Sandwiched between France, Germany, Italy, and Austria, Switzerland is a small country packed with a surprising number of delights for visitors. Famous for its masterful timepieces, ski chalets, and chocolate, the country is an ideal year-round vacation destination with attractions for everyone.
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The area surrounding lovely Lake Geneva is known as the Vaud, a year-round playground for active locals and visitors. Here you can find some of the best winter sport areas in the country, catering to skiers, snowboarders, tobogganists, and even para-skiers. For something really different you can go to the top of Les Diablerets to walk the terrifying Glacier Peak Walk, suspended over a 9,800-foot-high precipice, and try the nearby bobsleigh run, which is the highest in the world. Of course, the region is not just about adventure and there are many museums and historic places to visit, including the Alimentarium Food Museum in Vevey, the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, and Chateau d'Aigle Vine and Wine Museum in Aigle.
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St. Moritz is probably Switzerland's most famous ski resort and is the darling of well-heeled and trendy local skiers as well as the British royal family. You can reach St. Moritz by train on both the famous Bernina Express and the Glacier Express, both of which are bucket-list trips in their own right. The town offers world-class shopping along the Via Serlas, wonderful art at the Sergantini Museum, and spectacular and unique winter events that include the White Turf Horse Races (on the frozen lake), the Snow Polo World Cup, and an Olympic bobsleigh run. It goes without saying that the resort offers every kind of winter sport you can imagine, and it summer you can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and exploring by cable car and mountain railway.
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Nestled at the foot of the Alps along the shores of Lake Geneva, the city of Geneva is arguably one of Europe's most beautiful cities. Geneva beckons visitors to come an explore a wealth of cultural attractions, which include over 30 museums and art galleries - two of the most popular are the International Red Cross Red Crescent Museum and the stunning MAMCO - Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. Highlights of a visit to Geneva will include walking along the lakeside promenade, exploring the cobbled old town, and visiting the artisans at the rather bohemian Carouge. The city also offers wonderful shopping (fabulous Swiss timepieces are a specialty) and excellent cuisine.
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Located along the banks of the Rhine and dating back over 2,000 years, the city of Basel is crammed with wonderful historic buildings and more than 40 museums within a 14-square-mile area. Joining a guided tour is a great way to get an overview of the city and learn about its history. If you prefer to go it alone, you should start by strolling through the well-preserved old town and visiting the Rathaus (city hall). If you are staying in a city hotel, you will receive a Basel Card, which provides free public transport, Wi-Fi, and discounted entry to museums and other attractions. Art lovers will enjoy admiring several street art installations as well as visiting dozens of galleries.
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The historic city of Bellinzona lies in the Ticino region of southern Switzerland, close to beautiful Lake Lugano. You may think you have crossed the border into Italy when you visit as everyone speaks Italian here and the marvelous food is strongly influenced by the neighboring country. Bellinzona is primarily famous for its three medieval castles and is surrounded by very beautiful countryside, which offers great hiking and mountain biking opportunities. To get a great overview of the surrounding Alpine peaks and stunning lakes, you can take a ride in one of two different types of gondola. For foodies the city offers a wonderful morning market and you should plan to include a visit to the Museum of Chocolate.
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Switzerland's capital city of Bern lies on the backs of the Aare River and dates back to the 12th century. The city contains a treasure trove of well-preserved medieval architecture, much of which can be admired on a walking tour of the Altstadt (old town). A few of the highlights of your tour will be the Bundeshaus (the neo-Renaissance city hall) and the Zytglogge (bell tower), which dates back to the 13th century. The city is also full of interesting museums for all tastes as well as several arts and music venues. Wherever you go in the city you will never be far from impressive Swiss watch shops and chocolate stores - work off the calories by taking a long walk in the countryside.
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The city of Davos is famous for hosting the annual World Economic Forum and for offering some of the best outdoor activities in the country. If you visit during the summer, you can spend hours hiking, mountain biking, or playing golf. Water activities include stand-up paddleboarding, sailing, and river rafting. Winter visitors will never have a dull moment as they can choose from downhill and cross-country skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding. After a busy day of hiking or skiing you can relax in a spa, enjoy a wonderful dinner, and then sample the après-ski nightlife. Try and arrange to travel to Davos by train for one of the most scenic train journeys you will every experience.
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Located 15.5 miles south of Lake Lucerne, Engelberg is the largest summer and winter vacation destination in central Switzerland. The long winter sports season can last from October to May and the resort offers every type of winter sport you can imagine, with slopes to suit everyone from children and novices to experienced skiers and snowboarders. If you visit in summer. you can look forward to some outstanding hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, biking. and golf. Regardless of the season you can ride the impressive Titlis Rotair Gondola right up to the permanently snow-covered glacier and see the remarkable Titlis Cliff Walk suspension bridge. Engelberg is very family-friendly and offers great activities for children all year round.
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Grindelwald is a picture-perfect Alpine mountain village in the Bernese Oberland region that will take your breath away. The village is surrounded by magnificent mountains, including the Eiger north face and the Wetterhorn and is one of the most popular ski resorts in the region. Winter sport enthusiasts can look forward to enjoying 100 miles of pistes and more than 30 lifts. In addition, you can try over 37 miles of toboggan runs and 50 miles of winter walking trails. In summer the resort is just as appealing, offering unlimited choices for hiking, mountaineering, mountain biking, and paragliding as well as a long list of adrenaline-boosting adventure sports like bungee and canyon jumping, ziplining, and river rafting.
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Scenically nestled between two lakes (Lake Thun and Lake Brienz), the town of Interlaken has a great deal to offer visitors to Switzerland. In addition to its lakeside location, the town is also surrounded by some of Switzerland's most iconic mountains and offers daredevils a wide selection of adventure sports, including parasailing, river rafting, canyoning, and skydiving. For the less adventurous there are many guided walking tours and scenic boat trips on the lakes. You can spend a wonderful day travelling up to the top of the snow-covered Jongfraujoch on the remarkably steep cogwheel railway - when you reach the summit you have the chance to walk through some glacial ice passages.
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Lake Constance lies surrounded by Switzerland, Germany, Austria, and Liechtenstein. The diversity of the region means that there is something here for everyone, regardless of your interest. Those who love history and ancient architecture can spend several days visiting one stunning baroque treasure after the other, including the Tower of St. Martin in Bregenz, the Church of Pilgrimage in Birnau, and several other palaces and castles. The lake easily connects tourists to many interesting towns and villages by boat, making it easy to tour the region. Active visitors have miles of hiking and biking trails to explore, and the lake offers diverse watersports in summer. Switzerland hotels
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Located in the southern Ticino region of Switzerland, Lake Maggiore borders Italy and offers a mild climate, wonderful mountainous landscape, and stunning views. Several fabulous towns and villages, such as Locarno and Ascona, dot the shoreline, offering an ideal destination for holidaymakers. The best way to explore the coastline of Lake Maggiore is by a combination of train and boat on the Lake Maggiore Express, stopping off here and there to stroll along the lakeside promenades, sip a cappuccino, and soak up the sunshine. More active visitors can enjoy a range of watersports, including kayaking, boating, sailing, and more.
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Located in the Vaud region surrounding Lake Geneva, Lausanne is a modern and bustling city with many noteworthy cultural attractions, including the Vaud Museum of Fine Art and the Musee de l'Elysee, which is dedicated to showcasing photographic art. When you need a break from the many museums of the city you can head to Ouchy to stroll among the local walkers, skaters, and cyclists. Take some time to absorb the unique atmosphere of Flon, which is a revitalized area of former neglected warehouses that has been transformed into a bustling shopping, dining, and entertainment hub, which sports an outdoor skating rink in winter.
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Lauterbrunnen, in the Bern region of Switzerland, is located in one of the most impressive valleys in the Swiss Alps, surrounded by gigantic sheer rock faces and towering peaks. In winter the valley invites skiers of all levels to come and enjoy 213 pistes, 62 miles of walking trails, and 31 miles of toboggan runs. In summer various hiking trails will reveal over 72 waterfalls in the valley, two of which are really impressive, dropping a massive 650 feet m and 980 feet, respectively. The highlights of Lauterbrunnen include an excursion to the top of Jungfraujoch, commonly known as the Roof of Europe and which you can reach via a dramatic 4.3-mile tunnel on the Jungfrau Railway, and a trip to the summit of Schilthorn, Piz Gloria, which offers views of 40 mountain peaks and 20 glaciers.
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Locarno is a southern Swiss town located on the northern shores of Lake Maggiore, which separates Switzerland from Italy. The town boasts the most hours of sunshine anywhere in the country and its mild climate attracts many vacationers. There is a cable car, which will take you quickly to the top of Locarno's closest mountain for great hiking in summer and winter sports in winter. The lake offers a good selection of watersports in summer and boat trips all year round. If you are interested in history, you can take a walking tour of the Old Town's cobbled lanes, all of which lead to a central piazza and medieval castle. Towering above the city is the pilgrimage church of Madonna del Sasso, a spiritual place that also offers excellent views.
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Beautifully nestled on the shores of Lake Lucerne, the city of Lucerne is one of the prettiest in Europe and its many attractions will keep you busy from dawn to dusk. To get an overview of the city you can join a guided tour, which will take in many of the historic highlights, including the famous Chapel Bridge, the Musegg Wall, the Mill Bridge, and the Water Tower. If you love museums, you will find plenty to admire in Lucerne, starting with the Museum of Art Lucerne and the fabulous Rosengart Collection as well as the History Museum, the Glacier Garden and Natural History Museum, and the Richard Wagner Museum for music lovers. You can also enjoy a scenic cruise on the lake and spend hours admiring fantastic Swiss watches on every corner.
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Lugano lies nestled on the shores of Lake Lugano in southern Switzerland's Ticino region, which is known for its mild climate and many days of sunshine. The region is perfect for outdoor pursuits of all kinds and is particularly popular with mountain bikers, who come to explore over 230 miles of scenic trails. Other popular outdoor activities include golf, rock climbing, and paragliding as well as boating on Lake Lugano. To get the most from your visit you should take at least one guided tour, either on foot or by boat or cycle, to learn some of the history of the region. For a break from outdoor pursuits you can visit the Lugano Cultural Center, the Gold Mining Museum, or the Swissminiatur - an open-air miniature townscape.
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The Montreux Riviera is located along the shores of Lake Geneva, surrounded by vineyards and towering alpine peaks. The city boasts a beautiful flower-lined lake promenade featuring several examples of the Belle Epoque architecture, where locals come to meet and walk. The frighteningly steep Rochers-de-Naye rack railway is a great way to reach an impressive viewpoint offering a great overview of the area. You can visit the 14th century Chillon Castle, which is perched on a rocky islet just offshore, or take a scenic boat tour on Lake Geneva. Another way to see the beautiful landscape is to board the Golden Pass Line, a panoramic train that runs from Montreux to Gstaad and on to Lucerne.
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Fairytale perfect, Murren is everyone's idea of the quintessential Alpine mountain village where you are far more likely to encounter cows (with huge cow bells) than cars. Located in one of the prettiest areas of the Bernese Oberland, Murren is perched on the edge of a 3,000-foot precipice and you will need to take a cable car to reach it. Once there, you will find yourself in one of the best hiking areas Switzerland has to offer. From Murren you can reach the summit of Schilthorn, take the railway up to Europe's highest railway station at Jungfroujoch, see the amazing Trummelbach Falls, and take the Schynige Platte cogwheel train to another amazing viewpoint overlooking Interlaken.
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Nestled in the heart of the Saas Valley, the little town of Saas-Fee is particularly picturesque and is surrounded by no less than 40 alpine peaks. In winter the entire area becomes a playground for all kinds of snow sports, and professional skiing teams come here to ski on the glacier almost year round. You can make use of an excellent network of ski lifts to access the pistes and besides skiing and snowboarding, ice climbing, winter hiking, and curling are also available. In summer the valley is wonderful for hiking and most of the cable cars are free. Saas-Fee has many options for accommodation and a lively après-ski vibe.
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St. Gallen lies on the shores of the Bodensee (Lake Constance), a beautiful location in the east of Switzerland that offers visitors plenty of outdoor activities all year round. History lovers will enjoy walking through the charming, traffic-free old town, which features interesting architecture and many stained-glass windows. Here you will find the UNESCO World Heritage Abbey Precinct, which dates back to the 7th century. You can enjoy watersports on Lake Constance in summer or go on a boat tour of the lake, visiting neighboring Germany and Austria, all in the space of a day. Outside St. Gallen there are miles and miles of picturesque hiking and cycling trails.
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Thun is an ancient city located at the lower end of Lake Thun. Originally established as far back as the 1100s, the city surrounds a marvelous old town, overlooked by the turreted Thun Castle, which was built around 1100. Architecture enthusiasts will find plenty to admire, including the octagonal bell tower of the 14th century Stadtkirche Thun (city church) and its baroque hall. You can go hiking, canyoning, and river rafting along the course of the Aare River, take a guided city tour, or sign up for a tasty Culinary Tour, which will introduce you to regional foodie treats. The city offers plenty of family-friendly attractions, including playgrounds, donkey rides, and child-friendly ski school.
22 Best Places to Visit in Switzerland
- Lake Geneva, Photo: Courtesy of Michal Ludwiczak - Fotolia.com
- St. Moritz, Photo: Courtesy of thomas.andri - Fotolia.com
- Geneva, Photo: Courtesy of Sergii Figurnyi - Fotolia.com
- Basel, Photo: Courtesy of djama - Fotolia.com
- Bellinzona, Photo: Courtesy of Boris Stroujko - Fotolia.com
- Bern, Photo: Courtesy of Sergii Figurnyi - Fotolia.com
- Davos, Photo: Courtesy of Laurens - Fotolia.com
- Engelberg, Photo: Courtesy of BigGabig - Fotolia.com
- Grindelwald, Photo: Courtesy of leeyiutung - Fotolia.com
- Interlaken, Photo: Courtesy of Tatiana - Fotolia.com
- Lake Constance, Photo: Courtesy of Jürgen Fälchle - Fotolia.com
- Lake Maggiore, Photo: Courtesy of djama - Fotolia.com
- Lausanne, Photo: Courtesy of vadiml - Fotolia.com
- Lauterbrunnen, Photo: Courtesy of jojjik - Fotolia.com
- Locarno, Photo: Courtesy of Boris Stroujko - Fotolia.com
- Lucerne, Photo: Courtesy of swisshippo - Fotolia.com
- Lugano, Photo: Courtesy of evenfh - Fotolia.com
- Montreux, Photo: Courtesy of JFL Photography - Fotolia.com
- Murren, Photo: Courtesy of borisbelenky - Fotolia.com
- Saas-Fee, Photo: Courtesy of celeste clochard - Fotolia.com
- St. Gallen, Photo: Courtesy of KURLIN CAfE - Fotolia.com
- Thun, Photo: Courtesy of 9mot - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of BigGabig - Fotolia.com