant sculpture of a dying lion, which honors the heroic death of Swiss Guards during the attack on the Tuileries in the French Revolution.
6. The Matterhorn
The Matterhorn has been of great interest to people not only for its sheer physical presence and beauty but also for its unforgiving nature to those who attempt to conquer it. It has been shrouded in controversy since the very first ascent in 1865. This year, 2015 is the 150th anniversary of this first ascent of the Matterhorn and Zermatt is celebrating in style.
It might not be the highest mountain in the world nor indeed in Switzerland itself, but it certainly has had people talking for a long time. For a start, there is a slight dispute as to who ‘owns’ the Matterhorn. The French call it Mont Cervin and the Italians call it Monte Cervino, yet in reality the world knows it as the Matterhorn and the Swiss claim it as their own. It has become an icon of the Swiss Alps and is one of the most photographed mountains in the world.
The word “Matterhorn” is German, with Matte, meaning “meadow”, and Horn, which means “peak”. The Swiss town of Zermatt is where you see the Matterhorn in all of its glory
Any village that stands in the path of the mighty Matterhorn is special, and Zermatt is all of that and more. Zermatt in Switzerland is nestled at the foot of the famous and magnificent Matterhorn at a height of 4,478 meters. Zermatt is a pretty sure bet with snow, and therefore skiing is guaranteed for much of the year due to its high altitude. The winter season is one of the longest in Europe starting in early November and finishing in mid-May. Zermatt is well known as a resort for people who enjoy the finer things in life, and this is true.
Take the gondola to the Blauherd, which sits at 2571 metres, and then take the big gondola to Rothorn, which sits at 3103 metres up in the Swiss Alps. Go back to the village of Zermatt, and then take the electric bus around to yet another gondola to go up to Riffleberg for a late lunch and a good rest on the sun decks of the mountains.
Go to Gornergrat, at an altitude of 3,089 m above sea level, and to the 2nd highest observatory in Europe. From here, you can see the highest mountains in Switzerland, the Monte Rosa at 4,634 metres. The Gornergrat has been a top tourist destination in Switzerland for the last 111 years.
The city of Geneva is situated on Lake Geneva. Geneva is a French-speaking seat of the United Nations. The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum is a must see, if slightly confronting experience. It is a centre of business, and there is obvious wealth in the city. Check out the vintage shops and the flea market of Plain Palais.
Jet d’Eau, a fountain in Lake Geneva shoots water 150 meters into the air and is a famous landmark. Cultural attractions include the Opera House and the Grand Théâtre, which stages international acts.
Take a tram ride to Meyrin, where CERN is open for guided tours. This is where the Hadron Collider is located. It is closed to visitors when it is in use. However, you will still learn a lot.
9. St. Moritz
St. Moritz is the epitome of Swiss elegance and a popular destination for the rich and famous. Its geographic position gives you good reason why it is one of the world’s top ski destinations. The town is divided into two parts. St. Moritz Dorf sits on a sunny terrace overlooking the Lake of St. Moritz. The other part of town, lakeside St. Moritz Bad on the valley floor, and is not as expensive as St. Moritz Dorf. Try tobogganing on the famous 1.2-kilometer-long Cresta Run.
Situated on the River Aare, Bern is the capital of Switzerland. The Old Town of Bern or Bern Altstadt and not all of the city of Bern is UNESCO World Heritage-listed. Bern has well over 100 fountains, eleven of which still retain the original beautiful allegorical figures. The Kindlifresserbrunnen, or child-eating fountain, is particularly interesting. Strolling along the cobbled streets, visitors can explore the tallest cathedral in Switzerland, with panoramic views from its tower; 16th-century fountains.
The ‘Zytglogge’ clock tower is the centre of the city. This ornate astronomical clock has moving figures, including bears, and was built in 1530. The astronomical clock shows the hour of the day, the day of the week, the month, the month itself, the zodiac sign and the phases of the moon.
Legend has it that Albert Einstein, who lived not far from the Zytglogge, was watching the buses coming round the tower and wondered what would happen to them if they moved at the speed of light … this led to his theory of relativity and is known in Bern as his Wanderjahre. You can also see his house, The Einstein House at Kramgasse 49 where he lived from 1903 to 1905.
The Rose Garden or Rosengarten offers beautiful views of the old town center.
Bern boasts many excellent museums, and art-lovers will appreciate the Zentrum Paul Klee, the world’s largest collection of works by this famous artist, The market at Bundesplatz or parliament square are also a lot of fun.
11. Lake Lugano and Ticino
Lake Lugano lies on the Swiss/Italian border in Ticino, and is Switzerland’s only official Italian-speaking canton. Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore both benefit from the Swiss and Italian influences and are highly popular destinations with many European travellers.
Monte San Salvatore offers one of the most spectacular views of this pretty area.. Ticino, is a very popular summer resort. Locarno on Lake Maggiore, also is a huge draw card with its moderate climate and wealth of activities.
Emmental is a beautiful area in Switzerland known for its greener than green meadows, its well fed and much loved cows and cheese. E-cycling in Heidi like country is very popular Expect to see St Bernards carrying milk cans in their little wagons, cow bells, cows and look for Alpenhorn players because this is Switzerland.
Basel is located in what is called the three-country region. It is very very close to both Germany and France and these influences all make it the multicuturally exciting city that it is. This is a museum city, with more than one museum per square kilometer. The museums range from traditional to highly avant-garde. This is an arty city.
The Old Town lies between the river and the old city gate at Spalentor. Marktplatz is where the daily market selling local produce, flowers, and food specialties is held. It is also where you see the stunning Rathaus.
Montreux is a resort town surrounded by vineyards and against the breathtaking backdrop of snow-covered Alps It’s known for its mild climate and the Montreux Jazz Festival, held in July. It is a very popular and very chic getaway and known as the capital of the Vaud Riviera. Freddie Mercury, the singer of the rock band Queen, settled in Montreux and there is a statue to his memory there.
These are Top 14 Places in Switzerland to visit. Trust me, there are many many more.
Basel Image by Ralf Roletschek