Think of Switzerland and you’ll conjure up images of the snowy Alps, Swiss chocolate and the Large Hadron Collider, but there’s so much more to this wonderful country.
Get ready to breathe in that crisp mountain air, discover delightful medieval towns, enjoy some of the world’s most scenic rail journeys and gorge yourself on melted cheese.
Whether you love the idea of lakeside Lucerne or bike-filled Bern, you’ll soon find out there’s something for everyone in Switzerland.
Welcome to one of Europe’s most liveable cities. Fringed by snow-capped mountains, divided by the expansive Limmat river and peppered with sky-touching steeples, Zurich is picture-perfect. It’d be very easy to while away a few days here. From cycling around the charming Altstadt (Old Town) on a free city bike and taking a boat trip on Lake Zurich, to perusing the astonishing Museum of Art and photographing the iconic Grossmünster. You’ll be spoiled for choice!
Fun fact: Zurich has over 1,200 drinking fountains throughout the city. Allowing you to quench your thirst wherever you go and eradicating the need for single-use plastic water bottles.
2. St. Gallen
Some way off the Swiss tourist trail lies the quaint town of St. Gallen. Famed for its Baroque cathedral and accompanying 8th-century abbey library housing thousands of ancient manuscripts. Be sure to check out the font too, which is designed in such a way that it reflects the remarkably ornate ceiling above. Once you’ve had your fill of history, spend time people watching in Red Square, perched on the hill outside the Old Town with a beer and tucking into a traditional St. Gallen sausage.
Fun fact: The rosti in St. Gallen is particularly delicious, don’t ask why it just is. So, order yourself a plate of this potatoey goodness topped with cheese, bacon and a fried egg.
Set to the backdrop of soaring Mount Pilatus, Lucerne is yet another of Switzerland’s prettiest cities. Whilst here check out the famous Kappelbrücke, a wooden footbridge dating back to the 1300s with a fairy-tale-esque stone water tower. Shop for handmade keepsakes at the craft markets lining the streets of the Old Town. Hire a canoe and take to the turquoise waters of Lake Lucerne. Or, meet the ‘Lion of Lucerne’, a moving monument that’s dedicated to the Tuileries war heroes.
Fun fact: The world’s steepest cogwheel railway, the Pilatus Bahn, lives in Lucerne. Take a hair-raising 30-minute ride along the outside of the mountain and soak up the incredible vistas.
Arguably Switzerland’s coolest city, Bern is full of laidback Swiss folk who pride themselves on being green. It’s a cyclist-friendly too and you’ll find e-bikes are the best way to get around, especially when tackling the many hills. Must-dos in Bern includes treating yourself to a cheese-smothered raclette – the ultimate Swiss indulgence. Visiting one of the city’s museums such as the Fine Arts Museum or the Historical Museum of Bern. Sipping on a beer at a local microbrewery and stopping by the enormous Federal Palace, the country’s national parliament.
Fun fact: Einstein was born in Bern and you can visit his old house, which can be found at Kramgasse No. 49. It’s since been turned into a fascinating museum all about the physicist’s life.
Lauterbrunnen was the inspiration behind Tolkien’s Rivendell, need we say more? A lush green valley with sweeping mountainscapes and wispy waterfalls – it’s a place of unrivalled beauty. Marking the start of the devilishly challenging Eiger Trail, it’s no surprise that Lauterbrunnen is a hotspot for hikers. You’ll find a plethora of picturesque walking routes here catering to all fitness levels. It’s also home to the Jungfraujoch, Europe’s highest railway station. Offering up the ultimate alpine experience, you can even walk into the mountain as well as appreciate breath-taking views.
Fun fact: The train ride from Lucerne to Interlaken, near Lauterbrunnen, is stunning. Running along the banks of the lake, it travels slowly to avoid disrupting the local residents living trackside.
Located in the heart of the La Gruyère district, Bulle is a cheese lover’s dream so try and save your cheese fondue eating until now where you can enjoy the best in the country. To learn more about how the cheese is produced head to the local factory. Other major sights include the Gruyères Castle with its eclectic mix of castle exhibits and vivid modern art displays. The castle’s chapel also contains a Tibetan museum, as Switzerland was the first country to welcome refugees from China.
Fun fact: H.R. Giger was a Swiss artist from the Gruyères region. He won an Academy Award for his design work on Alien and a totally immersive themed bar has been created in his memory.
Love the sound of these Swiss spots? Our 10-day Best of Switzerland tour covers all of them.