Switzerland Travel Guide: Top Places To Visit In Switzerland
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Welcome to Switzerland, a landlocked country filled with glaciers, mountains, and rock cliffs falling to the Alpine lakes. Switzerland is located in Western and Central Europe. It is formed by some of Europe’s highest mountains, which attract many sport and adventure fanatics. What is more, it sometimes feels like being on a sea vacation thanks to its crystal-clear lakes. My Switzerland travel guide will walk you through spectacular Swiss places and introduce you to several interesting facts and aspects of this beautiful country.
First of all, you will get to know the most interesting Swiss cantons, their highlights, and the top destinations to visit, based on your interests. After, it will teach you how to get around Switzerland and tell you about the budget you will need for your Swiss itinerary. Finally, this Switzerland Travel Guide will make you slightly hungry and introduce you to the food you have to try when visiting Switzerland.
Let’s dive into the Switzerland Travel Guide with the most beautiful places showing you the Swiss diversity and charming landscape: coming from the north, you will drive through a beautiful fertile Swiss plateau with green fields, hills, and Swiss lakes. On the northwest, the Jura mountain range extends, creating a border with France. Going down south, you will encounter yourself surrounded by the highest European peaks – in the Swiss Alps and its Alpine passes that stretch along the southern part of Switzerland, creating the border with Italy.
List Of The Top Places To Visit In Switzerland
Here I’ve got an overview of the cantons and their places you should visit in Switzerland:
- Grisons Canton: Chur, Davos, St. Moritz, Engadin Valley, Samnaun
- Zürich Canton: Zürich City
- North Switzerland: St. Gallen, Lake Constance
- Central Switzerland: Lucerne, Mount Pilatus, Mount Titlis
- Bern Canton: Bern City (capital), Interlaken, Jungfrau Region (Grindelwald, Lauterbrunnen, Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe)
- Fribourg Canton: Fribourg, Gruyères
- Lake Geneva: Geneva, Montreux, Lavaux Vineyards, Rochers-de-Naye
- Ticino: Lugano, Bellinzona
Swiss Cantons/Regions & Their Highlights
Switzerland, with its proper name Swiss Confederation, consists of 26 cantons. ‘Canton’ is an individual member state of the Swiss Confederation. It is a pretty small area and sometimes consists only of a city alone. In the section below, I will talk to you about the 8 most interesting Swiss cantons and places you should visit in each of them.
1. GRISONS/GRAUBÜNDEN CANTON
Grisons is the largest Swiss canton. It is famous for its stunning Alpine scenery, high mountain peaks, thousands of hiking and mountain biking trails, great skiing resorts, and places to relax. The people speak mainly German, and Italian is widely spoken at the border with Italy. Besides, Grisons is the only canton where you can still hear the ancient language Romansh.
PLACES WORTH A VISIT IN GRISONS
Swiss oldest city with a rich history and the Grisons’s capital, Chur, is a great starting point for your journey through this canton.
The highest city in Europe, Davos, is situated at an altitude of 1560 meters above sea level (5100 feet). This place offers you incredible hiking trails and mountain-biking treks. It is also a great skiing resort. In summer, you can enjoy yachting at Lake Davos. Have you heard about the World Economic Forum? Davos hosts this global event, where world leaders annually meet to discuss important topics and address world issues.
With its excellent skiing resort and Winter Olympics place, St. Moritz is a small town offering a luxury shopping experience. It is the starting/ending point of the famous Glacier Express route. Lake St. Moritz is awesome for a peaceful walk.
The Engadin valley (which in the Romansh language means “garden”) offers you excellent places for river rafting, cycling trails, and relaxing spots. If you like unusual destinations, which are less crowded, I recommend visiting Sent and Zernez, the two remote villages in Engadin’s valley. You can experience the life of local inhabitants, the Romansh architecture on their buildings, and hear the Romansh, one of the oldest languages. If you want to visit Engadin valley on your Swiss itinerary, check out the 8-day Switzerland itinerary I’ve designed for you.
Samnaun is the only duty-free place in Switzerland. Here, you can enjoy duty-free shopping for cosmetics, alcohol, or gasoline and have a perfect skiing holiday. In summer, it offers you cable cars and bike rentals free of charge if you stay in one of the hotels there.
2. CANTON OF ZÜRICH
German-speaking canton Zürich and its international Metropolis, the city of Zürich, is for those who love to explore cities. Zürich offers you a rich history, shopping experience, and energic nightlife. It is located on the shores of Zürich Lake, where you can make boat trips or even refresh yourself with quick summer swimming. Recently, Zurich has made it to the top of a ranking for Europe’s most expensive cities (together with Paris), according to BBC News. So you might consider going elsewhere if you travel on a budget.
Book a walking tour with a local guide in Zürich:
3. NORTH SWITZERLAND
Abandoning the mountains, we will get to Switzerland’s beautiful green hilly areas, famous for its cycling trails and holiday resort of Lake Constance. It is a great day trip destination if you are visiting Austria or Liechtenstein and want to see something from Switzerland, too. Again, German is widely spoken in this canton.
TOP PLACES TO SEE IN NORTH SWITZERLAND
St. Gallen is a historic university city with beautiful architecture. Its Abbey has been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site. I recommend you visit it as a day trip from Lake Constance.
Take a boat or rent a bike to explore more and enjoy the beautiful Lake Constance and its surroundings. Explore more options you have within the Lake Constance region.
4. CENTRAL SWITZERLAND: Switzerland Travel Guide
German-speaking central Switzerland has to be a part of every Switzerland Travel Guide. It attracts you with one of the most beautiful Swiss cities, Lucerne, and its mountain excursions. If you want to complement a visit to a historic city with mountains and nature, this cantons is perfect for you.
HIGHLIGHTS OF CENTRAL SWITZERLAND
This charming historical city attracts visitors worldwide with its famous Chapel Bridge from the 14th century built over the River Reuss. To me it is the most beautiful city in Switzerland. You can enjoy a city walk and take a cruise on Lake Lucerne. Also, don’t forget to visit the following mountains as a day trip, when you are staying in Lucerne.
MOUNT PILATUS EXCURSION
Staying in Lucerne, the Pilatus mountain is a perfect day trip. You will first float on the Lake Lucerne on the sightseeing ship to Alpnachstadt, from where the steepest cogwheel railway in the world takes you all the way up to Pilatus mountain. Enjoy the spectacular views of the lake and Lucerne. After, you can continue down to Kriens with the aerial cable car. Return to Lucerne with Bus 1. leaving from Kriens. The whole journey is called the Golden round trip, and it is worth doing. Check out my article about the top mountains in Switzerland for prices and detailed information.
TITLIS – ENGELBERG MOUNTAIN EXCURSION
Titlis, located 40 minutes’ drive from Lucerne, is another perfect day trip. You will hop on a cable car from the Titlis valley station to the middle station next to the Truebsee Lake, starting in Engelberg. The highlight of the whole excursion is the spectacular Titlis Rotair with a 360° view of the entire region. It will take you all the way up to the Titlis mountain – 3238 metres above sea level. You can enjoy many activities at the top, including Titlis Cliff Walk, Chairlift Ice Flyer, Titlis Glacier Park, and the unique Glacier Cave. For more information, read my article about the best mountains in Switzerland.
If you cannot decide which one of these two mountain excursions you should do, I recommend visiting the Titlis mountain over the Pilatus one. I have also included these excursions in my Switzerland travel itinerary, you can choose one of them during your Swiss travel, so check it out.
Book your DISCOUNTED mountain excursion here – Skip The Line Tickets
5. BERN CANTON & BERNESE OBERLAND: Switzerland Travel Guide
These cantons are all about mountains and adventure. This is definitely the most attractive canton for travellers who want to have fun, experience high mountains and glaciers and enjoy an adventure in the beautiful Swiss landscape. I have to admit it is my favourite region from this Switzerland Travel Guide.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN BERN CANTON & BERNESE OBERLAND
The capital city of Switzerland, Bern, has its own charm. Visit its medieval centre with beautiful architecture and the tower Zytglogge with its astronomical clock. Don’t forget to see the Bear Pit, the Einsteinhaus museum, where Albert Einstein lived for a while, and the tallest cathedral in Switzerland.
Book your Walking Tour in Bern with a Local Guide:
With spectacular places, unique nature, glaciers, and outdoor activities, the Jungfrau region is perfect for adventure holidays. It is one of the best scenic places to visit in Switzerland. The highlights are Interlaken, Lauterbrunnen, Grindelwald with Grindelwald First, Jungfraujoch, Lake Brienz, Lake Thun, and Germelbahn. This region has one of the highest numbers of top destinations you have to see when you visit Switzerland. Check my article about the Jungfrau region for detailed information and suggestions.
6. FRIBOURG: Switzerland Travel Guide
Coming to Switzerland’s French-speaking area, Fribourg canton is famous for its authentic Alpine cheese-making process and the medieval town, Gruyère. This is where you should try proper Fondue and experience the medieval atmosphere in the Swiss forests surrounding it.
TOP THINGS TO DO IN FRIBOURG CANTON
Explore the city of many bridges over the River Sarine, a medieval town with beautiful architecture and history. It is the gateway to the famous CHEESE-MAKING AREA – Gruyère.
Explore the history and art of Swiss cheese making in the medieval town of Gruyères.
And you know why the Gruyère cheese is so good? Because of the proper oil to water ratio. The right amount of water in the cheese-making process ensures that the cheese melts evenly and no junks of cheese and separated fat are created. That is why Gruyère cheese is great to prepare Fondue – a Swiss national dish.
Gruyère cheese is great to prepare Fondue – a Swiss national dish.
Gruyères is one of my favourite towns in Switzerland. I highly recommend you to visit it and take a walking tour. It is also the best place to try traditional Swiss Fondue.
Book your guided tour to Gruyères including Fondue Tasting:
If you are interested in the cheese-making process, learn about it and read about my Swiss cheese farm adventure and how Swiss cheese is produced.
7. LAKE GENEVA & SURROUNDINGS: Switzerland Travel Guide
Staying with the French language, we will now go further south to the Lake Geneva regions.
They are mainly visited for the cultural and economic centre, Geneva, which hosts the UN Organization and Red Cross headquarters. For physics and engineering fanatics, the European Organization for Nuclear Research welcomes you with its extensive scientific research. It is open to the public, and I highly recommend you visit this place.
MONTREUX & LAVAUX VINEYARDS
The largest Swiss lake, Geneve Lake, attracts with beautiful scenery with the highest European peak Mt. Blanc behind. You can take many cruises on the Geneve Lake, which take you to Lavaux vineyards for some wine-tasting experience, or all the way east to the romantic city, Montreux, with its Chillon Castle and the lovely lakeside promenade.
If you want to integrate Montreux with Chillon Castle & Lavaux vineyards into your Swiss itinerary, get inspired by my 8-day Switzerland itinerary and learn more about these places.
ROCHERS-DE-NAYE MOUNTAIN EXCURSION
Another great mountain excursion you can do from Montreux train station is Rochers-de-Naye. You will be amazed by the breathtaking views of Lake Geneva and the Swiss Alps rising behind. Check out detailed information about the mountain excursion to Rochers-de-Naye here.
Book your SKIP THE LINE TICKETS for CHILLON CASTLE or GENEVA LAKE CRUISE here:
8. TICINO: Switzerland Travel Guide
The Italian-speaking canton, Ticino, is well-known for its spectacular lakes, which give the place the feeling of being on a beach holiday in Switzerland. Places like Lake Como and Lugano are great to visit as a day trip if you are in Italy (Milan).
This city, referred to as the Monte Carlo of Switzerland, is a gateway to the Mediterranean climate. Enjoy your walk through its tiny historical streets, promenade alongside the Lugano Lake, and excellent hiking trails in the mountains surrounding the town. If you want to integrate Lugano on your Swiss itinerary, read my 8-day Switzerland itinerary.
It is the only Swiss town hosting a medieval military complex with three fortifications. Plan the whole day to explore all three castles and prepare your camera for stunning views. If you want to visit Bellinzona and get more information, get inspired by my 8-day Switzerland itinerary.
Book SKIP THE LINE TICKETS for San Salvatore Excursion from Lugano & Bellinzona day trip:
Top Places to Visit in Switzerland
Every person finds the perfect fit in Switzerland even during Covid. Shopping, food tasting, history discovering, boating, swimming, it has a little bit of everything to offer. This section will tell you about places in Switzerland you need to visit according to your interest.
Let’s be honest. 60% of Switzerland’s total land is covered by mountains. So the leading target group here are mountain, outdoor sport, and adventure lovers.
If you are a mountain lover, whether it is for climbing purpose or just for the stunning views (they are all accessible with a cable car), here are the top 5 mountain excursions that you cannot skip on your Swiss tour:
- Jungfraujoch – Mönch
- Matterhorn Glacier Paradise & Gornergrat Excursion
- Titlis-Engelberg and Pilatus mountain (I recommend Titlis-Engelberg)
- Glacier 3000°
The following mountain climbing routes are more for experienced climbers:
- Monte Rosa – Dufourspitze – Swiss highest peak (4,634m)
- Matterhorn (4,478m)
- Eiger and its famous North-face (3,970m)
Swiss rivers, waterfalls and lakes
Any water lovers reading this article? You will fall in love with Swiss rivers, waterfalls, and lakes. The
most present is the River Rhine, creating stunning Rhine Gorge in Grisons canton. You can enjoy hiking within Rhine Gorge or see it from the scenic Glacier Express train. The River Rhine also creates Europe’s highest waterfall in Switzerland, named The Rhinefall. It is located in Schaffhausen, close to the German border. You can easily reach it by train or just have a quick stop there when visiting southern Germany.
If you are a waterfall lover, you need to go to Lauterbrunnen. The Lauterbrunnen valley is packed with exactly 76 waterfalls, falling down from steep mountain rocks, right to the village. Check out Trummelbachfall, Staubachfall, and just walk around the valley. It will most probably leave you speechless. You can read more about the whole Jungfrau region, its attractions, and the best places in my separate article.
If it was not enough, Switzerland has amazing crystal-clear lakes, where you can swim, take a boat excursion or just lay down and relax like on a beach holiday next to the sea.
Most eye-catching lakes out there:
- Geneva Lake – great boat excursions
- Lucerne Lake – great boat excursions
- Brienz Lake – great boat excursion
- Lake Como
- St. Moritz Lake
In a Swiss Canton nutshell
Mountain lovers – Jungfrau and Grisons are the best cantons for you.
For water lovers – Ticino, Geneva Lake, and Berner Oberland are fantastic.
Are you a history lover? Check North and Central Switzerland, Bern, and Zurich.
For cheese lovers – Fribourg is definitely the choice.
Looking for places to relax? – Geneva, Ticino, Engadin valley (Grisons), all offer many relaxing spots.
How to get around in Switzerland
Apart from being one of the most beautiful countries, you have probably heard that Switzerland also counts as the most expensive one. This Switzerland Travel Guide will show you that it doesn’t have to be so expensive. That is the reason why I recommend you stick to train travel. Not only is it comfortable and convenient, but it is truly the cheapest way to travel in Switzerland. Swiss railways offer great deals and discounts with their passes. Besides, you can also use these passes for your boat trips on the lakes, as well as some mountain excursions, museum visits, and public transportation in cities. The best deal is to get the Swiss Travel Pass.
Swiss Travel Pass
The Swiss Travel Pass offers you unlimited train travel throughout the country. You can take boat trips on the lakes, do some mountain excursions, visit museums, and use public transportation. This is all included if you buy the Swiss Travel Pass. You have to book it in advance on the SBB website, the
Swiss railways’ site. They will send you the pass, together with Switzerland’s map highlighting the best Swiss scenic train rides and a little stamp booklet to collect stamps on your journey.
Swiss Travel Pass Flex
You can get the pass for 3, 4, 8, or 15 days, depending on your available time. However, if you choose the Swiss Travel Pass, you will have to use it on consecutive days. If you want to stay more days in one destination and, after a few days, travel again to another place or region, get the Swiss Travel Pass Flex. You can use it throughout the whole month for the number of days you choose (3, 4, 8, or 15 days within the month) on non-consecutive days.
This is the most effective, on a budget, convenient way to travel in Switzerland if you want to stay for a week and visit more cantons and all the top destinations in Switzerland. There are many offers and
discounts included, so get the most out of it and explore as much of this charming country as you can.
For example, for the Pilatus and Titlis mountain excursions, which I mentioned above, you can get massive discounts if you have the Swiss Travel Pass (more than 50% off the regular price).
The only time you will have to pay a little extra, in addition to your Swiss Travel Pass, are the Swiss Scenic Trains. You have to pay an additional fee for a seat reservation, as they are panoramic trains. Check out my post about the 5 Switzerland Panoramic Trains to find out more. But don’t worry, it is not too much.
If you don’t want to spend so much time in Switzerland and only want to get from point A to point B, take a long-distance bus.
Post Auto Bus
Post Auto buses are running short distances, usually just within a canton. They normally cover routes to smaller towns, which are not accessible by train. Or maybe the train doesn’t stop in the town, then Post Auto stops there.
There is an option to take a boat, thanks to a high concentration of lakes in Switzerland. Every Swiss lake has its own ship timetable, so you might take a boat instead of a train or a bus for a part of your journey if you are interested. It is my personal favourite mean of transportation in Switzerland.
If you have the Swiss Travel Pass, ships/boats are included, and you don’t have to pay anything extra to board one.
Swiss Economy and Budget you will need
If you are traveling through Europe and have exchanged lots of
Euros for your trip, you will not be able to use them in Switzerland. Switzerland, as one of the most competitive economies worldwide, uses its own currency – Swiss francs. It is stable and reliable, which is a reason why people often buy it during financial uncertainty. Some refer to it as a hard currency, too.
Many places accept the euro as well but don’t rely on it. Always have some Swiss francs handy.
If you have ever wondered whether Switzerland is in the European Union, no, it is not. Swiss Confederation is not part of the European Union and is considered a neutral state since World War I.
One of the most important industry sectors is banking, insurance, pharmaceutical, service sector with tourism, and, of course, watch-making. Swiss are also very good at generating energy using renewable resources, 62%, mostly hydropower, wind, and solar power. Names like Nestlé, Lindt, Swatch, or Rolex, do they sound familiar to you? All these Swiss brands attract many visitors.
Agriculture is also an essential sector in Switzerland, as it provides around 60% of the food supply for the population. The government financially supports local farmers and has even restricted importing some goods, for example, grains and cheese. No wonder that one of the Swiss symbols are cows on meadows if you see a Swiss postcard or a picture. It is their pride and value :D. If you want to learn more about Switzerland’s farming, read the article about my adventure on a Swiss cheese farm.
Budget you will need
Now, let’s talk about the budget you will need to visit Switzerland. I will break down the costs of “necessary” things in the table below:
Budget you will need for a day in Switzerland
Switzerland on a budget ⇒ plan to spend between 60 to 100 Swiss francs per day.
Switzerland with a higher budget ⇒ 100 – 350 Swiss francs per day.
If you like to know more about the ways to cut your travel costs in Switzerland, read my article about the cheapest ways to travel in Switzerland.
Little Swiss Food Guide
Let’s stay with food. Swiss cuisine is similar to French, Italian, and German and also has its own specific dishes. It is a farmers’ country, so meals are made from simple ingredients like root vegetables, potatoes, and cheese. Cheese dishes are popular mostly in Alpine regions.
Swiss dishes you have to try
- Cheese fondue; melted cheese served up in a special ceramic pot, small cubes of bread are dipped into melted cheese
- Raclette; Swiss cheese made out of cow milk; it
- is melted and scraped over grilled vegetables and meats
- Saucisson Vaduois; speciality from the Lake Geneve – sausage with beans and bacon, served with potatoes
- Zürcher Geschnetzeltes; in Zürich it is just all about veal – traditional dish with veal strips on a creamy mushroom sauce served with Rösti hashbrowns
- Whitefish & troute; fish dishes famous in the lake regions of Thus, Brienz, Interlaken
- Bündler Gerstensuppe; barley soup
- Berner platte; various types of meat just on one plate
- Bichermüesli; muesli were invented in Switzerland by the doctor Bicher
Get my Switzerland Packing List
You’ll get detailed descriptions of clothes and materials, best backpacks, and necessary things to pack for your Swiss itinerary. Personal photos of what I brought to my Swiss trip so you can pack according to my strategy:
I hope my Switzerland Travel Guide with the top places to visit in Switzerland during Covid has been useful to you. Check out my other articles about Switzerland, where you can learn more about Switzerland panoramic trains, top things to do in the Jungfrau region, best ways to cut your travel costs in Switzerland, how Swiss cheese is produced, or get inspired by my 8-day Switzerland itinerary. If you need help planning your Swiss itinerary, leave a comment below, or don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.